Coachella 2009: Sunday Review

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After my hectic endeavors in the Sahara Tent the night before, I planned to start my Sunday off at a calm pace: laying down on the grass and soaking in some good music being played in the tents. Following Vivian Girls’ performance (which like their music, was good, but not great), I quickly changed my game plan. With a cool piñata on stage and there being a relatively easy push to the front, I decided to join the masses for No Age’s Mojave performance. Opening up with “Teen Creeps,” Dean Spunt and Randy Randall played a tour-de-force of music that perfectly illustrates a young Angelino’s urban anxiety. Mixing up popular singles, like “Eraser,” with some lesser-known tunes, the LA duo incited quite a mosh pit, despite the brutal heat outside. In true fashion of The Smell, Randy Randall even stood on top of the divider between the fans and stage, grazing his guitar across the sea of sweaty hands in appropriate communal fashion. For the local DIY poster boys, it really didn’t matter the size of the venue because they still connected with the audience.

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Immediately following No Age, we rushed over to the Gobi Tent to catch the second half of English buzz-band, Friendly Fires. Despite the tight packing of the crowd in the small tent, the group still got the crowd going by playing dance-punk heavy tunes, like “Paris.” It was a shame that I was only able to catch half the set.

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As the heat starting to reach the 100s, the music only got better. After resting under a tent in the food court area, we made our way over the main stage to catch Lupe Fiasco in order to add some more hip-hop to our weekend. Backed by a superb live band and Matthew Santos (for a few songs), Lupe rolled through an energetic set inciting a wave of hands being thrown in the air. Only familiar with a few singles before the set, I left a fan; convinced that he carries an artistic foray superior to many of his fellow hip-hop peers.

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For the next couple of hours, my friends and I remained glued to the Main Stage Area (minus the occasional water or bathroom break). One of my biggest surprises of the festival came in the form of Peter Bjorn & John’s brilliant performance late in the afternoon. Only familiar with the group’s hit single from a few summers ago, “Young Folks,” I was originally tempted to go check out Antony & The Johnsons, but decided to just stick with my group of friends at the Main Stage and hope for the best. Good call. The Swedish trio focused primarily on songs from their latest release Living Things, but still found room for some older tracks. While the group did not quite win over the entire crowd, they still played with a sense of confidence and found ways to spice up their set; with the highlight being when fellow Swedes Lykke Li and Robyn joined the group on stage for “Nothing to Worry About” and “Young Folks.”

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Next on the main stage was the highly-anticipated performance from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, hot off the release of their synth-dance rock album Its Blitz. After their triumphant set on the same stage in 2006, it came as no surprise that the band garnered one of the largest audiences of the day. Playing behind a giant inflatable eye-ball reflected by the setting sun, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s opened up with their new ballad “Runaway” with smiles all over the bands’ faces (I think I even saw Nick Zinner pop a little grin). With the two male members wearing all black, Karen O especially stood out in her dress of gold sequins and turquoise tights. If she wasn’t already considered an alt-rock goddess, Karen O definitely cemented herself with the status once she struck some epic poses and belted out classics, like “Gold Lion” and “Maps.” Though maybe most memorable from the performance was when the trio broke out into their latest single “Zero,” a tune that perfectly blends the groups recognizable sound with their current synth endeavors. As mini inflatable eye-balls floated throughout the crowd and Nick Zinner totally killed the break down, it seemed as if the YYY’s had reached the peak of rock stardom.   

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With the sun finally set and ear-plugs distributed throughout the festival grounds, it was clear that it was time for My Bloody Valentine’s debut performance in the desert. Pioneers of the shoegaze rock genre, MBV fit into the stereotypical mold of a Coachella sub-headliner: a late 80s/early 90s alt-rock band that recently reunited. Though that didn’t mean the group’s performance wasn’t one of a kind. With the amps turned up all the way and psychedelic lights bathing the group, Kevin Shields and co. rolled through tunes that find the beauty in distortion and reverb, such as “Soon” and “Only Shallow.” As Kevin Shields harmonized with Bilinda Butcher, the whole crowd seemed to be set still and mesmerized by what was occurring in front of them. However, once MBV transitioned into a 15 minute drowning pitfall of noise, I must admit I became quite uncomfortable and rather bored. Yes, there may be some beauty in the sound of distortion, I just don’t need 15 minutes to show me. That nearly killed their victorious set for me.

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To close out the night on the Main Stage, was none other than The Cure and their insistent need to play for at least 3 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Cure. I think Robert Smith is a genius front man and has quite a knack for crafting a tune. The band is also just as good live. My one problem is that if you are going to headline the final day of a major festival, shouldn’t you try to make your show more accessible to people other than the die-hard Cure fan? I mean, come on Robert! I go to the first half-hour of your set and leave only recognizing one of the songs I’ve heard (“Lovesong”). You have numerous hits from your “heyday” available to play, why do I have to wait 3 hours to hear all of them? Whatever…

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 My friends and I all opted to end our Coachella experience on a more upbeat note by heading across the polo grounds to the Sahara Tent and partying to Etienne de Crecy and his giant light cube. Even though many had already left the festival in hopes of making it back home at a decent hour, there still was enough of a crowd in the tent to provide the celebratory vibe that surrounded the tent all weekend long. Playing a rather cookie-cutter style of house music, Etienne de Crecy still delivered a triumphant performance thanks to his mind-blowing stage set-up. No Daft Punk, but still fun.

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As I finally left the festival for the last time, feet killing and The Cure still playing, it was a bittersweet moment. While Sunday night did not live up to be the epic finale that I hoped for, Coachella was still a fulfilling weekend of music and partying that left a lasting impression on me and gave me more confidence in the current state of music. All other festivals now must stand the test of matching my experience at Coachella 2009: a weekend like none other.              

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