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Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2012

on April 17, 2012, 7:20pm
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coachella 2011 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2012When I was 15, I saw a curious looking Coachella DVD in the music documentary section at Best Buy, and bought it on a whim. It turned out to be a collection of select performances from the festival’s recent years. It introduced me to the concept of the contemporary music festival. Watching awe-inspiring sets from the Pixies, Radiohead, and Arcade Fire back then made me long for this mystical festival destination for the ensuing years. What could be better than a music festival in the California desert, surrounded by swaying palm trees and gorgeous sunsets? As an East coast-bred music nerd, it was an ideal but impossible musical destination. It always fell during a school semester, would take a flight to get to, and just never seemed to be within my grasp. Nevertheless, I knew I had to go. In fact, I had dreamed of one day making the trip to Coachella every single year until this one, when I finally decided I was done denying myself, when I saw Radiohead and Godspeed listed alongside Jeff Mangum and Bon Iver. I was sold.

When I got there, though, I realized that, for many, Coachella is just another California party. Whereas I was going to surround myself with music and people who loved music, like I have done repeatedly at Bonnaroo for the past six years, many here were at Coachella, to, well, be at Coachella. There’s certainly nothing wrong with going somewhere for the sake of going somewhere, plus the added bonus of catching sets of music, but the Coachella experience definitely wasn’t all my pubescent dreams had longed for. I expected massive crowds of cultish fans going nuts for reformed acts like At the Drive-in, Refused, and Mazzy Star. I expected Radiohead heads to overtake the polo field and post up all day at the main-stage waiting for their beloved gods of rock to grace their eyes and ears. Maybe I was hoping for something that really doesn’t exist anywhere but in my head. Maybe I’m outgrowing the magic of festivals. Or maybe there simply were too many young, neon-clad partiers and not enough music-worshippers.

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Photo by Ted Maider

For whatever reason, the music never felt as powerful as I would have expected it to, because, when it comes right down to it, for many sets, I felt alone in my excitement. I may be out of line here, but something about Coachella did not sit well with me. The music was great, the setting was phenomenal, I just wish my dreams weren’t so far from the reality. But I guess that’s the reality of high expectations, they can never be met.

I’ll never forget the unique experience of actually keeping an eye out for the Radiohead fanatics, and actually being able to get close for Jeff Mangum right before he started. In many ways, it kept the performances I wanted to see intimate, but in others, I wish I had a community to look on with. Because nobody goes to a festival just to see music, and sadly, for many here, that seemed to be only one of the fringe perks. Maybe Bonnaroo is my perfect festival after all.

Anyhow, here’s what we all saw.

-Drew Litowitz
Senior Staff Writer

Friday, April 13th

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Photo by Ted Maider

Abe Vigoda – Gobi – 12:00 p.m.

Abe Vigoda’s tropical goth-rock was a perfect way to ease into the weekend’s festivities. Playing their subtle blend of dream pop, new wave, and doom-goth–a vaguely sunny take on Disintegration era Cure–the California natives sounded pretty good in front of the Gobi stage’s palm tree-lined backdrop. Crush’s “Repeating Angel” was a skittering, tribal romp basking in the desert sun, as Juan Velasquez’s low howl skittered atop the murky synth. -Drew Litowitz

Wolf Gang – Gobi – 1:00 p.m.

With a name like Wolf Gang, I decided to judge a band by its title and check these bros out. After all, I have been known to like a few indie groups with references to animals in their names (oftentimes wolves in particular). But instead of the strange Odd Future/Wolf Parade amalgamation stemming from the deepest, most twisted associative regions of my brain, the roles of Spencer Krug and Tyler, The Creator were swapped out for the sort of standard British pop-singing and songwriting you rarely see performed outside of rom-coms starring Hugh Grant as a washed-up former pop singer. Dude even wore a thin black scarf and a matching vest! In other words, this was not my cup of hot beverage. -Drew Litowitz

Other Lives – Gobi – 2:05 p.m.

