Coachella Day 3: Women Rule The Day ft. Florence, St. Vincent, Jenny Lewis & More
Congratulations Drake, you delivered the cheapening moment of TMZ “wow” the world was waiting for. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has wrapped its weekend one events, with a magnificent run of celebrated performances, surprises, fixture-prop metamorphoses and more. And now, thanks to Madonna slurping on the face of Sunday’s clearly grossed-out headliner Drake, it boasts a buzz-reference pivot point for every future conversation about the 2015 edition of the festival.
More than 90,000 people packed in for each day, concluding the first of back-to-back weekends in Indio on Sunday, Coachella. The festival has become a cultural centerpiece, a fashion trend-gauge, a sweaty celebration in a desert oasis surrounded by golf courses. But in the end, the music was, of course, the true focal point, with spectacular performances by Jack White, Action Bronson, AC/DC, Royal Blood and so many others over the course of the previous two days. Day three proved just as musically potent, albeit with a strongly female-driven presence in place of wild classic rock/blues madman shenanigans.
Despite their efforts, St. Lucia did not provide the first-act punch we were hoping for in the day, despite the energized efforts of their South African pop-magnet frontman Jean-Philip Grobler. Faux New Wave is on its way out, no matter how earnestly the likes of Bastille attempt to prove otherwise.
With that odd first step to the day behind us, we made our way over to Jenny Lewis on the Outside Stage. Her time was a bit of a demotive slot, given that she played near 10pm a few years ago on the same stage. Nevertheless, driven by her latest hit “Just One of the Guys” (which opened the set), she rocked in that familiar rainbow attire with a smooth material and stage command as Marina and the Diamonds played the main stage across the way – the first set in a number of strong female-artist showings to dominate the day.
Lewis screamed to the neighboring main stage, “What’s up, Marina?!” She and the Diamonds, if they responded, were drowned out by the cheers around us. Se then baited the crowd with “The Next Messiah” and her former band Rilo Kiley’s “With Arms Outstretched,” even recruiting former bandmate Blake Sennett for a mini-Rilo Kiley reunion on “Portions for Foxes”. It’s a beautiful thing.
Minutes later, recent tourmate Ryan Adams took to the same stage for an intensely frustrating set. The catchiness of recent single “Gimme Something Good” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” defied the unlistenable drollness of roughly half the performance. It was as if he were trying to bore us, looking as disinterested as possible in the process. “Yay, sad music in the desert. Let’s sad up this desert,” he mused before telling a cherry picker above the stage, “Strangely we’re still higher than you.” Yep, sure seemed that way. It was no surprise, then, that the crowd’s attention was evenly split between the stage and the approaching massive butterfly – a public art piece that had been a giant butterfly the previous two days.
Time for a tasty sampling of the s’mores that were on offer in the food area, before the weirdo princess Annie Clark and her St. Vincent project took us on a bewildering Warhol/Wonka ride. “Welcome all you analog witnesses,” the quirk-chanteuse offered the packed main-stage masses who opted for real instruments and voices over the spacebar spaceouts happening across the field. Opening with “Rattlesnake” before the minimalist-funk anthem “Digital Witness” locked everyone into the infectious energy.
Like a mix of Catwoman and the kind of avant garde sage you’d see on “Girls,” Annie captivated with angular fretwork through a set pulled largely from the band’s 2014 self-titled album. It wasn’t until closer and recent single “Birth in Reverse” that we saw the tightly controlled livewire truly let herself get carried away by the moment.
The next and most ethereally powerful female presence of Coachella 2015’s final burst of life was Florence and the Machine, who upgraded to main-stage placement for their headliner-penultimate set. Frontwoman Florence Welch, bounding about the stage in a white pantsuit, delivered a vocally incredible performance supplemented in no small part by a rapturous light show, backup singers and an all-female horn section.
Leading with the cinematically magical “What The Water Gave Me,” Welch’s vivacity carried the crowd’s enthusiasm through far less familiar but no less promising new material, from their forthcoming third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The slow-build forest fire of “What Kind of Man” found her belting heartbreak face-to-face with fans, and sailing through “Ship To Wreck” as if it were a live-staple anthem hit. When introducing the latter, Welch mused: “It’s about some time off I had in London when I had some drunken parties and trashed my house and said a drunken ‘I love you’ too soon. Even thought all that disastrous stuff happened I got this song out of it.”
When Florence Welch asks you to take off your clothes, well hell, you at least think about it. So thousands obliged when she asked the crowd to remove one item of clothing and swing it over their heads during the final song, “Dog Days Are Over”. Welch then removed her own shirt, performing the rest of the track wearing just her bra. “Embrace each other, get weird with it, touch each other’s faces!” If you say so!
Then came the spectacle we’ll be hearing about for years, the defining moment that couldn’t be further from the true essence of the rest of the festival. Yeah, we heard Bieber got kicked out. We heard a bunch of stuff about a Kardashian sister. We also saw this happen:
Drake doesn’t exactly look pleased to be making out with a woman easily old enough to be his mother. But the fact is, it doesn’t matter. The previous three days were neither defined or diminished by the pop-icon antics that rounded out the weekend. We had an absolute blast, Drake or no Drake, and can’t wait for Coachella 2016!
All Photos: Johnny Firecloud