Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

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coachella 2011 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011It certainly seems like a time of change in the world of Coachella Music & Arts Festival. The premiere SoCal festival, well known for its perfect lineups, beautiful venue, and amazing atmosphere is in the adolescent stage of existence, and with it, like people, come new developments. Coachella completely switched things up this year, bringing in a whole different generation of headliners (Kings of Leon, the Strokes, Kanye West, and the Arcade Fire), a series of interesting reunions (London Suede, Duran Duran, DFA1979), several popular acts (Animal Collective, The Black Keys, Interpol), and several young, new faces on the scene of modern music (OFWGKTA, Tallest Man on Earth, Best Coast). All the music, paired up with a new artistic approach to the festival, yielded some interesting results.

It was almost a sensory overload this year. It’s safe to say there was too much to do. I can honestly say it didn’t help much adding a sixth stage to the schedule, and turning the Do-Lab from Smurf Village to a more practical stage. Friday was this year’s “Conflictchella” in which around the hours of two and five p.m. involved so many good acts playing simultaneously on various stages that it damn near caused aneurysms (OFWGKTA vs. Warpaint vs. the Drums vs. you get the idea). Saturday will forever go down as one of the most well-planned days in the history of the festival because, let’s face it, Bright Eyes -> Mumford and Sons -> Animal Collective -> Arcade Fire is modern music’s wet dream. And Sunday was a mixed bag of goodies (the Strokes murdered) and definitely some odd moments (Kanye, where were all your fellow rappers?).

And then there was the artwork…which took a whole new step up. This year, Coachella partnered with The Creators Project, adding a game-changing visual element to certain shows, as well as an in-between stage show that literally lit people up. There was the Spiritualized exhibit, which from the outside was a large silver cube in the back near the main stage, as well as the various usual oddities spread out all over the grounds. The stages themselves received massive upgrades — each tent, including the small Oasis Dome, now had screens on either side of the performers. Brazilian designer Muti Randolph upgraded the Sahara tent with a roof-spanning light installation, and the main stage underwent some awe-inspiring if unnecessary transformations before the top acts each night. In terms of the Coachella design, they took a step up, and in terms of the music, they just confused the shit out of everyone.

coscoachella16photobymattgainty Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Matt Gainty

What matters here though isn’t the band selection, or the weird things scattered on the Polo Fields, but it’s the experience. People were skeptical this year with some of the choices, but you can’t get Radiohead to headline every year, and Coachella has already billed the biggest bands of the previous generation multiple times (do you all want Tool and the Peppers again?). The people at Coachella certainly know what they’re doing, and will always be able to deliver the public a fantastic weekend. It’s those who have had unwavering devotion to the festival that have to worry though. Times are changing, people, and so is Coachella…accept it.

-Ted Maider
Media Specialist

Friday, April 15th

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Outdoor Theatre – 1:15 p.m.

Fun fact: The Rural Alberta Advantage are not from Alberta at all, let alone rural Alberta. They’re actually from Toronto, Ontario, and they rock some. The singer has a bit of a Billy Corgan thing going, which is good or bad depending on whether you’re a Corgan fan. One member alternates between keys and a floor tom, while the third member annihilates the drums. As festival openers go, you can’t ask for more. -Harry Painter

!!! – Outdoor Theatre –  2:20 p.m.

 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Disco-punk is taking over the world whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Despite the Friday afternoon heat, !!! vocalist and mascot Nic Offer was able to get the crowd on its feet and thrash about in the sun. Nic and company were no slouches themselves as they rocked through numbers like “Heart of Hearts” and “Must Be the Moon” to get everyone in a dance frenzy. Heat, good music, and lots of dancing can always get the party going, and this was a worthy start to the weekend. -Ted Maider

Brandt Brauer Frick – Gobi – 2:05 p.m.

These guys sometimes perform with an ensemble, but it was just the three of them (Brandt, Brauer, and Frick) at Coachella. The setup was one member manning the electronic drums while the other two toyed with synths. It got a little samey after a while, but Brandt Brauer Frick‘s original and hands-on take on techno was a delight at two in the afternoon. -Harry Painter

Cold Cave – Mojave – 3:00 p.m.

It seemed strange to have a band like Cold Cave playing in the middle of the day, but their dark mystique and catchy electro tunes sure had a place at Coachella. People bobbed their heads and grooved (somehow, to such dark music), while vocalist Wesley Eisold belted out his cynical and twisted lyrics. Even after all these years, and a total genre swap, the guy still knows how to channel his anger through a musical performance. Plus, he got people to rock out in the heat to “Confetti”, easily one of the band’s most badass tracks. -Ted Maider

coscoachella2 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Omar Rodríguez-López – Gobi- 3:15 p.m.

