Radiohead, Record Crowds Mark Coachella Fest

A record 50,000 fans turned out on Saturday and Sunday for the fifth Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., headlined on respective days by Radiohead and the Cure. The event also featured the first festival appearance by the reunited Pixies and a sensational Saturday-closing set by pioneering German electronic/rock act Kraftwerk.

Despite a throat problem that forced frontman Thom Yorke and his Radiohead bandmates to cancel a show earlier in the week in Australia, the band was in fine form during its 20-song Saturday set. Six songs from its latest album, “Hail to the Thief,” were sandwiched in between such favorites as “Creep,” “Paranoid Android,” “My Iron Lung” and the rarity “Planet Telex.” Coachella is expected to be Radiohead’s only North American gig of 2004.

The Cure unveiled several tracks from its upcoming self-titled release, due June 29 via Geffen, including new single “End of the World” and album opener “Lost.” The group dipped into its extensive back catalog for such tracks as “Fascination Street,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Love Song.”

The Pixies’ early evening set on Saturday lived up to all the hype, as the quartet ripped through tracks like “Gouge Away,” “U-Mass,” “Debaser” and the sing-a-long “Here Comes Your Man.” Kraftwerk conjured a visual bonanza later in the evening, climaxing with its four members decked out in glowing neon suits for “Music Non Stop.”

Other events of note included the first live appearance of Desert Sessions, led by Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme; a guest appearance by the B-52s’ Fred Schneider during Junior Senior’s Saturday performance; a guest trumpet solo by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea during the Evens’ set on Saturday; and the finale of Basement Jaxx’s Sunday set, which found three singers and five costumed gorillas leading the crowd through “Where’s Your Head At?”

The larger crowd contributed to performance tents that were more crowded than at any previous Coachella, most noticeably during Beck’s solo acoustic set on Saturday. But organizers deemed the fest a success, proclaiming on Saturday, “Today was truly magical.”


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