Wednesday, April 18, 2012


2012 Week One was my fifth consecutive Coachella, so I'm reaching a point where memories of the different events start to blur into each other, but on a whole, these would be my general comparative impressions.

2012 boasted the best collectiion of headliner performances I've seen since the 2008 double whammy of Prince/Roger Waters.  The Black Keys were excellent if a bit monochromatic, Radiohead up-and-down but jaw droppingly good in their best moments, and Snoop, Dre, Enimen, Whiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, and yes, that Tupac Shakur hologram were just an event - not the weekend's top musical highlight (that distinction belongs to Bon Iver), but without question a show for the ages rating right there with the best the festival has ever offered.

Logistically, this was as good as the festival has ever been...all those kinks they hit in 2010 now seem a distant memory, and a brilliant ergonomic decision to break the day parking lot up into fenced-off units of 200-300 cars worked wonders at cutting down bottle-necking and speeding up the exit process...I stayed all three nights to the end and it never took me more than 5 minutes to get out of the lot and free and clear of traffic.  Additionally, from a stage management standpoint, very few delays...Justice had some technical difficulties, and Bon Iver was 10 minutes late, but otherwise, every set started on time...even Snoop and Dre.

Of course, one of the things people will remember most about 2012 week one was the weather.  While I'm sure nothing compared to what our brethren at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza have been through, Friday brought rain, cold, and most significantly, some brutal winds to the festival grounds.  Several of the fests major artworks didn't go up until Sunday as a result, and some midday Friday artists, especially Yuck, Neon Indian, James and Jimmy Cliff had to bring it under some very tough conditions (which James and Jimmy Cliff were able to do impressively, Yuck and Neon Indian not so much), and Radiohead's Saturday night crowd was seriously dampened by the cold.

Which brings us finally, to the music.

As always there were a number of great sets, with two genuinely exceptional sets from Bon Iver and Snoop & Dre that top anything I saw in 2010 or 2011, and fantastic performances from a surprising number of the weekend's many reunion acts...but top to bottom, I'd have to say 2012 had less of a wow factor than any other Coachella's I've attended.

To start, the under-undercard is much, much weaker this year, with only Saturday's gem of an 11-2 stretch ranking with the awesomeness Goldenvoice has compiled in these time periods the previous two years.

And many of 2011's top critical darlings (Destroyer, Wild Flag, Tune-Yards, Yuck, Laura Marling, Florence & The Machine) while not bad, came nowhere near meeting or exceeding expectations the way the likes of Foals, Elbow, Robyn, Cut Copy, Black Joe Lewis, PJ Harvey, Phosphorescent, Twin Shadow and others did last year.

The more I think about it, the harder it is to deny, that taken a pure music performance perspective...2012 is probably the weakest of the five Coachella's I've attended.

But it was still freakin' awesome.

Here quickly are brush strokes on my favorite sets and songs of the festival...then we'll get into each day in specific later this week.

McQ's Top Coachella Sets of 2012 Weekend 1

1a. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog - No other way to describe it, this was an event...will go down as one of the legendary Coachella sets...right there with Daft Punk, Prince, Portishead, McCartney.
1b. Bon Iver - Shockingly, shockingly good - the best set I've seen from a purely musical perspective since McCartney in 2009. Justin Timberlake's Saturday Night Live impression couldn't have been farther from the truth Saturday night...this was emotionally potent music delivered with overwhelming force and power. Weekend two-ers, think long and hard about skipping this one. A tour-de-force.
3. The Buzzcocks - Reunion, older acts are going to dominate this best sets lists, and Sex Pistols/Clash brothers in arms were the best of the bunch.  A riotous, blazing set...I think the played almost everything off of Singles Going Steady.
4. Refused - Tremendous emotion, humility and graciousness from this band, not things you'd associate with a 90s hardcore punk outfit.  Incredible how tight they were after such a long layoff.
5. The Rapture - No other way to put it, a "rapturous" set. This New York dance punk act was just on.
6. Death Grips - You don't need to see all of this assaulting Rap-Punk act's set, a little goes a long way, but this was without question "the breakout set" of this year's festival.
7. The Saturday Undercard - The artists that make up Saturday's 11-2 stretch are just a collective joy.  Heavy on the brit-rock side, favorites were the super sexy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Elvis-Costello-like Suedehead, Pulp-like Spector, Frightened Rabbits-y We Were Promised, Jetpacks, the passionate We Are Augustines, and the excellent garage act The Vaccines.  Weekend two-ers control your partying...this is one of 2012s best stretches.
9. The Hives - For humorous chatter between songs, Pulp and Spector came close, but otherwise, no one is in the ball park of this reliably fantastic live act.
10. Jimmy Cliff - The reggae master had the irony of performing his sun-drenched hits during the worst weather of the festival.  He couldn't entirely pull the crowd out of their frozen, shivering state, but he did his damnedest, and his 69 year old voice has lost none of its appeal.  This one should be even better in the sun on week two.
11. Gary Clark, Jr. - Austin-based guitar virtuoso delivered this year's top blues set.  Not as much fun as last year's Black Joe Lewis romp, but some incredible pyrotechnics.
12. WU LYF - They need to get some stronger songs, but the charisma and arena-sized potential for this unusual Manchester act are highly evident.  Opener was phenomenal.
13. Squeeze - They took a bit of time to warm up, but final 25 minutes of this set were pure joy.
14. First Aid Kit - The most charming set of the entire weekend, a pair of Swedish sisters delivering gorgeous folk and alt-country ballads.
15. EMA - Intensity, cooler-than-shit sonics, and tons of charisma from this Goth leaning singer-songwriter whose edginess reminds a lot of PJ Harvey.
16. Radiohead.

McQ's Top Individual Tracks Of Coachella 2012 Week One

1. Vomit - Girls - A remarkable song on record as well, I lucked into catching this closer to Girls set after leaving Death Grips a few minutes early.  As on record, the transitions from slow, intense brooder to bristling  jam, to "reaching for the heavens" Great Gig In The Sky-styled gospel blowout were extraordinary...Death Grips was one of the weeks most impacting sets, but I urge everyone attending Week Two to try to catch the last fifteen minutes of Girls set to take this number in.
2. The Wolves Part 1 & 2 - Bon Iver - The youtube video on the Coachella website does a pretty decent job of conveying the force with which this closing number hit.  The most emotionally powerful song of the festival.
3. Common People - Pulp - It was Common People, nothing else needs to be said.
4. LYF - WU LYF - Intoxicating, slow-building opener to one of the weekend's best sets.
5. The tUne-YaRdS Construction Method - While no one song rated among my top festival favs, watching Merril build these songs out of the most miniscule of parts was fascinating - if only it hadn't pulled her attention away from her voice.

For a more detailed breakdown of each day and rankings of each day's sets, click on the links below.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coachella 2012 Week One Day Three - Sunday April 15

Compared to the two days that had just transpired, Sunday was, as I told a friend, weak sauce.

Over-stocked with electronic acts, who took over significant portions of the day in the Mojave and Gobi along with the Sahara, not to mention Justice's and Girl Talk's Coachella Stage and Outdoor Theatre appearances, the rock 'n' roll segment of Coachella 2012 effectively ended at 6:55 with the conclusion of The Hives excellent set save for the exception of At The Drive-In's pre-Dre burst, and a few scattered soft-indie shows (Gotye, Beirut, Florence & The Machine).

Worse, three of the days top performers...Santigold, Seun Kuti, and Wild Beasts...we're all scheduled head to head in "pick one of the three fashion," and other acts I had hoped would deliver top flight sets didn't quite hit the mark (Wild Flag, Fitz & The Tantrums, Florence).

A couple endearing surprises...First Aid Kid was an absolute charmer, Lissie, now backed by a full band, was much more engaging than when I saw her opening for Ray LaMontagne a year ago, and The Weekend delivered a solid if unspectacular set, but overall, one of the weakest day's in the five years I've attended...not as bad as the over-progged Muse headlining Saturday 2010, which is easily my least favorite Coachella day of all time, but not far off pace.

At least until Snoop and Dre.  That changed everything.

Here's a look at the Sunday acts I was able to see.


1. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog - 10:35 to Festival End - The Coachella Stage: The undeniable "biggest moment" of the festival.  Though I knew I would catch this set, I hadn't built up expectations for it like I had some other shows on the lineup, but the moment Snoop and Dre took the stage in a slight cheesy Golden Globes MC like Manner, and those beats started flying, I, along with what seemed like every other individual left on the fields, was hooked. Honestly, I've never seen the Coachella crowd so uniformly anchored around one performance, like they were here...not even for Prince or McCartney...and of those three sets, this was the one that had providing a straight up good time most on it's mind.  This was a party rap set for the history books...great before the parade of all-stars came on...with a sharp live band and wonderful, projection-oriented set design full of vibrant colors...but then something epic when they did...Whiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, later Eminem, and then, of course, the moment everyone has been talking about...Tupac.  I had heard the rumors, but I have to admit to being completely duped the first few moments the hologram came on...rising out of the floor with its head lowered, I actually thought it was a shirtless Kanye for a few seconds before coming to grips with what I was actually seeing.  The hologram looked remarkably believable from my fairly distant vantage point...drifting right or left a few times and emitting a soft, white glow, but otherwise seeming very natural and solid  And when Snoop joined in for a rap duet, well, there's been a lot of opinions expressed on this matter,  but I found the whole thing hugely entertaining.  Glad I was lucky enough to catch this new technology the first time act before it becomes a cliche concert gimmick in the years to come.  Anyway, while not my top purely musical set of the weekend (I'd have to give Bon Iver, Buzzcocks, Refused, The Rapture and Death Grips a higher nod in that department), this was without question my favorite set overall, and ranks right up there the greatest performances to ever grace the polo fields.

Here's the full week one show.


2. The Hives - 6:05 to 6:55 - The Coachella Stage: I missed the opening ten minutes of this set catching the end of Wild Flag, but caught the rest, and it was just great, hammy fun.  For those who haven't seen The Hives before, it's a comedy routine as much as a rock 'n' roll show, with lead singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist pulling out all sorts of crowd interaction tricks and killing as much time ranting like a Bapist preacher as the band does playing...but Almqvist's theatrics work perfectly for this band, elevating a very energetic but hardly memorable song catalog (save for '08 garage masterpiece Tick Tick Boom, with which they closed, and a few earlier classics).  For sheer fun, this was the second most entertaining set of the weekend after Dr. Dre and Snoop. 