Titus Andronicus conflicting with Omar Rodríguez-López so early in the day was a crime. Especially since he brought out The Mars Volta bandmate Cedric Bixler-Zavala to accompany him on vocals. You got basically the same thing you’d get from a Mars Volta show, at about half speed — much easier on the ears, actually. It would be nice to hear the guitarist without Bixler-Zavala one of these days, but no one is complaining about an unadvertised Mars Volta appearance. -Harry Painter

Skrillex – Sahara – 3:30 p.m.

The things one has to put up with to watch a damn hip-hop show at Coachella; with Odd Future coming on next, getting to the tent during Skrillex was a must. The former From First to Last frontman has some bangers, but whoever told him bringing out a nu-metal band was a good idea was yanking his chain. Yes, Jonathan Davis and Munky of Korn came out to do whatever it was they did, and helped Skrillex become the first in a long series of catastrophic Friday acts. Didn’t this used to be the dance tent? Wait, scratch that. Korn at Coachella? Really? -Harry Painter

Titus Andronicus – Outdoor Theatre – 3:30 p.m.

titus Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

When I learned Titus Andronicus was going to play the Outdoor, at three in the afternoon, I thought the Coachella planning team had just about lost their fucking minds. Civil war punk rock songs in sweltering heat are enough to take you back to the feelings of the soldiers alone, but Titus did what they do best…they shredded. Opening with “A More Perfect Union”, people embraced the punk and heat, kicking up dust and a flesh storm that sort of went out of control. Regardless, the band marched on, rocking out tracks like “No Future Part III: Escape From No Future”, “Richard II” and, of course, “Titus Andronicus” (complete with harmonica). Yes, it was hot, but lead singer Patrick Stickles encouraged us to drink our electrolytes, so we could rock as hard as he. -Ted Maider

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All – Sahara – 4:30 p.m.

coscoachellaoddfuture Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Despite Odd Future‘s lack of danceability, it was the only tent that was going to be able to hold the flow of people. Still, if you’re going to take over the beloved Sahara, you’d better bring it — and Tyler and crew were not up to the challenge. Odd Future has put out some promising material, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if Coachella was your first experience with the group. OFWGKTA came out late in a burst of energy, but forgot to rap. Those who lament Wu-Tang’s live show don’t know how bad it can get; Odd Future’s formula was to scream lines, ignore the beat, and if one guy accidentally spoke over another, curse loudly to save face. Wu-Tang Clan? Please, at this point Odd Future’s live show is an unfunny, low-production Insane Clown Posse show. -Harry Painter

Cee-Lo Green – Coachella Stage – 4:50 p.m.

At Coachella, there are five stages, and if one act disappoints, there are always other options. Unfortunately, leaving Odd Future for the main stage was like moving from Port-au-Prince to Tokyo. Cee-Lo Green was even tardier than Odd Future, and by the time he came on at 5:30 p.m., the crowd had already let out several loud waves of boos. Cee-Lo apologized, offering the excuse that he had “just landed.”

ceelo Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Okay, fair’s fair. However, Cee-Lo, who arrived not in a flamboyant peacock outfit or a Star Wars getup but a white tee, made things worse by bitching about his set time, then waiting two minutes for his Josie and the Pussycats knockoff backing band to play an uncoordinated “Iron Man” riff before finally singing a note. His set was half-assed, and his bassist was truly a disaster; she was off-key the whole afternoon, ruining both “Crazy” and the set closer, a comically mailed-in “Fuck You”. To his credit, Cee-Lo apologized and took the blame, before inciting a short-lived “Don’t Stop Believing” sing-along. Still, it’s going to take repeat views of that Grammy performance to wash off the stink. -Harry Painter

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart –  Mojave – 5:20 p.m.

painsheart Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

“Oh my God, can I just say I am having the best time at Coachella right now?” – Peggy Wang (keys)

With a great new album, and a true appreciation for the Coachella vibe, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had no reason to be as depressed as their music makes them out to be. Sparking the early evening rays, the band came out looking hip yet excited. It wasn’t necessarily the show to catch if you wanted to jump-start your weekend, as most people sat longingly and watched their (beautiful) distortion wail, but it worked. When the band dished out a couple new tracks off their latest effort, Belong, including the new single “Heart in your Heartbreak”, people shuffled their feet and danced like playful children. It was happy, but that’s all. -Ted Maider

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Gobi – 5:45 p.m.

