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Our 5 favorite moments from Coachella 2017

Coachella 2017 - palm treesPhotos courtesy of Coachella // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 14th-16th, 2017 //

It’s hard to believe what Coachella has become in just the eight years since I started making the drive from Los Angeles to Indio each April. At that point, Goldenvoice President and CEO Paul Tollett’s baby was already 10 years old and one of the biggest live music productions in the world. But the West Coast’s oldest music festival has changed a lot in that time, although it hasn’t always been for the better — and its 18th edition was no exception.

The most obvious change this year was the crowd size. With the capacity skyrocketing from 99,000 to 125,000, the number of people occupying the polo field by the time the sun started sinking behind the San Jacinto Mountains felt noticeably bigger. And while the grounds were expanded, it clearly wasn’t enough to make up for a 25-percent jump in attendance. We get it, Goldenvoice — there’s more money to be made given the size of such a space, but at what cost does it have to come at? This year for the first time, the festival stood at the center of a phone-stealing crime scandal that saw one man steal more than 100 smartphones during Weekend 1. That’s the kind of news that no concert promoter big or small wants to be associated with.

Coachella, after all, produces some of the harshest critics when it comes to any music festival out there. From the rise of social media to the celebrity culture that the event fosters due to its proximity to Hollywood, Coachella has become more than just the world’s most popular — or at least the most hyped — music festival. Simply put, it’s now its own brand. Attach the word “Coachella” to any product line, and your chances of it selling are that much better (ask H&M if you don’t believe me).

But while Coachella often gets a bad rep for its overabundance of shirtless bros and teenage girls glued to their iPhones, it still delivers some of the best moments in live music year after year. So, after returning to the Empire Polo Club for the festival’s first weekend and catching as many sets as humanly possible, here are our five highlights — ordered chronologically — from 2017 (spoiler alert: Lady Gaga wasn’t one of them).


Coachella 2017 - The xx

The xx

It’s amazing to think how far The xx have come since we saw them first play Coachella back in 2010. The London trio has released two LPs in that time, including this year’s I See You, which is unquestionably one of our favorite albums of 2017 so far. Serving as an excellent opener for Radiohead, their performance on the main stage was heartfelt and downright emotional, with the massive crowd eating up every word that came out of Romy’s and Oliver’s mouth. Don’t be surprised if you see them tabbed as a headliner in the future. We know how Tollett likes to put British bands (i.e. Radiohead, Muse, The Stone Roses, Blur, Gorillaz) at the top of the bill, too.


Coachella 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

Yes, the sound problems (all three instances) put a real damper on what was easily one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. This was the third time Goldenvoice called on Radiohead to headline Coachella, and for one of rock’s most important bands over the last 30 years, it certainly wasn’t a charm as the saying goes. In that moment, it was pretty hard not to feel bad for Thom Yorke, who could only make light of the situation by cracking a joke even if it wasn’t supposed to be one — or so he claimed. But Radiohead more than made up for it with a masterful setlist that opened with A Moon Shaped Pool cuts “Daydreaming”, “Desert Island Disk” and “Ful Stop” before circling back to older hits such as “Everything in Its Right Place”, “There There”, “Idioteque” and even “Creep”. And the ensuing five-song encore, punctuated by OK Computer singles “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” (with the crowd singing the song’s final lyrics in unison as they walked off stage, which delivered chills down the spine), only provided further validation for making the trip out to the desert this year.


Coachella 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

The Saturday lineup this year felt like one of the weaker rosters in recent memory, but one of the best sets we witnessed all weekend was Moderat’s inside the Mojave Tent as day turned to night. Last year, we caught the Berlin supergroup’s captivating performance at Lightning in a Bottle (read our festival review here), and we feel confident in saying this one was even better. At a time when it has become increasingly difficult for electronic acts to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, there’s something about Sascha Ring’s voice, paired with the dark, yet undeniably catchy production work from Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, that makes Moderat stand out. Whether it was their remix of Jon Hopkins’ “Abandon Window” or a closing sequence that featured “Reminder” into “Bad Kingdom”, these guys never manage to disappoint.


Coachella 2017 - Justice

Justice

One of the best electronic sets we’ve had the pleasure of seeing on the main stage at Coachella came from Justice in 2012. The French duo remain pretty much in a class of its own these days considering the lack of nu-disco acts in today’s music industry. Justice’s third and most recent LP Woman, which they released in November to less fanfare than what their other two records received, boasted four singles, and they made sure to indulge us during their Sunday evening slot on the expanded Outdoor Theatre. Yet, it’s the mash-ups of various Justice tracks — from “D.A.N.C.E.” to “Civilization” — Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay create for their live show that makes them such an unpredictably fun dance act time and time again.


Coachella 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

All hail, King Kendrick! Or should we say “Kung Fu Kenny?” The Compton rapper reached hip-hop’s mountaintop more than two years ago with his Grammy-winning masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, but headlining Coachella was still on his to-do list. In fact, it was only the second time he had ever been booked to perform at Coachella after being listed on the last line of the 2012 poster. Closing out the fest is no short order for any artist, let alone one who dropped his new album less than 48 hours before taking the stage, but K-Dot lived up to the billing with a show that provoked as much thought as it entertained. “Levitating” onstage, trading lines with Future, ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott (all of whom performed separately during Coachella) and running through the hits, Kendrick reminded us that the rap throne belongs to him and only him right now.


Coachella 2017 - ferris wheel

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