The weather report had predicted rain, but beautiful morning blue skies said otherwise. Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys chatted with a fan outside the hotel. Scars on 45 packed their van, having played a radio station sponsored gig in the hotel the night prior. The ride to the festival grounds were traffic free as the large number of LA based ticket-holders were still in route.
“How many of you out there are from Canada.” A roar ensued in response. The question came from The Sheep Dogs, fresh off three major Juno awards in their home country, (single of the year, best rock album, best new group), but a complete unknown to America and thus the 1 PM slot on opening day. Their sound was certainly familiar, drawing on a range of American influences such as Steve Miller and the Allman Brothers. “This song encapsulates what we are all about,” stated lead singer, Ewan Currie, before breaking into the single, “Laid Back.”
Next on the agenda was Compton rapper, Kendrick Lamar, recently pronounced as “The New King of the West Coast” by people with the authority to do so – Dr. Dre and The Game. Kendrick drew primarily from his amazing, Section 80, album released last year without offering too many clues on what his forthcoming major label debut would include. It was revealed that he would be performing his new single, “The Recipe,” during Dre’s headlining slot on Sunday evening. Confirmation of that pre-show rumor by LA rapper, Warren G, leads credibility to his other rumors that Eminem would be making an appearance as well with Dre. We shall see.
A quick dash past Mexican star, Ximena Sarinana, for a few songs before reaching the Gobi tent and Gary Clark Jr. For those not in the know, you soon will be. Gary has been making waves for years in the close knit Blues world with his soulful take on American Blues Rock in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Music Unlimited offers an EP from Gary called, The Bright Lights, that came out at the end of last year. The first three songs show the range of ability; a rockin barn burner to boogie-woogie blues to acoustic soul. Can’t wait for a full record later this year.
Then the rain came. Dark clouds had been formulating for hours, but hope had held out. While the rain would never get beyond a drizzle, the swirling winds and low temperatures would create the coldest night at Coachella in memory. Sandal clad festival goers flocked for the merch tent to buy Coachella hoodies. Reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff, tried to make up for the sun’s absence both figuratively and literally; bringing good vibes from Jamaica and a shiny gold outfit that gleamed from head to toe. “Many Rivers to Cross” remains one of the most beautiful songs ever a full 40 years after being featured in Cliff’s seminal film, The Harder They Come.
The U.S. is currently being bombarded by English boy bands such as One Direction and The Wanted. Not so long ago, the biggest boy band out of the U.K. was a band of teenage rockers named The Arctic Monkeys, who shattered domestic records for sales by a new artist. Alex Turner and the boys are now 26, and in the best form of their career. A blazing set featuring tracks from their latest album, Suck it and See, the brilliant Josh Homme produced, Humbug, and a nod to their stellar debut with the single, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance floor.”
From Sheffield to Manchester, (or main stage to Gobi tent), to see one of the exciting U.K. bands of the moment, Wu Lyf. The band is fronted by lead singer/keyboardist, Ellery James Roberts, who pertains to sing and speak in English, but sounds more like Cookie Monster with strep throat. It speaks to the universal language of music that the band’s set translated so well to the Coachella audience and proved to be one of Friday night’s highlight performances. A few super-fans donned Wu Lyf scarfs that displayed the statement, “World Unite.” Could not agree more.
The true anglophiles headed over to Pulp for more British Rock, while those in search of nostalgia and a change of pace headed to the Outdoor stage fora Mazzy Str. It has been over 15 years since the last Mazzy record, and their unique psychedelic dream pop played nicely against a return of evening showers. Press photographers eager for pictures complained about the absence of light on the stage to take proper pictures, but the dark purple wash fit the mood perfectly.
Excitement reached a fever pitch with Coachella veterans, The Black Keys, who returned to the desert in triumph as American’s reigning rock n roll band and Friday’s headliner on the main stage. The duo from Akron, Ohio opened with several tracks of 2010’s, Brothers, arguably their best album and the best album by any band that year. The band then proceeded to reference much of their catalog over the course of a 90 minute set that at times featured a battery of complementary musicians to add muscle to stripped down garage rock songs.
With the night reaching its final stages, the sound of electronic beats filled the air. Swedish House Mafia took to the main stage, but first a quick dash to see their country mates, the influential post punk anarchists, Refused. Showing a bit of rust from 14 years of inactivity, the proficiency was replaced by reckless abandon and energy that had the pit jumping. “We apologize for bringing the Swedish weather with us. This is the best of a Swedish summer.” Lead singer/acrobat, Dennis Lyxzén, went on to thank the festival organizers for picking up the phone. “I know there is skepticism about reunions. That’s nothing close the skepticism on the stage. We would like to thank Coachella for giving us a call and pushing us in the right direction.”
Energized by Refused, but fatigued from the day, only quick stops by The Horrors and Amon Tobin before returning to the Swedish House Mafia. As the clock neared 1 am, the three headed Cerberus known as DJ’s Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso reached out to the crowd to not give up. “I know its cold out there. You need to move around to keep warm. Let’s go! “And then the beat dropped.