Other Lives was one of the most pleasant surprises of the festival weekend. Their show was sort of like what would happen if Talk Talk was part of the Canterbury Folk scene, and Thom Yorke gave Mark Hollis a few singing lessons. (To be clear, frontman Jesse Tabish sounded nothing like Mark Hollis, but for the sake of my stupid comparison to Talk Talk’s instrumentation, let’s just say Mark Hollis started singing like a folkier Thom Yorke mixed with Bowerbirds’ Phil Moore and it ended up sounding like this). And since Other Lives opened for Radiohead on the first leg of their North American tour, Yorke may in fact have given the guy singing lessons. Aside from Tabish’s vocals, though, dissonant strings, brass swells, churning acoustic guitar, and heavy piano made for a set filled with fluttering, grandiose “post-folk” explosions. Subtle, elegant, and ultimately, unhinged. -Drew Litowitz

Kendrick Lamar – Coachella – 2:40 p.m. 

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Photo by Ted Maider

It’s hard enough to win over a crowd of anxious festival goers, and even harder when it’s raining and said festival goers have just endured hours of ridiculously long lines, parking, and a seemingly endless series of security checkpoints. But Kendrick Lamar made it look easy, drawing the first real crowd of the afternoon with his sharp flow and huge stage presence. Kicking off with a couple of verses from “Buried Alive”, his feature on Drake’s Take Care, Lamar managed to keep the audience engaged even as he stuck almost exclusively to tracks off of his forthcoming Dre-approved LP, before ending with “Rigamortis” and “Hiiipower”, two highlights off of last year’s Section.80. -Möhammad Choudhery

Jimmy Cliff and Tim Armstrong – Coachella – 5:10 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

One of Jimmy Cliff’s most renown songs is a cover of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”, a classic that digresses on rain clouds clearing and people’s situations improving for the best. Given Friday’s downpour, it felt like the wrong moment for a reggae star to sing such a track. Still, it didn’t matter though. If anybody could make people smile, it was Cliff, accompanied by punk legend Tim Armstrong, as they played a handful of reggae jams to try and brighten up the crowd. Cliff was lively on stage, while he danced charismatically and belted out tracks like “Vietnam” and Armstrong’s “Ruby Soho”, which had everyone dancing and looking past the rain. Shortly after his set ended, however, the clouds parted and Coachella returned to its normal state. Something tells me Cliff was behind the weather all along. -Ted Maider

Death Grips – Gobi – 5:45 p.m.

Minutes before the rest of Death Grips took the stage, Zach Hill’s drum soundcheck proved more than enough to inspire the first mosh pit of their set. And once they actually got to playing, it was clear that it’d hardly be the last. Frontman Stefan Burnett cut a downright terrifying figure onstage as he bellowed his way through “Beware” and “Spread Eagle Cross the Block”, both off the group’s first mixtape, the latter of which finds Burnett beasting over Link Wray’s surf-rock classic “Rumble”. New tracks “Lost Boys” and “I’ve Seen Footage” were met with raucous circle-pitting, as was the menacing “Guillotine”, which saw the audience attempt to shout along with Burnett’s half-intelligible shouts. In a way unlike any other act in recent memory, Death Grips fuses the blunt candor of hardcore punk with ferocious, low-slung hip-hop stylings that somehow caught the ear of Epic Records. To their credit, this marriage of ideologies works both on record and on-stage. -Möhammad Choudhery

Arctic Monkeys – Coachella – 6:30 p.m.

The last time they played Coachella, back in 2007, the Arctic Monkeys had just released their second album and were still being dismissed by many as just another NME-championed guitar boyband soon to go the way of the Fratellis, the Libertines, etc. Five years and two very solid albums later, they made their triumphant return to Coachella’s Main Stage, blasting through a greatest hits set that touched on all the best points of their catalog. Alex Turner has developed into one of the finest frontmen around in the years since then, cracking jokes in his dry Sheffield accent and leading his band through hits old and new with all the cocksure swagger and strut of a bonafide rockstar. Fan favorites “Still Take You Home” and “Pretty Visitors” were delivered with blistering precision, as was “R U Mine?”, one of two new songs the band played, whose thunderous groove nods heavily to tourmates and new chums the Black Keys. -Möhammad Choudhery

WU LYF – Gobi – 7:00 p.m.

The lead-up to WU LYF’s evening set was one of the most ridiculous of the weekend. Coachella’s few, proud young-alts packed themselves nicely into the Gobi tent to literally worship the vaguely enigmatic Manchester quartet. I mean, people were chanting “WU LYF” and shouting out “I’ll love you forever!” for a good ten minutes before the guys even came out to play. I really had no idea people were this apeshit over WU LYF up until this point. Shows how much I know. Throughout a set of bombastic, post-rocky pop, self-described by the group as “Heavy Pop”, I was awed by how gravely Ellery Roberts” voice actually was, especially in the live setting. Dude makes Tom Waits sound like Michael Jackson with minor laryngitis. His onstage banter was almost incomprehensible, too, since he even talks like he just swallowed a whole bucket of glass shards. “LYF” and “Heavy Pop” went over great, but the true highlight was probably when Roberts alluded to Kanye West’s “So Appalled” chanting “It’s like that sometimes man ridiculous” for seemingly no reason. Fine by me. After all, “We Bros”. And if we weren’t prior, we certainly are now. -Drew Litowitz

Pulp – Coachella – 7:50 p.m.

Pulp’s Coachella set was hilarious, fun, and exciting. No surprises there. But the relatively small crowd was a tad unsettling. It’s not like this was one of the first of the few U.S. performances this fairly popular band has played in nearly a decade, or anything. ANYHOW, before the band even entered, for a good ten minutes, Pulp’s deliberately overwrought “scrolling questions” introduction set the scene for a lighthearted, nostalgic jaunt through the band’s discography. Featuring green scrolling text operated by a seemingly arrogant, apologetic, insecure, and self-conscious, charmingly British computer, the ten-minute introduction certainly kept the crowd restless, with a seemingly never-ending string of ridiculous questions and commentary. But when Cocker and co. finally emerged, fans were promptly served a plate of the classic arty Brit-pop they anticipated.

With his captivating brand of British wit and his overtly sexual demeanor, Cocker played the role of sex-crazed ringmaster, momentarily turning Coachella’s main stage into Cirque du Pulp. Cocker even offered up grapes (yes, the man was eating grapes on stage) to the crowd, breaking down whatever fourth wall there could have been in a set during which the guy basically talked us through his sexual existence from beginning to present, from hiding in a wardrobe watching two people get it on, to eventually “Doing it for [himself] and entering the adult world,” (“Do You Remember the First Time?”). He even apologized for the band’s slightly slim set with a well-timed innuendo, “I’m usually great with timing, just ask my girlfriend.”

As for the particulars, obviously, “Disco 2000” and “F.E.E.L.I.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E” hit pretty hard, and “Common People” was exactly the sort of “penetration” Cocker told us it would be. “I know we’ve only just gotten to know each other, and I’m sorry, but now I’m going to have to penetrate you,” he warned. Soon enough, Cocker’s ice cold “Ahs” and sensual whispers climaxed into the song’s yelped appeal for low-class monotony. As promised, we were all fucked. -Drew Litowitz

Frank Ocean – Gobi – 8:15 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

Mystery surrounded Frank Ocean’s debut solo performance at Coachella: Was he going to play tracks off his mixtape, last year’s Nostalgia, Ultra? How many songs could he actually do live? Were other members of Odd Future going to show up?  All of these questions were answered in a very awkward set on Friday. Frank Ocean’s band strolled out in welding masks about 15 minutes late and tipped off the set with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Long Time Gone”. Throughout, Ocean kept cutting off his band, and it appeared as if nobody on stage really had an idea of what was going on. In hindsight, the only things that saved the show were Ocean’s fantastic vocals, which plucked all the right heartstrings when they were on, and a surprise appearance by Tyler, the Creator for “Analog 2”. -Ted Maider

The Rapture – Mojave – 8:45 p.m.

Still fresh off the release of last year’s In the Grace of Your Love, New York City natives The Rapture turned in a typically strong performance Friday night, with their blend of ’70s-era disco and spiked dance-punk making for one of the most assuredly crowd-friendly performances of the evening. Frontman/guitarist Luke Jenner was in top form, showcasing his pipes on the sax-infused “How Deep is Your Love”, in between digging into the band’s catalog for “Whoo! Alright, Yeah! Uh Huh.” and the obvious crowd favorite “House of Jealous Lovers”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Mazzy Star – Outdoor – 8:50 p.m.

It makes sense for a band that’s been defunct for about a decade to be a little rusty, but I also expect that same band to rehearse some of the corrosion away before returning to the stage of a major U.S. festical. Unfortunately, Mazzy Star’s Friday night set was a rickety, psychedelic mess. “She sings off key the whole time,” said one guy I talked to afterward. I personally found the band hopelessly in search for a psychedelic looseness, so much so that there wasn’t much for the audience to latch onto. The percussion was slightly out of time, the slide guitars squealed and bent aimlessly, Hope Sendoval’s voice wasn’t really even all that powerful or haunting. Sure, “Fade into You” peaked the crowd’s interest, and to be fair, the song’s sliding guitar melody aligned perfectly with its gorgeous chorus. But for such a draw as a reunited Mazzy Star, the set’s weaknesses were jarring. Certainly one of the weekend’s most disappointing sets. -Drew Litowitz

M83 – Mojave – 10:15 p.m.

Even the Black Keys and Explosions in the Sky couldn’t keep one of the largest crowds of the weekend from packing into the Mojave tent for M83 just after ten on Friday night. Anticipation built as the lights flickered off and on and the band’s soundcheck went 20 minutes over schedule. Hardly a soul left before Anthony Gonzalez finally took the stage, who was followed closely by bandmates Pierre Maulni and Morgan Kibby, and the collective wasted no time breaking into “Intro”, the gorgeous Zola Jesus-featuring first track off of last year’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. M83’s set mostly consisted of tracks off that album, with the group’s ubiquitous hit “Midnight City” making for one of the most unforgettable moments all weekend. Though fan favorite “Kim & Jessie” was conspicuously absent from their setlist, M83 more than made up for it with killer renditions of “Couleurs” and Daft Punk’s “Fall”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Refused – Outdoor – 11:20 p.m.

When all is said and done, Refused was one of Coachella’s defining moments. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, barring the almighty Radiohead and the absolute absurdity that was Dre and Snoop’s set, Refused’s late-night Friday set was the true highlight of the entire event. That’s saying a lot for a guy who a) is not all that crazy about punk to begin with (even post-modern punk) and b) is not too familiar with Refused’s recorded output, outside of listening to The Shape of Punk to Come a few times. The band was so intense and involved, they felt as vital as they must have been back when they were consistently touring. These highly complex, thoughtful songs were executed with a more than healthy dose of intensity, really exuding the sort of self-aware, agnostic vigor that made them popular to begin with. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the band had always wanted to do The Shape of Punk to Come justice in concert because they never had a lot of time to promote it.

Frontman Dennis Lyxzén proved to be Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s true godfather, throwing his mic stand to the sky and catching it mid-air without giving his lungs any rest. Lyxzén even appeared to experience an on-stage epiphany, relentlessly appreciative of the crowd that came to watch a “group of Swedish dudes yell” and play songs over a decade old. “Stay curious,” he preached, “and don’t let boredom get you.” He was honestly, and overtly, thankful that Goldenvoice persuaded Refused to join the party in the desert. It was refreshing to see a band so consumed by their own songs. I couldn’t get “We want the airwaves back!” out of my head for the remainder of the festival. -Drew Litowitz

Saturday, April 14th

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Photo by Ted Maider

Destroyer – Outdoor – 2:30 p.m.

I’d be hard-pressed to find a less enthusiastic frontman than Dan Bejar. It’s as if the dude is unwillingly being sent on an early morning Sunday school field trip with the lamest kids in his class. He’s almost never looking at the crowd. He sings like he just downed a pint of NyQuil, but then realized he had a show to do. That being said, somehow it’s not a total bore to watch Destroyer. This lackadaisical performing style actually suits Bejar’s ambivalent songs of artistic isolation. It’d be nice to see some enthusiasm, though, to feel like Bejar actually wants to be there, but I guess we just have to make do with the distance. Opening with “Rubies” got the crowd pretty excited, and a slow-burning “Bay of Pigs” closed out a set that was as dazed out as its removed frontman. -Drew Litowitz

Azealia Banks – Gobi – 2:50 p.m.

