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Photo courtesy of Kaskade

Where Friday was cold, dreary and windy, Saturday was merely cold and windy. The sun maintained a long vigil during the day, but razor sharp gusts and a high that barely cleared 70 degrees made sure Coachella kept making a pretty penny on hoodie sales. 2:30 in the afternoon is not necessarily morning, but it always feels like that, with the majority of the festival still in their tents or beds recovering from the night before. Destroyer didn’t seem to mind, though; playing a seven song set heavy in Kaputt cuts, Bejar was in fine form for the afternoon mood. Many enjoyed the suave jazz of “Chinatown” and the hazy “Bay of Pigs” from blankets in the grass, an appropriately dreamy soundtrack as the sun beat down on them and most people unwillingly began their day.

After that I kicked up the energy a bit for Zeds Dead’s set at the Sahara. Already way past full, the Sahara tent was rocking with the Mad Decent duo’s eclectic mix of hip-hop, dubstep and straight-ahead electro. Although Zeds Dead killed it, the already rowdy antics of much of the Sahara’s population had me swearing off the tent for the rest of the day, a decision made easier by future Sahara tenants (David Guetta, Martin Solveig, Sebastian Ingrosso … ehh, I’ll pass). I managed to catch the end of Britpop castaways Kaiser Chiefs on the Main Stage, where the band still made a go of it in front of a diminished crowd with a raucous version of “Oh My God.” They still had energy in spades, but a trip to a lower billing isn’t too far away for the Chiefs.

The coveted sunset spot on the Outdoor Stage belonged to Andrew Bird, one of more anticipated artists given his excellent new record Break It Yourself and the fact that I had never seen him before (sorry, Manchester Orchestra in the Mojave tent). Although I had doubts about his wispy voice and whistling translating well to an open live arena like the Outdoor Stage, his voice carried well, and his deep backing band never overwhelmed. It was a treat watching him and other members of his band switch instruments deftly between and even during songs without a hitch, and production-wise it was one of the more flawless shows put on the entire weekend.  The string work on “Orpheo Looks Back,” in particular, sounded crystal clear in the air and could have been ripped practically right off the vinyl.

The elusive Jeff Mangum, meanwhile, took the stage in a solitary chair shortly after Bird left, the sun struggling to stay over the horizon as the crowd struggled to shuffle closer to the stage in order to hear this almost exclusively acoustic set. Mangum’s hermit reputation is well earned – this was the only set during which a worker asked the audience beforehand to refrain from photographing or filming the performance (good luck!). The Outdoor Stage didn’t do Mangum any favors, either; the acoustics often got lost, particularly to those sitting in the rear of the lawn, and the sizable crowd promoted more talking than listening, which likely would have been prevented in a hushed, enclosed club (or a smaller tent). Regardless, the fans cheered the Neutral Milk Hotel leader emphatically after every song, which included nearly every fan favorite from In the Aeroplane Over The Sea. When Mangum brought out a French horn and a trombonist for the titular track from that album, it was damn near magical when set against the purple dusk.

Although I had a decision to make between St. Vincent (very tough), Kasabian (not so hard) and the Shins, it was really a no brainer when the chance arose to see one of the favorite bands of my youth. Surprisingly playing Coachella for the first time, James Mercer and a bolstered backing band (with a number of female backing vocalists who nailed some of the trickier multi-part harmonies) cherry-picked all of their hits, running the gamut from a bouncy “Australia” and the cathartic climax of “Sleeping Lessons” to the note-perfect orchestral flourishes in “Saint Simon” and, of course, “New Slang,” which held the entire audience spellbound and nearly silent (a miracle in itself). Although this new incarnation of the Shins has only been around for this year’s Port of Morrow, given their impeccably taut playing you’d be forgiven for thinking this band had been playing together for years. Mercer threw in a bonus curveball with their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” a suitably trippy rendition and a nod to the amount of psychedelics Mercer jokingly noted were probably being consumed by the crowd. Easily one of the best performances of the weekend.

Over at the Outdoor Stage I caught the last thirty minutes of Feist’s set, and judging from the massive backing band/orchestra/crew that swelled out behind her on the stage, you would have thought the entirety of Broken Social Scene and their families had come out to jam with the waifish songwriter. Her last album, 2011’s Metals, took a while to grow on me, but I now think that its spartan soundscape and carefully boiling songs are some of the best work of her career. This was reaffirmed with what I saw from her set, which transformed Metals standouts like “The Bad In Each Other” into full-blown Americana epics, playing up a western tinge that the Outdoor Stage and her orchestra enhanced nicely. Feist also connected with the crowd effortlessly (props to the soundstage for keeping her voice very clear at all times), at one point cracking that “Caught A Long Wind” was an outtake from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.

