The Indio air was kind enough not to reach an unbearable maximum or minimum, just an even magical. Like it would continue to all weekend, this late Saturday night cool was more of a calm, more of an embrace than usual. From my back, in a rare loner moment, I looked up into the strobe-lit sky and connected; the desert spirits were dancing up there, just as the lovers were down here.This was the best Coachella I’ve ever been to (a scale that starts in 07'). 2010 can wear that turquoise studded, feather decorated crown even with its noticeably longer lines, AT&T FAIL service, and a lineup that was questioned just as much as it was praised. So how did it, with these logistical plagues, soar higher than any previous festival on S&S record? Well, it got plenty weird (partly explaining my delay in blog/brain activity this week). And more importantly, its three days overflowed with supernatural performances. Rather than recounting every occurrence, here are the special ones:
- Friday, April 16th -
Passion Pit [Outdoor Theatre; 7:00PM]
“OK, see you at Passion Pit.” This was a universal meeting place (a necessity without phone reception); you could pretty much count on everyone knowing these songs and enjoying them on some level. Having seen these Boston boys before, I was ready to jump around in places and socialize in others. But Passion Pit went out and eclipsed the latter agenda with a triumphant, downright possessed display of JAM. They’ve grown a lot in a year. Love em’ or eye-roll em', they’re here to stay.
LCD Soundsystem [Coachella Stage; 9:00PM]
Maybe that power of visualization stuff is starting to work (see: recent viewing of The Secret) or maybe it was just meant to be, that my dream of taking in “All My Friends” with all my friends would transpire perfectly. As sappy as drawing those kinds of retrospective parallels between lyric and reality are, holding onto the ones we love, the ones we can “always come home to”, in the presence of such an affecting anthem is just well, perfect. Those eight minutes were ours, supplied by the man in white who owned the night. Backed by a gang of percussion and groove, with disco ball spinning, main stage lights all up in the atmosphere, a new album all up in the blogosphere, and enough innate coolness that you’d think David Byrne gained a few pounds, James Murphy rattled off as many favorites as time would allow. Since most of those are long-winded, cuts were made, and in mostly the right places. “Losing My Edge” was kept, drawn out and beaten up, putting the crowd an inch closer to full-tweak with every blow. Bravo. The highlight of Friday, and until Thom came along, I was saying weekend.
Fever Ray [Mojave; 11:10PM]
I imagine at this point a flying origami bird's eye view would find most in attendance covering the open field for Jay Z - a turnout indeed fit for a king of hip hop. And a slight pan past the mass would reveal a glowing blue tent buzzing with laser beams and Fever Ray fans, masked and/or wide eyed. To be in that tent, meant you were dedicated, defiant, or at least curious. Being one half of the infamously disguised Swedish electronic act, The Knife, Fever Ray already had a mystique working for her, still she filled space differently here. Evil greens and icy blues crossed infinite smoke, creating neon tron walls overhead. It was electric. It was damn near scary. The visuals were matched, if not topped by the sound. Her moody, self-titled (2009 fav) release was literally all around us.
- Saturday, April 17th -
Beach House [Mojave; 4:25]
One of the most anticipated sets for many, Beach House gave the stuffy mid-day slot a long, soothing breath of fresh air. To say this grade of dreamy chamber pop could have felt out of place here is an understatement, but Victoria Legrand is a hypnotic force, and we became a mushy heap of overheated hearts under a 50 minute spell. I hadn't seen her and Alex Scally perform in over three years (which contained two sprawling masterpieces), and like you'd expect, they were now a fully realized band. Enchanted even. About midway through the set I knew we weren't leaving (for Edward Sharpe), never. "Real Love" to "10 Mile Stereo" and I could have driven home right then with a smile.
The xx [Outdoor Theatre; 6:25PM]
Another potential misfit, this intimate outfit were given the unlikely task of slow-talking the sun down. In probably their first ever setting of this sort, they stayed close to their echo-y studio takes, saying very little, until a truly bizarre happening. From across the grounds a flame flashed and fizzled on top of the main stage (perhaps causing a few people to question what their drug intake). Singer/bassist Oliver Sim stopped in his flat British tone, "the roof is on fire." Attention was theirs again, and with all energy collected, they turned it up, ending on a ferocious, unexpected drumdown freakout. A reminder that batshit crazy can be an emotion of love as well.