Here's Tick Tick Boom.

3. First Aid Kit - 2:15 to 3:00 - The Mojave Tent: After Death Grips, I would probably rank First Aid Kit's set as the biggest breakout performance of the festival...but the two acts couldn't have been more perfectly aligned polar opposites.  Where Death Grips was all testosterone and violence and brutal imagery, this set was all gentle feminine sweetness and charm.  Two cute as a button, chipmunk-voiced Swedish sisters (one a dead ringer for Modern Family's Sarah Hyland) and a able drummer decked out in flower-power garb and delivering their earnest take on classic folk and Americana.  I missed the first half of the show catching Metronomy and Band of Skulls, but walked in just as they were starting one of my favorites, Emmylou, which they delivered beautifully, and from there the set just continued to get better, concluding with the joyous King Of The World...which very well may open next year's Coachella starters mix. I hope every 16 year old girl at the fest that weekend got a chance to see this set...there was something very empowering about what these very young women pulled off.

Here's Emmylou.

4. Wild Beasts - 3:25 to 4:10 - The Mojave Tent: 3 pm Sunday was in my opinion the festival's second worst clusterfuck after the Black Keys/M83/Explosions In The Sky logjam on Friday night.  As with that Friday Night scenario, there was no win-win option here, so I opted for Wild Beasts, who I felt were the more accomplished album act of last three years over Santigold, and squeezed in a few minutes of Greg Ginn and Seun Kuti before the start.  Sound was an issue throughout this set...sometimes excellent, sometimes awful...but the jazzy flow and 80s textures of the bands smooth but sensual songs play far better than I expected them to live.  Surprisingly, it's bassist and second lead vocalist Tom Flemming, with his deep baritone, who makes the more charismatic impression live over the far more unique and idiosyncratic Hayden Thorpe, who sang wonderfully, but just wasn't quite as strong a presence...and boy does he look a lot like Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe when he shaves and dons his specs. But in the end, what really helped this set differentiate itself is in a weekend that saw a lot of excellent performers doing their best to enliven mediocre songs (Fitz & The Tantrums, The Hive, Wild Flag, Florence & The Machine's, Band of Skulls, and Justice all come immediately to mind, and that's just Sunday) Wild Beasts were working with some genuinely great material to start with, and it was the strength of their song craft that ultimately shone through.  None one song stood high above the others, though Hooting & Howling's brilliant opening 90 seconds had every bit the pull it does on record, and Flemming's spastic singing on Two Dancers was also memorable.

Here's the official Coachella coverage of Hooting & Howling.

5. Thundercat - 5:20 to 5:55 - The Gobi Tent: I can't claim to be a huge fan of these ridiculously talented bassists debut album, finding it too soft and mushy for my tastes in a 1970s Jean Luc Ponte jazz/fusion sort of way, but the ten or so minutes I caught of this set before heading over to Wild Flag were a gas.  Felt like I was in the presence of some monster musicians, and the outlandish costumes, right out of a P-Funk show, only helped to amp the cool groove of the show.

Here's one of his mellower numbers.

6. Company Flow - 8:20 to 9:10 - The Gobi Tent: Up against uber-popular DJ acts Girl Talk and Justice and fan favorite indie act Beirut, this El-P fronted mid-90s experimental rap act...reunited for the express purpose of revisiting tracks from their highly influential debut Funcrusher Plus...had no chance of drawing a large crowd, but the 300 or so acolytes who crowded the front of the stage brought as much energy and enthusiasm for the rap trio as most full capacity crowds.  Spinning wickedly eerie beat and highly literate raps, this was an artier, more intimate rap warm-up for the juggernaut that was to fall two hours later.

Here's a couple of tracks.

7. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - 3:10 to 3:55 - The Outdoor Theatre: I only caught the long opening number before heading over to the Mojave for Wild Beasts, but from what I saw, this set was exactly what one would expect...excellent afro-pop, delivered with great energy from the son and aged original band of the genre's master of masters, and perfectly scheduled mid-afternoon on the warmest, sunniest day of the festival. A different kind of dance fest from what was going down in the Sahara, this was one of the festival's most joyous shows.

Here's a sample!

8. Housse De Racket - 12:55 to 1:30 - The Gobi Tent: This drums and guitar duo sounds a lot more like countrymen Phoenix on record...but in person they brought the "racket" like American stars The White Stripes, transforming several of their dance-oriented tunes into thundering rockers in what was easily the best of Sunday's pre-2pm sets.

Here's a good example of the set's heavier guitar lean.


9. Greg Ginn And The Royal We - 3:00 to 3:45 - The Gobi Tent:  I've probably got this show rated 100 spots higher than anyone else, for what the Black Flag's original guitarist brought here was nothing less than a classic, old school experimental rock intentional room-clearer reminiscent of 70s efforts like Brian Eno and Robert Fripp's No Pussy Footing or Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Playing to track while manning two instruments simultaneously, his guitar and a theremin, one of which I am assuming was the "Royal We," as Ginn was alone on stage, Ginn pounded out one crunchy oddball groove to the next in front of the smallest crowd I have ever seen at a Coachella show.  Even heard rumors the tent was completely empty later in the set after I had moved on to see Wild Beasts.  The interesting thing though, is the music wasn't that difficult, just avant-garde and from another age.  Had this festival been stage in 1974, my guess is the proggier audience of that era would have eaten this stuff up, and in all honesty, of the twenty or so albums I picked up during the weekend from the festival's lower billed acts, I like Greg's the best.  So breathe easier, Greg, it wasn't a complete waste of may have played for stretches of your set to an audience of zero, but know at least one passer-by bought and has enjoyed your merch.

Here's a long sample of the prog-slaught.

10. The Weeknd - 6:55 to 7:45 - The Outdoor Theatre: Prior to the festival, a lot of fans were pinning this set as most likely to be a train wreck.  This was the edgy, mysterious R&B artist's first ever show in the states, and rumors of Goldenvoice's concerns over the acts reliability ran rampant.  Fans sensed the potential for another Sly Stone / Ariel Pink-styled meltdown, but the show they ultimately got couldn't have been more professional.  I can't say I loved this show...the band's energy wasn't particular high, and so much of what makes this act's music so interesting is best processed in the most intimate of settings, which The Outdoor Theatre definitely is not...but the band sounded fine, and I loved the closing acoustic version of House Of Balloons' Wicked Game.

Here's the full show.

11. Florence & The Machine - 9:45 to 10:35 - The Outdoor Theatre: If push came to shove, I would still claim Florence's mid-afternoon 2010 Gobi set as my favorite show of that year's festival. Having just broken in the states, young and eager, she threw her out-sized voice and personality into her killer debut album Lungs' best songs with everything she had. It wasn't the most professional of performances...Florence can be quick to fall off key live...but it was overpowering nonetheless.  Unfortunately, a lot has changed for Florence over the last two years, and much of it not for the better.  Having toured relentlessly and now approaching Whitney Houston/Madonna-esque diva status, she's stopped consistently singing out, saving her pipes for a few select moments each show like the road-hardened veteran she now is.  Worse, she's at present committed to performing the far less interesting songs from her disappointing sophomore effort Ceremonials. Combined with a more bloated, stain glass window stage design, and backup singers to stay in harmony with that further prevented Flo from singing out, this show, though still highly entertaining in spots, lacked the fire, spontaneity, momentum and sheer vocal explosion that made that 2010 set so extraordinary. Of the individual songs, Dog Days proved the ever reliable crowd pleaser, but her closing performance of Cermonials's No Light No Light was the night's standout, the one number that matched the peaks of her previous Coachella performance. Let's all hope album number three sees Florence returning to the level of song quality and variety that made Lungs one of 2009's best albums, because a near-future headlining spot seems almost inevitable.

Here's a fan captured video of that closing number.

12. Fitz & The Tantrums - 4:45 to 5:35 - The Coachella Stage: Caught most of this set, and it brought the booty-shaking fun as any good midday retro-soul set should, but having sat through some other genuinely transcendent Soul/Funk/R&B knockouts at Coachella in recent years...most notably Gary Clark Jr this year, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears and some wonderful snippets of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu in '11, Gil Scott Heron in '10, and especially Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings crusher in ' was hard not to feel a touch underwhelmed by this slightly cheesier, Hall & Oates-y act.

Here's L.O.V.

13. At The Drive In - 9:10 to 10:00 - The Coachella Stage: I've never been a huge fan of this band specifically, or the rap-rock genre as a whole, but I've got to admit, I caught the opening twenty minutes of this set, and rather enjoyed it.  Good energy, some solid riffage, and great snark from lead singer Cedric Bixler mocking some of the Hollywood hipster stars cushing in the VIP section by name.  Fans of the band I spoke to later felt the band was sort of mailing it in, and didn't seem like they wanted to be there, but I didn't sense that at all.

But I'll let you be the judge. Here's the full show.

14. Fanfarlo - 12:00 to 12:35 - The Gobi Tent: I wasn't expecting much from this UK indie-pop act, whose latest release, Rooms Filled With Light, sits on Metacritic with a composite score in the low 60s, but they were actually quite good.  Boasting a rich, contemporary sound best described as a 50/50 cross between the Arcade Fire's orchestrated anthems and Beirut's twee, Balkanized pop, the band sounded very well-rehearsed, and lead singer Simon Balthazar had an impressive croony voice.

A nice, warm, ebullient set to kick off the's the only fan capture video of their Coachella performances I could find.

15. Lissie - 12:50 to 1:30 - The Outdoor Theatre: Another pleasant surprise! I had seen Lissie once before, opening for Ray LaMontagne at the Los Angeles Orpheum Theater in a solo-acoustic show.  She wasn't bad that night (to be honest, she was better than La Montagne), but what I saw that night didn't lead me to believe she would make much of an impression at Coachella.  But this was an entirely different affair.  Backed by a full band this time out, she came on like a younger, slightly less raspy Lucinda Williams, and her opening few numbers before I skittered off to catch some of Housse de Racket, packed some real punch. Sleepy Ray should take notes.

Here's a fan video that captures the spirit of the show.

16. Sleeper Agent - 12:00 to 12:30 - The Outdoor Theatre: Up-and-coming Cage The Elephant pals Sleeper Agent and their energetic, overstuffed pop-rock ditties were a fine way to open the Outdoor Theatre on day three. Nothing spectacular, but a very lively, at times infectiously catchy show.

Here's Bottomed Out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Coachella 2012 Week One Day Two - Saturday April 14

Saturday of Coachella 2012 Week One was my favorite - launched by a fabulous undercard of garage, punk and UK acts, propelled  through the late afternoon/early evening by fantastic reunion sets from The Buzzcocks, Squeeze, and fIREHOSE, and the capped by a much better than expected performance from The Shins and a "for the ages" performance from Bon Iver, Saturday felt like an embarrassment of much so that Radiohead's relatively sedate headlining set felt more like a cool, chill wind down than the main event.

Here's a look at the acts I managed to catch on this excellent day.


1. Bon Iver - 9:30 to 10:20 - The Coachella Stage: Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm huge fan of today's top Yacht-rocker, and I had heard tremendous things from other friends who had seen Bon Iver recently...but even with those sky-high expectations, this show was shockingly, shockingly good. Better than I could have ever imagined.  Putting all those Justin Timberlake/Saturday Night Live parodies to rest, Justin Vernon and company took a page out of The National's playbook and turned songs that are mellow and reflective on record in to potent, explosive anthem's on stage.  It's hard to describe just how huge songs like Perth, Calgary, Blood Bank, Skinny Love, and The Wolves Pt 1 & 2 played live, but words like huge, epic, and massive are the only words that adequately describe the in person impact. Additionally, all those confusing twists and turns on the second album seemed to make far more sense, as it became clear the album was conceived as a live symphony, constantly evolving...and none of this was lost even though the set list was pepper with selections from the earlier records. An absolute powerhouse, was my favorite Coachella set since McCartney's 2009 show until Tupac Part Deux arrived a night later to soften Bon Iver's soft rock thunder.

Here's the set's closer, which gives a good sense of how much Vernon's 9-piece band is adding to the impact of Bon Iver's songs.


2. The Buzzcocks - 5;15 to 6:05 - The Gobi Tent: The Gobi seemed to be the epicenter of a greater percentage of the week's best sets than in past years, and this Gobi set from punk elder statesmen The Buzzcocks was the best Gobi set of 2012. Tearing through virtually every track from 1979's Singles Going Steady with rapid-fire efficiency and fantastic energy that belied the band's advancing years, this was one of my favorite punk sets of all catchy and funny as it was fiery.  It was my first time seeing the band, but others I know who have seen them on multiple occasions said it was as good as they've ever seen the band.  Lucky Week One Coachellans.

Here's the official Coachella video of Ever Fallen In Love!


3. Squeeze - 7:15 to 8:05 - The Mojave Tent: Rod and I got a great forward spot for this set after making the difficult call to skip Jeff Mangum outright, and at first, it felt like we had made a mistake. Opener Bang Bang hardly generated chills, and then after a very effective Take Me I'm Yours, the set really sloughed off for a span as the older band continued to warm up. But then, around the twenty minute mark, everything came together, and the final stretch of Goodbye Girl / Hourglass / Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) / Slap And Tickle / Tempted / Black Coffee In Bed was as good as any stretch I was lucky to witness all weekend outside of Snoop Dre or Bon Iver,  once again confirming my Coachella truism that the old timers almost never disappoint.

Here's a fan video of the slowed down version of Tempted.

4. Radiohead - 11:05 to 1:00 AM - The Coachella Stage: This was my third time seeing Radiohead, the first being their killer Grant Park, Chicago show back on the Amnesiac tour, the second being at the Hollywood Bowl during the In Rainbows tour.  Both shows were significantly better than this poorly paced effort. I've always felt the band's Achilles heal was sequencing...whether on album or on stage, they kinda suck at it, it's just tough to notice because so many of their songs are so good...but on this night, deciding to anchor around King Of Limbs with other songs that had a similar feel, those sequencing limitations really hurt, leading to a set with little sense of momentum. That complaint aside, this was still a show with stunning highlights...I liked their live take on a couple of KOL's numbers...Lotus Flower had a serious groove going, Magpie morphed into a much more assertive rocker, and Give Up The Ghost was every bit as haunting as when Thom whipped it out in his otherwise forgettable 2010 Coachella set with Atoms For Peace...but as with their Hollywood Bowl show, it was the In Rainbows tracks that played best.  Weird Fishes, 15 Steps, Reckoner, and especially set best Bodysnatchers all killed. Older tracks fared more unevenly...Karma Police, Lucky and Paranoid Android from OK Computer all came off well, but There There again failed to match it's on record power (had the same thought previous time I saw them), Idioteque, Pyramid Song and Everything In Their Right Place failed to match the impact  of previous performances, and why the band hasn't permanently dropped Hail To The Thief lamos Myxomatosis and The Gloaming from their concert setlists, I'll never know. But all and all, a very cool couple hours.  Set design was awesome, with hanging diamond projection screens that hovered and shifted over the bands head, and Thom offset the cold lighting design with dare I say, almost warm, even hammy banter. And as always, their live sound was phenomenal.

Here's Bodysnatchers.

5. St. Vincent - 7:45 to 8:35 - The Gobi Tent: Squeezed, literally and figuratively, between sets by Squeeze and The Shins, whom Rod had a strong interest in seeing, I only managed to take in two and half songs from this set, Actor's Marrow and then Cruel and the front half of Year Of The Tiger from Strange Mercy, but they were all winners. Annie Clark's voice is as clear and strong live as it is on record, and her off kilter, slightly spastic moves on the guitar were oddly entertaining as a counterbalance to her "heroin chic" model looks.  She has yet to nail down that home run album (though she seems to get closer with each release), but based on the little I caught this night, I don't think we're done hearing from her anytime soon...again, literally and figuratively, this girl has legs.

Here's Cruel.

6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - 11:40 to 12:10 - The Gobi Tent: My favorite early morning set of the festival came by total surprise from this local LA act. Rod and I stepped in planning to catch just one number, and ended up staying the full set. Musically, they're hitting a strange niche, halfway between X-styled garage punk and very mainstream 80s hard  rock (especially that of Pat Benatar, for whom lead singer/major league beauty Devon Dunsmoor is a vocal dead ringer), but the stylistic combo works. The band, especially guitarist Kenny Wessell and bassist John Carlucci, displayed some serious, jam-oriented chops in the brief instrumental bridges, and as I've already suggested, Dunsmoor, a working fashion model, brings some monster heat in addition to her arena sized-voice.  They were on really early, so haven't found any fan-captured videos of this set...but Little Steven's a big fan, and if he's a fan, I'm a fan, too.  Their debut album should be dropping soon.

7. tUnE-yArDs - 4:50 to 5:35 - The Outdoor Theatre: Sometimes, it's better to come to Coachella less familiar with the acts. Because rarely have I been more disappointed by a show that was by any measure an excellent, excellent set. Unfortunately, my expectations for this show were too high, assuming it had set of the festival potential...and what Merrill Garbus delivered just wasn't quite that. On the positive side, it was a gentler show than I expected, Merrill coming of much sweeter in person than the "devil may care" impression she gives on record. It was also fascinating, initially, to watch how expertly she constructs these songs through a series of vocal and percussion loops, not to mention how all the guitar-ish sounds are generated through a tiny ukulele with a home-made duct tape pickup.  But with each passing number, the time spent building up front constructing the loops began to feel more like a drag on the set than a point of interest, and I hope with her next album and tour, she'll consider working some straight band, zero loop material into her performances, because my biggest gripe was that all the looping business kept Merrill from focusing on the one instrument in her arsenal that tops all others...her one-of-a-kind, androgynous voice...which sounded fine, but with her attention so divided, lacked the explosive impact it has on record.  Still, despite these misgivings, this was one of the most unique sets of the weekend.

Here's the official Coachella video of my favorite song of 2011...Bizness.

8. Suedehead - 12:20 to 12:50 - The Outdoor Theatre: Continuing the early Saturday bonanza of fabulous unknowns kicked of by Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Tijuana Panthers was UK's Suedehead, who seemed determined to invite any and every comparison to early, vintage Elvis Costello & The Attractions.  On a general note, one sensed in the sounds of the several younger UK acts at the fest that late 70s post-ska bar band rock in the vein of Costello and Graham Parker is on the verge of making a big comeback...and if it does, don't be surprised to see this enthusiastic live act leading the charge.

Here's the only fan video I could find of the set...a note, they sounded much better in person than the poor audio quality of this recording implies.

9. Spector - 12:30 to 1:15 - The Gobi Tent: Another early Saturday winner, Rod and I saw the last twenty-five minutes immediately following Suedehead and couldn't have been more entertained.  Fronted by a doughy lead singer with a hysterical, Jarvis Cocker like wit, delivering songs that were also Pulp-like, but with a bit more of a punkish punch, we enjoyed every surprise minute.

This is the only week one video I could find, but for those looking for more, there's tons of great week two videos up on youtube.

10. The Shins - 8:10 to 9:00 - The Coachella Stage: I'd heard all sorts of horror stories about how low energy James Mercer of the Shins could be live, but having never seen the band before, and liking most of their records, Rod and definitely wanted to check them out.  We swung over about ten minutes late after grabbing a couple tracks from St. Vincent, and I have to say, on this night, the band was excellent.  Yes, Mercer was hardly going crazy up there, but the band sounded awesome, and I loved the set list from the portion of the show I caught, which included Bait & Switch, The Rifle's Spiral and Port Of Morrow from the new album, St. Simon from Chutes Too Narrow, Phantom Limb and an epic Sleeping Lessons from Wincing The Night Away, and an unexpected and absolutely fantastic cover of Pink Floyd's Breathe.

Here's a portion of that Breathe cover.


11. We Were Promised Jet Packs - 1:20 to 2:05 - The Outdoor Theatre: Yet another early Saturday  treat, this moody act out of Scotland struck a UK-pop feel that fell somewhere between Frightened Rabbits' Celtic-tinged folk-rock and The Twilight Sad's rougher-hewn, more shoegazey variation of the same.  I wasn't blown away by their songs, but the extended instrumental passages of some their numbers definitely impressed. A young band that has the potential to become much bigger as they sharpen their songwriting.

Here's It's Thunder And It's Lightning, one of those longer numbers.

12. We Are Augustines - 1:45 to 2:25 - The Coachella Stage: Rod and I only took in one number from this New York trio that sounds a bit like a stripped-down variation of The Arcade Fire or Springsteen and The E Street Band, but we both were impressed with the band's passion.

This isn't the number we saw, but it's the only weekend 1 video I could find.

13. fIREHOSE - 4:00 to 4:50 - The Gobi Tent: Easily winning "the years have not been kind physically" award would be Mike Watt and Ed Crawford of late 80s/early 90s alt-punkers fIREHOSE.  But their grizzled appearance in no way carried over to the band's still jaw dropping musicianship.  Crawford handle the bulk of the vocals, and Watt seemed, and later confirmed in press, that he was more interested in hanging with his bud's than appealing to the nostalgia driven crowd, and thus spent 90% of the show facing drummer George Hurley rather than the audience, but in a way it actually enhanced the show, making those few moments when he did step forward to knock out some quick country-punk quip or frantic bass run all the more entertaining.  Crawford's voice was, like his face, a bit ragged, but like Refused the night before, the long layoff in no way seemed to be impacting the band's sharpness.  This wasn't quite on the level of the other great punk reunions of 2012, but still a very entertaining set.

Here's Honey Please!

14. The Black Lips - 2:15 to 3:00 - The Mojave Tent: The last time I saw the Black Lips and their raucous, sloppy, sometimes endearingly amateurish take on flower punk was at Coachella '08, in an 11 pm set on this same stage.  They were beyond drunk that night, as is often their M.O., but rather than going with it on that evening, I felt the musicianship had just taken to big a hit.  This year's 2 pm show was much better, at least musically.  I only saw the first three or four songs before heading over to Destroyer, but in that span managed to get in Raw Meat, Oh Katrina, and a knock-out rendition of Arabia Mountain's Family Tree. Rod stayed for the whole set, and didn't bond with it as much as I did in my shortened viewing, but true to Black Lips form, there was supposedly a Jim Morrison prank towards the end, with guitarist Cole Alexander deciding to drop trou and  strum a few chords with his own God-provided pick.

Not going to show that moment here, please accept this fan captured video of Oh Katrina in it's place.

15. Destroyer - 2:30 to 3:15 - The Outdoor Theatre: If there is one thing I've come to learn over the last five years attending this festival, it's that success on record is in no way a guarantee of success on stage. Some bands take their recorded material to a whole new level, some deliver it exactly as it sounds on album, and some artists are just better appreciated over the car stereo. For example, TV On The Radio, a great, great recording act, is a band I've always felt suffers on stage...they're lively, but I've never seen them come close to delivering their dense drone/funk sound live .  After this weekend's appearance, I'm going to add Dan Bejar's Destroyer to this list, for the exact opposite reason.  Destroyer came to the fest armed with material from what I felt was the second best album of 2012, Kaputt, and truth be told, the strength and beauty of the band's mellow, 80s flavored yacht rock came through just fine.  But Bejar's world weary persona, which can work so well on record, made the whole experience feel too static live, taking already mellow music and pulling the energy level down to the floor...if there was a more disinterested individual performer at Coachella, I didn't see him/her (though for full band apathy, no one touched Yuck). Goldenvoice didn't do the band any favors with this set time...a more intimate, late night setting in the Gobi or Mojave tent would have better matched the feel of the bands music...but the set list was awesome, hitting most of Kaputt's highlights (Chinatown, Blue Eyes, Suicide Demo For Kara Walker, Kaputt, Bay of Pigs), with one very nice sojourn into Rubies' territory for Painter In Your Pocket. Whenever Bejar stepped aside and the saxophone took over, this show took flight, but it wasn't enough to convince me I ever need to see Destroyer live again.

Here's a sample of Bejar's adrenalized performance in set opener Chinatown.

16. The Vaccines - 1:40 to 2:25 - The Gobi Tent: For an indie-rock band that goes out of their way lyrical to sound above-it-all and non-committal on record, this was a fiery, passionate performance. Only caught about fifteen minutes from 2:00 to 2:15 before hitting the Black Lips, but there's a good chance that had we seen more, I'd have the set ranked significantly higher.

Here's one of the Brit act's catchiest tunes, If You Wanna.

17. Tijuana Panthers - 11:25 to 11:55 - The Mojave Tent: A young garage act based out of the LA area, they were raw, but some of their songs were quite catchy. A much stronger opening act salvo for the day than either Friday or Sunday delivered, and worth checking out at future festivals if you schedule permits.

For some reason, most of the fan videos from this set got caught up in the dancers in the crowd. Here's one of them.

18. Godspeed You! Black Emporer - 10:00 to 11:00 - The Mojave Tent: This ranking is a personal one for me and based entirely upon scheduling circumstance, not caliber of performance. As with Friday, The 9 to 11 stretch Saturday evening was rife with tough conflicts, and on this night, I personally had to go with Bon Iver.  As such, I didn't arrive at Godspeed until they were already 30 plus minutes into their hour long set, and after the emotive powerhouse Bon Iver had just thrown down, I could not get myself to switch gears and dive in to an avant garde, unlit, orchestral post-rock experience.  Had I not had the schedule conflict, and been able to jump in on this from the beginning, I'm sure I, like many who did see the whole apocalyptic set, would have ranked it among my favorites of the entire weekend.

Anyway, here's a portion of Gathering Storm.


19. Manchester Orchestra - 5:55 to 6:45 - The Mojave Tent: I'm not sure it's fair to label this set a disappointment so much as one I just wasn't all that interested in seeing in the first place.  Though hard-rocking emo-glam of the My Chemical Romance variety can have its moments, it's never been one of my favorite genres, but Rod was a fan, and looking for something at little harder edged at this point in the day, so I tagged along, having already seen Andrew Bird before. The band played well and with solid energy, so I'm sure fans came away satisfied, but for me, not really in the mood to be there in the first place and relegated to the far back of the tent at this very crowded show, nothing in the 25 minutes or so we caught had much of an impact.

Here's a fan video of Shake It Out, which seems to have been shot from almost as far back as I was standing.

20. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - 6:30 to 7:20 - The Coachella Stage: In the annals of Rock 'n' Roll, when one asks who's the most overrated act of all-time, one usually hears something like The Doors, or The Grateful Dead, but for my money, it's Oasis.  To my relief, Rod felt exactly the same way.  Still, with a fairly light 6-7 stretch in the schedule, we did see a bit of this show from the North Beer Garden as we wolfed down some food.  Wasn't terrible, but nothing so impressive as to change our overall meh opinion of either Oasis or the combative bros Gallagher.

Here's Don't Look Back In Anger.

21. Laura Marling - 6:30 to 7:20 - The Gobi Tent: Some artists just aren't meant for the competitive bloodbath that is today's summer festival circuit, and this years poster child for that truism is young British folkie and Mumford & Sons pal Laura Marling.  Marling has some really good songs, and a lot of slow, drab ones, but virtually none of them, good or bad, have much spring in their step.  This show, while competent in the opening ten or so minutes Rod and I caught, was in no way captivating.  From the  fairly rigid, wallflower demeanor of her backing band, to the way Marling chooses to sing up into a microphone raised several inches above her mouth...everything about this set felt small and not worth our attention.  Based upon similar reviews at Bonnaroo and other festivals this summer, it seems like Marling may have done some damage to her career in taking this ill-fitting gigs. For her sake, going forward, I hope she sticks to venues that put her in the best light, which in her case, are the intimate small clubs where an audience's attention can be solely focused on her.

Anyway, here's a snippet.

22. Keep Shelly In Athens - 12:05 to 12:40 - The Mojave Tent: I was kind of excited to check out this young shoegaze/trip-hop, slightly Portishead-y act going into the festival based on the quality of a couple of tracks I had heard on youtube...but for the most part, this set was an unengaging snooze.

Here's a small ambien-ic taste.

23. The Big Pink - 3:25 to 4:10 - The Mojave Tent: A Spin Doctors / Blues Traveller-type act for this generation (just like MGMT).  They had a few indelible songs in them, which they burned a few albums back, and now it's just painfully clear they'll never produce another track of that caliber the remainder of their careers.  Delivering a sloppy mish-mash of contemporary dance-rock and older classic Brit-rock influences, I was surprised, given how bad their most recent release was, that these guys were even asked back for a second appearance, but truth be told there's a couple of baffling returns to the festival every year.

Here's Stay Gold, or a tiny fraction of it anyway.


Saturday bands that got good to great buzz that I sadly missed.

Kasabian - by every indication, this hard-charging Brit-rockers killed it.
Flying Lotus
Miike Snow - missed them twice at Coachella now, hopefully third times the charm.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coachella 2012 Week One Day One - Friday April 13

Friday the 13th.  I've never been a particularly superstitious person, but if there ever was a date for the festival to contend with its first bout of rain, this was it.

The first few hours of the day were cool and clear, but by about 1:30 clouds had rolled in, and by 3pm the wind and the rain had fully arrived, reaching a fevered peak around 5:00 pm just before the start of Jimmy Cliff. At this point the winds became so strong, bending the trees in the background sharply and flinging whole garbage containers across the field, that I feared for a few moments that they may have to start delaying shows for artist and fan safety, but as soon as Jimmy took the stage at 5:10, things started to calm, and though the rest of the day saw continued minor sprinkles and got very cold, the worst had definitely passed.

But there was nothing unlucky at all on Friday of Week One as far as music is concerned.  I preferred Saturday overall, but I think that was in large part to hitting a higher percentage of the days top sets.  For many, Friday was one of the finest start to finish days in Coachella's history...highlighted by excellent evening sets from Pulp, The Rapture, M83(or so I hear on this one), and Refused, and a wonderful if painfully overlapped stretch in the late afternoon from EMA to James to Gary Clark Jr. to Jimmy Cliff to Death Grips.

Anyway, here's how I'd break down the Friday sets.


1. Refused - 11:20 pm - The Outdoor Theatre: I'm not much of a hardcore punk guy...whether hardcore punk or contemporary metal, screamo vocals and thrash guitar have always ranked among my least favorite elements of the rock and pop spectrum.  But this set with dynamite.  Insanely tight after a 14 year layoff, this was a show both ferocious (with regards to the music) and touchingly humble (with regards to lead singer Dennis Lyxzen's affecting banter between songs).  For sheer passion, assertion, and a clear desire to be there, no one topped these Swedish rockers.

Here's a fan captured video of one of the band's mellowest songs - Summerholiday Vs. Punkroutine.


2. The Rapture - 8:55 to 9:45 - The Mojave Tent: The Rapture were definitely on my "want to see" list this year, though not necessarily a top priority. After making a huge mark in the last decade with their sophomore 2003 release Echoes, their recording has been sporadic, releasing only two additional albums to date, each less well received than the prior.  But boy, whatever oomph they've failed to put into their recent recording efforts has clearly been transferred to their live show, because these guys were as "on" on this night as a band can be.  Just a phenomenal dance-oriented there a touch late, had wanted to catch a few minutes of Mazzy Star first, and had to watch from outside the packed tent...but a poor vantage point could do nothing to diminish the sheer electric propulsion of this show.  Folks, this is an experienced band, like Elbow last year, that is presently at the zenith of its performance potential...don't miss them if you've got a chance to see them in the upcoming months.

Here's a snippet from Get Myself Into It.

3. Death Grips - 5:45 to 6:30 - The Gobi Tent: A number of emerging artists made a strong impression during Coachella's first weekend...EMA, WU LYF, First Aid Kit, Gary Clark Jr., Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Tune-yards...but none delivered a breakout set on bar with this over-the-top, forward-looking, intensely aggressive rap/industrial/noise act out of Sacramento.  This was, without question, the breakout set of the entire festival.  I only caught about 10 minutes between Jimmy Cliff and Arctic Monkey, as it was a bit too much for my adventurous but slightly more mainstream-leaning college buddy Rod who I was hanging with, but all I wanted to do when I entered the tent was move forward and get closer to the firestorm.  Frontman/rapper Stefan Burnett raged shirtless in 50 degree weather at the audience, all menacing tattooed sinew, while former Hella drummer Zach Hill and hoodie-sporting keyboardist Andy Morin pounded their instruments senseless.  Another good friend who was also in attendence later called it "an aggro thing of beauty," and that's as good a description as any.  The band cleared almost as many from the tent as they drew in, but no other set on the weekend felt more like "the next thing."  Their new album, The Money Store, is earning major reviews also, so expect to be hearing tons about this edgy, edgy act in the months to come, and don't be surprised if their referenced decades from now as an important transitional act in the evolution of rap.

Here's a snippet of the carnage.


4. Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong - 5:10 to 6:00 - The Coachella Stage: A lifelong fan who had never seen Jimmy perform before, I left Rod at Gary Clark Jr.'s blistering set a few minutes early to make sure I didn't miss a second of Mr. Cliff.  But as soon as I stepped out of the Gobi, the worst weather of the weekend hit.  The rain wasn't so bad, but the wind was suddenly so strong it hurdled full waste receptacles across the field, and I worried they would have to postpone some of the sets.  Luckily, though still unpleasant, the winds calmed just as Jimmy took the stage with You Can Get It If You Really Want.  Now in his late sixties, age was no impediment to his energy, which is much more than you can say for the cold, uncomfortable crowd.  High kicking like a man of thirty, he did his all to pull the crowd in and take their mind of the cold, and while I can't say he 100% succeeded, this was a wonderful set nonetheless.  Sticking with the political angle that has sustained him over the decades, Vietnam was lyrically contemporized into "Afghanistan", Too Many Rivers To Cross hit with great impact, and The Harder They Come served as a fitting closer...but for me, irony of ironies at this wet, windy moment, the highlight of the show was I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Is Gone).  True sentiment or not, Jimmy was is amazing voice, and after witnessing this set, I don't see him slowing down anytime soon.

Here's I Can See Clearly Now.

5. Gary Clark Jr. - 4:30 to 5:15 - The Gobi Tent: As with many of the younger artists to grace the Coachella stages this year, this Austin-based blues guitarists doesn't quite have the songs yet...but man, does he have blistering potential:  A fine voice, keen sense of the range and traditions of the genre, and most significantly, axe-man chops in line with those of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Again, just because his songs aren't quite there yet, didn't enjoy this set as much as fellow Austinites Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybear's barn-burner from 2011, but there was still plenty of excitement to be had as Clark ripped from one pyrotechnic display to the next, including a mellow reworking of Hendrix's Third Stone To The Sun.

My buddy Rod felt this was the best set of the day, and here's one reason why.

6. WU/LYF - 7:00 to 7:45 - The Gobi Tent: The tent was packed, the crowd full of conflicted souls like me who had chosen to witness the mysterious potential of this odd, young Manchester, England quartet instead of indulging in the surefire revelry going on one stage over with 80s veterans Madness...and then the howling began.  High, eerie and disembodied, it rose softly from the nether. And then again, and again, until finally the band emerged, singing the ghostly opening moments to debut starter LYF.  They took their instruments, slowly worked up a lather, and in the next five minutes knocked out the most impressive set opener of the entire festival.  After that, the set, dropped a little as the band was forced to dig into some of the lesser tracks of it's limited pool, but all was righted by set's end, when they brought out their other heavy hitters Heavy Pop and We Bros. Lead singer Ellery Roberts, who comes off as the bastard offspring of James Dean and Froggy from the Little Rascals, sang facing sideways, an unusual and surprising charismatic tactic, while the rest of the act power through the tunes with tortured artist aplomb.  Oozing promise, this set reminded me much of Foal's monster performance from the year prior, if Foal's had been asked to play Coachella before developing their second album's superior songs. If these guys can generate some better out.

Here's the opener, minus the walk in.

7. EMA - 3:15 to 4;00 - The Gobi Tent: Rod and I only caught the final two songs of EMA's set, Red Star and California, but both gave us a great sense of this emerging North Dakotan talent and her PJ Harveyish potential. Standing near as tall as Game Of Throne's Brienne Of Tarth, and stalking the stage with significant charisma, the band did an excellent job of bringing her debut album's eerie, moody sonics to a live setting. California's the better know track of the two, and was an edgy closer, with EMA mock strangling herself with her microphone cable as she concluded the song, but it was the extended crescendo of Red Star, with that awesome Fripper-esque violin whine, that impressed us most on this day.

Here's California.

8. James - 3:50 to 4:40 - The Coachella Stage: Truth be told, had Rod and I had a better vantage point, or had better prioritized this show ahead of time, I might be ranking this as one of the top three sets of the day.  But we didn't, squeezing in just twenty-five minutes or so between EMA and Gary Clark Jr. from inside the North Beer Garden, which while still giving one a clear shot of the stage and audio, severally diminishes the impact from that enjoyed by those watching from a more centered viewpoint.  But even with that, it was clear this set was approaching a magical level, one of those good vibe shows like Broken Social Scene's last year that just makes everything feel right with the world. Wish I had more to say than that, but that's my loss.  Damn those schedule conflicts.

Anyway, here's a sample of the positive energy.

9. The Black Keys - 9:45 to 11:00 - The Coachella Stage: Had the Black Keys been sub-headlining instead of headlining, and only played a fifty minute set with no other changes, I think I would rank this performance a few spots higher. They were excellent throughout, and I really loved how the El Camino tracks played in person.  They may not be the band's grittiest numbers, but they are naturals for the live stage.  And the band sounded great with Dan in good voice, though his voice did sound higher and more youthful live than it does on record.  But the Motown-like cookie cutter same-iness of so many of their three minute blues-rock singles stack back to back to back really prevented the show from gaining any sort of momentum or flow.  Typically, I remember the sets I see in full the best, because the artists bring some sort of emotional arc to the show, but I have to be honest...I don't think people who missed half this set got any less than people who caught it in full.  The one exception, not surprisingly, was the track I consider the band's greatest song to date, the Tarantino-ish Ten Cent Pistol, which for five glorious minutes brought a sense of textural variation the rest of the set desperately lacked. Still, despite my complaints, this was a seriously entertaining show, one many attendees would rate much higher than I.

Here's one of my favorites from El Camino, Money Maker.

10. Pulp - 7:50 to 8:50 - The Coachella Stage: Okay, another full disclosure moment here, I am far from the biggest of Pulp fans. I've got all their records, as well as Jarvis Cocker's most recent solo release, and I admire Jarvis's wit and lyrics, but on a purely musical level, I've never found this band all that interesting...and I far prefer some of their less celebrated albums (This Is Hardcore) to their most critically recognized (Different Class, which outside of Common People, Disco 2000, and one or two other tracks bores me senseless).  So I wasn't going into this set with big expectations, and thank god for that.  I don't want to diminish the shows highlights...Disco 2000, Common People, and opener Mis-Shapes were as good as any songs to grace this year's festival.  And Jarvis was amusing throughout, though I personally felt some of his ramblings went on too long, lending the show a very fitful flow (the preamble to This Is Hardcore where Jarvis turned a pen camera on the audience was confusing and insufferable). As for the rest of the band...they played well enough, but I definitely can't give them high marks for enthusiasm.  Outside of maybe some of the members of At The Drive, no other act seemed less interested in being there.  As I told Rod, it was a bit like watching an aging front man who can't let go and five other middle-aged louts who are doing it for him, but have otherwise completely moved on with their lives and would just as rather be tucking their kids into bed for the night and then curling up with a good book beside their spouse.
But again, as with the Black Keys above, I feel like I'm emphasizing the negative of what was overall another very entertaining show.  Here's the whole show, I'll let you form your own impressions.

11. The Sheepdogs - 1:00 to 1:30 - The Outdoor Theatre: Friday's best pre-3:00 set came courtesy of last year's Rolling Stone Magazine cover contest winners.  This was the second time I'd seen The Sheepdogs, having previously caught their warm-up set for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears at the Los Angeles Echoplex last November, and while they had been good on that night, they sounded about ten times better here. Delivering a modern Canadian spin on classic early 70s Southern Fried rock, they band played like road-hardened veterans, unleashing sharp chops and some very impressive group harmonies. After having just taken in Mea, Abe Vigoda, and Wallpaper, three acts with weak-piped lead singers, it was nice to finally hear some major league voices at work.

Here's the Allman Brothers-esqu Southern Dreaming.

12. Madness - 7:00 to 8:00 - The Outdoor Theatre: I only saw their last fifteen minutes, catching Our House and two others.  All three numbers were lively and well delivered, but not quite great enough moments to make me feel any guilt for opting for the impressive up-and-comers WU / LYF over the first two-thirds of this set.

Here's a bit of Our House.

13.Honey Honey - 1:20 to 2:05 - The Mojave Tent: Another fine alt-country set. Lead singer Suzanne Santo's voice was definitely the main attraction, but far from the only positive to take away from the varied and at times badass performance of this promising and accessible roots-rock duo.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any fan posted videos of this set have made it to Youtube.

14. Girls - 5:40 to 6:30 - The Outdoor Theatre: Only caught the last song of Girls' set this year, having caught most of their 2010 set,  but that one number was one of the best single song performances of the weekend - Vomit.

Here it is!


15. The Black Angels - 10:50 to 11:35 - The Gobi Tent: The festival's best representative of the burgeoning West Coast pysch-pop movement, The Black Angels benefited from favorable scheduling luck that had them as one of only two acts, and the only non-electronic act going for a good twenty minute stretch of their show.  Rod and I jumped in for this interval from 11:05 to about 11:25 before hitting Refused. Laying down a murky, trippy collection of fit to soundtrack Apocalypse Now, LSD-inspired brooders more than a little reminiscent of what it might have felt like to catch The Doors back in their prime when doing one of their long, creepy numbers like The End, this set was initially fascinating, but had begun to wear thin by the time we left do to the repetitive feel of their consistently slow-paced material.

Here's a fan video, that while not from the best angle, really captures the trippy, Doors-like quality of the show.

16. The Horrors - Midnight to Festival End - The Gobi Tent: Every year, there's at least one, a late night set you are so keyed up for going in, but by the time the show finally arrives, you are so exhausted, you just can't stick it out.  Unfortunately, in 2012, this was that show for me.  Rod and I hustled over as soon as Refused ended, and did manage to make it through the first half of the show, lasting until an excellent Still Life had almost wrapped, but we couldn't go another minute, so we ended up skipping out before seeing one of the songs I had most hoped to hear over the weekend...Moving Further Away.  Of what we did catch, the band sounded good, not quite as good as I had hoped, but good given the soupy Psychedelic Furs/Joy Division/My Bloody Valentine-styled density of their music. Lead singer Faris Badwan's voice wasn't particularly strong, but just as on record, it blends well with the rest of the band's sound.

So don't put this low ranking for this day on the band.  While their performance definitely wasn't one of the day's genuine peaks, I'm sure I would have this set some notches higher had my advancing age not prevented me from going the distance.

Here's Still Life.

17. The Arctic Monkeys - 6:30 to 7:20 - The Coachella Stage: Rod and I saw the first half of this set from the south beer garden as we regrouped for the evenings big shows.  Might have just been the superior Coachella Stage, but I actually felt the Monkeys were in much sharper form than in their decent Hollywood Bowl set I had seen back last September, and their sound was exceptionally clean...but as with that show, no amount of rehearsal can completely rescue the so-average material that's plagued their last few releases, and from which the bulk of this show's set list was drawn.  Teddy Picker was a decent opener, and I really enjoyed this night's sharp version of Still Take You Home, but otherwise, a spirited performance of nothing special songs.

Here's the Coachella broadcast of Florescent Adolescent.

18. Wolf Gang - 1:00 to 1:40 - The Gobi Tent: This set from the young London-based symphonic electro-poppers could have rated much higher, as what I caught was absolutely ripping, but unfortunately, Rod and I only managed to catch the final three or four minutes following the conclusion of The Sheepdogs set, so just didn't see enough to form a conclusive impression, but I did see enough to know I'll seek this act out live again.

Here's the band's publicity video for the show.

19. Mazzy Star - 8:50 to 9:40 - The Outdoor Theatre: As with Wolf Gang, didn't see near enough of this set to garner a full impression, watching only a few minutes from a distance in transit from Pulp to The Rapture, but what I did hear from these super moody 90s psych-rockers sounded excellent, and while I didn't hear it, word was their closing performance of hit single Fade Into You completely delivered on fans expectations.

Here it is.

20. Abe Vigoda - 12:00 to 12:30 - The Gobi Tent: Oft considered one of the junior resident no-fi punk band of Los Angeles' all ages Smell club (senior no-fi residency claimed by fellow punkers No Age), this stage opening set found this young band favoring their more recent, more new wave textured material to good effect.  Lead singer Mike Vidal's vocals remains a limitation, but is better suited to the more Joy Division-y direction than band now seems to be pursuing than their earlier, rawer straight punk material.

Here's one of just two fan videos I found on Youtube.  Have to admit not sure if weekend one or two.


21.Givers - 2:35 to 3:20 - The Mojave Tent: As will become abundantly clear to those who read all three days of this Coachella review, it was a particularly poor year for Pitchfork-favored twee indie-pop...nearly every band this year with a Vampire Weekend/Beirut/Grizzly Bear/Unicorns-styled slant to their music failed to impress.

In a way, I'm not surprised. We're talking about a subgenre that clearly peaked in 2009 with Merriweather Post Pavillion, Veckatimest and Bitte Ocre, and has been on a slow downhill descent ever since.

In Louisiana-based Givers particular case, I'll give them this...they've got pep.  This was one of the most energetic sets of their entire weekend.  What they lack, unfortunately, is any consistent coherence to their music...the whole show just felt like one poorly thought through contemporary indie-pop cliche pile on top of another...a touch of Caribbean here, an-over-arranged passage there, and strings and xylophones all over the place, all delivered with cluelessly enthusiastic smiles.

Then again, maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon...a lot of people liked this show, but neither Rod nor I were impressed in the slightest.

Here's Ceiling Of Plankton.

22. Mea - 11;20 to 12:05 - The Sahara Tent: While there have been some day-opening set knockouts in recent years (Kate Miller-Heidke in '10, The Love Language and Good Old War in '11), it's usually unfair to ask too much from opening acts, who are as often as not local acts paying to get on the bill rather than invited artists, but Club girl Mea actually got off to a decent start.  She's not much of a singer, but she's also not without some hot/tough girl charisma, and at the start, the music had a cool shoegaze element blended into to it that I found rather compelling.  But technical problems, and Mea's clear concern over them (this was one of those Dirty Projectors-type shows where the band members never stop with hand signalling towards the mixing both) ended up derailing any momentum.

Saw an interview with her later where she copped to this and felt the second weekend set went much better. So, since there are no weekend one videos available, here's a clip from weekend two.

23. Yuck - 3:15 to 4:00 - The Outdoor Theatre: Destroyer's Dan Bejar may have won the individual award for most disengaged performer of the festival, but the full band award, without question, goes to these English 90s revivalists.  Granted, they were fighting some of the worst of the Friday afternoon weather, and suffered from some of the most serious sound issues of any set I heard all weekend (felt like stages front speakers were completely out of phase), but even had all circumstance been perfect, this still would have been one of the dullest and least emotionally involving sets of the weekend...A shame, because some of their songs are flat out great.  Lead singer Daniel Blumberg was the poster child for the stereotypical unhealthy Brit, thin as rail in a Bob Dylanesque way and way strung out, and the rest of the band displayed zero personality.

Still, despite all this, the music didn't sound bad...but for me, given how much I enjoyed their debut album, this was the most disappointing set of the entire weekend.

Here's Get Away.

24. Other Lives - 2:05 to 2:50 - The Gobi Tent: Since the festival, with repeated listens, I've come to appreciate this Oklahoma outfit's somber, lethargic, but often gorgeous mix of orchestral and Americana influences, but going into the festival, having only given latest release Tamer Animals a couple spins, I wasn't much in the mood for the bands slow, slow tempos and the slightly creepy, Manson Family vibe given off by lead singer Jesse Tabish (a hair cut or a shave would do this man wonders).  Basically, this was one of those sets where you needed to be already well-versed in the band's music for it to be enjoyed, and neither Rod nor I were there yet.  We stayed for about ten minutes, and then moved on to Givers.

But again, for those who like orchestral rock with a rooted, almost Spaghetti Western feel, their albums are worth checking out.

Here's my favorite song of theirs, For 12.

25. The Dear Hunter - 2:00 to 2:45 - The Outdoor Theatre: Another band I wasn't too familiar with going into the festival, but I had scanned their discography quickly before coming, and was intrigued by the band's ambitiously thematic nature of their numerous EP releases.  Another chamber pop act with a strong Americana lean, Rod and I caught a few tracks early in the set, the first one was a solid ballad, the next two did nothing for us, and the band has very little live charisma...though I must admit, I am still interested in going back and checking out some of those EPs.

Unfortunately, there are no week one videos available on Youtube, so here's a clip from the second, much sunnier week two.

26. Wallpaper - 12:10 to 12:50 - The Mojave Tent: Uggh.  Just a type of low-brow, meat-head-targeted club music I have never, ever liked.  Rod and I lasted all of ninety seconds at this one before realizing even that paltry time allotment had been too long. Shades of Miquel cheese-fest from last year, but much, much worse.

Hands down winner of lamest act on the 2012 bill.  Here's a touch of their inspired mediocrity.


Dawes - Heard nice things about their set.
Atari Teenage Riot - Supposedly had a very small crowd, but were great.
M83 - For many who attended, one of the highlights of the day.
Explosions In The Sky - Supposedly another excellent set during that Black Keys/M83/EITS logjam.
Amon Tobin - The festivals best DJ light show.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

McQ's Coachella 2012 Preview - Sunday Day 3

As was the case in 2011, Sunday is the edgiest day of 2012 and also the hardest day to gauge.  Overflowing with rap, electronic, and experimental acts, expect Sunday evening's crowds to thin considerably as the indie rock lovers bolt after Florence & The Machine's and Beirut's likely 7ish mainstage/Outdoor Theater sets, leaving a final four hours designed exclusively for ravers, hip hoppers and lovers of 90s aggression.

Of course, Goldenvoice could alter this by throwing one of the days huge rocks draws...say the Hives, Wild Beasts, or Wild the end of the day as a counter program to Dr. Dre/Snoop, but my guess is this will not happen, as the festival has clearly spent a ton of money on the Dre/Snoop show and will likely clear the other stages save for the Sahara and one or two "low on the undercard" victims in the smaller tents.

Otherwise, Sunday is grazer's paradise, full of  intriguing artists, but few I'd classify as "must sees."  So relax, wind down, and let your feet take you wherever your ears suggest.

Finally, the festival is just three days away and set times will hopefully come out tonight, so not sure I'm going to get a chance to profile all of Sunday's main artists...but let's get started and see how many we can hit nonetheless.


1) Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog - A huge, huge get, it's been more than a decade since these two have performed together in any extended capacity, and rumors floating around the set's conclusion are rampant - from a likely Eminem cameo to $250,000 spent for a holographic recreation of Tupac Shakur that will join the others on stage. Regardless of what pans out, it's likely this was Goldenvoice's most costly, McCartney/Prince-level booking of the entire festival (though I'm sure Radiohead didn't come cheap), so definitely worth catching at least some of.  I know I'm in for the duration unless we get a Wild Beasts, Hives, or Greg Ginn counter program.  Three caveats.  1) Not that this will be much of an issue for a Coachella crowd, but if you are unfamiliar with Dre's body of work, and also easily offended, skip this set. Dre is one of raps all-time great beat makers, and the show should be one awesome chill groove after another, but he is, or at least was back in his day, as "Gangster" as they come.  The lyrics for this set will be full of extremely coarse, violent and highly misogynistic content.  2) I'd bet even money Snoop and Dre will come on late, so don't waste time you could be seeing other great artists waiting for these two to take the stage, instead, just keep an eye/ear out for the mainstage cheers when they do come on and then race over. 3) My guess is this show, ala the Cure, Prince, and McCartney, will also run way late...don't think you'll be getting out of this one at 12 as listed on the schedule...Goldenvoice has too much money invested in this one, they will pay the "past end time" community fines here and let Snoop & Dre go as long as they want to go.  My bet is this set ends around 1 AM.

2) Greg Ginn & The Royal We - A founding member of Black Flag, and a decade's long roving artist with a massive, incredibly eclectic back catalog, Ginn is punk rock royalty, one of the genre's greatest guitarists.  In his latest incarnation with the Royal We, he's been dabbling in heavy integration of electronic elements, so expect this to be a very experimental set rather than a raw punk show, but it could end up being one of the most unique sets of the weekend.  I'd also anticipate him going on very late in one of the tents, quite possibly against Snoop & Dr. Dre.

3) At The Drive In - Known more now as the band that spawned the Mars Volta, this is the group's first time performing together in a long, long while. Given the festival's deep roots in 90s alternative rock, this is one of this year's most buzzed about reunions, but I've never cared much for the band's grating vocals and spastic, riff heavy, Rage Against The Machine-lite sound.  So enjoy them, those who are going, it's sure to be a high energy, hard rocking show, but my guess is I'll be somewhere else...especially if they're going against The Weeknd.

4) Company Flow - Another very intriguing rap get, Company Flow was a highly influential mid-90s rap act out of New York that only put out one classic album, Funcrusher Plus, but seemed to open up new possibilities with it's moodier, experimental beats.  Also interracial, it features one of rap's first legitimate white MC's in El-P.

5) Sean Kuti & Egypt 80 - Afro-pop king Fela Kuti's son Sean takes the stage with member's from his father's original band in what's sure to be one of the liveliest, funkiest sets of the entire weekend. If the schedule breaks for you, this is one act that may not be on your radar that is absolutely worth checking out.

6) DJ Shadow - Probably should have just put DJ Shadow in the Returning Favs section, but it's now been well over a decade since he released all time classic Endtroducing, one of the most influential electronic/instrumental hip-hop albums ever, now rate amongst the top 100 rock releases of all time.  An  artist known for his brilliant integration of vinyl samples, he's also touring presently with one of the most exciting light shows in a genre renown for its exciting light shows. If you catch one electronic artist all weekend, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one than DJ Shadow.

For a Spotify! Playlist of Sunday's Reunion's & Past Masters, click here!

Monday, April 2, 2012

McQ's Coachella 2012 Preview - Saturday Day Two

Saturday's Rap & Soul acts added 04/06/2012

Saturday of Coachella 2012 is a bloodbath, so overstocked with exceptional contemporary artists, rare older bands, and top-notch up-and-coming indie acts that it feels like a deliberate attempt on Goldenvoice's part to justify the purchases of passes to both weekends instead of just one. Anyone attending just one weekend this year will end up missing more "must see" shows Saturday than they will see.

But whatever path you end up choosing, Saturday has the potential to be one of the greatest single days in Coachella history, albeit, also one of the mellowest, especially in the evening hours, where I suspect Jeff Mangum, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bon Iver, The Shins, Fiest, Flying Lotus, and Radiohead will all get their turns at bat.

So to help you plot your Saturday course wisely, here's a quick look at each of Saturday's main artists.

1) Jeff Mangum - Mangum, the founder of the Elephant-6 pop collective that produced the likes of Of Montreal and The Apples In Stereo, and also lead singer/principal songwriter for the legendary 90s indie act Neutral Milk Hotel, has recently returned to performing after nearly a decade spent avoiding the stage. Expect a mostly solo acoustic set at sunset on the Outdoor Theater loaded with songs from Neutral Milk Hotel's cherished 1998 release In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.  This show may prove too monolithic for those unfamiliar with Neutral Milk Hotel's music, but this is a very special get, and I encourage everyone in attendance to make time for a least a portion of this set.

2) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Like Friday's Explosions In The Sky, GY!BE is one of the last decade's most important instrumental post-rock acts. Godspeed has a more classical/orchestral take on the genre, and it will be interesting to see if they are given longer than the typical 50 minutes, as the band's songs tend to run over the twenty minute mark.  They have been performing very regularly as of late, but otherwise my feelings towards this act are the same as they are towards other acts in this section...this is another  special get, and I highly recommended making time for a least a portion of this set.  If they are in a tent, try to get there a touch before the start, as this is likely to be a very crowded show.

3) Squeeze - The most classic-rock minded, least new wave of Britain's original new wave artists, this playful 80s act delivers a brand of clever, literate pop highly indebted to The Beatles and other 60s pop acts of their ilk.  Hopefully  performing early-to-mid afternoon in one of the tents, expect a quick, lively jaunt through their greatest hits.  This has the chance to be a thoroughly charming set.

4) The Buzzcocks - One of the UK's original punk acts, rating just below The Clash and Sex Pistols in terms of significance from that era, The Buzzcocks delivered the poppiest brand of punk of the three, full of hooks and snarling, humorous lyrics worthy of Ray Davies.  Hoping against hope that Goldenvoice finds an open spot in the schedule for them, cause this is an act you will have scant chance to see again. Another near must I expect to see performing during the day and would only consider passing up if scheduled against contemporary acts Tune-Yards or Destroyer.

5) fIREHOSE - Don't let the name fool you, this is basically The Minutemen, reformed with new guitarist Ed Crawford after original guitarist D. Boon's tragic death in 1987.  A fine band in their own right that produced a couple of near classic albums, don't expect to hear any Minutemen tracks, but as the bands had almost identical styles, that Minutemen spirit will live on.  This is the first time the band has performed since the once again, a very special, rare get. Expect a blitzkrieg set of over twenty songs.

6) Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Oasis's principal songwriter returns to Coachella with his own band this time, but expect either an early evening or stage closing set composed as much from Oasis standards as original High Flying Birds material.  Not a show I'm personally excited about, but given how mellow Saturday night projects to be, could be a welcome change of pace.

For a Spotify! playist profiling Saturday's Reunions and Past Masters, click here!

1) Bon Iver - You know you've crossed over to the mainstream when Justin Timberlake starts parodying you on Saturday Night Live, but I hope the public's embrace of Bon Iver doesn't dissuade more cynical hipster types from seeing this set, because Bon Iver's Justin Vernon may be the most significant pop artist of the moment, and the surest bet for a great set at the entire festival.  Ever since breaking through with his raw, spare debut For Emma, Forever Ago, the best album of 2008, Vernon has been everywhere, leaving a relentless trail of excellence in his wake.  In addition to his lush 2011 self-titled follow up, which was Pitchfork's album of the year, he was a big collaborator on Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Anais Mitchell's wonderful Hadestown, The National's High Violet, Volcano Choir's Unmap, and Gayngs 80s R&B kitsch exploration Relayted.  On top of that, the nine-piece act he is presently traveling with is simply killing it live.  I haven't seen him yet myself, but many good friends I trust emphatically all have, and say his recent shows rank among the best concert experiences they have ever witnessed. So, one caveat, if you are one of the few unfamiliar with Bon Iver, this is an exceptionally mellow, soft rock act, but as long as that idea in itself isn't a turn off, be sure to attend and let the washes of lush beauty roll over your body.  Expect massive crowds at a mainstage set just before headliner Radiohead, and I highly recommend viewing from the left side of the stage, to minimize any sound bleed that may be floating over from the outdoor theater.  This is my personal number one must see for the entire weekend.

2) Tune-Yards - Another 2011 critical darling, this indie-act destroyed at last year's Pitchfork Festival and may be the freshest artist out there right now.  Fronted by the unbelievably unique Merrill Garbus, a white woman with an androgynous voice that ranges from the gentlest of feminine coos to explosive roars that sound like a raging male Rastafarian, there has never, ever been a voice like hers before.  Couple that voice with a highly adventurous, in-your-face, everything-but-the-kitchen sink indie sound that draws from Afro-pop, reggae, electronica, classic avant-gardists like Captain Beefheart, and folk legends like Woodie Guthrie, and you've got the makings for a definite best set of the entire weekend contender. Expect a mid-afternoon set in one of the tents, and get there a few minutes early, her show will be packed.  If you check out one artist you haven't heard of before in this year's line-up, it should be Tune-Yards.

3) Radiohead - What can I say, arguably one of the 10-15 greatest rock acts ever, and unarguably the most significant and consistently excellent act of the last twenty years, Radiohead is the holy grail of Coachella acts. On top of that, they are the best sounding live act ever...and pairing their obsession with live acoustics with the Coachella mainstage, the best sounding outdoor venue I've ever heard is a recipe for sonic bliss.  For those that haven't seen them before, they are hardly the most gregarious of bands, tending to get lost in their music rather than inviting interaction with the crowd, but it doesn't matter, because their songs and their sonic creativity are off the charts. Expect a moody, lower key set emphasizing songs from their latest minimalist release The King of  Limbs, and their most romantic effort, 2007's In Rainbows, with a smattering of earlier classics that best connect with the general mood of those other two albums. I may skip a portion just because I've seen them so many times already and there are bound to be some nasty conflicts, but I'm hoping against hope to be freed to see the entire set. And if you haven't seen them yet, unless you just hate arty prog rock, you'd be crazy to opt for anyone else.

For a Spotify! playlist profiling these Saturday Sure Things, click here.

1) The Black Lips - One of the ultimate carefree band of our times, The Black Lips cater in charmingly snotty, primitive "Animals like" garage rock delivered with punkish abandon under the influence of significant amounts of alcohol.  Capable of pulling just about any prank on stage, from the riotous to the urinary, how good they are on a given night depends largely on how far gone their motor skills are.  If they hit a still coherent inebriated sweet spot, this has the potential to be one of the weekend's best sets.  But they can and do sometimes cross the line into total alcohol impairment, so their sets can also turn out to be a colossal waste of time (Though rumor is they've been scaling back on the drinking recently).  Don't be surprised if Paul Tollett schedules against instinct this year and has them play early in the day before they can get a significant buzz going, a strategy that delivered miracles in 2010 when they performed with King Kahn in their gospel side project The Almighty Defenders.  Either way, their latest album Arabia Mountain is arguably their best collection of songs to date, so the set list should be fun. Not a top priority for me having seen them multiple times before, but still a show I'm hoping to have a chance to catch.

2) The Shins - The Shins have given us many moments of indie pop magic over the last decade, but what was once a group is now really a solo performing vehicle for lead singer/songwriter James Mercer, as he fired the rest of the original act some years back.  With Mercer a bit of a wallflower on stage, the band has usually been better on record than stage, so the chances of this being a fairly lackluster set are high. That said, they have knocked it out of the park live on occasion, and their set list should be great, most likely including older tracks Saint Simon, Phantom Limb, and Wincing The Night Away in addition to latest release Port Of Morrow's strongest tracks Bait & Switch and Simple Song, so definitely worth giving the band a shot.  Just, as with most of these question mark acts, have a clear backup plan ready to go if Mercer's having another off night.

For a Spotify! playlist profiling these Saturday Question Mark Acts, click here!

1) Destroyer - Led by Canadian Dan Bejar, whose probably better known as a key member of power pop outfit The New Pornographers, Destroyer has always been, to me at least, the most interesting of the New Pornographer offshoots (Neko Case and AC Newman's solo outings being the others), dabbling in long, highly literate talk-sing ruminations that feel like the in vitro love child of Highway 61-era Bob Dylan and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie.  The band hit critical pay dirt in 2011 by changing up their sound, diving head first into the year's late 70s/early 80s R&B kitsch movement, and coming out with a sonically wonderful little gem entitled second favorite album of last year.  Having not seen the band before, I have concerns about how well Bejar's talk-sing vocal style will play live, but can't wait to hear the band recreates Kaputt's mellow/smooth textures. If you were ever a fan of Roxy Music's Avalon, this is a must see.  Look for an afternoon tent set, possibly early as Goldenvoice seeks to eliminate conflicts with other critical darlings like Tune-Yards and St. Vincent.

2) Bon Iver - see Saturday's Sure Things above.

3) Tune-Yards - again, see Saturday's Sure Things above.

4) St. Vincent - The primary performance vehicle for Sufjan Stevens backup singer and one-time Polyphonic Spree member Annie Clark, St. Vincent has earned raves for each of its three releases, especially hardest rocking latest effort Strange Mercy, which landed 5th or 6th in the final 2011 collective critic poll.  A unique artist with a gorgeous choral voice and an unyielding drive to combine her love of old-time Disney songs with "gnarly" punkish guitar, her orchestral style is very hit and miss for me, but every album has produced three or four knockout songs, and she's a captivating performer live.  I have no idea where they will end up scheduling her, but look for a set that leans heaviest on Strange Mercy, but pulls favorites from all three albums. Definitely worth checking out.

5) Flying Lotus - One of the most influential DJ artists of the last half decade, Flying Lotus's Robbie Coltrane (yes, he's a direct relative of John) brings a very unusual and eclectic sensibility to the turntable, focused more on crafting collages of pure sound and mood as often as creating anything linear or dance-worthy.  As I have clearly stated before, I am not a DJ guy when it comes to live shows, but this is one artist for which a make an happy exception.  Expect a late night set in one of the smaller tents wedged around Radiohead featuring lots of mind-warping, jazzy numbers from 2010's Cosmogramma.  And don't be surprised if Thom Yorke and/or Thundercat joins him on stage as they have done before in LA before.

6) Feist - One of Canadian collective Broken Social Scene's key initial female members, Feist broke through  huge with her '07 solo album The Reminder and its I-Pod plugged hit 1,2,3,4. Last year's Metals didn't fare quite as well critically, but was still positively received. Expect a very mellow, torch song flavored set early evening on The Outdoor Theater, but fans, don't get your hopes up for 1,2,3,4...she hasn't been performing it on her present tour.

7) Laura Marling - Super young, monster-voiced British folkie who plies her trade deeply rooted in the Sandy Denny/Fairport Convention tradition, Marling has already released three well-received albums despite still being younger than most American college seniors.  Personally, I enjoyed her debut, was bored silly by her sophomore effort, and am intrigued by her latest releases Joni Mitchell-ish turn.  If you're looking for some tradition, female fronted acoustic folk, Marling, along with Sunday's First Aid Kit, is your best bet.

8) SBTRKT - London drums & bass artist Aaron Jerome dabbles in a merge of many contemporary electronic styles that ends up sounding much like 70s disco-flavored jazz fusion (very similar in vein also to the music of Sunday's Thundercat).  I like his latest album, and frequent vocal contributor Sampha, who will hopefully be joining Jerome on stage, has an excellent voice, but looking at the day's lineup, I struggle to see how Goldenvoice will create a schedule window where SBTRKT would be my priority act.

For a Spotify! playlist highlighting Saturday's Critical Darlings, click here!

1) Andrew Bird - One of the more original singer-songwriter types of the last decade, Bird combines an almost traditional, James Taylor-ish vibe with a number of clever quirks that cause his initially accessible music to feel more and more unique with repeated listens.  A exceptionally clever lyricist given to explorations of nontraditional subject matter, a classically trained violinist, and a phenomenal whistler, Bird is  even better live than on record, where the dynamics of watching him loop vocals and change instruments every eight measures add a lot of visual dynamics to his relatively mellow catalog.  On the flip side though, and I'm just calling it as I hear,  his recent release Break It Yourself is a bit of a dud, lacking anything close to the typical two-to-four home run tracks that have adorned his previous three records, so based on his most recent material, which will most likely make up the majority of his Coachella set, it's hard to give Bird an enthusiast plug on such a loaded festival day, though in an individual concert setting, he's an artist still well worth seeking out.

2) Miike Snow - A performance outlet for famed Britney Spears, Madonna, Kylie Minogue production team Bloodshy & Avant, which pairs them with vocalist Andrew Wyatt, Miike Snow traffics in the catchiest brand of synth-pop.  The critics aren't big fans, but some of the group's hooks are irresistible. Making their second appearance (first was in 2010), they are a huge fan favorite...expect massive crowds, most likely on an evening set on the outdoor or in the Mojave.

3) Kaiser Chiefs - A key band in the Mid-Aught's British Mod-Punk revival that also included Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads, Kaiser Chiefs last two releases, including 2012's Start The Revolution Without Me, haven't been up to snuff with earlier releases Employment and Off With Their Heads, but they remain a crack live outfit armed with a number of excellent, simultaneously rocking and hook-ridden songs...definitely worth checking out if you haven't already OD'd on the large number of Brit-rock/Punk/Garage Rock offerings in this year's lineup. I have no idea where they will be scheduled, but for the band's sake, an early day set would work to their favor...they'll get crushed going up against the likely evening heavyweights.

4) The Big Pink - In all honesty, possibly the worst booking in the entire lineup...a flash in the pan Brit Rock/MGMT-style band that played a few years back on the strength of their hits Dominoes and Velvet and that have done nothing noteworthy since, at least nothing meriting a return trip to Indio.  They're still playing Dominoes and Velvet in all their recent shows, so if your schedule breaks, I'm not saying it's a complete waste of time to give them a few minutes, but otherwise, this is one of the easiest non-Sahara skips of the weekend.

For a Spotify! playlist of Saturday's Returning Fan Favorites, click here!

1) A$AP Rocky - One of the bigger new names to emerge in rap in 2011, this promising New York-bred 23-year-old rapper's music actually has a displaced vibe, feeling more of a piece with the traditions of Southern rap.  Lyrically, he's as amoral as past acts such as Clipse and Ghostface Killah, but his dreamy, murky beats, most ably created by rising production star Clams Casino, are first rate...right on the cutting edge of contemporary rap.  Hard to say where he'll be placed, but an afternoon mainstage performance ala Whiz Kalifia and Lupe Fiasco in recent years isn't out of the question.

2) Gary Clark Jr. - Filling the Bluesman/Gunslinger slot that Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears owned in 2011 is fellow Austin, TX denizen Gary Clark Jr.  He's just starting to pick up steam as a recording artists, but his explosive guitar chops, often likened to venerated deceased masters Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, are nothing short of extraordinary.  Simply put, Clark Jr. may be the best guitarist in the entire lineup.  Expect an early afternoon set hitting a wide range of soul, blues, and rock 'n' roll feels highlighted by some face-melting solos.

3) Azealia Banks - Another young breakout rap star who hit it huge this last year with single 212, Banks combines some of the performance flair of Nicki Minaj with the genre-hopping dexterity of fellow Coachella 2012 performer Santigold. It will be interesting to see how she fills her set, having only released a few singles to date, but she does have a debut album coming out later in the year.

4) Childish Gambino - The musical alter-ego of NBC hit Community actor Donald Glover, don't let the actor who raps tag prevent you from checking this set out.  If anything, Glover's acting chops add range, heart, and lyrical adventurousness to an often thematically stagnant genre, and his 2011 release Camp was one of the year's finest rap albums. Expect a wide range of feels to this set, but anchored in the gentler, lusher sounds of peers Drake, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West.

Up next for Saturday - Saturday's Little Guys, but first we hop over to take a look at Sunday's bigger draws.