Coachella Festival: Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA 04/13 – 15/2012

For the first time since they first debuted in 1999, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, or Coachella for most, expanded their format to span over two weekends rather than one. Bringing in the same lineup for both weekend, Coachella has essentially helped redefine the modern-day music festival in a time when festivals are becoming more and more popular throughout the United States– finally catching up to the summer trend seen in Europe and Scandinavia. Ten years ago, Coachella and many others were forced to go on hiatus for a year or more to recover financial losses, or because concert-goers simply weren’t buying enough tickets for the promoters to break even. The decision to expand the festival to two weekends is indicative both of new audience trends, the rise and growing popularity of “indie” music over major label dominance and the successful streamlining efforts done by the festival proprietors to raise quality and provide a top-level entertainment event.

Glide Magazine had staff writer Gabriella Librizzi cover the first weekend (April 13-15), so for anyone wanting to relive the weekend or prepare for the second go-around, enjoy her in-depth look at the favorites from the weekend. And while tickets are sold-out, you can tune in this weekend to YouTube to watch the weekend stream live, making it your own personal festival experience (what has launched the Twitter trend #Couchella). Regardless, enjoy Gabriella’s recap of the weekend.


Coachella Festival: Day 1 (April 13)

The winners of Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” competition, The Sheepdogs performed at the Outdoor Theatre at 1:00 PM– the early hours of Coachella. The crowd was definitely not as dense as the later ones, but The Sheepdogs managed to acquire an adequately sized audience who were plenty eager to hear the set. Their folk/rock sound recalls both Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Grateful Dead, without coming across as too nostalgic. It seemed like all the Canadians at the festival showed up to support their fellow countrymen. There were some people in the audience that were actually from the band’s home town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan– a long way to come, but well worth the trip.

By the time Yuck took the stage at 3:15, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The sky had turned grey and the wind whipped through the palm trees in the background, making for a scene of dramatic angst. This seemed to suit the band who were seemingly indifferent to their natural surroundings. The overall performance definitely lacked energy, though– even “The Wall,” their most popular song, was sluggish. Barely a word was spoken to the crowd by any member of the band, and the ones that were were mumbled inaudibility. They were not as heavy or as grungy as I had expected from listening to their garage/rock album.

Neon Indian have a way of building up sonic suspense, and then having a clear grasp on catharsis as well. They are somehow able to mimic the sound of some techno, psychedelic rocket ship blasting off into space. With thumping beats and swirling sounds they created a beach party feel, despite the overcast weather. Leadman Alan Palomo has an amazing stage presence, and is undeniably confident and comfortable in front of large crowds. He divulged, “Not only is this my first time playing Coachella, it’s my first time here!” As the storm picked up so did the energy of the crowd, which prompted Palomo to say, “As much as I feel we are at the mast of a ship and it’s being torn apart, it’s still a beautiful day. They played a collection of old and new songs to please just about everyone such as “Hex Girlfriend,” “Blindside Kiss,” “Deadbeat Summer” and “Mind Drips.”

Girls emerged onto a stage adorned with roses, daisies, and sunflowers. Their brightly colored clothes, sassy backup singers and sparkly gold drums created a fun atmosphere. The impressive embellishes from the backup singers and the church organ sound of the keyboard gave the band a vintage gospel sound. It’s cute– so cute it almost feels like Christopher Owens could serenade the sun and convince it to come out. The field was packed and the people who showed up for Girls knew the words by heart. Though the sound would have fit better with a warm, lazy sunny evening, sometimes the weather has other plans.

After about 75,000 people waited anxiously after a ten minute delay, The Black Keys took the Coachella Stage and unleashed “Howlin’ for You.” They played two new songs, which were stripped down and catchy, like all good Black Keys songs are. Carney and Dan Auerbach were accompanied by their a bassist and keyboardist, giving much more breadth to their sound. Even though the band just played Coachella last year, their 2011 release of El Camino opened up the opportunity to grace the Coachella Stage for a second consecutive year. Everyone went wild for the near iconic “Tighten Up,” and on the gentile “Everlasting Light,” a massive disco ball illuminated the stage. They close the show with “I Got Mine” which ended with their name in lights.

