Coachella 2009: Saturday Review

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With no acts high on my must-see list until around 6, I decided to start the day off fast by spending a couple hours at Coachella’s infamous party tent, the Sahara Tent. Smacked dab and front center, I quickly engaged in the mosh of fist pumps and crowd-surfing accustomed to this area of the festival. Accompanied by the heavy house tunes being spun by Drop the Lime, Para One, and Surkin, the crowd proved that the toll of the heat was no match for the dance party that was going down early in the afternoon. However, I must note my confusion with the mosh pit that ensued during Surkin’s DJ set: is it a dance act or a punk rock concert?

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At about 5, I finally forced myself out of the Sahara Tent, in order to refuel (meaning I would spend some cash on an overpriced Greek sandwich and Gatorade) and get a prime spot for TV on the Radio’s anticipated performance on the Coachella Stage at 6:25. Of course, many other attendees seemed to have the same idea as me, since by the time I approached the periphery of the stage, fans were already lined up. After releasing one of the most highly acclaimed albums (Dear Science) last year, it should have come as no surprise that this applauded group would be on many people’s must-see radar. Thus, when the Brooklyn-based band promptly took the stage backed by an excellent horn section and some groovy quilts adorned across the stage, it was already a blockbuster sight to behold. Shredding through hits, such as “Wolf like Me” and “Dancing Choose,” TVOTR easily delivered one of the most epic performances of the day and whole festival. Between lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s high-pitched wails and guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone’s calm tenor, a formidable nucleus is built that sounds even stronger live. Additionally, I can’t go without noting guitarist Dave Siteck’s excellent job of creating a reverbed-post punk howl of distortion that added a definite edge to TVOTR’s riveting sound. Playing on the same stage as the animate Adebimpe and Malone, it can be hard to match up.

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Following TV on the Radio’s enthralling set, it seemed as if the day had already reached its climax, yet that was before I made my way over to Fleet Foxes’ breath-taking set on the Outdoor Stage. With only one full-length album at their disposal, Robin Pecknold and company made full use of their sharp indie-folk songbook, unwinding the busy crowd into a state of calamity and peace. As magnificent as the group’s songs were, what made this performance near perfect had to be the brilliant desert sunset happening right before our eyes and the way in which it enhanced the splendor of the harmonized tunes. During songs, like “Sun It Rises,” I felt as if I had finally reached my cathartic Coachella moment; cleansing myself of all the stress and hustle of urban life and soaking in the purity of this musical episode.

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However, this sense of peace and tranquility would soon fade away, once we made our hustle to the Coachella Stage to check out M.I.A’s first live-performance since giving birth. Entering the stage on a makeshift press-conference podium and backed up by neon-clad dancers, M.I.A made sure to make here 50-minute performance a spectacle to remember. Rolling through hits, like “Galang” and “Paper Planes,” M.I.A attempted to bring the intimate vibe of the Sahara Tent to the Coachella Stage by letting fans jump the fence and join the party that ensued onstage. Furthermore, the starlet frequently shouted out comments (i.e. “They try to make me play the Oscars, and I said, ‘No, no, no!;”) just waiting to make their way on to Perez Hilton’s website. While her remarks became a bit tedious after a while, M.I.A still delivered a solid set for the masses.

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After seeing the large gathering of young folks partying during M.I.A’s performance, I decided to forgo seeing the beginning of the Killers’ headlining set and scout out a decent spot for MSTRKRFT in the Sahara. Catching the second half of The Chemical Brother’s DJ set, which consisted primarily of other artists’ tunes, I felt quite disappointed in the fact that Goldenvoice had hired the legendary electronic group for a DJ set, as opposed to one of their acclaimed live performances. Regardless, I had squeezed my way into the middle of the sweat-filled Sahara to check out the highly-anticipated set from Jesse F. Keeler and AL-P of MSTRKRFT.

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Having heard that large sums of money had been spent on the Canadian duo’s stage set-up and that there were some surprises in store for their Coachella performance, I was quite anxious to see if MSTRKRFT’s visuals could possibly be on par with Daft Punk’s elaborate pyramid they debuted at Coachella in 2006. When the DJs finally took the stage a little after 11, I realized that I’d set my hopes up a bit too high.

While the show did not feature any of the breath-taking 3-D visuals as I had been told there would be, the stage did feature some striking 3-D lasers and four wide-screen TV screens that showed a live feed of the duo at work. Spinning a fresh mix of cuts from their two albums and a few edgy remixes, MSTRKRFT gave the ecstatic crowd at the Sahara a thrilling finish to yet another enjoyable day at the Empire Polo Grounds. To top things off, MSTRKRFT and Goldenvoice kept true to their promise by bringing John Legend on stage as a surprise guest, to sing the final two songs (“Green Light” & “Heartbreaker”) of the night. A proper ending that kept fans cheering even after the house lights were turned on.

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