Did I mention Friday didn’t work out so well? Ariel Pink and his band, but mostly just Ariel Pink, contributed to a hell of an afternoon with one of the funniest meltdowns in memory. Was it a joke? It appeared so. The show was going rather well, but Pink inexplicably stormed off stage after cutting off a song with, “I know you all hate me, but we’re going to stop playing now, so, sorry.” He shortly rejoined his Haunted Graffiti, all smiles, and finished the set — but half of the time, he stood there dancing awkwardly and let the band do the work. The chorus of “Round and Round” is actually rather soothing without a lead vocal part. -Harry Painter

Lauryn Hill – Coachella Stage – 6:05 p.m.

larynhill Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Considering the train wrecks, you’d think watching Lauryn Hill, the reigning queen of unapologetic derailments, had zero chance of making the day any better. Then again, she wrote “Doo Wop”. Hill’s set worked out for a little bit; “Everything Is Everything” sounded okay. Then Hill proceeded to ruin “Lost Ones” beyond all recognition — okay, one more chance. Hill’s backup singers handled all the hard-to-reach notes on “Ex Factor”, which Hill sang with none of the passion that made it great over a decade ago. That was it for me; I like “Doo Wop” just the way it is, thank you. -Harry Painter

YACHT – Mojave – 6:25 p.m.

YACHT was a band many people were talking about prior to the festival. When it came time to see them though, it was quite surreal. They gave shout outs to disco-punk gods LCD Soundsystem, asked us if we believed in aliens, and played their brand of atmospheric dance tunes that went over quite well with the tent crowd. Tracks like “Dystopia” had the crowd chanting “The Earth is on fire,” and when they performed their hit, “Psychic City”, the whole place went bananas. -Ted Maider

Interpol – Coachella Stage – 7:25 p.m.

interpol Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

In 2007, it was Interpol, not Kings of Leon or even Arcade Fire, that everyone thought would be headlining next time around. Instead, Interpol was demoted for Coachella 2011, having lost a bassist (or two) and popular momentum. New bassist Brad Truax filled in okay, although a timing slip-up during “Evil” was a drag; it didn’t help that the bass was way too high in the mix. Otherwise, Interpol went through the motions on hits like “Slow Hands”, “The Heinrich Maneuver”, and “Obstacle 1”, but never acted like they belonged at night on a big stage. New song “Lights”, backed up by some animation from David Lynch, was the surprise highlight. -Harry Painter

Cut Copy – Mojave – 8:35 p.m.

Cut Copy‘s popularity this year is reminiscent of Hot Chip’s popularity the first year they played Coachella. It’s only getting bigger from here. Cut Copy wasn’t in the Sahara, but the band turned that audience into a Sahara crowd. Dan Whitford’s vocals aren’t very flexible, so you have to really like that sort of thing to get into it. -Harry Painter

The Black Keys – Coachella Stage – 8:40 p.m.

blackkeys Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

It was drummer Patrick Carney’s birthday, so the surrounding members of the now non-duo The Black Keys made note to rock extra hard. To kick off the set, older numbers like “Thickfreakness” took precedence, but soon enough newer material off of last year’s Brothers – “Tighten Up” and “Next Girl”, namely – rolled out. Carney celebrated his birthday in style, as the band thrashed about like dying sharks, absolutely annihilating their instruments in the process. The problem? The sound was unnecessarily low, causing the crowd to engage in a “Turn it up!” chant. This performance had gold all over it, but sadly, it was reduced to silver. -Ted Maider

Beardyman – Oasis Dome – 9:00 p.m.

I knew he was a beatboxer, I came to watch him beatbox, and when I got there I didn’t know he was beatboxing. Beardyman is pretty good. -Harry Painter

The Aquabats – Mojave –  9:45 p.m.

cosaquabats Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Oh! The fury of The Aquabats! For a while now, Coachella attendees have wanted the famous ska team, known for their comic book gimmicks, to grace to Polo Fields with a show. Finally, they obliged, by delivering the goods complete with giant inflatable enemies, a superhero video intro, and evil cavemen. And it helped that they played jams like “BFF”, “Pizza Day”, and “The Cat with 2 Heads” to cause a dedicated, partly costumed crowd to rock out. Not to mention an on-stage appearance from Danny DeVito, as well as two members of the Kings of Leon, who claimed to “love the Aquabats” before rushing off. -Ted Maider

Kings of Leon – Coachella Stage – 9:55 p.m.

Unlike Muse, who took about as long as Kings of Leon to finally hit it big in America, the Followills don’t care much for relying on impressive visuals. There was smoke and there were lights, but beyond that, Kings of Leon put on a bare-bones rock (okay, soft-rock) show. There’s certainly something admirable about that; however, people expect something from a headline act, whether it’s visuals, unbelievable musicianship, or just an outstanding physical performance. The band has been through this fest-headlining routine in both Europe and America now, but none of these traits were evident at Coachella. 

They didn’t feel like Kings of anything, but they delivered a well-constructed set friendly to longtime fans. Caleb declared the band was “tired of playing the new stuff,” just before diving into a one-two punch of hits “Molly’s Chambers” and “The Bucket”. There was a healthy selection off Aha Shake Heartbreak and Youth and Young Manhood, but all the new songs that you’re sick of made appearances as well. Predictably, Kings of Leon saved “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” for the end, before closing with Because of the Times track “Black Thumbnail”.