As one of the most buzzed-about acts of 2012, 20-year-old Harlem rapper Azealia Banks certainly had a lot riding on her early afternoon Coachella set. And though initial technical difficulties and a very early end (perhaps due to her lack of material; her debut EP was just delayed this week, in fact), Banks turned in what was arguably the breakout performance of the weekend, displaying a remarkably captivating stage presence that makes it hard to believe that this was one of her first live performances to date. Even as she delivered some of the downright filthiest lyrics of any performer this weekend (the refrain to her hit “212” goes “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten”), Banks was all smiles in a purple wig and black and white spandex. She saved the best for last, throwing down a searing surprise cover of the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” teasing the aforementioned “212” before breaking into its first verse with the help of nearly everyone else packed into the Gobi tent. Banks was visibly choked up mid-verse when she realized this, but managed to finish the track off a high note. Though her set lasted a mere 25 minutes, the intense energy she brought to the stage and the promise displayed in the few tunes she did play ensure that the next time she plays Coachella, it’ll be for real. -Möhammad Choudhery

Childish Gambino – Coachella – 2:50 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

Donald Glover just oozes with talent. When he’s not hosting fictional morning talk shows as Troy Barnes, the dense jock on NBC’s Community, he’s tearing up stages on tour as Childish Gambino. But similar to his acting gigs, Glover takes the Gambino persona to another level, and seamlessly blends the best of both worlds on-stage. For the Hollywood-glazed crowd at Coachella, Gambino, despite a broken foot, delivered the goods, complete with an intense sing-along rendition of “Bonfire” and a crowd-erupting cut of “You See Me”. Nothing could top the surprising uppercut of “You Know Me”, however, which featured dynamite appearances by Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar, who hopped alongside Glover to equal fervor. Whether he’s Troy Barnes, or Childish Gambino, Glover’s remains one of the most interesting characters in the rap game these days. -Ted Maider

The Big Pink – Mojave – 3:25 p.m.

Despite coming off a decidedly disappointing sophomore effort, this year’s Future This, Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze had no issue tearing up the Mojave tent Saturday afternoon. The duo, joined onstage by drummer Akiko Matsuura and Leopold Ross on bass, leaned heavily on their most recent effort, with noisy pop jams “Hit the Ground” and “Rubbernecking” sounding endlessly better live than they did in headphones. Beginning their set to a half-full tent with Future This‘ lead single “Stay Gold”, the crowd seemed to grow with each successive song, with “Dominos” – a highlight off of the Big Pink’s debut A Brief History of Love – warranting the loudest cheers of their set. -Möhammad Choudhery

fIREHOSE – Gobi – 4:00 p.m.

Mike Watt looks exactly how you’d expect anybody from a seminal 80’s post-punk slacker band to look 20-some years later: like a slob. He has not aged particularly well. On top of that, he’s hard to comprehend. I tried to understand any of his between song banter, but he talked like he was coughing up dust. On the other hand, his bass playing, the actual thing I should be reviewing, was as astounding as it should be. His unique blend of punk-funk rhythm was exciting to watch. Some of the songs felt more like an excuse to pack as much frenetic, technical punk instrumentation in as possible, but no complaints there. -Drew Litowitz

Laura Marling – Gobi – 6:30 p.m.

All I can say is Marling did her best to not let the blasting bass bleeding into the Gobi tent get to her head, but it certainly got to mine. Her precious folk couldn’t stand against the overwhelming low-end if it tried, which it did. I cut out after about two songs, which I could barely make out over the noise. -Drew Litowitz

Jeff Mangum – Outdoor – 7:20 p.m.

I’ve now seen Jeff Mangum a total of four times, and, for better or for worse, almost nothing changes from show to show. His crazed, emotive performances are consistently on-point. For whatever reason (really, it is so unclear as to why Mangum is doing this again, but I’m not complaining) Mangum delivers the songs his fans have been mulling over since 1998 with an unmistakable earnestness and sincerity. His Coachella set was no different. (Though palm trees swaying behind the always awkward Magum was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.) Mangum smiled uncomfortably at outwardly doting fans in between wide-eye, crazed yelps about ashes falling from the sky.