While Bon Iver would have seemed like a good idea in the afternoon, the night made Flying Lotus seem like a much more reasonable choice, and although I only caught the last twenty minutes of his set in the Gobi tent, I wasn’t disappointed. Of all the artists I saw over the weekend, FlyLo seemed the most genuinely happy to be there, thanking the audience after almost every song, shouting out his drummer and bassist (Sunday performer THUNDERCAT), bringing a bunch of Odd Future members on stage to dance along, and giving out a palpable, heartfelt acknowledgement to the crowd’s support of him. That was after he had already premiered bits of his new album (slated for a September 2012 release), gotten the crowd moshing every which way with his signature blend of hip-hop thump, space-age sonic gear-shifting and hard-hitting remixes (“Niggas in Paris”), and dropped a ferocious rip of Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in the Paint” to close things out. White people have rarely danced so hard at Coachella.

Photo courtesy of WXRT Radio

Having seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor during their reunion show last year, I only stopped by for a few minutes of the band’s drone, which was fantastic when I saw them in a theater a year ago but didn’t have nearly the same lose-yourself appeal when the insistent four-on-the-floor bass from the nearby Sahara kept bleeding over. Electro group Miike Snow, closing out the Outdoor Stage, meanwhile, did everything they could to sell their new album to a festival audience, and at times it worked (“Paddling Out,” in particular, was a legitimate party). But when they crushed old favorites like “Silvia” and the acoustic intro mix into “Black & Blue,” there was really no contest.

British drum ‘n bass producer Sub Focus, closing out the Mojave, endured one of the rougher mishaps that I saw over the weekend. His potent blend of hard electro, filthy drops, and speed-friendly rhythms (aka robots having sex) nearly shorted out several of the speakers, causing noticeable clipping and distortion. Luckily, while the emcee cooled the crowd, techs were able to fix whatever was wrong and got the rest of the party rolling smoothly along. It was a good thing, too, because short of Amon Tobin, Sub Focus easily had the coolest light show of the festival (although Kaskade’s floor-to-ceiling lights next door at the Sahara looked appealing). Situated in a spiral of constantly shifting LED lights and two screens that moved in and out of focus in groove to the music, Sub Focus did a fantastic job combining fluid drum ‘n bass with a light show that amplified rather than detracted from his show. It helped that this was probably the filthiest set of the festival, an atmosphere reinforced by the grimy diehards who chose this over A$AP Rocky, Kaskade, and, of course…

The much-anticipated Radiohead closing set on the Main Stage was predictably epic, the band’s new addition of a second drummer paying immense dividends and allowing them to recreate some truly intense drum machine beats. The setup didn’t disappoint, particularly on “Karma Police,” where the stage was taken over by nine massive video screens showing close-ups of the band, and second encore (total encore time: nearly an hour) closer “Paranoid Android,” which alternated between black-and-white melodrama to a frenetic blast of multicolored arrangements per the song’s transitions. The setlist was everything a Radiohead fan could ask for, unless you were heckling them to play “Creep” (I think this person would have been murdered), ranging from newer tunes like the undeniably sexy “Lotus Flower” to older classics (“Lucky,” “Idioteque”). Of course, I’m the first to admit I’m not the biggest Radiohead fan (blasphemy!), yet the patently brilliant musicianship, particularly the drumming, was easy to get lost in. Furthermore, it’s tough for me to describe this set in words – Radiohead is a band meant to be seen in full Technicolor glory, and while there’s a number of videos online where one can see the full set, you really can’t get a feel for the full immersion of their sets unless you’re there, calm and drifting in one of the most involved light shows I have ever seen. The final glorious blast of color that they left transfixed on the stage and imprinted on my retinas as their set ended was the perfect representation for their performance. Not sure what Thom was thinking with that ponytail, though.

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Day 1 Coverage

Day 3 Coverage





klap
04.19.12
Bands I missed: the Big Pink, Manchester Orchestra, Laura Marling, St. Vincent, Kasabian, Bon Iver, A$AP Rocky, some of GY!BE

theacademy
04.19.12
im ok with you missing some of those, (not manchester orchestra, but at least you missed Big Pink and not P!nk (thank christ)).

theacademy
04.19.12
I woulda chose st. v over the shins obvipanzer

klap
04.19.12
saw manchester last year soooo

Spare
04.19.12
thom be ballin hard in that pic yo

klap
04.19.12
word, I heard St. Vincent was good but the shins was probably my favorite set of the weekend

Spare
04.19.12
i've got a tape of a sydney show the shins did around the time wincing was released, one of my fav live recordings. there's this stripped down acousticy verson of caring is creepy with a harmonica and it's like 10 times better than the original.

also is there a link somewhere of that radiohead set? the one on youtube's been taken down

Deviant.
04.19.12
Man that Zeds Dead vid is depressing.

