Monday, August 20 , 2018, 11:44 pm | A Few Clouds 67º


Paul Mann: A Day of Redemption at Coachella Festival

From start to well past the finish, Day Three is filled with nothing but class acts — and just the right sendoff from The Cure

This year’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival was like a giant sea-saw of entertainment.

The festival started on Day One with a high note, featuring historic performances by Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen, among others. Then the music took a turn for the worse on Day Two, with probably the weakest single-day lineup in the festival’s 10-year history.

But festival promoters redeemed themselves on the final sweltering day of the event. With one of the strongest lineups ever, there simply were no bad performances anywhere on the Empire Polo Club’s fields, from the early afternoon until the final moments when the plug was pulled on the headliners, The Cure.

Since the festival expanded to a three-day event several years ago, as most Coachella veterans know, the final day is the most relaxed. With many of the younger dance fans and partying campers simply too exhausted to go on, many festival attendees simply pack up and go home. The result is always the same: a flood of cheap tickets available in the parking lot, and smaller crowds to deal with inside. With the hottest temperatures coming on the last day this year, and topping 100 degrees, many in the crowd pass out in the shadiest spots, or dance in the do lab and lucent area, where they were constantly watered down by performers. That left easy access for much of the day to a flurry of fine performances.

The Mojave tent was a marvel in itself, highlighting hot new punk acts, The Murder City Devils and F***ed Up. The latter, one of the most hard-core punk acts to emerge in years, featured lead singer Damian Abraham crowd surfing while he sang — with a gash on his forehead and blood pouring from his nose. The band has a controversial history and definitely is the real deal in the punk world. Old-school punk was also represented, by the seminal first-generation California punk band, X. In one of its strongest performances in years, X whipped the crowd into a frenzy with its classic quick hits, like “Los Angeles” and “White Girl.” Classic old English punk was represented by Throbbing Gristle, more performance artists than musicians. The tent also showcased psychedelic English rockers Brian Jonestown Massacre, with a surprise appearance by Dandy Warhols, Zia McCabe and new Goth English rockers, The Horrors.

Over in the Gobi tent strong performances came in from mystic jam band singer Devendra Banhart and Reggae Dub electronic mix masters, The Orb. Even the Sahara tent, normally a bastion for DJs, exploded with fine musicianship throughout the day. Perry Farrell, a consummate rock star, played a rousing set with his band that includes his sexy wife, Etty. Late of The Pier, a young English electronic rock band also played a blazing set.

If there wasn’t enough going on in the tents to keep you busy, then the outdoor stage had one of the most eclectic group of performers of the day. The Gaslight Anthem had the Springsteen sound from New Jersey down pat. Lykke Li, a Swedish Indy rocker has been described as the new Bjork. Her first album was produced by Bjorn Yttling, from the band Peter Bjorn and John, who played on the main stage at almost the same time. Also on the outdoor stage was Antony and the Johnsons. Fronted by the androgynous Antony Hegarty, who looks and sounds like an opera diva, the eerie melodic sounds have been used in several movie soundtracks.

Next, English Modfather Paul Weller took the stage. With roots dating back to The 1970s punk band The Jam, his music has evolved over three decades into intricate masterful blues rock bordering on the realm of jazz. From one extreme to another, seminal rap group Public Enemy took the stage next. Celebrating its 21st anniversary as one of the cornerstones of modern rap, the band played its 1988 album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in it’s entirety. This was yet another historic moment at Coachella 2009.

Last but not least were all the phenomenal acts playing on the main stage. Among them, Okkervil River played a strong Indy music set. Lupe Fiasco, described as the hip hop generation’s new face, brought a fresh sound to rap roots. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs provided some pure fun rock sounds, followed by My Bloody Valentine. This experimental English band, famous for its ear-piercing feedback jams, brought performances on nearby stages to a halt because its sound levels were overwhelming.

Finally there was the legendary 1980s band, The Cure. Fronted by Goth idol Robert Smith and eccentric lead guitar player Porl Thompson, the band appears theatrical and frightening, but 30 years of constant touring has left it as one of the most masterful jam bands of the genre. The band, famous for its long shows, effortlessly weaves in and out of decades of hit songwriting in a dreamlike cacophony of sound. When the band had played more than a three-hour set, 33 minutes past the midnight curfew on the main stage, the power was cut to its instruments. Apparently the city of Indio fines the promoters $1,000 per minute if a band plays past curfew. For several more minutes the band kept playing even with the sound turned off, a symbolic end to one of the best days the Coachella Music & Arts Festival has ever offered.

Click here for a slideshow of Day Three.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

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