I could hear the steady drum beat of The Black Angels from across the field. Warped notes were unleashed from their respective instruments with great force to produce dark, psychedelic grooves. They had their stage flooded in red light, they had a sitar, and they had screams that melted into mere memories of echoes. They closed the show with “You on the Run,” and with that, the unsettling psychedelic music that was so strangely appealing. Their sound can indeed come of as eerie, or paranoia enduing, but it is definitely invigorating in a sort of apocalyptic way.

Coachella Festival: Day 2 (April 14)

For those who were worried that The Shins would only focus on new material from their latest release Port of Morrow, they quieted those concerns when they let loose some old favorites like “So Says I” and “New Slang.” In the cold wind (so unaccustomed at the usually scorching Coachella festival), the large crowd that had gathered shivered and swayed to James Mercer’s unique vocals that are so distinctive and give that classic Shins sound. “Co-ash-ella! Is that how you pronounce it?” Mercer jokes to his fans. He speaks in a matter-of-fact way, like he’s been performing in front of huge crowds of people for years, because well, he has. With no real light show or background, the main stage looked a little empty, but I’d like to believe it was just The Shins making a statement that the music should be the focal point of these shows and not the theatrics. It came as a pleasant surprise when the first notes of Pink Floyd’s "Breathe" trickled down from the stage. The Shins performed an excellent and accurate cover of the song, while still managing to make it their own.

Tattered cloth hung from the main stage and the sky was dark. Bon Iver‘s music has squarely hit the zeitgeist and become enormously popular, but many forget that many of the songs are very soft. People seemed to have a hard time dancing to the music, or rather, moving to it at all. They stood around and casually talked to one another. Surprisingly, Justin Vernon barely addressed his audience at all. On the plus side however, he brought a bit of diversity to the stage with the inclusion of some brass instruments such as trumpet and saxophone, and many of his songs were capable of showcasing his impressive range. The harmonies of the singers on stage was euphoric as well, and clearly shows the tightening of the band after almost a year of constant touring.

Perfect for radio. Perfect for parties. Perfect for fun times. Miike Snow has the ability to make upbeat songs without sacrificing creativity and style. He played ones like “Silvia” and “Paddling Out” that were really able to make the crowd jump. In the middle of his set Andrew Wyatt says, “The first time I went to Coachella, I had to sneak in. Don’t repeat that… actually it was my second year.” The heavily anticipated song “Animal” ended the show in a satisfying way.

Just about all of Coachella came to see Radiohead work their instrumental magic, which in the last few years has gotten increasingly esoteric, returning them to a sonic world wholly theirs again. But as they fit each of their individual instruments together, it became clear that they were more like a group of master puzzle solvers, carefully putting the pieces together to create something spectacular. They opened their show with “Bloom,” and continued to play their most appealing tunes throughout the show mixing between old and new, but leaning heavier on the new side. Occasionally Thom Yorke would say something like, “wazzup!’” or, “Hello are you there? Hello!” He came off as generally good-natured. Radiohead’s background was one of the best I’d seen all of Coachella thus far. A strip of screens at the top of the Coachella Stage flashed pictures of the band members as colors swirled below it. The clever part though, were the hanging squares of screen. They would also flash pictures, but as simple as that sounds, it really gave the stage a sense of depth and dimension. They notified the crowd that they would be performing a new song and how it is necessary for them to play new songs because they need to make sure they’re “still alive.” The song, named “Identikit,” was less electric than any of the songs on King of Limbs. It had a slow start, but an explosive finish. Before playing crowd favorite “Karma Police,” Yorke says, “You know when you meet those people, and they’re talking to you just because they want something from you. Ehh, well, this is for them.” Later in the night, or rather, early in the morning York even played a few verses of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” Radiohead had the largest crowd of the day, and by the amount of people singing along, some of the most dedicated fans of the day too.

