More than 75,000 people crammed the Indio polo fields over the past weekend in the three-day extravaganza known as the Coachella Arts & Music Festival, crushing attendance records for what was undoubtedly the most high-profile year of the event's 11-year existence.
Jay-Z, Muse, Thom Yorke's new band and Gorillaz were just the tip of the massive iceberg that descended on the desert fields, with true-blue supergroup Them Crooked Vultures obliterating the competition on Friday night with a set that displayed fleshed-out renditions of tracks off their debut, as well as a new track or two for the die-hards.
Saturday's headliner Muse delivered what many are calling the weekend's best performance, giving an energized, passionate set that opened with a ramped-up version of their ambitious track "Uprising." The light show alone was said to be spectacular, and frontman Matt Bellamy paid a nod to Hendrix by playing the national anthem on guitar.
The best covers of Coachella weekend were actually delivered by Faith No More, however. As frontman Mike Patton led the band in a red leisure suit and cane, they tore off straightfaced covers of Peaches and Herb's "Reunited" and Michael Jackson's "Ben". Sadly, it was painfully evident to the maniac fans around the world watching the stream from home that the audience was painfully unaware of how special and incredible the unlikely reunion happening before them was – most of them weren't singing along, even to the more recognizable material.
The Dead Weather defied the cameraphone-wielding masses during their Saturday performance, playing an assortment of new material from their upcoming Sea Of Cowards album.
Kicking off just as Muse ended an ambitious & triumphant set, Jack White, Alison Mosshart & Co. dealt fans a searing dose of the smoldering popped-leather-collar sex rock they’ve come to corner the market on, though much of it was unfamiliar to the audience.
“How you doin, Coachella? Good to see you again,” Jack White said as the band settled into their stride. “It’s not too hot. It’s not too cool. It’s just right.” The jovial mood was certainly a change of pace from his appearance with the White Stripes in 2003, when the band couldn’t hear themselves and White proceeded to channel his furious frustration into a devastating, face-melting & unforgettable performance.
Check out more new Dead Weather songs at Antiquiet.
One major rumor proved false when Dr. Dre, who many believed would show up during Jay-Z's set to debut the much-hyped "Under Pressure" single, never appeared. Instead, Jay-Z sported a ten-piece band and made being hte first Hip-Hop artist to ever headline the festival look like a no-sweat situation. Beginning with "Run This Town" and ending with a blistering singalong of "Encore," Hova kicked out the jams in a career-spanning set that also saw the appearance of his wife Beyonce stepping up to the mic to aid her man on "Forever Young".
Gorillaz headlined Sunday, playing live onstage as opposed to behind a screen dancing with animation as they had in their previous tours. De La Soul, members of the Clash and Bobby Womack all appeared to give live presence to tracks off their excellent Plastic Beach album, giving Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace band a run for their money on the hip-hype bill for the final day.
Atoms for Peace, which includes Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Beck drummer Joey Waronker and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, played the entirety of Yorke's solo album The Eraser , as well as a few Radiohead tracks, covers and new songs, which the crowd devoured hysterically.
Many European flights never made it overseas due to the ash cloud created by the volcanic eruption in Iceland, and as a result seven bands missed Coachella, including the Cribs and Frightened Rabbit, as well as Phoenix's light tech. "So, we're just gonna go simple and make it about the music," Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars said.
Sly Stone showed up 40 minutes late to his rescheduled 10:30 slot, after missing his 7pm slot entirely, and then proceeded to leave a terrible taste in the mouths of those in attendance. He ranted for 10 minutes about who knows what, stopped songs midway through, forgot lyrics, and ended the show with very little fanfare or preparation. The move of a true trainwreck.
Julian Casablancas never took off his hot leather jacket through his hit-heavy set, and Spoon may have had the crowd in the palms of their hands, but Pavement and Sunny Day Real Estate represented the true core of pre-emo alt-rock, and the translation was warmly embraced by the audience.
The Soft Pack delivered an upbeat Mojave Tent performance as well. “It’s a big deal being from Southern California and ending our tour here,” guitarist Matty McLoughlin ï»¿said backstage. “Now we can take peyote and go watch Pavement perform.”
photos: Timothy Norris