In other words, it was as mind-blowing as any single man playing simple chord structures and singing over them could possibly be. The true surprise, though, was that Milk Hotel’s Santa-esque Scott Spilane and a slew of brass and accordion players made several appearances throughout the set. They came out to play “The Fool” and added the distinctive horns to “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”, which was an unexpected delight. Mangum looked like he hadn’t seen the sun in years, so I’m hoping somebody lathered him up with some SPF 80. -Drew Litowitz

St. Vincent – Gobi – 7:45 p.m.

Led by the ridiculously charming Annie Clark, St. Vincent deftly handled the unlucky fate of having to compete for a crowd against the Shins and a recently resurrected Jeff Mangum, even arguably coming out on top, with the gathered crowd stretching far past the Gobi Tent’s wings and back. The audience erupted when Clark broke out a theremin on opener “Northern Lights”, though the loudest cheers definitely came as she introduced “Cruel” by describing the plot of its music video. Clark’s angular guitar riffage took center stage for most of the set, with standouts including “Cheerleader” and new song “Krokodil”, which saw her temporarily ditch her axe for a bit of crowdsurfing. -Möhammad Choudhery

Flying Lotus – Gobi – 9:00 p.m.

L.A. resident Flying Lotus is hardly a stranger to the Polo Fields, having played three of the last four Coachellas. His stock as a performer has never been higher though; in the time since his lauded 2010 set, his Brainfeeder imprint has grown into one of the most respected labels in the country and he’s since collaborated with artists as diverse as Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu. His Saturday night set, which consisted largely of material from his forthcoming fourth LP, at Coachella’s Gobi Tent was easily one of the best performances of the weekend, exhibiting just how far he continues to stretch the limits of hip-hop and IDM to fit his singular musical vision. An array of Lotus’ famous fans – who ranged from Odd Future affiliate Earl Sweatshirt and Brainfeeder standout Thundercat to Dr. Dre himself – watched from the wings as Lotus had visible trouble containing his excitement. In between premiering new material, most of which sounds light-years from the space-jazz beat odyssey that was 2010’s Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus dropped a series of assured crowd-pleasing bangers, with “Yonkers”, “Hard in da Paint” and “Niggas in Paris”, all of which got the audience very riled up, though in his typically capricious style, nothing he played all night overstayed its welcome. -Möhammad Choudhery

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Mojave – 10:00 p.m.

One of the most hotly anticipated acts of the weekend, Godspeed You! Black Emperor faced the unfortunate fate of sharing a timeslot with David Guetta, Bon Iver, and the half-hour before Radiohead’s set, a fact that meant few would relinquish their vantage point at the main stage for a chance to see the Canadian post-rock titans, but the 20-or-so people who did make their way over to the Mojave Tent for their set were treated to a performance for the ages. Muted applause greeted the band, who took the stage and barely acknowledged the audience, turning instead to form a half-circle facing one another before breaking into the quiet meditative drone of “Albanian”, an unreleased track the band often begin their live shows with. “Albanian” was followed by “Gathering Storm”, the opening movement off of the band’s hallowed 2000 album Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.

Even as they battled noise bleeding over from David Guetta’s set over at the nearby Sahara Tent, the nine-piece band packed their every note with the riveting intensity that’s synonymous with their name. The spine-chilling evangelical minister ramblings that hark the start of “Chart #3” quickly gave way to contemplative violin and a fragile, arpeggiated guitar line that swelled gradually into a mighty grand finale. Even as they only managed to fit three of their songs into their allotted timeslot, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s first major American festival appearance to date proved a resounding success. -Möhammad Choudhery

Radiohead – Coachella – 11:05 p.m.