Hey you chose Flylo, I am impressed (but unless he's changed it isn't Until the Quieit Comes due out in June?). Also, Sub Focus doesn't make dubstep

klap
04.19.12
word, meant to say he played it. and you may be right about the flylo record but he said september during the show so that's what i went on

Aids
04.19.12
ugh I hate you for missing Manchester Orchestra but if you saw them last year and don't have a huge boner for them like I do then fair enough. Radiohead sounded sweet. and Zeds Dead are awesome but what is up with that video? haha. didn't GYBE play some new stuff? that's what Lucidity said, but I think they played that first so you might have missed it. FlyLo sounded awesome too. nice work.

oh one more thing: Kaiser Chiefs suck but they're pretty fun live.

also, I'd love to see Mangum.

klap
04.19.12
Yeaaah it's nearly impossible to get good videos from the Sahara tent because of the sound and the crowds, hence the Zeds Dead video and any other Sahara videos (like SebastiAn from yesterday).

Didn't stick around GY!BE long enough to tell on that

Transient
04.19.12
I don't think you can comprehend just how jealous of you I am.

Deviant.
04.19.12
"and you may be right about the flylo record but he said september during the show so that's what i went on"

I'd say it's September then haha

Aids
04.19.12
it wasn't the quality of the video that was the problem for me, they just looked like amateurs (in before Deviant says "looked like?") I've seen them live and they were great, but that performance seemed uninspired to me.

klap
04.19.12
yeah that's true, i didn't really notice that because when i saw them i was way on the right side out of the tent because it was so crowded so i couldn't even really see them. maybe because this was their first time at coachella? music was generally good, though

Deviant.
04.19.12
Looked like?

"Of all the artists I saw over the weekend, FlyLo seemed the most genuinely happy to be there, "

http://twitter.com/#!/flyinglotus/status/191945988494196737

Aids
04.19.12
I saw them in a shitty club in my hometown with

Aids
04.19.12
lol dev, saw that coming.

Aids
04.19.12
"I saw them in a shitty club in my hometown with "

that entire post was meant to end with "less than 100 people, /hipster" but I guess the pointed brackets fuck up posts, oh well.

clercqie
04.19.12
Saw Manchester Orchestra on the stream, amazing rock performance to say the least.

So stoked for Radiohead in October though. I purposely did not watch the show so I can be fully surprised when they come around here.

FelixCulpa
04.19.12
Nice write-up, like last time, looking forward to part 3. And that Feist song sounded awesome live.

Piglet
04.19.12
Fantastic write-up, man!

klap
04.19.12
i wish i could find a video Feist closing with "I Feel It All," that was so epic

klap
04.19.12
oh wait: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olT_72WMVjs

aok
04.19.12
totally agree about the shins' "speake to me / breathe" and flylo's genuine smile. day 2 was probably my favorite through and through, with radiohead's set being like my omg holy shit that happened i'm finally seeing them set. i was mostly a drunken idiot on sunday cause my weekend was already complete

PuddlesPuddles
04.19.12
Sick. You missing Manchester makes me :/ but still awesome.

At first in the Radiohead vid, sounded like there were 30 people there

Circa4life
04.19.12
Manchester Orchestra was amazing its a bummer you werent able to see them. Bon Iver was amazing as well he really projected well to a big audience.

twlichty
04.20.12
hate to be that guy, but all these performances look really boring.


looks like the only mind blowing performances came from Refused and Amon Tobin

klap
04.20.12
generally speaking videos don't really translate the experience of being there too well

Archelaos
04.20.12
Very good write up and excellent video footage accompany it. That said, Zeds Dead sounds like a pretty typical, bastardized dubstep group to me. I suppose the environment is well suited for it, and it'd be fun to just get lost and have some fun with it, but I typically tend to avoid that overly flashy and showy stuff.

aok
04.20.12
i wouldn't call zeds dead flashy or showy. they're just unapologetic filthstepers that really know how to play for a live audience

Archelaos
04.20.12
aokuneff: To each their own. I think their music sounds tacky in that it comes across as tastelessly theatrical - reminds me too much of Skrillex.

Acanthus
04.20.12
Zeds Dead have a few tracks that are downright beautiful, they also have many that are extremely annoying.

Douglas
04.21.12
Skipping a live Bon Iver show these days is close to a death penalty. Rudy wtf

klap
04.21.12
not the biggest bon iver fan dougie : ( especially when flying lotus is spinning

dimsim3478
04.21.12
Scott (the horn guy) looks super Santa-like in the NMH video.

aok
04.21.12
bon iver was pretty boring imo, but that could be mostly cause i was waiting for radiohead to come on.

in terms of zeds dead, i'd never just put them on to listen to, but i always enjoy their live sets so wellyea

Douglas
04.22.12
Fair enough Rudy, oh man I am just a drastic fan boy. but still...

DoubtGin
04.23.12
dude you missed this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GydC3OtAqOs&feature=related

klap
04.23.12
^ haha yeah my friend was there and told me about that

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