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Coachella Review: Top Sets Weekend 1

Coachella

Coachella Weekend 1 came and went like a flash as it usually does. The build up is the slow part: You make your predictions, do your homework after the lineup drops, fret over the soul-crushing set times – then throw your plans in the trash and have some fucking fun.

Twas a unique weekend as each day was different from the other, and not just by which acts were on what stages at any given time. Friday, the masses showed up early and entry was a hassle due to it, and a few gate-crashing episodes due to slow security lines raised anxiety even before stepping foot in the concert venue itself. However, the majority did not stick around for the midnight action shared between highly buzzed acts. Saturday brought a more unified crowd to sing along to the Femmes classics and nervously await a certain special guest to make an appearance with Phoenix. As a whole, this was the best day for the overall experience we have come to know and love out in Indio. Sunday was a bit mild on banner moments, and the winds seemed to dominate as a theme, both for those withstanding and those retreating the gale. Goose pimples and bandana face-masks were plentiful as the event winded down, just to do it all over again next week. Even with a musically less eventful Coachella, compared to year’s past, it was the musical adventure so many long for year round.

Here are the most memorable sets we witnessed, for better or worse.

Day-1--PPIT

The Shouting MatchesGobi Tent, 2:05
Coachella Weekend 1 featured a premier performance from Justin Vernon’s über-blues project. The Bon Iver frontman played it cool most of the set behind dark glasses, laying out thick, bluesy guitar riffs. Jack-of-all-trades Phil Cook took over stage banter duties for most of the set, allowing Vernon to try his hat at slow-grinding bluesman. The Shouting Matches explored a couple lengthy jams that worked well. ~MF

Dillon Francis2:30
Crowds swelled rather early compared to year’s past, and many eager youths were chomping at the bit with the lengthy entry lines trying to catch the buzzy Dillon Francis. An upgraded, arena-sized Sahara tent was packed early on with throngs of fresh attendees bouncing to “Bootleg Fireworks” and other stylistic electronic mash-ups for the primarily under-21 masses. ~KQ

Jake BuggMojave Tent, 3:05 TOP SET
The teenage prodigy Jake Bugg impressed thoroughly at his early tent set, but it wasn’t only due to his excellent acoustic versions of “Two Fingers” and “Simple As This.” Bugg plugged in and let loose with his electric guitar for about half the set, and these songs proved to be the most successul and surprising. The young British singer-songwriter has already honed his live skills and is worth seeing live before his next trip through the states, when he’ll be packing theater-sized venues. ~MF

Divine FitsOutdoor Theatre, 4:35
Britt Daniel (Spoon) and Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) brought their newish outfit to the Outdoor Theatre for an afternoon of power-pop rock. Coupling the unmistakable vocals of Daniel with the heavy chorded guitar romp that is Boeckner added up to an impressive performance. “My Love is Real” was a highlight as drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks added thick rhythm for the sun drenched crowd to sway and stomp to. ~KQ

JapandroidsGobi Tent, 5:00
Vancouver-based duo Japandroids had a tough time getting started due to sound issues, something that permeated the Gobi Tent Friday (the sound at TNGHT & Earl Sweatshirt was muted, but FOALS sounded great). Finally the set appeared ready to begin, until Brian King ran off stage, most likely to take a piss. David Prowse followed him offstage, then they returned to the stage to start “Fire’s Highway,” and we all discovered the sound was as shitty as it was when they were sound-checking. I’ve heard Japandroids play with immaculate sound quality, so it was time to move on… ~MF
Japandroids

∆(Alt-J)Mohave Tent, 5:20
This british quintet was a highlight of the day as they charmed a large crowd with their quintessentially unique take an indie rock, playing heavily off debut album An Awesome Wave. Cartoonish may be the best way to describe the singing style of Joe Newman, but once you’ve acquired the taste, it’s no joke and it shined brightly on the Mojave Stage. “Breezblocks” received a wonderful reception as revelers shook and weaved to the hypnotic rhythm while reciting the grand chorus. ~KQ

