It was another near perfect day weather-wise for the second day of the final weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Unusually thick cloud cover again kept temperatures below the normal desert average of 90 degrees, although day two felt strangely humid for a desert setting.
Ominous dark clouds in the afternoon did threaten rain and windy conditions, worrying many that there would be a repeat of the giant sandstorm that tore threw the festival grounds the week before. But the storm fizzled and the wind turned out to be nothing more than a comfortable breeze.
The Coachella shuttle bus was again the best bet to reach the festival for those looking to arrive relaxed and ready for the long day of partying and music. The air-conditioned shuttle buses run regularly throughout the festival and connect with pickup points across a wide local area. The shuttle passes are well worth the $60, especially if you plan to visit the expanded beer gardens or bars on a regular basis. The shuttle even has its own fast track entrance, expediting your way into the festival. It is no wonder that the shuttle passes sell out every year.
As usual the festival early birds were treated to close up and personal encounters with the opening acts. But by early afternoon, the festival saw some of the biggest crowds of the entire two weeks, especially at the Sahara tent. EDM fans packed that venue early on in a sweaty electronic dance frenzy.
Chance The Rapper became the first and only performer to cancel this year's performance at Coachella, after posting photos of himself online from a hospital bed. The joke circulating in the crowd was that he had contracted some sort of illness from his guest singer during his show the first weekend, Justin Bieber. Bieber disease was the buzz phrase in the crowd around the main stage, which only heard about the cancellation minutes before the scheduled performance.
But the multitude of remaining acts all seemed to start nearly on time, like Swiss clockwork and there were also a few new surprises.
Rapper TI joined a brilliant set by Pharrell Williams sending the massive crowd crushing around the Outdoor Theater stage, into an even more frenzied dance state than they were already in.
Other highlights of day two included:
Young and Sick
Led by Dutch artist and musician Nick Van Hofwegen, this Los Angeles-based Euro version of funky R&B, had the early bird crowd at the Mohave stage, trance dancing in the cooler confines of the tent.
This sultry English singer set a decidedly musical mood in the Gobi tent, with an ethereal mix of jazz, classical, and soul music, backed by a crack band, complete with a string section. It was just the ticket for hung over campers looking for a shady spot and a cool musical vibe to lay down and chill for awhile.
Unlocking The Truth
For those looking for a metal pick-me-up, the main stage kicked off with this pre-teen trio from Brooklyn, channeling the spirit and vibe of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. While it is hard to take the demands of these children onstage seriously, to “get off your a**es and dance and shout,” their musical abilities are no joke. These kids rock!
There has always been an unspoken pact between Coachella and the large gay community in nearby Palm Springs. The community embraced the festival early on and in turn the festival brings in unusual acts that cater to the adventurous spirit of that community. Bands that wouldn’t ordinarily find a home in a typical music festival, like Swedish group The Knife, who played on day one, bring a whole extra dimension of entertainment and theatrics to the festival.
Case in point; Foxygen had a sweltering crowd in the hot afternoon sun, mesmerized with their stage antics. Fronted by flamboyant lead singer Sam France, the band is the closest thing Southern California has to a modern day David Bowie or Iggy and The Stooges.
Sounding like a cross between Prince and trip hop dance music, this group is another mesmerizing Southern California experiment.
This group of Swedish rockers kept the momentum going on the main stage. Originally formed out of a death metal band, the group morphed into a hard rock blues band, with a sophisticated sound that would make them right at home in Austin, Texas.
Cage The Elephant
The frenzied energy on the main stage continued in the late afternoon with this relatively young Kansas band. Led by yet another charismatic singer, Matt Shultz, the group has become a veteran power act on the festival circuit, touring relentlessly. Shultz antics included, crowd surfing into what had become a massive crowd by this time, and emerging with a pineapple.
The brother and sister EDM duo from France are already veteran performers in their home country, with three full CD releases. It is hard to believe that Eleanor was celebrating only her 18th birthday at Coachella, and that her brother, Enguerand, is only 17. But despite their young age the duo whipped the Sahara tent into a dance frenzy with their unique keyboard approach to dance music and their strong vocal skills.
This Los Angeles pop duo has had a meteoric rise in popularity over the last year, due mainly to their smash single “Safe and Sound.” But their live performance complete with a dance-infused band of top musicians is always a joy to behold. Looking out at the massive audience assembled in front of the Outdoor Theater stage for their sunset performance, it is hard to believe that that they performed on the tiniest stage at midnight, at last years’ Bonnaroo music festival. No doubt they will have a bigger stage when they play there again this summer.
Signed to the prestigious Indie label 4AD, the group, originally from North Carolina plays a soulful version of pop electronica. Lead singer Samuel Herring, channels and old soul, reminiscent of an early Michael Stipe in REM.
The Los Angeles-based remix master and producer had the Mohave tent in yet another sweaty dance frenzy in early evening, stealing part of the Sahara tent crowd.
Fatboy Slim, Empire of the Sun, Skrillex
It was just one long giant EDM party during the last three performances in the Sahara tent. From the old school EDM of Fatboy Slim, to the extravaganza of the bombastic Empire of the Sun, ending with the hardcore trademark wails of Skrillex, the young dance music fans were in their own separate euphoria, pretty much oblivious to the main stages at the other end of Coachella.
The light show in the Sahara becomes more astounding every year. As soon as the sun goes down, the massive metal light trusses begin to morph into ever evolving shapes, creating unique light shows for each successive performer. The giant astronaut even made an appearance inside the Sahara tent during Fatboy Slim’s set, complete with a morphed video face.
The feel good music of this young American Indie band, harkens back to what was best about the early psychedelic rock era and resonated well throughout the massive Main Stage crowd assembled to hear them.
Foster the People
This young Los Angeles band has also had a recent meteoric rise in popularity and are also veterans of the festival circuit. Their main stage set was a great follow up to MGMT with much of the same feel good energy.
This mobbed performance on the Outdoor Theater stage may have been the biggest non headliner moment since the last minute addition of Prince’s legendary Coachella set, in 2008. The 41-year-old superstar producer has only just become a household name as a performer and has quickly endeared himself to a whole new generation. With his collaborator Justin Timberlake watching from backstage and several guest rappers cycling onstage, and a smoking band of veteran musicians, the show was nearly perfect.
In the vein of U2, The Who or the Rolling Stones, Muse performs like a good old-fashioned arena rock band, with melodramatic music, an impressive stage presence, and a massive state of the art stage and lighting production. The huge crowd in front of the Main Stage made it the most attended moment of the entire festival.
Pet Shop Boys
Much like the Bryan Ferry set the night before, the Pet Shop Boys played to a relatively tiny audience in the Mohave tent, while most of the crowd massed in front of Muse on the main stage, or were dancing to the wails of Skrillex EDM in the Sahara tent next door. But that didn’t stop these pioneers of EDM dance music from turning in one of the most unique and interesting performances of the night.
— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.