By Eric Brown |Chronicle Contributor|
Southern California’s premiere music festival was the “same flavor, twice the fun” on the weekends of April 13-15 and April 20-22 in the Coachella Valley.
Musically the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival had the same line-up, however completely different festivals ensued. The first week was an uncharacteristically rainy and cold festival, while the second weekend experienced the normal heat the festival is known for, with temperatures breaking triple digits. Check our photo stream below to see what ensued and our special from the pit streaming, or check out the unprecedented live streaming of music highlights from Coachella’s Youtube stream.
Every year Goldenvoice adds more and more varied acts to the festival’s line-up, below is the Chronicle’s day by day highlights of this musical diversity.
DAY ONE Highlights of the day included Hello Seahorse, The Dear Hunter, EMA, Arctic Monkeys, M. Ward, The Rapture, Afrojack, The Black Keys and Swedish House Mafia.
Hello Seahorse took to the blazing main stage to bring life into the festival early on Friday. An inspired set full of Latin rock and stunning soprano notes started the festival off right to their uniquely Latin rift.
The Dear Hunter is a collection of soulful indie rockers who play a myriad of instruments, taking the audience through a melodic journey into the best indie and alternative has to offer. Casey Crescenzo’s vocals have matured since his time with The Receiving Ends of Sirens, which was reflected by the ever growing crowd that amassed during their set.
The main lady of EMA, Erika M. Anderson, rocked the audience in one of Coachella’s many tents. The band’s indie/punk appearance dipped soulfully into deeper issues that are reminiscent of Metric.
The Arctic Moneys were the first big name on the main stage and were the perfect act to lift the festival’s spirits either during the first weekend, when it started to get colder, or to rejuvenate the sun-beleaguered crowd of the second weekend. Playing through fan favorites, the Monkeys’ edginess has been tailored to fine form for their live performance, bringing that extra element of rock showmanship thanks to frontman Alex Turner’s stage presence.
As the night rolled in, M. Ward set up shop in one of the tents to wind people down with his singer/songwriter style. His solo act was able to flourish without Zooey Deschanel (Ward is the “He” part of She and Him). Ward’s lyrics and masterful slap guitar took many back to the essence of what it is to be a guitarist.
One of the biggest performances of the night took place in one of the tents when The Rapture took the stage. Classy electronic beats with a traditional guitar and charged lyrics, led this indie rock-pop group to draw people from all over the festival. On stage, they were a sight to behold as the band jumped around, acted and generally played with the audience.
Afrojack was a must-see as their tent was transformed into a giant dance party, featuring all the favorites plus a few lesser known mashes.
Headlining the night was The Black Keys. The near-perfection of their performance could have been recorded on a studio album. The main stage was treated to the duo performing without their supporting band for a few songs, which truly displayed the talent of these indie mainstay rockers.
Unique to the second weekend was a cover of Levon Helm’s “The Weight” with John Fogerty due to Helm’s recent passing and the Keys’ love for his music.
While the Keys headlined the night, Swedish House Mafia closed the main stage with an inspired set of electronica. With a light performance and screens displaying technicolor images, these three DJs kept the entire festival up, either shuffling up close or sauntering through the tents.
DAY TWO Things really got going during the festival’s second day. Highlights of the day included Tijuana Panthers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Buzzcocks, Manchester Orchestra, The Shins, Bon Iver, Miike Snow, Flying Lotus, David Guetta and Radiohead.
Tijuana Panthers rocked their tent so hard that moshing ensued during the otherwise “chilled out” festival.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, known for their folk inspired rock, fit seamlessly into the the festival’s desert vibe as they played their lyrical rock and Heart-esque performing to win over many new fans at the festival. Despite the heat the band followed Potter in dancing around stage and enticing the audience to move in sweaty unison.
For an old bunch of guys, the rowdiest crowd and potentially highest energy show of the festival was in one of the smaller tents when Buzzcocks performed. This old school British punk band had Coachella fans moshing about. Outgoing guitarist and vocalist, Steve Diggle demanded the volume to be turned up on the set and was really the leading force behind these iconic rockers performance.
Manchester Orchestra, The Shins and Bon Iver. All of these softer acts drew crowds at their respective stages at Coachella and their indie and soulful swoons lulled the crowd. While not quite as entertaining or wowing as some of the other artists, it was an experience to see these stapled of the indie scene grab their glory on the big stages.
Little known, but rapidly growing Flying Lotus, or FlyLo is an experimental multi-genre music producer who came to coachella to mix and match beats that would keep the festival going after all day of being in the sun. FlyLo performed to a full tent despite being up against large acts like Bon Iver in his time slot, and that’s only a testament to the ingenuity of his mixing.
The final show on the outdoor stage was rocked by Miike Snow, a group of Swedish indie pop rockers. While competing in the time slot with David Guetta, who was spinning in one of the nearby tents, Miike Snow got the desert back on it’s feet as the night drew closer to it’s end. Saving their hit “Animal” for the end, thousands in the audience chanted the chorus, drowning out sound across almost the entire festival.
Meanwhile, Guetta was putting on his classic mixes to a tent dedicated to dancing all night, and on this second weekend, Guetta invited singer Sia on stage to perform one of their newest collaborations, which sent the audience to the next level of party.
