Coachella 2011 – Three Day Wrap Up

Two Day Recap of Coachella 2011

The Drums possess a style all their own, and that’s not just referring to their 80’s inspired appearance. Here, the keyboard takes the place of a bass, as the keyboard produces a very similar sound that loops, becoming a downright vital element in all of their songs. Jonathan Pierce’s stern face and blond bowl cut make for a humorous combo. The whole band has a purposefully awkward stage presence as they scoot around the stage robot-like, and penetrate the air with grand arm gestures. As a special treat, they perform a new song called "Money" that should appear on their next album. Beach balls came out of hiding during "Let’s Go Surfing" and proceeded to ricochet off just about everything.

Cee Lo Green finally arrived after missing 30 minutes of his 50 minute set. His first words were, "sorry guys, I just landed." So now we knew the reason for his delay, but would that be enough to satisfy? Throughout the day many had wondered if Cee Lo had any songs other than the inescapable "Fuck You", and unfortunately, he did. To the shock of many, these songs were a completely different genre with heavy beats and a string of nasally muffled words. At the end of his hit, "Fuck You", he tried to transition into a new song, but the sound was cut out. Apparently he had exceeded his time limit and was unable to finish his set. The crowd dispersed looking a little disappointed.

Tame Impala, a psychedelic band from Australia, are a quintessence of the mass talent capable by the younger generation. As soon as the reverb switched on and the sound spiraled out, the crowd liquefied. Kevin Parker’s voice is drawn out and elongated with a slight echo and a giant yellow blow up kangaroo with Australia written on it emerged from the audience and floated on hands for the remainder of their set. Tame Impala’s unique modern-retro sound pulls from some of the best of the 60’s and 70’s, focusing on Cream and the Doors, while they also embody the present age with distortion and dials of all sorts. Their big sound makes up for their shy personalities, which after a few sheepish smiles translate more as adorable. The added intros and bridges made for smooth non-stop transitions and also put them in the running for best modern jam band.

Cold War Kids played to a large crowd as the setting sun illuminated the palm trees of the Coachella Valley. Their manicured sound complemented their casual dress and made for a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. One of the highlights of their set happened when the drummer stepped away from his kit and took up conga for some mellow afro-cuban beats. With this unique sound, Cold War Kids succeeded in captivating the masses.

Sleigh Bells pierced the night with screams. Consisting of only two people, the explosive sound erupting from them was stellar. Infectious riffs over prominent electric beats fit perfectly with the flashing red lights. The duo thrashed around the stage and kickedass, which resulted in abundant fist pumps. Sleigh Bells served as proof that you can be sweet and tough.

The Black Keys rocked out as they channeled the soul of Hendrix and Zeppelin. At first the sound was on the quieter side but it increased slightly with every chant of "Louder! Louder!" by the crowd. That night was the drummer’s birthday, and after a quick happy birthday wish from the audience, the band rolled into an energy infused rendition of "Tighten Up". The pair wa joined on stage by a keyboardist and a bass player, putting a nice little embellish on their sound which consists of soft centers and rough edges. Their solid drum beats and intricate guitar riffs mesh together with the singer’s bluesy voice to create sonic perfection. Their set ended with "I Got Mine," but the night wasn’t over yet.

Kings of Leon were headliners for a reason. Their southern rockabilly twang was exactly what everyone was waiting for. The crowd reflected this by grouping around the stage with admiration all over their faces. The band stuck to their up -beat well known-songs and soon that had everyone moving as Caleb Followill displayed an experienced stage presence.

Day 2

Trampled by Turtles had a fairly early time slot, but with their high energy bluegrass, they soon attracted much of the morning crowd. They had an all acoustic set including a banjo, an acoustic bass, a mandolin, a fiddle, and an acoustic guitar. Gauges, tattoos, and straw hats alike, gathered beneath the sun in harmony to take part in the joyous ruckus; they jigged and clapped energetically to the music that had the unique capability of putting everyone in a good mood.

Here We Go Magic was a sway worthy band with a mystifying sound. Though they did not have a large crowd, the one they had seemed to be enthralled with the band’s every note. Here We Go Magic carefully stack their sounds for a whimsical effect. The haunting vocals leave you undecided as to whether the overall vibe of the song was eerie or calming.

