For attendees of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival upcoming second weekend, a little preparation can go a long way in crafting the best possible personal lineup to see during the final weekend of the festival. Here are some of the artists that everyone should check out and avoid this weekend:
Bonobo earned the dual distinction as being one of the best live sets at Coachella and one of the most grateful performers who earnestly thanked the crowd again and again between songs. Even though the dedicated and enthusiastic crowd knew every Bonobo song by heart, the energy of the live performance made every drop and transition thrilling to everyone standing in front of the stage. The smiles and the joyful mood of the dancing crowd made Bonobo’s set a highlight of the desert festival, and made the use of the word “magical” a plausible description of a Coachella experience.
Everyone by now has heard of the disappointment and issues that characterized the OutKast reunion Friday night. It is true that OutKast’s long-awaited reunion was marred by consistent technical issues that visibly frustrated Andre 3000 as he gradually lost enthusiasm throughout the performance and seemed to be brooding over the fact that the performance wasn’t going perfectly, and had to be cut short because of a delayed start time. Fans of OutKast had a difficult time reconciling the performance they were seeing with the group they loved, but the legacy of OutKast is too strong to pass up a viewing, even with the aggressive crowd. There is a strong chance that OutKast will return stronger having resolved their technical issues by Weekend Two, and any serious hip-hop head will make sure to make it out to the set. OutKast might have lost their enthusiasm during their first set in years, but they have lost none of their chops.
Pandering to mediocre melodic arrangements and predictable lyrics, Bastille is a band that has nothing innovative to offer the pop spectrum and yet manages to garner a huge following. Both fans and critics should avoid Bastille’s set at Coachella, however, as the massive crowd will overflow from the sides of the tent and make for a restless, sub-par experience for anyone who didn’t manage to get to the set extremely early. Save the experience for a solo show, as the sheer amount of people squeezed in together during the late afternoon will take away from the experience of the performance.
Instead of one, see the other:
Duke Dumont v. Nina Kraviz
Laying down subs-heavy, minimalist dance tracks, Nina Kraviz brought edge to the Yuma tent, garnering huge enthusiasm from the crowd as she mouthed along to the vocals during her set and beamed out at the audience. Her set had enough variation and range in instrumentation to make it as much of a musical exploration as it was a great dance experience, especially as the glittery shark and multiple disco balls hanging from the ceiling reflected light over the crowd. Show up to her set early as the dance floor will still have plenty of breathing room, and head out when the Duke Dumont fans crowd the tent. Dumont is known for his danceable grooves, but his live set rested heavily on mediocre arrangements in between his hits and had nothing experimental or innovative to offer the crowd.
Future Islands has released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2014, and even for those who have never heard the band’s music, Future Islands’ performance was on a completely different caliber from many of the other sets throughout the weekend. Grinning out into the audience, vocalist Samuel T. Herring grinded the air in front of him with the intent of a madman and the entire Gobi tent joyfully bounced along as Herring screamed and growled the lyrics over the bouncing pop backing beats while crouching over his mic on the ground.
Nas managed to not only make up for OutKast’s lackluster performance but went above and beyond, garnering massive roars from the crowd as he performed track after track from his critically-acclaimed album Illmatic, whose 20th anniversary is approaching. Nas remained one of the most humble performers of the festival, thanking the audience for supporting him and expressing amazement at how far Illmatic had come. Bringing out Jay Z as the special guest on the track “Dead Presidents II” which was at the center of the Jay Z and Nas feud back in the day, it became clear that Nas was there to fully enjoy something he had worked at for years. Though the screens had been lowered because of the dust storm, Nas’ set remained one of the most well-executed ones of the entire weekend, and an incredibly fulfilling experience for any hip-hop fan.
Julian Casablancas’ set shouldn’t be skipped because of a lackluster performance or low energy. Refusing to play a single Strokes track, Casablancas roared through feedback-heavy noise tunes, which, for those so inclined towards that kind of sound, was an excellent performance. Though the music itself was excellent, Casablancas’ derision for the crowd and late arrival made for an uncomfortable relationship between audience and performer, clearly felt among those walking out in the middle because of Casablancas’ banter. Those in the crowd solely to hear “Last Nite” should not bother coming out, as should people who are opposed to a near-hour of almost constant pure noise. For those who don’t care about constant condescension and attitude from a performer, Casablancas’ set remains a must-see among the endless stream of indie-pop groups taking over music festival lineups, Coachella being no exception.
Instead of one, see the other:
Solange v. Pixies
Solange and the Pixies are quite far away from each other as far as musical genres go. Most Coachella attendees will have no problem choosing between these sets because of their musical tastes, but for those who appreciate a wider range of music and are torn, the Pixies are the way to go. As Solange has become a fixture within the music festival circuit, her always-excellent performances that feature plenty of dancing, sassy banter and an excellent backing band can be foregone for one day to hear the Pixies roar through their music, hit or otherwise. The sharp, blistering guitars and pounding drums make for a one of the most high-energy performances of the festival, and as guitarist Joey Santiago played his guitar held aloft, it was clear that the Pixies had lost none of their energy as the years have passed.
Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper’s set at Coachella was one of the best of the entire weekend, with Chance proving himself to be one of the hardest workers in hip-hop today and completely invested in making his audience a part of his performance. Dancing wildly around the stage, jumping off and running alongside the audience and dancing to a Chicago juke tribute at the end of his set, Chance’s excitement at being at Coachella was made all the more poignant by his address to the crowd at the end of his set, thanking them for their continued support and expressing his disbelief at how far he’s come in the music industry within the last year. Chance then jumped off the stage and walked along the entire front row of the audience, shaking hands and telling everyone “I love you.” The audience, already excited by Chance’s performance, danced even harder to the music and sang along to every song that Chance performed. Bringing out Vic Mensa and Justin Bieber as special guests, Bieber’s appearance was the only element that flawed Chance’s performance, as the audience began to lightly boo Bieber’s appearance while simultaneously reaching for their phones to take a picture. Bieber should not be a deterrent to the set, as Chance’s love and adoration for the crowd made up for the poor choice for his second guest appearance. At the end, it was difficult to find a single audience member who hadn’t felt a special sort of connection to the celebration that characterized Chance’s set.
Arcade Fire is the very last performance that should be seen at Coachella and one of the most emotional. Decked out in full costumes, each song that Win Butler and his band performed set off crazed cheering and a huge dance party among the audience. Pulling Debbie Harry (of Blondie fame) onto the stage as the special guest, the pop sensibilities of both Harry and Arcade Fire complemented each other perfectly and made for one of the great collaborations of the evening. As the performance progressed, the emotion heightened as the band members gave all the energy they had, and Butler railed against the VIP designation of certain audience members, reassuring the rest of the gathered crowd that VIP “isn’t important” and “to not worry about it.” When the audio for the performance was finally cut, the members of Arcade Fire each grabbed a small instrument and proceeded to march around the edges of the stage, singing the refrain of “Here Comes the Night Time” while accompanied by members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. As the crowd of thousands of people joined in a capella on the beautiful melody, people began to cry and embrace, the emotion of the evening reaching its peak. The band finally went backstage, but the beauty of what had happened lingered in the air as people began to walk back to their cars to pack for the drive home. Arcade Fire’s set was the only possible way to end a three-day festival that had so many emotional highs and lows.
Calvin Harris falls into the large and ever-increasing group of mediocre electronic artists who utilize the same musical arrangements and guest artists to make tracks that are virtually indistinguishable from each other. While star power and the curiosity about the surprise guest during Harris’ set is tempting, audience members would do themselves more justice in checking out another group that doesn’t get as much radio airplay as Harris and forego the experience of hearing the exact same tracks heard multiple times on the radio each day.
Instead of one, see the other:
Blood Orange v. Rudimental
Dev Hynes makes incredible music to dance to as Blood Orange, with a beautifully melancholic pop sensibility that’s jazzy and sultry to the touch. His live performance, however, did not match the caliber of his music during the weekend, as he remained reluctant to acknowledge the crowd and would instead allow the guest vocalists to introduce the tracks. Acknowledging at one point that he “isn’t good at banter,” Hynes’ shyness didn’t allow the audience to let loose as much as they should have, and the substandard audio mix that completely drowned out his fragile vocals didn’t do justice to the excellence of his music. While the outdoor stage consistently had the most audio issues throughout the weekend, it seriously detracted from Hynes’ performance. While the audio mix is better in the back of the crowd, skip Blood Orange and see Rudimental instead, whose jazzy, danceable electronic instrumentations and collection of different vocalists made for a huge dance party in Mojave tent. Hynes will have to eventually get over his shyness in order to generate the kind of response that Rudimental garnered with their passionate performance.