On Saturday night, Radiohead returned to Coachella for the first time in eight years. It was a refreshingly familiar set from a band that’s made a business of challenging its fans, ushering them through fields of radio friendly grunge-rock, high-anxiety prog-rock, alienated balladry, prickly IDM, and finally, through the dub-infected rhythmic kaleidoscopes of The King of Limbs. So much has happened in the vast Radiohead landscape since their first trip to Indio, it was hard to know what moves they would bust out when they finally took the stage. Ultimately, though, Yorke and his cronies (including new addition Clive Deamer assisting with percussion) delivered a cohesive set that balanced new material with old (though, only going back as far as OK Computer). The band was loose, energized, and clearly happy to be back.

“Bloom” started things off right, with Jonny Greenwood perched atop a miniature drum set, pounding two oversized snares in syncopated bursts with all he had, cutting straight into Phil Selway and Clive Deamer’s dueling rhythms. The rhythms cracked, skittered, and splintered, creating a sound resembling a pop song being ripped apart by a menacing force, all in its own perfect time. During an explosive “Lotus Flower”, Yorke was at his danciest, raising his arms with his signature, possessed jitter. Select old staples were injected with Deamer’s auxiliary percussion, adding a frenetic flavor to songs with relatively straightforward rhythms. In a set that featured three OK Computer selections (“Karma Police”, “Lucky”, and “Paranoid Android”), three Hail to the Thief cuts (“The Gloaming”, “There There”, and “Myxomatosis”), and two songs off of Kid A, “Everything in its Right Place” proved to be the set’s real gift. In his own subtle dedication to the state of California, Yorke opened by playing a few verses of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” on keyboard, before jumping into a decked out version of the meditative live fixture. Deamer’s dubbed-out propulsion felt right at home here, making a decade old composition feel almost completely anew.

Though they played for nearly two-hours, with a light show consisting of formation morphing screens and glass bottle LED lights, exploding in red, blue, and green, nobody there wanted it to end. And who could blame them? -Drew Litowitz

Sunday, April 15th

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Photo by Ted Maider

Metronomy – Outdoor – 2:00 p.m.

Metronomy’s minimal synth-pop was yet another pleasant surprise this weekend. Songs began subtly and elegantly before exploding synthesizers and minute drumming brought them above the minimalistic surface. These disco and funk-laden indie pop songs were a great way to start off the weekend’s final day. -Drew Litowitz

Greg Ginn and the Royal We – Gobi – 3:00 p.m.

gregginn Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

I honestly thought Greg Ginn was sound checking for a good three minutes before I realized he had actually started his set. This was a very sorry excuse for a performance, and felt like the guitarist of Black Flag dicking around with a loop pedal, a theremin, and, oh yeah, a guitar for as long as I could put up with it. Seriously, dude, you could do this shit in your garage, but I don’t want no part of it. -Drew Litowitz

Real Estate – Gobi – 4:10 p.m.

Real Estate’s suburban guitar rock fit in so well with the Coachella atmosphere, I almost forgot they hailed from New Jersey. They looked real good in front of Palm Trees/ “It’s Real” had the entire crowd chanting along with its wordless chorus, while “Green Aisles” was as nostalgically heartbreaking as on record. The band’s atmospheric guitar rock was so perfect in the Indio sun, I never wanted it to end. Neither did the band, evidently, slowing the set’s final song to a lurking crawl, its ringing picking patterns drifting through the Sunday heat. -Drew Litowitz

Porter Robinson – Sahara – 4:20 p.m.

porterrobinson1 e1334674635652 Festival Review: CoS at Coachella 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

Porter Robinson is 19 years old and already DJing in the biggest venues around the nation. What the hell were you doing at 19? I will be the first to admit I am not the biggest fan of dub-step, but when people told me about Robinson’s “shit-show rave” at Oakland’s Fox Theater, he seemed like a safe bet for a good time in the Sahara. Porter Robinson spun everything from his own hits like “Unison”, to tracks from today’s contenders (deadmau5’s “Animal Rights” to name one). What was the crowd reaction like? Girls were mounted on shoulders all throughout the Sahara, and a circle pit formed that spanned a radius of roughly 40 feet. These moshing ravers were not messing around, either. One could have thought they stumbled into a Refused crowd as the fans pummeled each other and tossed inflatables in the air. And all the while, Robinson stood up there mixing, grinning, and slaughtering it. -Ted Maider

The Weeknd – Outdoor – 6:55 p.m.

With little more than a trio of acclaimed mixtapes and a handful of high-profile collaborations under his belt, Abel Tesfaye has spent the last year developing into one of the most compelling musicians around. For his first-ever gig on American soil and third live performance to date, he tore through a 13 song set in front of one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Tesfaye’s notably disturbed lyrics, which consist largely of harrowing accounts of depraved sex and drug abuse, were delivered without a hint of irony and in the same pitch-perfect croon he sings with on record. Meanwhile, the five-piece live band provided an apt backdrop to his stellar vocal performance, alternatively electric (an uproarious take on Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”) and delicate (on the downright heartbreaking, all-acoustic rendition of “Wicked Games” that closed out the Weeknd’s set) at all the right points. By the end of their hour-long set, Tesfaye and his band had very much warranted every shred of hype that’s been circling Tesfaye since last year’s House of Balloons mixtape surfaced online. -Möhammad Choudhery

At The Drive-In – Coachella – 9:10 p.m.

Perhaps the most awaited of the myriad reunions and first-time appearances to be found at Coachella 2012, At the Drive-In’s subheadlining slot Sunday night is one that’s been “in the works”, rumored, and otherwise heatedly anticipated for so long that I didn’t quite believe it was actually happening until I saw Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s massive curly coif onstage. The audience erupted when they broke right into “Arcarsenal”, followed closely by a searing take on “Pattern Against User”. The rhythm section of Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar, on bass and drums respectively, moved like a well-oiled beast of their own alongside the blistering twin guitar attack of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Jim Ward, whose finest moment came during the crashing climax of “Napoleon Solo”. While their criminally short nine-song set hardly did justice to their immense catalog nor did it even begin to make up for the ten years of lost time since they disbanded, At the Drive?In’s tremendous performance Sunday night ensured that even if these guys never cut another album, their legacy is as intact as ever. -Möhammad Choudhery

Modeselektor – Mojave – 9:45 p.m.

In a rare West Coast appearance (their first in almost two years), German electro-duo Modeselektor closed out Coachella’s Mojave Tent with a brilliant performance that showcased why they’re regarded as one of the best live acts in electronic music today. Known for blending crafty IDM with their own distinctly glitchy take on hip-hop, Modeselektor’s set consisted largely of material from last year’s Monkeytown. Whispers of a guest appearance from noted super-fan/frequent collaborator Thom Yorke pervaded the performance all the way till its end, but those anxiously anticipating the arrival of Mr. Yorke sorta got what they wanted, in the form of Modeselektor’s epic rework of “Morning Mr Magpie”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg – Coachella – 10:35 p.m.

You know how there are all these videos of The Beatles arriving in America to girls screaming uncontrollably? A slightly similar scene erupted when the 75,000 festivalgoers in attendance caught a glimpse of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg arriving at the Coachella main stage. Without missing a beat, the two immediately launched into past hit “The Next Episode” and the chronic smoke engulfed the crowd. Everybody sang each word, and hardly a soul stopped floating the entire time.

As expected, the two legends brought out an entire entourage of guests, which only added another level of excitement. Kendrick Lamar had already announced his guest spot earlier in the weekend, and performed his new cut, “The Recipe”, alongside Dre; Wiz Khalifa showed up for a “session” with Snoop, Eminem made a triumphant appearance, the highlight of which was “Forgot About Dre”; and 50 Cent looked back on his career over three tracks (“Wanksta,” “P.I.M.P.” and “In Da Club”). Of course, everybody was most excited for the holographic resurrection of Tupac Shakur, who performed “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” alongside an equally surprised Snoop. Everything about this spectacle of a performance was surreal, if not just downright mesmerizing.

In the end, however, a few things didn’t make sense. For one, the set lacked much love for Dre’s landmark LP, The Chronic, and most of the time he stalked the stage in silence, leaving the spotlight instead for Snoop and their guests. Some might argue that was to be expected; after all, the producer has kept behind the scenes for the majority of the past decade. With that in mind, it’s best to take this set as Dre’s idea of a West coast party, and considering the thousands who remained ’til the end, he’s still keeping their heads ringing. -Ted Maider

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Photographer: Ted Maider, Summer Dunsmore

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