The first of two headliners who weren’t really headliners put on a better show than the indie crowd will admit. Plus, they came out to “Bitches Ain’t Shit”, which is a truly unhateable move. Still, Kings of Leon deserve some of that hate — even with plenty of old songs, those new ballads are just too much. Now that they’re officially rock stars with a bunch of American hits, maybe it’s time to rock again so that next time the Followills play Coachella, the fellas can have some fun, too. -Harry Painter

The Chemical Brothers – Coachella Stage – 11:40 p.m.

fridaychembros7 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Harry Painter

Goldenvoice had to do this…a main stage Chemical Brothers show to wrap up day one. The “brothers” were 45 minutes late (thus the brothers never truly got to “work it out”), and the candy crowd certainly hates to wait. But, as soon as the opening of “Galvanize” came over the speakers, everybody in the crowd went absolutely ape shit. Nobody stopped dancing for the entire hour and 20 minutes they played. Everyone was treated to their favorite gems like “Star Guitar”, “Hey Boy Hey Girl,”  and the new hit, “Swoon”. When the plug was pulled on them around 1:20 a.m., everyone begged them to play one more song, but instead Ed and Tom waved good night, and day one was officially over. Maybe next year, we’ll get Daft Punk. -Ted Maider

Saturday, April 16th

EE – Gobi – 11:50 a.m.

EE was one of the artists collaborating with The Creators Project, which to almost everyone watching meant nothing. To the layperson, it meant the first act in the Gobi was a Korean indie pop group with a DJ and b-boys, and lots of colorful, crazy outfits and good photos. Swag? -Harry Painter

coscoachella4 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

The Joy Formidable – Gobi – 12:55 p.m.

Every year at Coachella, there’s at least one band that comes on before three in the afternoon and turns out to be one of the best acts at the festival. The Joy Formidable was that band this year. The three-piece from Wales plays blistering, crunchy, indie rock with a hint of shoegaze, and boasts a winner in frontwoman Ritzy Bryan (winning name too). After demolishing the tent and inciting way too much applause for the time slot, the band went old school and broke its equipment. It seemed kind of out of place, but that’s because rock and roll is dead, right? -Harry Painter

The Twelves – Sahara – 1:30 p.m.

The Brazilian duo that is The Twelves has garnered praise for its remixes, some of which the duo showed off early Friday in the Sahara. Many a dance was to be had to versions of Metric’s “Help, I’m Alive”, Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic”, and the infectious “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” by The Black Kids. -Harry Painter

The Tallest Man on Earth – Gobi – 3:00 p.m.

worldstallestman Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

It was pretty hot at this point in the day, and the music of Kristian Matsson was the perfect cure for everyone’s exhaustion. The solo performer arrived on stage for sound check, and jammed the whole time, making up songs on the spot just to tease the crowd. When it finally came time for his set to begin, he had already been playing for 10 minutes. People in the crowd squirted water at one another, as he soothed us with tracks like “King of Spain”, “Troubles Will Be Gone” (afterward, he assured us they would), and “You’re Going Back”. All by himself, he hypnotized that crowd to the point that despite how hot and sweaty they may have been, they really didn’t want to leave. -Ted Maider

Foals – Mojave – 3:15 p.m.

Several text messages and a packed-to-capacity Mojave tent indicated that Foals clearly had something radical going on for their set. Upon my arrival, the entire tent was bouncing furiously as the U.K. export banged their instruments in a fit of dance-punk fury. They had the entire tent on its feet jumping in unison to gnarly cuts of “Spanish Sahara” and “Two Steps, Twice”, all while expelling loads of energy. Exciting. -Ted Maider

Gogol Bordello – Coachella Stage- 3:35 p.m.

gogol Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Everyone’s favorite gypsy punks concentrated mostly on Trans-Continental Hustle material, but it never really makes a difference what Gogol Bordello plays. Every time, you are going to get a) a Sean Connery-looking fellow with a fiddle, b) accordion solos, and c) approximately nine people on stage looking to give you the best show of the year, if not your life. Eugene Hutz, one of the best frontmen in rock, shirtless with red wine dripping down his chest, succeeded in getting all the Erykah Badu fans to scream “Break the Spell” like they meant it. That’s how you do a show. -Harry Painter

Delta Spirit – Outdoor Theatre – 4:05 p.m.

Talk about a wrong stage at the wrong time. Delta Spirit were giving it their all at the Outdoor Theatre, but this did not coincide with what other people were feeling. Songs were met with dull cheers, as the crowd lay around sluggishly watching the band play fairly new material. If this show had been going on in a tent, they might have received a better reaction. As it was, people looked too fatigued to enjoy the Long Beach quintet. -Ted Maider

sunsetfriday1 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Harry Painter

Cage the Elephant – Outdoor Theatre – 5:20 p.m.