Hot Chip [Outdoor Theatre; 7:35PM]
In their 3rd appearance in four years, Hot Chip accepted destiny: they are the Coachella house band. And true to their reputation, this one was even better than the last. Gods of the desert dance, they laid down an almighty playlist custom tailored for short shorts and headbands, free of sentiment (and they are underrated at sentiment), and full of weightless, pulsing pleasure. Of the new tracks, they chose the fun ones ("I Feel Better", "One Life Stand", "Take It In"), along with old crescendo staples ("Over and Over", "One Pure Thought" and "Ready For The Floor").
The Dead Weather [Outdoor Theatre; 11:05PM]
I knew this time not to sleep on The Dead Weather. It's pure, hard, raw, rock, delivered by rock royalty, Jack White and Allison Moshart - like this set would ever suck. We did only stay for half though, due to an uncontrollable, gravitational pull. It might be called 'zef'. We had to know. We had to see...
Die Antwoord [Sahara; 11:35PM]
This last minute addition carved a random 20 minutes into Saturday, suddenly marking the US debut of what might be the fastest international viral hype story to hit the 'interweb', ever. They've claimed their shocking South African rave-rap to be "next level" and you know what, it was. Yo-landi Vi$$er let out a few preliminary chirps before the big hand off, "Enter The Ninja". Ninja. Entered. After two planned false starts to the lead line, a earthquake bass dropped on the 3rd "I'm a Ninja!" and just like that, we'd never be the same again. Sounds ridiculous. Looks ridiculous. Was bananas.
The only thing left to do on the way out was walk by Devo playing "Whip It", a song that forever turned heads 30 years prior.
- Sunday, April 18th -
Jónsi [Outdoor Theatre; 5:55PM]
Half a Deerhunter, half a De La Soul - not a bad way to start a Sunday. However it was Jónsi that first broke down that third wall of external chatter, and demanded a complete lock on our systems. Just like Antony Hegarty had last year at our favorite stage, the Sigur Rós frontman blinded us with beauty and otherworldly grace. At times overcome by himself, he'd shield his face or take to his knees, twisting nobs, which did all but distort his rare ability to touch souls with a transcendental language. "Grow Till Tall" (watch) closed out with a towering crash, and I think we were all overcome by then.
(ps - I love you, Jessica Sutton)
Phoenix [Outdoor Theatre; 7:10PM]
The conditions couldn't have been more ideal (okay, maybe put Pavement at a different time): the best pop act around celebrating the youthful spirit of pop with 'the youth' and those treating Indio like a fountain of it. The French megastars did not disappoint, running through the better half of Wolfgang complete with "Love Like a Sunset" intermission, a few loyalty checks from It's Never Been Like That, and a house-light check during United's hit. Everyone was there - a notion that hadn't hit until the big screen showed how far back we went. Welcome to the center of the universe.
The final darkness had reached and the spirits circled for a grande finale.
Thom Yorke (Atoms For Peace) [Outdoor Theatre; 9:00PM]
Last October seems so long ago. Back when Thom sent us all for a scramble in LA with this supergroup (Flea, Nigel Godrich, etc). I said then that "at no point was anyone 'off' or did anything sound like they hadn't written it together, 10 years ago", so was there really room for improvement? Apparently. The Eraser got stronger, heavier, and funkier in those touring months. It bends and twitches. It fucking erases. It's a tool I'm not sure Yorke ever intended to use in this way. And that's why he's still the most progressive artist on the planet.
With Eraser wrapped up, the band took a proper encore, giving Yorke a solo return on acoustic for "Airbag", "Everything In Its Right Place" and stunningly looped new track, "Giving Up The Ghost". In the words of Victoria, "there'd be tears if I wasn't so dehydrated." The band returned with four more including the bass-boosted Radiohead b-side "Paperbag Writer" and recent seizure single "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" - aptly introduced as "the one to freak out to."
Sunday hangs in a frame on the wall of my mind forever - Yorke in mid-dance, Flea in mid-slap, winds swirling, friends gasping. It's an image that leaves me thinking I should either retire from this search or more likely, press forward with new fire. Afterall it is an addiction, and Coachella 2010 was too good to us.
A big thank you to our amazing crew this year and to all who sweat through a set with us/passed a whiskey sunscreen along the way, and a special thanks to Friday photo contributors Caroline Park and Kati Cesareo. And of course, Ms. Victoria Masters who not only took half these shots (and edited them down from hundreds), she let me act like a photographer too. Team S&S 4L.
Speaking of shots:
Jay Z spotted at The xx
The Dead Weather