Day 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival got underway Saturday. Here’s some of the highlights:
The Sahara Tent: This is Coachella’s electronic music stage (a.k.a. the restlessly chewing gum while applying vapor rub tent). Nothing makes rock music look worse than watching a crowd merely nodding their heads to dour indie chords at the Mojave Tent, then diving into the bouncing scrum of happy rollers in the Sahara Tent. On Saturday, French house music producer and DJ David Guetta took the stage with 1980s video-game-style lighting effects. Though his strobe-filled intro was almost obnoxiously long, Guetta’s fans were delirious as he launched into “Titanium,” dropping the audio so fans could scream the “fire away, fire away” chorus. I had to squeeze through a lot of crowds at Coachella, and Guetta’s audience was so tightly jammed they take the award for Most Impenetrable. But for sheer mindless electronic euphoria, I much preferred Sweedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso’s set — a high-energy Red Bull-blast from start to finish.
Though the Sahara Tent had some of the happiest Coachellans, outside the tent were some of the most miserable as the night wore on. What goes up, must come down. Or vice versa.
Celebrities. Yes, we know you’re there, and we’re all guilty of pointing it out (“Stars, they’re just like us! They go to Coachella….”). Celebs reportedly in attendance this weekend include David Hasselhoff, Pierce Brosnan, Vanessa Hudgens, Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan (better keep her away from the Sahara Tent). After awhile, every time you pass somebody wearing a bandanna hiding their face you wonder: Celebrity, germaphobe or bandit? The worst variety of Coachella celebrity are those who remain within the sanctity of the VIP area. The only benefit to this fenced-off location is its admittedly vastly superior bathrooms. Otherwise, it’s so distant and askew from the main stage, you might as well be watching the band on your living room TV while standing in your kitchen.
Radiohead: Even non-fans (like myself) were impressed by Day 2 headliner Radiohead’s hypnotic, moody high-tech live performance. So many Coachella bands fell into the category of electronic or rock, and arguably nobody marries the two genres better than Radiohead, which continue to play to sell-out audiences despite largely ducking mainstream success with their recent albums. Radiohead drew an enormous crowd that stretched half-way across the entire festival space. Before the show, even the typically aloof media and VIPs became an unruly horde while jockeying to get into a special stage-front corral. “Get into a single file line up against the fence like you’re in kindergarten!” yelled a security officer. The hacks, photogs and Hollywood elite exchanged looks, then continued to push and jostle to get inside. Radiohead played about 20 tracks, starting with “Bloom” and finishing with “Paranoid Android.” Also: A younger contender to the rock-electronic throne, the Swedish band Miike Snow, were out supporting their new album Happy to You, and also drew a spirited crowd.
Waiting for Old Hits. Earlier in the afternoon, Noel Gallagher took the main stage with his new band High Flying Birds promoting his first album since he split from Oasis three years ago. The new songs were all right, but they were nothing that would normally get an artist onto the big platform late in the afternoon at Coachella on their own. “Where’s your brother motherf–ker?!” an audience member rudely screamed between songs, but the singer didn’t take the bait. As his final offering, Gallagher played “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and the crowd ate it up. Elsewhere in rock: Another longtime UK act, Kasabian, drew a somewhat modestly sized, though appreciative audience. While the more youthful Atlanta-based indie rockers Manchester Orchestra delivered an aggressive howl-and-feedback set.
Bonus: Random acts of photography.
— Guess sponsored a lavish off-site party at a luxury boutique hotel on an artificial lake. Stars like Aaron Paul and Josh Hutcherson stopped by. But I kept being distracted how this angle almost looked like a Coachella celebrity party version of Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon”:
— Coachella was well organized to the point of wanting to complain about it. When entering, our group had to go through two separate security checkpoint stations complete with TSA-level pat-downs and festival wristband swiping (after finally making his way through, one guy yelled back at the security agents: “I’m holding a ton of drugs!”). But this festival station was clearly over ambitious: