Mountains, palm trees, thumping bass, and a whole lot of Ray-Bans: this must be Coachella 2010. As usual, Coachella took place in the desert/retirement community of Indio, California, and packed over 130 musical acts and 75,000 people into one three-day jam-packed weekend. While it’s nearly impossible to sum up such a huge festival in one entry, I will use an awards system in hopes to capture the good, bad and just plain weird of all that was my Coachella 2010. So here we go.
Best Emerging Artist- Sleigh Bells *Honorable Mention-Local Natives
With any huge festival, lots of bands come with the hopes of greatly adding to their fan base since it is tremendous amount of exposure. There were bands who had emerged in the past year playing to never ending crowds (Phoenix, Passion Pit), but a few up-and-coming acts really dazzled. Sleigh Bells, a Brooklyn duo whose debut album is due out in May, rocked their crowd senseless Friday afternoon with their unique sound which is essentially M.I.A. meets the Runaways (80’s hardcore female punk). Vocalist Alexis Krauss looked like a modern-day Joan Jett, as she sang, screamed, and hissed over Derek Miller’s thrashing guitar riffs and the accompanying hip hop beats. Local Natives also impressed an early afternoon crowd Sunday with their melodic, percussion-heavy rock highlighted by a scorching “Sun Hands”.
Best Solo Project- Thom Yorke *Honorable Mention- Jónsi
Lead men and women all around were going it alone at Coachella with solo sets from the likes of Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Jónsi (Sigur Ros), and Thom Yorke (Radiohead). Thom Yorke, and his solo band (Atoms for Peace), ripped through an awe-inspiring set just before the Gorillaz closed the festival Sunday night. Thom Yorke assembled a super group, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and super producer Nigel Godrich, to play music from his eerie electronic solo album, 2007’s The Eraser. The group played through the entire Eraser album with live instruments as opposed to the synthetic sounds of the album, capturing the essence of each song but making them come to life in new and fascinating ways. After finishing the album, the group left stage before Yorke returned on his own with the new and unbelievably pretty “Give Up The Ghost” as well as a stripped down take of Radiohead songs “Airbag” and “Everything Is In Its Right Place”. The rest of the band then came out and the finished the set with a couple more new songs he started playing late last year. One can only hope an album is in the works.
The “It Feels Good To Be Alive” Award- Jónsi *Honorable Mention- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
I seemingly needed to make up an award just so I could praise the Jónsi show on Sunday. Jónsi played a sunny afternoon show on the Outdoor Stage and simply flourished. Running through tracks off his solo debut, Go, Jónsi played several sprightly favorites such as “Go Do” and “Animal Arithmetic”, before finishing with the intensifying “Grow Till Tall”. It was the sort of show where you fully expect flowers to just start popping out of the ground and blossoming all around you. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros also put on a feel-good afternoon show, but the set was a bit stymied by their inability to fill a 40 minute set.
Best Dance Act- LCD Soundsystem *Honorable Mention- MGMT
Out of every brand of music, dance was the name of the game at Coachella, as there is not only a techno tent, but this year’s fest included some of the hottest dance bands around. LCD Soundsystem proved to be the finest of them all, as James Murphy and the crew whipped a main stage crowd into shape Saturday with favorites such as moving piano-driven “All My Friends” and the relentless “Yeah”, as well as a number of songs off their outstanding upcoming album, This Is Happening. MGMT played a surprisingly “Kids”-less set made up mostly songs off their polarizing new album, Congratulations, but new songs like “Flash Delirium” and “It’s Working” thrived in the live setting.
Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Show- The Dead Weather *Honorable Mentions- Spoon and Pavement
With all the diversity and eclectic sounds one hears at a music festival, sometimes nothing cleanses the palette better than a pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll show. The Dead Weather, which is the latest in the revolving door of Jack White projects, provided the best Saturday night, with their brand of bluesy-goth rock. Singer Alison Mosshart growled and prowled around stage like an angry black cat, Jack White proved more than capable behind the drum set, as the band rocked through a set including several songs off their upcoming second album, Sea of Cowards. The show ended with Jack White finally getting out from behind the drum set and picking up the axe for the mellow blues of “Will There Be Enough Water?” before retrieving back to the drum set for the hard-hitting “Treat Me Like Your Mother”.
Best Prop- LCD Soundsystem’s giant disco ball *Honorable Mention- Jónsi’s Indian Headdress
Before the LCD show, the stage crew lifted a disco ball the size of a boulder above the stage where James Murphy stood, where it sat shining beautifully throughout the show. Another nice costume prop, Jónsi sported an Indian Headdress for much of his set, which seems pretty unusual considering his Icelandic roots.
Biggest Disappointment- Gorillaz show *Honorable Mention- Mew Cancelling at the last second
So maybe I set the bar too high or maybe following Thom Yorke trading off riffs with Flea are too big of shoes to fill, but I found Gorillaz to be a disappointment. I had seen live footage that got me very excited, but their Coachella closing set had several miscues, awkward transitions and an unspectacular visual show. While some moments were riveting, songs like “Stylo” which mixed live vocals from Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn with tracks of vocals from Mos Def or whoever else wasn’t there to do their part, just seemed off. Couple that with an exhausted crowd, and the Gorillaz show fell a bit short.