As the sun started to wither, and people began to rehydrate, Cage the Elephant called to arms. Immediately upon hitting the first notes of “In One Ear”, the audience rushed the stage like a rogue wave. This set the tone for the whole performance. Singer Matthew Shultz arrived sporting a red sundress, and ran around the stage, periodically jumping into the crowd (this clearly pissed off security, but hey, he’s there to put on a show). The band rocked through a number of its songs, and got a crowd sing-along for its gem, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”.  To finalize everything, Shultz brought loads of patrons on stage to dance with him as they knocked out “Sabertooth Tiger”. Random note: Throughout the duration of the show, fighter jets above wrote Lady Gaga lyrics in the sky. -Ted Maider

Broken Social Scene – Coachella Stage – 6:05 p.m.

brokensocial Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Canada’s second most-popular indie rock band cued the setting of Friday’s Coachella sun with some of the fan favorites which have become standard in Broken Social Scene‘s sets: “Texico Bitches”, “7/4 Shoreline”, “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl”, and “Meet Me in the Basement”. Lisa Lobsinger came to help out beginning with “Anthems”. It was low-key in the way only BSS can do low-key and it was spectacular as always. And those horns on set closer “Meet Me in the Basement”, the horns from heaven that erupted for an extended finale, they never get old. -Harry Painter

Elbow – Mojave – 7:00 p.m.

elbow Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

I’ve never been one to rationalize a band’s status here by pointing out that they headline arenas in the U.K. — what terrible logic — but Elbow really deserves more exposure here. That they can only fill up a quarter of the Mojave is a sign of the direction of Coachella’s fanbase; bands like Elbow, Wire, and The London Suede would’ve filled their tents three years ago. Still, as empty as it was, Elbow was not taken aback and performed to high standards. Frontman Guy Garvey led the crowd in clap-alongs for nearly every song, and displayed multi-instrumental capabilities to complement his vocal talents. The band, which has previously performed its 2009 album The Seldom Seen Kid with the BBC Concert Orchestra, was accompanied by a string section for Coachella. -Harry Painter

Bright Eyes – Coachella Stage – 7:20 p.m.

brighteyes Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Conor Oberst returned to Coachella. This time, he brought his famed unit, Bright Eyes. Nevertheless, the crowd spent the hour buzzing about. What moved them even more was how hard Oberst actually rocked some of his finest tracks. He dedicated “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” to all those who randomly came to Coachella, just as the sun dipped behind the mountains for a quick, eye-soothing natural occurrence. Soon after, the stage turned into a trippy light show for everyone, which highlighted tracks like “Approximate Sunlight” and “Old Soul Song”, the latter of which might have been the most beautiful moment on the Polo Field that day. In their 50-minute set, Bright Eyes captured the spirit of Coachella perfectly, as music and nature aligned with one another for one amazing set. -Ted Maider

Shpongle – Sahara – 7:50 p.m.

saturdayshpongle1 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Harry Painter

I’m not sure the Sahara tent has ever been so empty at night; but then, One Day as a Lion was sparsely attended in the Mojave, and Elbow filled the Mojave to about 25 percent capacity at best. Welcome to the emerging career of Mumford and Sons, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a shame, though; The Shpongletron Experience is not something that people will be able to see whenever they like, and it’s worth seeing. Especially if mushrooms are involved. Shpongle deejays atop a giant, glowing, psychedelic fixture, complete with lights and Eastern religious imagery, and there are dancing girls and psychedelic trance. What’s not to like? -Harry Painter

One Day as a Lion – Mojave – 8:15 p.m.

After Zack de la Rocha showed up to the Empire Polo Field with Rage Against the Machine four years ago, people were expecting big things for the band’s future. When big things didn’t happen, out came a little five-song EP by One Day as a Lion. Nothing happened again, and now we’re here. And really, it’s not so bad. Along with Death from Above 1979, De La Rocha and Jon Theodore (still incredible behind the kit) may be the only bands ever to incite mosh pits with a dinky keyboard — and they were both at the same festival! De La Rocha doesn’t seem to rap anymore, which would be okay if he didn’t overuse that reverb effect on every song. Still, it’s such a relief to see De La Rocha can branch out and do something that doesn’t suck, unlike certain other Rage Against the Machine members. -Harry Painter

Big Audio Dynamite – Outdoor Theatre – 9:05 p.m.

b a d Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Mick Jones’ other band — not Gorillaz; his other other band — sounds awfully dated in 2011, just as dated as Duran Duran. But damned if they aren’t a riot. Big Audio Dynamite played songs your mother won’t remember like “E=MC2”, the BAD theme song “BAD”, and what Jones described as a “country western hip-hop ballad” (not far off), “The Battle of All Saints Road”. It’s not mandatory viewing, but any big fan of The Clash would get something out of a BAD set. -Harry Painter

Animal Collective – Coachella Stage – 9:45 p.m.