Delta Spirit pulled out all the rock star stops minus smashing a guitar. Their style fluctuated between rock and southern soul. The crowd started off small, but soon they came running as the size had grown substantially and the arriving newcomers knew all the songs by heart. Even the setback of a faulty bass chord couldn’t stop the band from rocking out, as bass player Joe Jameson was able to make a comeback when he busted out a solo; all was forgiven. Lead singer Matthew Vasquez was not only charismatic, but he could also play a range of instruments. His talents were showcased as he jammed on piano and harmonica for a few of the songs. An obvious people person, Vasquez crowd surfed while singing his new song about a barefoot bandit. Combined, all these elements made for a hard act to follow.

Cage the Elephant pulled out all the rock star stops including smashing a guitar. The singer, Matt Shultz, emerges wearing a darling red sundress, which he had picked up in London and wore just for laughs. To make things even better, he staggers forward and slurs out "Coa-chella," while simultaneously stumbling over his mic-cord. Then with screams and hair flips, they jump into their hardcore 90’s punk rock genre that vaguely resembles Sublime and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The moshing begins and up go the crowd surfers. In total there were about 30 crowd surfers in this 45 minute set, and that’s not including the five additional times Shultz dove on top of his sweaty bunch of fans. His leaps were extravagant as he would climb the side of the stage to a large speaker just to fall into a sea of arms. Another time as he was being passed around, and presumably got groped in the process, but managed to gain balance on his feet. He stood up, stuck out his arms, crouched down and pretended to actually surf on the crowd. He was thrown back on stage just in time to witness the bass player hurtle his instrument to the floor. Shultz then thrashes on the stage while the bassist picks the bass back up and throws it into the crowd.

Bright Eyes  Conor Oberst returned to Coachella, this time with his whole band. They mixed new and old Bright Eyes songs to a large crowd, but one mainly sitting on the grass in the dimming light. Oberst proved to be equally skilled in producing beautifully spoken words as he is in his poetry when he confessed to the crowd, "They don’t give me a long enough leash around here. I can’t spread my wings!" During many of the songs, he ran around the stage with a vigor and confidence that one wouldn’t expect if just listening to the music. However, this passionate indie band is just as bittersweet and sentimental as ever, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Mumford and Sons was almost as excited to see everyone as everyone was to see them. They came out, looking downright dapper and grinning. "Cheers Coachella," the singer said in his thick British accent. He could have well been talking to everyone at Coachella; as their crowd was so massive. The band divulged that this was by far the biggest audience they had ever played for. The people respond by waving their arms and singing the words devotedly. Their folk style rock songs started off gentle with the audience swaying and then swung full force into lively choruses and jumping crowds. The band sang two new songs that evening, both of which were about love. On one, the front-man Marcus Mumford multitasks by playing drums and singing. Their whole persona comes across as humble and innocent, just some chaps thrilled to be doing what they love.

Animal Collective flew far out into space and stayed there for the entire time. They were a promising act, but unfortunately stayed far away from any of their “popular songs. This caused them to become slightly disconnected with the crowd and they lost some of their audience. However as a plus, the group had a psychedelic digital light show complete with random images and colors flashed before the side screens and giant elevated electronic cubes on the stage. Impressively, no picture was shown twice throughout this about 60 minute set.  I think.

Arcade Fire was greeted by a never ending crowd of people who had been looking forward to their headlining set all day. Their stage was set up like the outside of a movie theater and had clips of quirky old movies showing in the background. After a few powerful songs, Win Butler steps out and says, "If you had told me in 2002 that we would be headlining Coachella and having Animal Collective play before us, I would have thought you were full of shit." I guess that’s his way of saying thank you. Arcade Fire is a big band and is able to produce an even bigger sound of dramatic/dark, yet still upbeat music. During "Wake Up", they released thousands of giant glowing orbs from the top of the stage that drifted down to the beckoning crowd below.

