Coachella Recap: Day One
Nevermind what the Brooklyn Vegan-grazing hipster kids say: Coachella is consistently the best live music experience in the United States. It’s a more multi-faceted experience than the drunken onslaught of SXSW, far more rewarding than the bullshit CMJ has devolved into, and makes the Pitchfork and Monolith fests look like adorable little kitties. People who’ve never been complain about it being “too commercial,” and yes–Jack douchebag Johnson did play this year–but that’s what gives Coachella the freedom to do things all those other festivals can’t. As in curating amazing, often immersive art installations, or having a nonstop, crazy, waterlogged dance party, or coaxing Portishead out of their twelve year old shell. In a far more substantial fashion than any of those other competitors, Coachella is an experience, and a very well planned one at that.
One of the most satisfying aspects (in a kick-yourself-in-the-shins sort of way) about attending is knowing that, a couple years down the line, you’ll look back at the installment you attended and marvel at how many of the smaller bands you missed have since blown up. Seeing “The Killers” listed on the teeny-tiny bottom row of the 2004 festival seems funny now. And it isn’t like SXSW, which casts an insanely wide net and is bound to pick up some trout among the plankton; the folks who book Coachella are just good at what they do…and it only seems to get better.
With the help of amateur videos posted by attendees on the YouTubes and photos by our own Nina Barry, here’s a look at some of the highlights from the first day of this year’s festival.
Jens Lekman: We’ve made it very clear that The Academy is collectively married to Jens, but I wondered how his more intimate performance style would translate to the big, sweaty stage, pushed off into once of the electronic music tents a few hours before the sun would go down.
But you know Jens–he freakin’ rocked it, giving one of the most electrifying performances of the entire festival. He was truly one of the few “rock” oriented acts that impressed, especially at the end of “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” when the band members flew around like airplanes and were joined by a small horn section to close out the song. It looked a little something like this:
The Breeders: Some members of our crew were thrilled with The Breeders’ performance, saying it solidified “Cannonball”‘s place in the pantheon of classic rock songs, but I left a little underwhelmed. There’s no denying they’re a great band; however, standing around doesn’t really make for a great performance? Maybe it was the 100 degree heat? Perhaps I’m judging too harshly? All I know is that “Cannonball” should not be played with an acoustic guitar. That’s just wrong.
Diplo: If Diplo were a light switch, he would have two positions: Off and BonkersDanceParty. His performance heralded what would become the theme of this year’s Coachella, namely that the electronic acts and DJs would kick the pants off of the guitar-wielders. Rave culture obviously arrived about 15 years too early (since it’s taken this long for the quality of the music to catch up with the zeal of the crowd), so it was nice to see everyone enjoying themselves like it was 1994 Berlin with a better soundtrack.
Aphex Twin: I actually didn’t get to catch Aphex Twin’s set, but depending on who you asked it was either worth the price of the $300 three day pass or it was the biggest disappointment in years. Sleuthing around, I got the impression that it had to do with the slow pace of the beginning of his set, which was more atmospheric than the kind of beats Fatboy Slim would come out swinging with later.
Whatever the case was, things picked up by the time his finale rolled around. How do I know? The panda costume:
Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s just some of the Flaming Lips’ gang from when they played their a couple of years ago; they were just really high in a corner of the polo grounds this whole time.
The Verve: Reunited and sounding as excellent as ever, The Verve provided a great close to the first day’s events. True, was another band that took the main stage after them, but no one really cared. Richard Ashcroft’s voice is so iconic it was made for a giant stage with jumbotrons and a crowd of thirty thousand people.
Apparently, the drugs still don’t work: