The first weekend of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival powered through on Saturday, as likely even more fans made their way to the Empire Polo Club for another full day of music, art and partying. The initial rush of the first day had people trickling in slowly in the afternoon, but by the end of the night, you were swimming through people criss-crossing to catch their favorite acts.
Early in the day, Scotland’s Biffy Clyro dominated the main stage. An arena-level artist overseas, they had no problem filling the space of a big stage with bombastic presence, tearing through new tracks from their new album, Opposites, including “Biblical,” “Stinging Belle,” and “Sounds Like Balloons,” as well as fan favorites like “Spanish Radio.”
Shortly after, Allen Stone, hailing from Seattle, brought his impressive live band and overwhelming performing chops to the Gobi tent. This pastor’s son has a unique blend of soul, gospel and R&B, while hitting some impossible notes in 90+ degree heat. He tore through some of the major tracks from his debut, self-titled album, including “Sleep,” “What I’ve Seen,” and “Unaware,” and got the crowd in a frenzy by covering Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” Most certainly an artist to watch in the coming months.
A few artists most certainly outgrew their stages in the last few months since they were booked for the festival, including 2 Chainz, who kept a massive crowd of fans spilling out of the Mohave tent for over 20 minutes after his set was supposed to start. Before it was too late, he emerged on stage, being intro’d while the DJ played “Mercy” (which he is featured on with Kanye West, Big Sean & Pusha T) and introduced him as “man of the year.” He also rapped over his part in Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap.” Hip-hop was a major player on Saturday, with performances by Action Bronson, Danny Brown and Pusha T also on the bill.
Another group that packed the area inside and outside the Mohave tent was Major Lazer, with an obvious spill-over from the Sahara Tent of fans ready to dance. Their outrageous performance has become legendary and yesterday was no different. Between songs, they asked that fans take off their shirts and hold them up in the air. Not to be outdone, they then told everyone that they want the world to see how crazy Coachella is, and asked that everyone throw their shirt in the air. A wave of colored cotton flew above the crowd and set a fire through the rest of the set.
Over at the Outdoor stage, a much mellower experience was happening as the UK’s Ben Howard played a subdued set riddled with a few technical issues. Nonetheless, the band played on, as the multi-layered aspects of his debut album, Every Kingdom, played out well on stage. A large gaggle of girls sang along as he performed songs like, “The Wolves,” “Only Love,” “Black Flies,” and even some new, untitled material. Later on the same stage, Portugal. The Man also played new material from their upcoming album (releasing in June) and hits like “I’ve Got It (Almost)” to a more dude-heavy crowd.
Fans made some tough choices the rest of the night, with Grizzly Bear slowing things down in Mohave and dance taking the forefront with Hot Chip on the main stage. Soon after, The Postal Service made their “official” return after a string of smaller shows and major anticipation from die-hard fans. Masterminds Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (of DNTL) invited Rilo Kiley front-woman, Jenny Lewis as guitarist and vocalist as the “imaginary band” (as Gibbard put it) played through popular songs from their 10-year-old album, Give Up, including “The District Sleeps Alone,” “We Will Become Silhouettes”, “Sleeping In,” and of course, “Such Great Heights.” They also played new material and ended the set with “Brand New Colony,” showcasing the many talents of this now many-person band.
More conflicts arose with Two Door Cinema Club, The XX and Franz Ferdinand playing overlapping sets, all of which packed large crowds in their respective tents and stages. Afterwards, fans rushed to the main stage to catch Phoenix, whose album Bankrupt! hits the Music Unlimited service on 4/23. They wasted no time bringing people in with the hugely catchy first single, “Entertainment” as well as tracks from their last album like “Lasso” & “Lisztomania,” as well as “Long Distance Call” from their 2006 album, It’s Never Been Like That. They played through more old songs and new material, but the biggest story of the night was R. Kelly jumping on stage during “1901” to sing “Ignition” on top as a remix. He also interjected verses from “I’m a Flirt” in a new song, “Chloroform.” This was definitely the “Tupac hologram” of the festival so far.
Nearby, Iceland’s Sigur Ros played their brand of orchestral rock, mesmerizing the crowd with cinematic screens and the army of guitars, drums, horns and strings that has made them a must-see live act.
One more day left and plenty of time for more surprises! Keep an eye here for more and listen to the festival’s headliners and more in the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Channel on the Music Unlimited service.