Local NativesOutdoor Theatre, 7pm
A calm mellow fell over the crowd for the majority of the Local Natives sunset time slot at the Outdoor Theatre. Some enjoyed the slightly closer and better beer garden, while others neatly filled a sizable chunk of real estate in front of the stage. “Sun Hands” was the perfect shock to attendees before sending them back out into the great wild that is the Empire Polo Fields. ~KQ

Dog BloodSahara Tent, 7:40
Combine Skrillex and Boys Noize and you have the two-headed EDM monster fans are getting to know as Dog Blood. This recent collaboration made waves at Ultra this year, and they blew minds in the thickly packed Sahara for a hard driving amalgamation of many of the current electronic styles. The sound resonating from the beefed up DJ booth wasn’t fully Skrillex, nor Boys Noize, which was refreshing to hear from these two superstars. ~KQ

Yeah Yeah YeahsCoachella Stage, 8:40
Karen O commands crowds with the best of them, and every big performance from Yeah Yeah Yeahs confirms her place as one of the most enigmatic bandleaders of our time. She oozed intensity and sensuality while bopping all over the largest stage during hailed tracks like “Zero” and set closer “Maps.” The new tracks sounded as artsy and danceable as ever and Mosquito is sure to catch some serious attention as they prepare for a lengthy summer season. ~KQ

FOALSGobi Tent, 10:50-11:40 TOP SET
FOALS destroyed their set against tough competition, making everyone present forget they were missing Blur & Jurassic 5. “Inhaler” and “Milk & Black Spiders” from FOALS’ 2013 LP Holy Fire were set highlights, but tracks from all three of their full length records were present in the setlist. The British group is pure fire in concert, producing surprisingly technical live versions of their songs while at the same time extending or intensifying some sounds or instruments in response to the audience reaction in the moment. ~MF
FOALS

How to Destroy AngelsMojave Tent, 12:00 TOP SET
Trent Reznor’s new project took the stage for the second time ever, and the multi-dimensional presentation wowed the surprisingly sparse crowd in the Mojave Tent. “The Wake Up” began the set with the group veiled behind a curtain of white strings, creating an eerie outline of Atticus Ross, Rob Sheridan and the mystifying Marqueen Manndig. Presentation appeared to be key in the short time this act will be on the road before the return of NIN, even though the wall of sound aspect was a treat for the diehard fans of Reznor and everything he touches. ~KQ
How-to-Destroy-Angels

Earl SweatshirtGobi Tent, 12:05
Sure, Friday at midnight was undoubtedly one of the most stacked schedule times, but the lack of throngs at Odd Future wunderkid Earl Sweatshirt’s banner set showed that one can’t be in more than one place at a time, which is a massive dilemma at Coachella. New single “Whoa” was delivered confidently, even if the sound was less than stellar. Tyler, the Creator aided his LA bud on old rarity “Orange Juice” and crowd favorite “AssMilk” while climbing scaffolding and generally causing a ruckus. ~KQ


Day-2

Danny BrownOutdoor Theater, 3pm
Another moderatly hot day welcomed the wrist-banded festivilians to a more unified day and night compared to the calm finish of day 1. Detroit-born, gap-toothed hip-hop artist Danny Brown brought a feverish set of his unique brand of profane-ridden tunes to the Outdoor Theatre. His nasally delivery could be compared to Andre 3000, while his melodic flow is so neatly packed and wickedly clever it makes folks chuckle in awe. ~KQ

Zane LoweYuma Tent, 3:00
The BBC 1 Radio DJ hailing from New Zealand played a spirited set of electro-house in the new official sixth stage. The Yuma Tent was an air conditioned oasis for dance purists needing a respite from the elements while also not wanting to rest their dancing feet. A hard wood floor was a proper addition to this space. Lowe kept things straight ahead, pounding the sizable system with original beats and a mixed set of dance styles before the tent packed up for The 2 Bears. ~KQ

The inaugural Yuma Tent was so intimate with such quality DJs that most festival-goers did not have the opportunity to see some highly anticipated shows. Many people bought tickets for Coachella this year so they could dance to their favorite progressive DJs, but ultimately you had to sacrifice lots of other shows and wait in long lines to experience the Yuma Tent. This should be remedied for 2014, as Jamie xx would have probably filled out the Mojave Tent. Make the Yuma Tent bigger.
Yuma-Tent

Ben HowardOutdoor Theatre, 4:10
Ben Howard, another Brit, brought his soft semi-folk-rock material to a scorching Outdoor Stage, and the tunes he played were pretty standard. That is until “The Fear,” which built to an explosive peak not captured on Every Kingdom. It might have made sense to put 2 Chainz on the Outdoor and Ben Howard in the Mojave Tent based on the crowds. ~MF
Ben-Howard

Violent FemmesCoachella Stage, 6:05
Many weren’t aware that this was to be the first show from the folk-punk legends in over six years. Furthermore, many of the younger patrons were likely completely unfamiliar with this act besides the occasional play on KROQ and other national alternative rock radio stations. What a surprise when they launched into their self-titled premier album, playing it in full. Classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up,” and “Gone Daddy Gone” were passionately crooned by the majority of the crowd. ~KQ

Major LazerMojave Stage, 6:25
Why Major Lazer didn’t play the Sahara is a mystery to me, but the EDM masses made the rare pilgrimage to Mojave to lap up Diplo’s worldly party. A frenetic set kept everyone jumping to Major Lazer hits like “Pon de Floor” and the ubiquitous Baauer banger “Harlem Shake” alike. Jillionaire is one helluva hype man keeping the crowd fully engaged at every track, instructing the crowd to remove their shirts, hold them in the air, eventually demanding they be tossed into the desert air in dance ecstasy. Many bros obliged. ~KQ
Major-Lazer

Hot ChipCoachella Stage, 7:35
What a perfect sunset Saturday dance party. It was a set full of hits like “One Life Stand,” “Over and Over,” & “Ready For The Floor,” along with the amazing “Flutes.” This show conflicted with Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, & Julio Bashmore, so there was plenty of room to shake it. Guitarist Pat Mahoney, also from LCD Soundsystem, added a busy 70’s guitar riff to many songs, including most of the new tracks from In Our Heads. ~MF

The Postal ServiceCoachella Stage, 8:50 TOP SET
The Postal Service show was surely one of the best pop sets of the weekend thanks to Jennie Lewis. Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello & Jen Wood were flawless as well, but Lewis’s sultry charisma, timing and all-around perfection made this a top set for me. From the building beat in “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” to the outro of “Brand New Colony,” where “everything will change” was repeated until the session ended, the crowd was zoned in. As the last line was harmonized, I looked up to see all the Coachella spotlights meeting at a point in the sky directly above us and instantly was struck by goosebumps. ~MF

DescendentsOutdoor Stage, 9:05
Milo Aukerman and band were treated to an evening slot on the 2nd largest stage, up against the breezy Postal Service reunion. Manhattan Beach local punk legends treated their fans to classics like opener “Everything Sucks,” “Suburban Home,” and “I’m the One.” Though Aukerman’s voice is not the youthful squeal it once was, they still deliver in a pleasing way, especially to a home town-ish crowd that grew up on their classic releases. ~KQ

Moby (DJ set)Sahara Tent, 9:55
It was another tough conflict-ridden time slot, as The xx, Two Door Cinema Club, Janelle Monáe & Franz Ferdinand all rubbed up against one-another. So how the hell did I end up at Moby? It’s a good question, and one I haven’t quite figured out yet. Sometimes, after all the planning, it’s best to go by your mood and follow your friends. That’s what happened here, and I’m glad I did. I was prime for for a euphoric dance party, and this DJ set from Moby sampled from a large variety of music and pop culture to create a fun, upbeat show. ~MF
Moby

