Coachella Sunset

Coachella has come and gone, and I can’t believe how awesome it was. It had been about five years since my last visit to Southern California’s biggest music festival, and I knew going in to it to expect corporate sponsorship shoved down my throat, so putting aside my social/political views was actually pretty easy. Walking right past the Sephora, H&M, and Heinekin tents, I was continuously amazed by the incredible performances and brilliant art Coachella once again offered.

Trying to see as many acts as possible during the fest’s second weekend, I found myself literally running from stage to stage, catching countless artists that I loved and some I was completely unfamiliar with. There were surprises every day, and more to share than I can possibly comprehend, so to break it all down into digestible bits, I’ll give you my top 5 performances of each day, as well as my biggest disappointment, the most rock & roll moment of the day, and a few honorable mentions. Let’s kick it off — where else? — with Friday.

Friday’s Top 5 Performances

5. Aloe Blacc

aloe black
All photos by Nathan Rothstein

I love a good R&B act, and this year’s lineup had no shortage of them. Aloe Blacc was the best in this genre on Friday. His band came on stage greeted by an excited crowd early in the day. When Blacc took the stage, the audience only got louder, to which he confidently replied, “I’d like you keep that going.”

The band grooved hard while Blacc paced the stage while delivering his powerful and smooth vocals. His hit “I Need A Dollar” was performed early in the set, getting the entire crowd singing and dancing with their arms waving in the air. A true student of soul and R&B, Blacc showed why he is becoming more and more respected on a larger scale.

4. Flume

flume

If you’ve read my posts before, you know I am not a huge fan of EDM. I am a drummer, and I obsessively focus on instrumentation and how well a group of people can play together. That being said, I always make a point to hit the tents a few times throughout the weekend to check out some DJs whose names I’ve heard floating around. Flume was one of those DJs on Friday.

From the first bass drop after Flume got behind the turntables in the Gobi Tent, not only could I feel my kidneys shake, but there was an electricity in the air that would not die down until he left the stage. As a drummer, when I listen to EDM I need to hear something that moves me and has a legitimate bounce to it. Flume’s style grooves like a live drummer might. It hits hard and has soul like I don’t usually expect from one guy mixing tracks. He kept the crowd pumped and moving, and his set got Friday night started off right.

3. Woodkid

woodkid

The moment I heard Woodkid, I knew he would deliver a good live show. Yoann Lemoine, French music video director, graphic designer, and now accomplished musical artist, put together an impressive live band featuring guitars, bass, keys, two drummers, and a horn section. The music sounds like a remixed version of the Game Of Thrones theme. It is driving, powerful, and captivating.

The set started off with a quick intro by the band, first pounding rhythmically, and then all standing at attention while Lemoine entered from behind the stage. When he started with the title track from his album The Golden Age, the crowd seemed a little uninterested at the slower pace of the song, but it built in intensity, and the audience got more and more into Lemoine’s unique style and honest performance as the set progressed.

2. Outkast

outkast

The second I saw Outkast was playing this year’s fest, I knew I would have to go to Coachella for the first time in five years. Outkast is one of the reasons I am even into hip hop, and getting to see them at all was worth the trip into the desert.

When they got to the stage, the crowd went nuts! They opened with “B.O.B.,” instantly delivering a high-energy moment that got the set off to a great start. The duo went through a few other high-energy songs, including “Gasoline Dreams” and “Skew It On The Bar-B,” which kept the mood up for a while, but then they seemed to start losing the audience a bit.

I had heard that Outkast’s live performances were a bit of a disappointment, and I can see where people got that feeling. The set didn’t seem to flow very well as they talked at length in between nearly every song. Andre 3000 also seemed either a little nervous or above the whole performance at times. Regardless of the low points, though, just getting to see Outkast with a full band playing the music that had shaped my concept of what good hip hop is proved to be enough to make their performance one of my favorites of the day.

1. Haim

haim

The locals showed up for this one. The biggest LA sweethearts since Local Natives were greeted with a roar as they took the stage. With their game faces on, Haim took off running and didn’t stop until their set was over. They have such incredible energy on stage, and the past two years of constant touring have paid off. They may have been one of the tightest bands on any stage all weekend.

From running into the crowd to shredding guitar solos, the members of Haim hit song after song with confidence and kept the crowd involved the entire time. Their musicianship is pretty ridiculous in and of itself. They are all great performers and play their own instruments as well as the drums. They ended their set with a four-part drum solo during which the sisters traded bars, pounding away at their matching acrylic toms. Haim proved that not only did they deserve to be on the second largest stage of the festival, but also that no stage is too big for one of the best new bands out there.

Biggest Disappointment

I like Broken Bells. I think that both of their albums are good. Danger Mouse is clearly one of the best producers in the game, and James Mercer is a great singer. The rest of the band is also very talented. That being said, their performance at Coachella on Friday was just kind of boring.

They had some cool setups, with smooth white stands cradling their instruments, and they played perfectly, but that wasn’t enough for me. Danger Mouse didn’t move at all, and James Mercer seemed bored himself. I was glad to see them and will still listen to their albums, but their live set wasn’t much to write home about.

broken bells

Most Rock & Roll Moment

HAIM! HAIM! HAIM! Jesus, they are awesome! The most rock & roll thing I saw all day came during the third song of their set when they decided to do a little “jam.” They said when they were kids they would jam in the garage all day long and wanted to do another one. About six minutes and three shredding guitar solos later, I was actually a little surprised no guitars were smashed. The raw energy they put into that instrumental piece was amazing and made my heart beat faster. Not to mention their awesome rock & roll faces. When an artist makes faces like theirs while playing, you know they mean it.

Honorable Mentions

The Knife got a lot of shit for their performance, but it wasn’t bad, just weird. They started off playing their songs and doing so with great energy, choreography, costumes, and talent.

Then it got weird.

After saying how there was “too much dick” at the show, they asked if the crowd was “ready for some pussy,” which got a mixed response. They then announced that they wanted to show off their dancing. The dancing itself was good, but it just wasn’t what people wanted to see. This performance stuck with me throughout the weekend, and I refuse to call it bad, because it wasn’t. It was just…weird!

the knife 2

Other artists I saw that deserve some note were AFI, Lucent Dossier, Jagwar Ma, and Bonobo. Read about the latter two’s performances during Weekend One in my fellow LAmb writer Lesley Park’s Coachella 2014 Standouts: Weekend One Edition.