And the award for Best Visual Performance goes to….

The thing about Coachella that truly sets it apart from other festivals is the ability to watch bands grow. When Animal Collective played three years ago, they performed at one of the smallest stages…at the same time as Portishead. When they returned this year, with several new tracks and some classic cuts (“Summertime Clothes” finale, “Did You See the Words”), they brought with them the most spectacular visual show to grace the main stage this year. Flashes of color, creepy worm-like animations, and several large cubes loomed above their heads, making for one of the most unique sets of the weekend. This is the new age of psychedelic….and they are the leaders behind it. -Ted Maider

The London Suede – Mojave – 10:40 p.m.

suede Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Coachella wasn’t able to pick up Pulp, but it got the next best thing — the band known back home as Suede. Only when you surround a Britpop mainstay like Suede with a bunch of 2010s indie bands do you realize how long it’s been since the ’90s. Suede got right back on the horse for its first U.S. show since reuniting, playing its heart out on favorites like “Animal Nitrate” and “Trash”, and closing with “Metal Mickey” and “Beautiful Ones”. Even without Bernard Butler, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if these guys stuck around for a while and made some green. They deserve it. -Harry Painter

Arcade Fire – Coachella Stage – 11:20 p.m.

“If you had told me in 2002 we’d be headlining Coachella with Animal Collective playing before us, I’d have told you that you were full of shit.” –Win Butler

In a career defining performance, the Arcade Fire proved via the Coachella ladder of success that they are officially one of the most important bands of our time. People furiously rushed the stage during set break, and camped out ruthlessly to wait for the band. Moments prior to their arrival, a series of odd Grindhouse trailers played, before the “feature presentation”. A timely female began singing about May, and I muttered “Month of May” under my breath. A split second later I was proven right, as the band vigorously launched into that one-chord intro, and immediately pulled the rug out from everybody’s feet.

Everyone sang, everyone danced, everyone screamed, and everyone was reduced to rubble by the show Arcade Fire put on. The band’s live performance has come so far, and this performance proved it. Win, Régine, and co. followed the hectic opener with “Rebellion (Lies)” that tugged at everyone to join in, various cuts from The Suburbs accompanied by imagery from their new film, and the most kickass version of “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” that resulted in crowd surfing and head-banging. Prior to their encore, they launched into “Wake Up”, which ended with several hundred white inflatable balls containing colored lights inside to fall from the stage. The crowd was covered to the point where they could no longer see.

To bring us back to life, the band returned for an encore of three more tracks, including the most epic finale version of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, wrapping up one of Coachella’s most well-planned days to date. Arcade Fire has come so far, from playing an afternoon slot on the Outdoor Theatre to headlining, and showing 60,000 people that it is the best band on the planet right now. This is their apex; enjoy it as much as they do. -Ted Maider

Sunday, April 17th

coscoachella1 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011Delorean – Gobi – 2:00 p.m.

The Ibiza revival band from Spain, Delorean, is always a fun catch. Ekhi Lopetegi and co. are top-notch performers, and turned a half-empty tent into a full tent within the span of 40 minutes. Lopetegi’s vocals are weak live, however, and sound nothing like the recordings. Delorean would be a must-see event if he could work on that aspect of Delorean’s shows. Until then, they’re a see-it-if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you event. -Harry Painter

MEN – Mojave – 2:20 p.m.

Le Tigre member JD Samson is a hell of a frontwoman/man/whatever and makes for 90 percent of MEN‘s stage presence. The other 10? A combination of the trio of interconnected helmets, Bret “The Hitman” Hart pink and black jumpsuits, and lyrics like “I’m gonna fuck my friends.” MEN covered Bikini Kill’s (that would be, of course, Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre’s old band) “Double Dare Ya” to end a raucous, fun set. However, let the “Are We Not Devo” jokes commence. -Harry Painter

Wiz Khalifa – Coachella Stage – 3:45 p.m.

whiz Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Wiz Khalifa‘s song “When I’m Gone” begins with “They say all I rap about is bitches and champagne.” Not true — his lyrics unsubtly cover the always-popular territory of cannabis as well, don’t you know. As a matter of fact, Khalifa spent as much time talking about weed as performing Sunday. At Coachella, on the main stage at 4 p.m., that is a problem. It’s too damn hot to pay mind to a guy who lip-syncs to uninspired Empire of the Sun samples, has his DJ cue up extended Nate Dogg tributes, and whose hype man finishes most of his lines for him. And he must have burned five minutes of his 50 allotted advertising Chuck Taylor shoes and his new album Rolling Papers (it’s out now in stores and on iTunes, by the way).

He had some moments, though. He played a few solid cuts off Rolling Papers in addition to the older stuff, and an a capella performance of his verse from his Snoop Dogg collaboration “That Good” was probably the best 30 seconds of hip-hop at Coachella. -Harry Painter


Nas and Damian Marley – Coachella Stage – 5:00 p.m.

marleys Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley was no rookie to the Polo Field, but with Nas, they brought a whole new kind of heat. As the Rasta flag was waved high, Nas spit fire, while Damian Marley and his band pulled the crowd to their feet and thus a dance party ensued. Of course, no Marley show is complete without a cover of his father’s work (“Could You Be Loved”) which sparked good vibes and several joints. But at the same time, the hip-hop crowd’s needs were met while Nas performed cuts like “One Mic”, and a (for some reason) no-Lauryn Hill version of “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”. What really rocked though was when Marley and Nas worked together on duets “Nah Mean” and “As We Enter”, as it brought on a whole new kind of party to the main stage on Sunday. -Ted Maider

Death from Above 1979 – Coachella Stage – 6:10 p.m.

deathfromabove Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

As excited as the crowd appeared, there was a lingering fear to this potentially riotous set. As soon as Death from Above 1979 started with “Turn it Out”, however, the fears became reality, and a huge hole for moshing ripped open amidst the crowd. It was difficult to breathe, several were pushed around violently, yet everyone screamed the lyrics. While people were hoping they’d be on a smaller stage for more mayhem, the crowd didn’t seem to have a problem stomping the crap out of each other on the biggest stage for one of the most intense shows of the weekend. The Toronto duo roared through “Romantic Rights”, a terrifying version of “Pull Out”, and even a sing-along of “Little Girl” to make it the deadliest show of the whole weekend. Blood was certainly spilled; it’s just that this time it was that of the fans, and not a police horse. -Ted Maider

Trentemøller – Mojave – 7:10 p.m.

Backed by a live band — and fronted at the beginning by a cage of, well, ribbons — Danish producer Trentemøller laid out an onslaught of arpeggios and downtempo ambient music to an early Sunday night crowd. Trentemøller was followed in the Mojave Sunday by Ratatat, Leftfield, and The Presets, all of which we missed. And that’s why we hate Coachella. -Harry Painter

The National – Outdoor Theatre – 7:25 p.m.

national1 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

The National is so appropriate to close the Outdoor Theatre at sundown it would almost be an insult to give them the exposure of a later Coachella Stage slot. Flawless as usual, The National played through the festival set it has been touring with since High Violet came out (two off Alligator, two or three off Boxer, the rest off High Violet). It would be nice to get an old song here and there, and “Abel” does not count, Mr. Dessner. The National invited Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and fellow Coachella band Gayngs to play guitar on “Terrible Love”. -Harry Painter

Duran Duran – Coachella Stage – 7:25 p.m.

duranduran Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Frontman Simon Le Bon made it clear that he, along with his legendary unit Duran Duran, were more excited about playing Coachella than anyone else. While there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about the Polo Field of them, they sure rounded up a large crowd on Sunday, proving to the world that after 30-something years the ’80s still prove cool. Every soul found rhythm during a spot-on rendition of “Hungry Like the Wolf”, including the drunken fans at the nearby beer garden, who chugged along as they danced about madly. In addition to the nightclub anthem, the band also dusted off classics like “Notorious”, dedicated “A View to Kill” (yes, the Bond song) to the late John Barry, and keyboardist Nick Rhodes took photos of the audience as they finally brought the house down with “Girls on Film”. Apparently, Coachella will always have a home for the ’80s. -Ted Maider

The Strokes – Coachella Stage – 8:55 p.m.

Sure, The Strokes shared the headlining slot on the bill with Kanye West, but everyone knew who the real headliner was, regardless of personal taste. The Strokes were second banana, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t earn their top billing. Playing a career-spanning set as well as five new songs, The Strokes continued their bid to re-endear themselves to the world at Coachella.

Plus some newcomers, as well. There were throngs of kids in the pit who couldn’t have been older than five or six when Is This It came out, waiting eagerly next to the 20-somethings who grew up on the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but hey, five years of inactivity can make you into a legend these days.

strokes Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Anyway, young Strokes fans, old Strokes fans, and Kanye fans alike were all bouncing by the time the opening riff of “I Can’t Win” tore into the field. The Strokes play the songs people want to hear, so outside of the Angles cuts, it was all hits from there. The sing-alongs manifested throughout the whole set, but were most prominent for “Last Nite”, “Reptilia”, and “Under Cover of Darkness”. The only slow moments were the new wave revival tune “Games” and fellow Angles track “Gratisfaction”.

Julian Casablancas was uncharacteristically chipper; the random trucker hat he was wearing along with his leather jacket and shades might have had something to do with it. He made fun of Duran Duran (“Was that a flute solo I heard? Just checking.”) and more energetic rock frontmen (“Generic lead singer-speak: You motherfuckers ready?!”). This kind of humor lasted throughout the night and it was nice to see all of them in good spirits. -Harry Painter

Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 –  Sahara – 9:35 p.m.

The techno-metal masters of insanity played Sunday night to a very rowdy and visually nutty Sahara tent. The noise that the Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 call music was accompanied by a light show that really took things to a whole other level. But it was the Beetroot’s craziness that was getting this crowd hopped up. While I only was able to catch the end of their set, what I saw totally freaked me out…and now I fear the assault the Death Crew 77 could possibly do to our ears. -Ted Maider

PJ Harvey – Outdoor Theatre – 9:45 p.m.

sundaypjharvey Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Harry Painter

It was very hard to leave PJ Harvey‘s set for Kanye West, which was obviously the point, those evil bastard schedule monkeys. It’s a tragedy that there’s ever something more important than PJ Harvey going on at the same time, but such is Conflictchella. She was scheduled to leave her stage around the time he took his, but Harvey’s Outdoor Theatre-closing set ran well into the third or fourth Kanye song, which was disastrous for the stage conflict but awesome for Harvey fans. Harvey played mostly songs off Let England Shake, but gave oldies like “Meet Ze Monsta” and “Down by the Water” some life. -Harry Painter

Kanye West – Coachella Stage – 10:30 p.m.

Mr. West claimed his Coachella closing set, something of a redemption show after Swiftgate and a year of gay fish jokes, was his “most important show since [his] mom died,” and he backed up this claim by dedicating it to her and even closing with “Hey Mama”.

So how’d he do?

Mama should be proud. Sure, he didn’t bring out Rihanna or Jay-Z or Nas or Ludacris or Talib Kweli or Die Antwoord. Sure, there were some ups and downs and some kinks that need to be worked out. But by and large, Kanye West proved Sunday he deserves and can handle a major headlining spot.

West landed a first at Coachella, dare I say a one-up on Prince — he was delivered to the Coachella Stage on a giant crane as he carefully spit out the words to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy opener “Dark Fantasy”, accompanied by Justin Vernon, who had a busy weekend. When he finally touched ground, he quickly broke out “Power” (a song he claimed he thought about performing at Coachella as soon as he wrote it) and early hit “Jesus Walks”. His set, as expected, was made up almost entirely of hits, from “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”, “All Falls Down”, and “Through the Wire” to later singles like “Stronger”, “Heartless”, and last fall’s omnipresent banger “Monster” (fucking hands were seen at the concert). The climactic combination of “Runaway”, with guest Pusha-T, and “Lost in the World”, with Vernon again, was simply stunning.

The show was as much performance art as music; West won the more-people-on-stage-than-Arcade-Fire award by having on the whole team of ballerinas from the “Runaway” video back for a live rendition of that creepy choreography. There were costume changes, props, and most importantly, lots and lots of pyro. He overdid it on that front; by the middle of the show, there had been so much pyro it had long since shed its intended effect.

kanye Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Let’s face it: As West admitted during his little speech about 808s and Heartbreak, he can’t sing for shit. Which is why it was a good call to throw the three cuts off that album in the middle, so as not to detract from the flow. Still, he can’t sing for shit, and he made it worse by attempting these bizarre diva vocal breaks as if he were Christina Aguilera. “Love Lockdown” sounded more like a poetry reading at open mic night than a hip-hop concert. The night ended with more embarrassment for everyone except Kanye as he left us hanging with that whole “mamamam-m-mama” bit from “Hey Mama”, and no encore even when the crowd demanded one.

Still, he’s pretty good at hiding the weaknesses and highlighting the strengths. He has surprisingly good breath control, especially after a show just under two hours; he knows how to pace himself. He’s a born entertainer, as everyone knows, and for better or for worse concentrated on performing first and rapping second. Sure, there had to be some lingering disappointment after West closed such a high-energy, hit-filled set with an ode to his dead mother. But the two hours leading up to it earned him an excuse to play that song, and who are we kidding, Kanye will do whatever the hell he wants anyway. He’ll do it at Coachella and he’ll do it at Wrigley Field. -Harry Painter


Did you like the videos? Feel like you could do it yourself? You can! With a Sony Bloggie Touch HD, the festival’s yours for the keeping! Then again, you could always try and win one, too.

Gallery by Debi Del Grande

Our writers couldn’t make it everywhere, but photographer Debi Del Grande sure did. Her eyes went all over Polo Field, and now you, the reader, get to benefit from them.

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