PhoenixCoachella Stage, 11:35
When Daft Punk is confirmed in the house, and they play a preview video the night before, and you consider Daft Punk showed up with Phoenix at Madison Square Garden in 2010, it’s kind of a no brainer to see the Phoenix set just in case. Well I became a sucker to the Daft Punk hype machine, but in this case I still won because I saw Phoenix perform live. R Kelly appeared as the special guest, spittin’ “Ignition” over a remixed “1901” and “Chloroform.” Thomas Mars has been finishing his recent shows by going to the back of the venue, thanking the audience, then crowd surfing back to the stage. Well, the crowd surfing didn’t quite work so well for the first festival try. Mars got hung up by grabbers multiple times, almost hung himself with his pink microphone cable, and he got knocked around on the dismount. The rest of the band had already extended the “Entertainment” reprise multiple times, and Mars was too winded to deliver the final line of the night. All he could get out was “Thank you Coachella!” I wonder if he’ll attempt this again Weekend 2. ~MF

Sigur RósOutdoor Stage, 11:50 TOP SET
While a sizable chunk of the crowd awaited what potential surprise guest may come out with Phoenix on the Main Stage, a devote crowd enjoyed the sonic brain massage that is Iceland’s own Sigur Rós. Having seen this band since their first US performances, they are best enjoyed outside, whether it be in the fog swept fields of Golden Gate Park or the warm Indio evenings. The set featured a horn section, string section and a full piano, not to mention the Hopelandish, angelic singing and bowed guitar brilliance of frontman, Jónsi. Few live musical experiences can match up to the usual set closer, “Untitled #8,” and this rendition was no different. Truly one of the most transcendental builds in live music, it left most viewers floating out of the venue for the wrap to the second day. ~KQ


Day-3

DIIVMojave Tent, 2:30
Zachary Cole Smith has had a busy year after departing from Beach Fossils, but his diligence has paid off in dividends as DIIV has quickly garnered critical success as they win over new fans across the country. “Sometime” and “Doused” displayed their art-gaze rock style quite nicely among other tracks off the sublime album Oshin. ~KQ
DIIV

Thee Oh SeesGobi Tent, 3:15 TOP SET
John Dwyer brought his disturbingly rocking flavor of psychedelic garage to the Gobi Tent for an unforgettable afternoon set. There was no let up after the first note (“The Dream”) as the pit grew and more joined in the pogo fever that swept the crowd during tracks like “Contraption/Soul Desert,” “Lupine Dominus,” and “Meat Step Lively.” Dwyer pulled Ty Segall from the VIP section to play tambourine the majority of the set, a nod to the tightness of the San Francisco garage-rock family. Look for a whirlwind summer as they release the scorching new album The Floating Coffin. ~KQ

Jessie WareMojave Tent, 3:45
Jessie Ware is a star in the making. Her pop music has a dance edge to it, but it’s her natural charisma and mannerisms that communicate so effectively to the audience, making her super likable. She has a killer smile and knows she’s hot shit. “If You’re Never Gonna Move,” “Wildest Moments” and the rest of her tracks were well received, including an impromptu new song that she performed with her slightly embarrassed drummer Dornik Leigh to end the set. ~MF
Jessie-Ware

Kurt Vile and the ViolatorsOutdoor Stage, 3:55
As the winds started to relieve the weathered festival goers, Vile brought a cool breeze of his own to the Outdoor Theatre while Gaslight Anthem wailed on the big top. Vile couldn’t help but make a quip at the Springsteen-esque vocals pumping a good hundred yards from where he was churning out laid-back tunes. Opening with the title track off his recent Wakin on a Pretty Daze displayed his fondness for his new material, especially track “A Girl Named Alex,” which is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Vile and band may have been better served in one of the tents, but nothing fazed this prolific up-and-coming song writer. ~KQ

Social DistortionCoachella Stage, 6:00
Orange County was fully represented by the legendary punk band Social Distortion and their fondly aging frontman, Mike Ness. What an honor for them to play the Main Stage, opening with “I Was Wrong” and including their stellar version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” They nodded back to the old days with a personal fave “Mommy’s Little Monster.” I applaud Goldenvoice in their decision to spotlight music that is quintessential to this geographic region of Southern California. ~KQ

Tame ImpalaOutdoor Stage, 6:25 TOP SET
As the gusty winds upgraded to blustery, Australian fuzz rockers churned up a storm of their own opening with “Solitude is Bliss.” Kevin Parker was visibly thrilled at the environment he found himself in, and this feeling was contagious to the crowd who were coming to the climax of their long weekend. This set was more exploratory than usual with an extended jam revolving around the heavy-as-lead single, “Elephant.” Palm trees swaying behind the Outdoor Theatre were all the visuals the fans needed, in total contrast to the Sahara rave, to reach even greater heights. “Enders Toi” was aborted as some of their equipment was giving the band trouble, luckily that didn’t distract the band from continuing on. “Half Glass Full of Wine” closed an impressive showing from the growing act that continues to thrill fans of rock and roll. ~KQ
Tame-Impala

Pretty LightsOutdoor Stage, 7:45
The Pretty Lights show took place out in windy, open space, but that didn’t stop one of the best dance sets of the weekend. Derek Vincent Smith curated a varying set, beginning with his patented downtempo trip-hop/dubstep cuts, but then the set transitioned into Pretty Lights remixes, including Pink Floyd’s “Time” and his tripple-threat remix of Radiohead, Nirvana & NIN. Overall, the set was geared toward the masses or for someone’s first Pretty Lights show. Of course, the open air light show was excellent, and it didn’t matter that the screens had been lowered due to the sandstorm. ~MF
Pretty-Lights

The FaintMojave Tent, 8:30
Post-punk dance act the Faint have returned to the live circuit and regained their title as one of the most exciting bands to see, especially in a festival setting. Todd Fink sauntered out with his signature hat and launched into “The Conductor” before tearing through favorite “Glass Danse” off of the acclaimed album, Dance Macabre. With dance music and live rock becoming better bed fellows, one has to respect one of the originators from the last decade. “ParanoiaAttack” would be their last song, and everyone caught their breath before facing the now moderate sandstorm wreaking havoc on the polo fields. ~KQ

Eric PrydzSaharah Tent, 10:40 TOP SET
Choosing Eric Prydz to end the weekend was a rather easy choice, and it was done before we knew it would be smart to hide in the Sahara Arena to avoid the weather. The LA-Based Swedish DJ is worthy of headliner status at this point, as his progressive electro house is eclectic enough, unpredictable most of the time, and beyond fun. Prydz provided a massive exclamation point to a weekend that was packed with excitement. His hyperactive M83 cover of “Midnight City” was placed perfectly, and “Call On Me” signalled the end to the weekend musically. That was until the roadies decided to prank the buzzing crowd, continuously coming back and putting their arms in the air to falsely signal one more song. ~MF
Eric-Prydz


What were your top sets? Leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information,
    but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more
    or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic
    info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  2. FYI- Pretty Light’s never plays Avicii’s Levels. He plays his own track (which was produced and created by him before Levels ever came out) called ‘Finally Moving’. At Coachella, he played the Finally Moving remix version with ‘playa’s club’ over it.

    Personally, I have seen DVS perform 10+ times and this had to have ranked as the worst. The only upside were his new tracks he dropped sounded dope as fuck and am incredibly stoked for his new album dropping 7/2.

    Completely agree with you that the set was catered to the masses.

  3. woops, thanks for the correction.

  4. The Faint opened with “The Conductor” not “The Contendor”

Trackbacks

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  4. […] touches on many genres with one constant; her powerful vocals that cut through so cleanly. She’s already started a successful festival season and is sure to garner more fans at Outside Lands. […]

  5. […] touches on many genres with one constant; her powerful vocals that cut through so cleanly. She’s already started a successful festival season and is sure to garner more fans at Outside Lands. […]

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