Coachella Festival: Day 3 (April 15)

Santigold had the set up for a good show from the very beginning. The whole band strutted on stage in color-coordinated outfits with backup dancers in tow. The concert opened with “Go” and a comment, “Legit it’s not raining today right?! This is what Coachella is supposed to be like!” Santi White’s piercing, commanding voice and ethnic hip-hop beats seem to recall Arulpragasam from MIA. White was extremely personable and interacted with her audience more than any performer at the festival. “You’re gonna dance with me on this one right?” she said right before she played “Say Aha.” Then to everyone’s surprise she yelled out, “Where are my dancers?” and commenced to run around the stage picking people out of the crowd, shouting “Just jump the fuck over!” Once the stage was full with about forty festival-goers, including Taco and Earl from Odd Future, White started her party with “Creator.”

After the song she said, “I’ll be right back” and ran offstage while the crowd members were escorted off. When she returned she was clad in a whole new outfit. Soon she was jumping down into the audience, “I just wanted to see what you looked like up close!” She played “Freak Like Me” and “Starstruck.” She was very grateful to be there and made it known. She also gave advice like: “Man, it’s really dry out here in the desert. You guys drink water! I’m like dying up here.” Then gave a shout out, “This next song goes out to Brooklyn!” and played “Shove it.” She went into the crowd once more, this time giving an audience member the microphone. “I haven’t been here in four years, and you guys look just as good as you did back then,” she said before she played her last song and new single, “Big Mouth.”

I had planned on seeing Justice, but after twenty minutes, the Sahara Tent began to look more and more inviting. It turned out to be a good choice too! “Coachella how we feeling?!” Calvin Harris greeted his increasing audience. Within seconds he had everyone on their toes and in the air as confetti fell in an unusually brightly lit tent. He played his remixed songs by fellow Coachella acts, Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta. The highlight was, without question, when Rihanna joined him onstage. She sung “We Found Love “and “We’re Have You Been” to an ecstatic crowd. Harris ended his set with the popular “Feel So Close.”

In an angelic flowing black gown, Florence Welch appeared on the Outdoor Theatre. She made dramatic movements in such a fashion that only a queen would, and her audience adored her as if she were truly one. The band opened with “Only if for a Night” and shortly followed it with “What the Water Gave Me.” She addressed the crowd with a breathy “good evening Coachella, we are Florence and the Machine. What Welch can do with her voice is absolutely amazing. After playing “Cosmic Love,” she cried out, “This next song is for the ladies!” Requesting that all the women be put on shoulders, she began playing “Rabbit Heart.” Then she said gently “Who has a hangover?” She then dedicated her song “Shake It Out” to all the people who had a wonderful time and didn’t regret anything.

The dynamic duo of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg hit the stage to enormous applause. Their connection was noticeable almost immediately through their natural-feeling banter. One of the first things they did was conduct a tribute to Nate Dogg by playing “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” a song he used to sing on with Snoop. The pair definitely knew how to work up a crowd, even a enormous one like they had, when they shouted, “I need 90,000 motherfuckers jumping around right now!” Then they played House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Snoop was pleased with the jumping but said that what he “really really really” wanted them to do was “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”

The first special guest they had was Wiz Khalifa. Together they played Khalifa’s hit song “Young, Wild & Free.” Cannabis seemed to be a prime focus in their show, with lots of substance-related comments and six-inch long joints. Dr. Dre introduced some new talent to the stage, Kendrick Lamar, who he said was from his own city, Compton. They performed their song, “The Recipe.” It didn’t end there, as 50 Cent came out after and sung “What Up Gangsta” and “In Da Club.” It was a great night for hip-hop, rap and Coachella fans. It all got a bit more interesting when Tupac was resurrected in the form of a holograph to perform “Hail Mary” and “Gangsta Party.” It was shocking. It was strange. It was great. Then came another surprise, Eminem. He came out singing “I Need a Doctor.” After he performed “Forget about Dre” he started to leave the stage, but Dre brought him back to sing “Til I Collapse.” A total knock-out performance, and one that definitely will go down in Coachella history books.

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