Radiohead, where to start? Thom Yorke and company of this iconic rock band powered through their new album on stage before letting fans have what they really wanted, a taste of their hits over the past two decades. When Radiohead plays live, they breathe their music, and don’t just play it, which shows why these guys are truly professionals and pioneers in the industry,
DAY THREE And finally the festival closes on day three, but not without a few more spectacular shows. Highlights for Day Three include: Fitz and the Tantrums, Wild Flag, The Hives, Justice, Calvin Harris, Beirut, Florence + the Machine ending with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog.
A unique act, and an even more interesting ensemble is Fitz and the Tantrums. While on the main stage, frontman Michael Fitzpatrick played to the audience’s affection by stepping down off the stage amongst them as the band rolled through their soulful indie set. Featuring a saxophone, trumpet, flute or harmonica in many of their songs, this band has a upbeat vibe and different feel than most of Coachella’s indie rockers.
The female powered indie punk band Wild Flag took to the outdoor stage in the last rays of heat, and that meant the show only got better as the sun went down. These ladies are a supergroup of artists that came together with the iconic Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia, NPR, and Sleater-Kinney fame). The rifts and flows from their guitars intermingled with a driving drumbeat and enticing keyboard left many in the audience wowed at these ladies skill. For fans of the band, this was one of the few and biggest stages on which to see them, and these ladies showed the desert some cool class.
On the main stage as the sun was setting, The Hives performed a mix of older and newer songs as lead vocalist Pelle Almqvist pandered to the audience to get up and shout. He wasn’t let down, the audience only grew during their set as The Hives Swedish garage rock built and built with each song.
As darkness filled the desert valley for the final time, a glowing white cross hit the main stage, and that’s when Justice took to the stage and breathed light and energy back into the festival grounds with their electronic beats. The French duo, were intimidating and alluring to see live as they were raised to a higher level over the main stage the entire crowd began to move their feet to a blend of electronic beats and keyboard rifts.
Calvin Harris, who hasn’t listened to one of his many beats? Playing in one of the tents at the festival, Harris waled on stage, hit play, and let the party happen. While seeing someone like Harris live means you usually come to dance, and not watch the stage, Harris didn’t disappoint but blowing up the bass and slightly altering some of his beats for the crowd’s enjoyment.
An interesting find in one of the tents stages was Beirut, an indie and folk group that seemed to be experimenting with all modes of musical persuasion on stage. This tent was a must for those who wanted to see an artist who really delved into may types of music and who varied their melodies, Beirut was such an act.
Florence + the Machine, was a train wreck of emotion and dancing on stage. The music side of Florence’s performance at the second weekend was a little short, props however go to her band and support vocalists who kept the melody spot on. Florence wasn’t bad by any means, but instead seemed so emotionally vested in the crowd and the night that she was prone to pure dancing and spinning then singing all of the words or singing loudly. Despite her shenanigans on stage, the set included old and new favorites and had a very large showing at the outdoor stage.
Perhaps the biggest performance of the festival was the last. With over 20 years of making music together, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog blew up the main stage with old and new songs. Middle fingers were in the air alongside the smell of marijuana as rap’s heavyweights dropped the beat. The show got even more intense as Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, 50 Cent,, G-Unit and Wiz Khalifa all took the stage. However fans were holding out for the moment they heard was special and had been teased about ever since it happened on the first weekend. That was the hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, who virtually performed two songs with Dre and Snoop. The performance of all these individuals was nothing short of epic, and as Dre said later in a video message to fans, “This was done strictly for Coachella 2012. Just for you.”
Despite the festival being over and these highlights bring you the best of what went down in the desert, there was always a show going on or special something on stage that you might have missed because you were at another stage seeing something equally unique. That is the sad story of the festival, that so many artists play at the same time that fans must pick and choose, and that sometimes leaves some acts less attended, at the second weekend that was Company Flow, Explosions in the Sky (whose set was actually marvelous as their experimental and edgy rock broke the spell of desert heat on the first day) and Modeselektor who got a visit from Thom Yorke to give them a boon onstage.
Swedish House Mafia
The festival and the camping …
Fashion was probably the most interesting part of the festival. Dreads, Feathers, see-through clothing, hipster and 80s wear and mixed-matched rave clothing created a unique look for every individual.
It seemed like only the journalists were wearing plain clothes, as everyone was somehow endowed with interesting threads.
Sprinkled throughout the festival were architectural pieces, such as Pagodas, trash and steel structures of dinosaurs, a giant Lotus Flower crane and the night time land sharks. The latter were especially entertaining as they raced through the crowds.
The iconic Ferris Wheel towered above, offering an awesome view of the entire festival. A dozen Free-flowing giant black tubes, plastic bag inspired tools stretching 100 feet, shifted with the wind and was a unique display of human recycling and ingenuity in entertainment.
While the music is the main draw of this event, the camping at Coachella is a completely different experience.
Packed like sardines per Goldenvoice’s arrangement, completely separate and different individuals and groups coexisted in the campgrounds. Campsite activities included Cyclecide (a carnival of sorts assembled by alt-bike mechanics, which was meant to inspire people to ride and make music), yoga and Pilates classes in the mornings, dodge-ball and pinball tournaments, a silent dance party, a farmer’s market and not to mention a thriving cluster of food trucks.
By night the campgrounds and its trails were illuminated and transformed into a Vegas-like scene, which was nothing short of beautiful.
Overall, the festival organizers completely stepped up their game this year, delivering tons of artistic thrills. One can only imagine what kinds of tricks they have up their sleeves for 2013.
Photos by Eric Brown