[Editor's Note: Last week, commenter Michael_ came through with coverage of Coachella's first weekend from the commenter perspective, and he did so well that he opened the portal for others. Our dude Raptor Jesus put his hand up for weekend two, and we obliged. Opinions expressed in this writeup do not reflect the views of raptors and/or Jesus.]
Coachella is the reason I love music. May 1, 2004. Singing “Paranoid Android” aloud amongst a sea of people. Calling a friend during “Creep” (Creep!) and leaving a message. He saved that message for 30 days until his phone automatically deleted it. Technology those days! Right now? You’re one mouse click away from seeing Radiohead’s weekend one concert in its entirety. Technology these days! Knowing that most everybody else has already had some sort of Coachella experience by either attending or watching on their computer. Knowing that for the third Sunday in a row there would be a historical resurrection. Knowing that I’d hear “The Knowing.” Could Coachella truly replicate itself across two separate weekends? Two Tupacs?! Without further adieu, déjà vu:
Day 1, Friday 4/20
While the idea of seeing Neon Indian five minutes past 4:20 on 4/20 seems like a good idea, 420 degree temperatures (estimated) made this idea burn up like everything else on the Empire Polo Fields. Alan Palomo, wearing all black like a maniac, pointed out that playing Coachella twice is akin to skydiving twice. Sure. If the second time is through the Earth’s atmosphere, maybe. It was three songs in before I realized my face was beginning to resemble Harvey Dent. I fled to the nearby tents to seek precious shade. Girls were next and I’m glad I saved my energy. Even though the sun was still hating everyone, I took solace in knowing that Christopher Owens was likely having the same reaction. Playing directly into the sun, Girls managed to make me forget about the temperatures and enjoy the first great set of the festival (plus my first time seeing Girls). During set highlight “Love Like a River,” I imagined the crowd floating around in intertubes on said river. The desert does a number on the imagination. Girls ended ten minutes early and did not play “Die” for what I expect was actual fear of someone dying/melting. The cultish WU LYF was in a nearby tent ready to sing the sun away. Seeing the sun sit like a crown on top of the nearby mountains provided a proper visual for hearing the “Go Tell Fire to the Mountain” songs. Before playing album highlight “Such a Sad Puppy Dog,” gravel voiced Elle Jaie announced they’d be playing, “slow and sincere.” As the sun vanished and the heat clasped round my chest withered away, the Frank Ocean crazies piled in. Before the show I saw Taco wondering around sidestage with who I later identified as EARL. Free at last. After seeing Frank play three songs in an E. Honda t-shirt, I slowly freed myself from the five foot girls to go see the end of Pulp. Made it just in time for “This Is Hardcore” and “Common People” before relocating again for the Rapture. This would be the highlight of Day 1. However, we need to start a campaign to get Mattie back in the band. Songs from “Pieces of the People We Love” suffer in his absence. I am happy to report that I survived M83 by standing next to the sound booth rail. What a great show. Closing with “Couleurs” (my favorite M83 song) after “Midnight City” was perfect as half the tent had dispersed. The crowd looked packed and I did see someone carted away on a stretcher thirty minutes post show … so good times varied. Heard the Black Angels cover “The National Anthem” before seeing The Horrors do an excellent set mix of their two recent albums. The repetitive pulses of “Sea Within a Sea” and “Moving Further Away” highlighted my exhaustion as I got lost between the notes. They closed with the latter as Day 1 ended with Farris Badwan harpooning amplifiers with his mic stand.
Day 2, Saturday 4/21
Saturday began with a sacrifice. Destroyer’s outdoor 2:30 set had to be skipped due to extreme heat. I didn’t even arrive until Buzzcocks were five songs from finished. The delay proved to be rewarding as it made Jeff Mangum the first full set of Saturday. Now, I’m convinced somebody scientifically scheduled Mangum’s set to take place during perpetual sundown. It began right after the sun ducked behind a mountain and ended with the subtlest shades of blue and green on the horizon. Everything in between was prismatic radiance. When Mangum sang, “What a beautiful face / I have found in this place / That is circling all around the sun,” the crowd was forgiven for thinking it was written just for us. Raptor Jesus wept. Mangum would later stop the show to check on someone that had passed out, likely due to the weight of the performance combined with leftover heat. I wondered over to St. Vincent just in time to see the two sides of Annie Clark. She talked about the importance of Record Store Day and that her last song would be the song released today. She then ripped into “KROKODIL” in a manner I could describe as either feral or explosive. She made her way into the crowd and surfed in a borderline violent fashion. It was incredible. The two things I heard about Flying Lotus’ Coachella set proved to be untrue. First, that he’d be playing his new album (just a few new ones off the top). Second, he’d be playing with live drums and Thundercat (only at the end for a live “MmmHmm”). Instead, it was a FlyLo solo show, riddled with material from his albums and reworks of other rappers. Highlights included: Sped up Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel” with Quincy’s verse, Drake’s “Headlines” complete with crowd sung chorus and a grand finale of Waka Flocka’s “Hard In Da Paint” so hard that Earl Sweatshirt ran out on stage to enjoy the moment. Godspeed You! Black Emperor proved to be a perfect follow-up. Time to take a seat and rest up in preparation for Radiohead. To my pleasant surprise, most of the crowd also felt it was time for a seat. Mixing up their setlist from last week, they played “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls” (a personal favorite) mid set. I need to point out that both Jeff Mangum and GY!BE’s shows sans big screens really did make all the difference. Both shows actually felt like the rare and intimate moments most fans had expected. Then there was Radiohead. Thankfully they improved their setlist from last week by including “Kid A” and closing out the show with the best live version of “Exit Music (For A Film)” I’ve ever heard. Everyone was quiet and respectful! Notably, Thom recently talked about how they didn’t plan to do big festivals this year. What changed their mind? It’s not about them, it’s “about the collective” as he motioned to the crowd. Eh, sure. I’m sure the millions don’t hurt either.
Day 3, Sunday 4/22
I approached the outdoor stage to the sound of “Crew Love.” Running late to avoid the solar death rays, the Weeknd was beginning to end my weekend. The best parts were the “House of Balloons” tracks and the rest of the set felt flat. I then saw Justice for my first time and can safely say I never want to see that again. At The Drive-In, or as Cedric introduced the band, “Jim and The Holograms,” was a welcome change. After a full dose of Omar guitar shredding, it was time for a DJ Shadow interlude before the main event. The mix that made it worth the walk was “Rabbit In Your Headlights” versus A$AP Rocky’s “Wassup.” Coachella’s grande finale did not disappoint. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg are MCs in the truest form. Opening with “The Next Episode” won the crowd over instantly. We were in Snoop’s hands all evening, singing his name in every other song. The guest list was impressive: Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Eminem, Tupac! The hologram was pretty funny the second time around with everyone already in the know. Girls leaping onto men’s shoulders to see a real live illusion. I even saw a shirtless man hop onto the shoulders of another shirtless man. Would that man be considered a bro? Discuss. But as Snoop said in a very surprised and satisfied smile near the beginning, “This feels good Doc.” They were right at home rapping in a desert oasis on the West coast. Singing along to “California Love” and “Forgot About Dre” with a crowd of thousands is what Coachella can provide. Partying on a Sunday night celebrating 20 years of Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg.