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Festival Review: Coachella 2013 – Saturday, April 13th

on April 14, 2013, 6:35pm

coachella 2013

As ticketholders shuffled onto the grounds for Day 2, it was apparent that the newfound and hard-earned wisdom following Friday’s rookie mistakes drove a slew of essential tweaks and adjustments. Some blessed out patrons sporting cringe-inducing red welts lathered on the SPF 50 (it’s the desert folks, get it together – strike one), while others opted to schlep canvas bags this time around after shivering for five hours when the sun vanished on Friday (yeah, strike two).

On Saturday, Coachella became America’s unofficial Glastonbury by doubling in size and hosting three headlining caliber artists to simultaneously close out the night. To say the tents were packed from open to close would be an understatement, especially for 2 Chainz, but more on that later. And, hey, how about those Daft Punk rumors? 

This is Saturday.

savages1 Festival Review: Coachella 2013   Saturday, April 13th

Photo by Frank Mojica

Savages – Mojave – 2:55 p.m.

Savages’ fierce brand of post-punk is the antithesis of all things warm and sunny and is ideally consumed in a dank hole in the wall of a dive an hour before last call and not during the most blistering time of day. What should have been a recipe for disaster instead accelerated the hype for one of 2013’s already most-buzzed-about bands. Clad in black because heat be damned, singer Jehnny Beth clenched her fist at the unseen enemy as Savages transfixed the crowd out of the desert with fast-paced renditions of the fierce, few songs we know and some from their hotly-anticipated upcoming debut, Silence Yourself. -Frank Mojica

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Photo by Ted Maider

Allen Stone – Gobi – 3:35 p.m.

Showing off a fresh pink sunburn that betrayed his Pacific Northwest origins, self-described “hippie with soul” Allen Stone threw his hands in the air, shrugged his shoulders, and tilted his head to the side as he exclaimed: “We’ve come from Seattle, Washington, purely so you could have the best time possible!” During the insomnia-laden “Sleep”, Stone and his boisterous backup vocalists took jabs at eachother in a rowdy, waggish call-and-response: “(Drink whisky) / It makes my throat too dry / (Smoke weed) / Makes my eyes all read / (Take a pill) / What and end up dead?” Red faced, veins straining against his forehead, Stone borrowed moves from James Brown and David Bowie as he sashayed across the stage before collapsing on the ground, hands held in prayer facing the overwhelmed crowd. -Henry Hauser

chainz1 Festival Review: Coachella 2013   Saturday, April 13th

Photo by Frank Mojica

2 Chainz – Mojave – 4:00 p.m.

Coachella goers tend to love hip-hop, and the lineup’s most mainstream rapper was inexplicably scheduled inside the Mojave tent. During the 20 minute delay to the set’s start, teenage fans squeezed and shoved their way into the over-capacity tent to get up front for the star. (Apparently those chains aren’t attached to a timepiece?) Once 2 Chainz finally took the stage, his charisma and energy quickly turned boos into cheers and whipped the crowd into a sea of fist-pumping, shoulder-riding mayhem. Considering the heat and overcrowding, anything longer than a half hour would have been too much to bear. Thankfully, the sex-obsessed eccentric made every moment count thanks to a rapid-fire onslaught of hits like “Birthday Song”, “No Lie”, and “I Luv Dem Strippers”, along with verses from his Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, and Juicy J/Lil’ Wayne collaborations. -Frank Mojica

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Photo by Ted Maider

Bat for Lashes – Mojave – 5:10 p.m.

Bat for Lashes’ sophomore album Two Suns was inspired by Natasha Khan’s journey in the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, and the mystical sounds were screaming to be savored in a likewise environment. Four years later, the long-awaited Coachella debut finally came as Khan healed even the most heat-exhausted of fan with a voice so overwhelming in its power and beauty that not even stellar albums are able to fully capture it. Twirling to the beat in a rainbow skirt, Khan made dancing along to the rhythmically ensnaring, psychedelic voyages of “Daniel” and “All Your Gold” a must, while her angelic cries made the more grounded-in-reality somber numbers such as “Laura” and “Travelling Woman” equally enticing. -Frank Mojica

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Photo by Ted Maider

Violent Femmes – Coachella – 6:05 p.m.

Graying Milwaukee quartet Violent Femmes are a misnomer in at least two ways. First off, it’s an all male group; there isn’t a single femme to be seen or heard. Second, they aren’t particular violent, more like litigious (the band parted ways in ’09 after bassist Brian Ritchie sued singer/songwriter Gordon Gano for co-ownership plus royalties). With their troubles behind them, the Femmes reached back to 1983 and performed their self-titled debut in full (!), starting with fan favorite “Blister in the Sun” (quite apropos for the exposed crowd’s peeling epidermises), and capping with “Good Feeling”. They even tossed out the album’s US bonus track “Gimme the Car” and a couple of later favorites in “I Held Her in My Arms” and “American Music”. All in all, a very welcome return. -Henry Hauser

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Photo by Ted Maider

 Portugal. The Man – Outdoor – 6:40 p.m.

Just as the last rays of desert sun were disappearing behind the hazy San Jacinto Mountains, Portugal. The Man greeted a rapidly coalescing crowd with modest smiles and appreciative waves. Singing of the remedial powers of companionship and dance, “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” featured singer John Gourley’s penetrating head voice atop a exultant string section and bassist Zachary Carothers’ falsetto seeped backing vocals: “We’ll shake, shake, shake, shake the night away!” By the time the Portland troupe moved the whole audience to sing along with an impromptu jam of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” amidst “Sleep Forever”, the wispy clouds overhead had taken on gorgeous hues of amber and fuchsia. In a word: timeless. -Henry Hauser

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Photo by Ted Maider

Grizzly Bear – Mojave – 7:40 p.m.

It’s a bad sign when someone — in this case, a petite brunette in the front row with horn-rimmed spectacles and a splash of Maker’s Mark cologne — asks whether it’s Franz Ferdinand setting up or “someone other.” (Only in California, right?) Yet much to the festivalgoer’s chagrin, Grizzly Bear delivered a haunting set seeped in glossy empyrean harmonies that ushered in the darkening night sky. Shunning small talk and getting right down to brass tacks, songwriter Daniel Rossen hurriedly noted that time at music festivals is always of the essence (“Thank you, thank you, we don’t have time to chit chat so now we’re just going to play more.”). Material off last year’s CoS Top Star-earning Shields felt tight and earned, but not surprisingly, it was Rossen’s magnetizing purr on “Two Weeks”, that struck a chord with everyone — even those who didn’t know their name. -Henry Hauser

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Photo by Ted Maider

The Postal Service – Coachella – 8:50 p.m.

By the time The Postal Service were due to perform on the main stage Saturday evening, the Polo Fields were just completing their transformation into multicolored hybrids of Dr. Seuss and Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. Yet it was impossible to see one patch of land as tens of thousands of festivalgoers cluttered together to wait in a daze for the highly-anticipated reunion (and live performance of 2003’s Give Up). When the stage lights flickered and the PA clicked off, a decade’s worth of angst screamed into the night. Spoiler alert: Neither sticky cobwebs nor corrosive rust held back the reunion’s performance one iota.

Producer Jimmy Tamborello whipped up a bright, textured foundation for the penetrating vocals of frontman Ben Gibbard and versatile songstress Jenny Lewis with peppy electronic effects and fuzzy bass tones on “We Will Become Silhouettes”.  With an insoucian optimism that clashed starkly with fatalistic lyrics alluding to a prolonged nuclear winter, Gibbard sang of mounting alienation claustrophobia: “And I’m screaming at the top of my lungs / Pretending the echoes belong to someone.” Eyebrow furrowed in consternation on surrealistic “Sleeping In”, Gibbard whispered, “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in”, over and over again, stretching out this verse to its absolute limit as if to coax some basic truth or elusive meaning from it.

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Photo by Ted Maider

Throwing off her sequined blazer before belting out a potent, commanding vocal on “recent” track “Turn Around”, Lewis waltzed coquettishly across the stage in a black miniskirt and stripped tights. Though the set focused on the tunes and stayed short on banter, the band did take a long enough breather for Gibbard to thank the crowd for coming out to hear the reincarnation of this “imaginary band.”