(layers), was one of those classic Coachella surprises. Upon walking back through the campground during the early hours of the morning, intriguing sounds compelled me to follow them to the source. I was lead to the Down & Derby rollerskating rink where a DJ was providing the intoxicated skaters with deep grooves and ethnic beats. DJ (layers), AKA Andrew VanWyngarden, fused old school hip hop with spacier jams and even included a gem from the Grateful Dead. The essential bass hooks were ever-present while he musically exposed the crowd to genres not typically found in DJ sets.

Day 3

Angus and Julia Stone were a brother-sister duo from Australia, but it seemed more like they could have just gotten off a plane from Woodstock. Julia might just be the cutest thing ever. With her beautiful, high pitched cooing, brown wavy hair, and white lace dress that grazed the floor, she can be unparalleled as a female artist. Her brother, Angus, is equally adorable. His eyes quietly sparkle behind layers of his long hair, and his soft, smooth voice is the driving force in many of their songs. They incorporate many instruments. Harmonicas, mandolins, and pianos are all used, not to mention a trumpet in Julia’s flawless and impressive horn solo. They are a band willing to let their personalities shine. Julia is lighthearted and twirls around the stage, beaming, while her brother sings. Angus’ bashfulness shows through when he sings, "lost my heart in California," on "Yellow Brick Road" and cheers rise from the crowd causing him to attempt to hold back his joyful smile. They are good at sharing, and take turns singing by switching after every song. There was never a more precious way to start a day of music.

Nas and Damian Marley complemented each other nicely. The crowd started off mostly sitting, but soon enough the hip hop-rasta grooves got more people off the ground and onto their feet. They had a lively set and a slight ethnic sound. Damian was great at addressing the crowd and really made them feel involved. Near the end of their time, Damian asks, "are there any Bob Marley fans in the audience?" Cheers give him his answer and he plays a beautiful cover of his father’s "Could You Be Loved".

Best Coast’s 50’s doo wop inspired vocals are paired with upbeat, distorted, beachy melodies to create washed out pop songs about boyfriends, love, and honestly, that’s pretty much it. The singer tells the crowd that when she was 17, 18, and 19, she came to Coachella. Then she gave some encouraging words about not giving up on your dreams, which only came across as slightly cheesy. She debuted a new song at the festival called "Gone Again" and played one of her new songs called "When You Wake Up". Her style and attitude, despite this appearance being her first at Coachella, are very confident and calm, which makes for an overall good concert.

Duran Duran attracted an older crowd, but despite the age gap, wasstill able to captivate the younger audience. The guest appearance of Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters during a new Duran Duran song really bonded the diversified crowd. There were defiantly some beautiful moments that even the younger generation had to appreciate. Their old hits took people on a stroll down memory lane, and for the rest, made some new memories. The big shocker happened when Duran Duran jumped into a cover of Lady Gaga’s "Poker Face".

The Strokes were, hands down, one of the best concerts of the night, if not the entire festival. The lead up to the show, however, might have just been the some of the scariest moments of my life. The crowd went absolutely insane as they rushed the stage. Hands pinned by my sides, I was pressed against strangers as others helplessly tried to talk sense into the determined fans. Once The Strokes appeared, the crowd calmed down. They played all their popular songs, which is exactly what everyone wanted. They sounded amazing. All the members were such characters, especially Julian Casablancas. The charismatic lead singer’s sarcastic comments appeared in-between songs. He turns to the crowd and laughs, "I just flew in on my diamond encrusted jet. I have no idea what’s going on out here… I jest, I jest." What a joker. His personality and chill energy make him everything you would expect from a rock star, and his tight jacket and sunglasses, despite the lack of sun, make him the epitome of cool.

Neon Trees sounded just as good as ever. The lead singer had high energy and the most insane mohawk I have ever seen. The turnout was not large due to conflicts with Kanye’s set, but they were solid none-the-less. During "1983", the singer demonstrated his sadistic side when he attempted to strangle himself with his mic cord, but not to worry folks, it was just for show. Neon.

Kanye West made his entrance riding on a giant lift overhanging the audience. His show was one of great theatrics and he had many interpretive backup dancers. Kanye said little and had no guest stars as anticipated, but in spite of that, it was a show you wouldn’t want to miss. He played all his good songs and the crowd couldn’t get enough, but sadly the night had to end. Kanye stood, the lone image on the main stage when the show closed. Coachella 2011 had ended.

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