Coachella Recap: Day Two
Continuing where Day One left off 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 Saturday, April 26th–day two of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival.
While everyone was distracted by Man Man’s histrionics in the Mojave tent, Norwegians 120 Days was busy putting on a much better performance in the Gobi Tent. Vocalist Ådne Meisfjord was doing his best to coax the crowd into dancing in the 100+ degree weather while leading his band through an energetic set of that sounded like a meeting of Neu! and fellow festivalgoers Simian Mobile Disco. Perhaps the most iconic part of the performance was Meisfjord’s unique dance style as he played his sequencers and sang, that of a mansize rooster drunkenly strutting. I say that with love; it was awesome.
One of the acts I meant to catch but couldn’t was Brazil’s Bonde do Role, but judging by this video of their introduction it was as sassy and frenetic as I would have guessed. Whenever a band plays like this (without being backed by a group of musicians) it reminds me a bit of a high school talent show, but that seems entirely in keeping with their spirit, too.
As a longtime Pavement and Stephen Malkmus fan, I was really looking forward to taking in his set with the Jicks. That said, this was one of the more disappointing sets of the weekend. It was not necessarily that Malkmus phoned in his performance–it was just a lot of expectation to live up to, especially when juxtaposed with some of the more riotous performances from the festival. Plus, there was the matter of his hat. Come on, Stephen! I know you’ve never dressed well but lose that fucking hat, man.
Hot Chip will break your legs. One of the top performances from all three days, arguably the best. The Londoners turned in a set that emphasized the dance music side of their records with songs that flowed into one another like a DJ set. I thought their performance of “Ready for the Floor” on Conan a few weeks ago was weak; however, their fucked-up-rave version at Coachella exceeded all expectations and was a show stopper. A brilliant set by a band who got the crowd moving like no one else did all festival.
An hour after Dwight Yoakam played what I’ll call Saturday’s “Jack Johnson set,” Kraftwerk took the stage for a rare gig that proved to be the finest show the main stage would see all weekend. Any fan of their early records understands the seminal position Kraftwerk holds in the annals of electronic music. Seeing them perform updated versions of “The Robots, “Showroom Dummies” and (of course) “Trans-Europe Express” sheds a whole new light on their legacy. Their incorporation of a visual sideshow was unparalleled, especially in conjunction with their stoic posturing on stage. Their replacement by androids for “The Robots” (see below) was an unexpected highlight as well. In the end, the most impressive part of Kraftwerk’s set was simply how good the band sounded. Easily the most memorable show of Coachella 2008.
Like Kraftwerk, Portishead provided an outstanding visual accompaniment to their set that made their set (an even rarer one than Kraftwerk’s) all the more phenomenal. It was an ideal venue for the band’s epic songs, particularly since the group are more concerned with flawless muscianship than having an entertaining stage presence. Portishead’s set included all of their classics as well as a generous sampling of tracks from their new record, Third, both of which were eagerly lapped up by an appreciative and large audience.
Meanwhile, across the Empire Polo Grounds, French popstress Yelle was entertaining an astonishingly crowded Mojave tent with her candy-coated electro-pop. She gave one of the most energetic performances of the festival, bouncing around off the audience’s mojo and just being fucking adorable in general. Anytime she spoke between sets you could feel the collective swoon of those who are suckers for nouvelle vague haircuts and thick french accents. And did I mention that she wore a sequined dress that boasted a skeleton on the front and a mod checkerboard on the back? Flanked by a live drummer and a DJ-cum-synth-player, the set was all that her outfit implied: loud, shiny, colorful, and irresistibly fun.
LCD Soundsystem wasn’t at Coachella this year, but Calvin Harris was–and I’m not sure there’s really much of a difference these days. Harris and his band turned in a performance that was about as dynamic as a bunch of dudes playing synths can get, showing off to a crowd that showed their abundant appreciation by dancing and singing along at every turn. Perhaps prepped by fawning fans in the U.K., Harris masterfully handled the frontman duties, conducting the audience and his band with ardent fist pumps and shaking shoulders. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a terrific example of what makes Coachella such a joy to attend: catching bands you might not dole out $15 to see on their own and getting treated to a bit of merrymaking at Calvin Harris’ house.
Prince. What can you say about the little man in purple? He fucking brought it. Homeboy played for two and a half hours, treating us to every hit in a deep songbook with the exception of “Kiss,” even bringing friends like Sheila E. on stage for a jam. He paid, in advance, a $50,000 fine to the City of Indio for performing beyond the midnight live performance curfew (a few years ago, Black Star turned into pumpkins by having their mics turned off at the stroke of midnight). Even if you aren’t a diehard Prince fan–and I’m not–it is next to impossible to dislike a performance like this–so impassioned and filled with bravado. Say what you want about his music but the man is an entertainer in the truest sense of the word.