Just seconds into the opening salvo of melodic bleeps on “Such Great Heights”, the crowd was hurled headlong into a sweltering euphoric fervor lead by a massive sing-along of amateur backup vocalists, whose emotional commitment more than redeemed their tone deafness. With the conviction of religious zealots, Gibbard’s disciples chanted: “I am thinking it’s a sign / That the freckles in our eyes are mir-ror im-age-es / And when we kiss they’re perfectly ah-lined.” -Henry Hauser

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Photo by Ted Maider

Janelle Monáe - Gobi – 10:45 p.m.

A lack of punctuality can really sour a festival night. The casualty of the cruel wind’s tricks this time was the first 20 minutes of Janelle Monáe’s set time. Regardless of the delay, if there were an award for the craziest Coachella entrance, only a fool would have attempted to run as a contender for the crown. Following a James Bond-style animated sequence with her shadow appearing through gun barrel circles, the lights revealed a white-clad band and backup singers along with three ominous, robed figures. But where’s the star?

Monáe burst out of hiding and immediately tore into the ArchAndroid trio of “Dance or Die”, “Faster”, and “Locked Inside” with a hyper-kinetic blend of soul, funk, R&B, and hip-hop, dance-fighting the robed ones and storming the stage along the way. Daring, eclectic, and an utter thrill, Monáe represented the epitome of the pop music ideal. I was heartbroken to have to duck out early, especially to later read on my social media feeds about crowd surfing and a cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that the attendees and webcast viewers on my social media feeds declared to be extraordinary. -Frank Mojica

new order3 Festival Review: Coachella 2013   Saturday, April 13th

Photo by Frank Mojica

New Order – Mojave – 11:35 p.m.

What’s less hip than wearing the t-shirt of the band one has come to see? Sporting one for your own band while on-stage, even if that band is New Order and you’re Bernard Summer. Fashion faux pas aside, Summer admitted the seven-year gap between tours was due to enjoying life at home in a relaxed manner, but did regret the infrequency. “That guy” syndrome and a preference for leisure over life on the road admittedly sound like trivial tidbits, but in hindsight should have been seized as warning signs to diminish expectations for the New Order live experience.

As a former main stage subheadliner, New Order were now closing the Mojave tent on Coachella’s second night in direct competition with Sigur Rós and Phoenix. Although I was more than willing to seize an opportunity to intimately see a band that still tops the bill at mid-to-large festivals across the Atlantic, legend status alone dictates that they do deserve better. By the time “5 6 8” rolled on, I realized that the fun lied within the crowd and the novelty of hearing the classics and recalling every subsequent artist they inspired, rather than what was actually happening onstage. The songs sounded faithful enough, but lacked any intensity or feeling behind the notes. A good time, yes, but not a great one. -Frank Mojica

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Photo by Ted Maider

Phoenix – Coachella – 11:35 p.m.

All throughout the day, the prime buzz on everyone’s lips was whether Daft Punk would be sitting in with Phoenix at midnight. It provided fodder for uncountable pickup attempts, drew countless others away from the competing Sigur Rós and New Order sets, and offered the promise of redemption for the Coachella’s nominally light headliners. But before any of that could be settled, Phoenix actually had to play their set.

Sampling heavy from sanguine, effervescent blockbuster Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the French rockers led by frontman and vocalist Thomas Mars got the crowd clapping on bubbly, festival-friendly pop number “Lisztomania”. Unleashing new material from their ironically titled forthcoming fifth studio LP, Bankrupt!, Phoenix tapped electro infused “Entertainment” and “Trying To Be Cool”. And going all the way back to their debut Untitled, the band rewarded those fans that heard of Phoenix long before Wolfgang dropped by firing off a spirited rendition of “Too Young”.

rkellyDenis O’Regan

Photo by Denis O’Regan

The tension peaked as the band walked briskly from the stage following an extended jam on “1901”. But in one of the most shocking (and brilliant) switcharoos in recent memory, it wasn’t Daft Punk that blessed fans with a cameo during the encore, but R. Kelly. By mounting his infamous “Ignition (Remix)” on top of a resuscitated “1901”, Kelly brought both tracks to new heights and turned the crowd delirious. Not to be outdone, Mars ran into the crowd, his mic trailed by a 500 ft. neon red chord, to ascend the sound tent and perching on the scaffolding for a reprise of opening number “Entertainment”. He didn’t run back, though, he surfed back.

Needless to say, Phoenix earned their stripes.-Henry Hauser

Gallery

Photographers: Ted Maider, Frank Mojica

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