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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nine Notable Acts from Coachella Weekend One

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 11:53 AM

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I’ve covered Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, and South by Southwest — and of course, Noise Pop, Outside Lands, and Treasure Island — but until this weekend I’d never been to Coachella. In a lot of ways, it’s just like all the others, with Heineken wristbands, fringed leather, and not-especially-surreptitious MDMA consumption. But owing to Indio’s proximity to L.A., the surprise guests are many and the fashionistas are legion.

It was luxurious to sweat profusely after remembering that I didn’t take my winter jacket off once at Outside Lands 2013, but some people there wore furs all the same. While there were many lovely moments — from Bernie Sanders introducing Run the Jewels to The Arcs’ baffling surprise guest (Joe Walsh from The Eagles) to rumors that the organizers plan to stage a dad-baiting mega-concert in October with The Who, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, and other septuagenarians you might not have many more chances to see — here are our picks for the most notable acts of Weekend One. 

Parov Stelar
I’ll be blunt: I wasn’t familiar with Austrian electro-swinger Marcus Füreder, but after the sturm und drang of a turbulent flight followed by a Lyft, a shuttle, an Uber, and another shuttle to get my credentials, this show was a high-energy delight to walk into. “Demon Dance,” which has strong overtones of the Gramophone era from a country whose borders have since been redrawn, but with a live sax. I can see Parov Stelar accruing haters for being a variation of euro-trash nonsense corrupting Coachella’s indie roots, but the live show was indisputably fantastic. Gogol Bordello this isn’t, and the gorgeous woman who rocks the mic happens to possess the extraordinary name Cleo Panther. LCD Soundsystem
The return of James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem is great news for everybody. The quintessential New York hipster looked almost buttoned-down Friday night — neck-beard notwithstanding — but as the exemplar of the phrase “Shut up and play the hits,” he heeded his own wisdom. “Us Vs. Them” gave way to “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” (which vaulted LCD to notoriety in 2005) and the magnificent “I Can Change.” The set followed a standard climactic arc as “Someone Great” turned into “Losing My Edge” and then the band’s best song, “Home.” This bled into “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” which in turn became a brief “November Rain” homage (just as Hot Chip’s cover of “Dancing in the Dark" morphs into LCD’s “All My Friends”). While we applaud Murphy for biting back on his tendency to banter — giving the band the time for an extra song, or so he said — let’s not overlook Nancy Whang, who’s also in The Juan MacLean, either, because her vocals are integral to the band’s sound. Can’t wait to see LCD Soundsystem again at Outside Lands. Also, can’t wait to hear the new album.
CHVRCHES, the Scottish electric band, are always a lovely sight, and for a band that’s been around barely four years, they feel like a festival staple. They’ll likely never exceed the fame and fortune won by fellow Scot Calvin Harris, but through a 10-song set that drew equally from 2013’s The Bones of What You Believe and 2015’s Every Open Eye, they owned the main Coachella stage for the final 50 minutes of the afternoon, whooping about the stage in a barely controlled frenzy. Sunsets at Coachella are beautiful as a rule, but coming off a high-intensity CHVRCHES set as the sun goes down behind the mountains is a perfect distillation of festival bliss. Disclosure
Someone had to bring out the most cameos, and that someone was Disclosure. The inordinately talented British wunderkinds Howard and Guy Lawrence didn’t play “Help Me Lose My Mind,” but they brought out Sam Smith on “Omen,” Lorde on “Magnets,” AlunaGeorge on “White Noise,” as well as Kwabs and Brendan Reilly. Oh, and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” sounded — by all accounts from people who’d been there — it sounded better than it did when they played it on the same stage two years ago.
Australian trio RÜFÜS (or RÜFÜS DU SOL, as they’re known in North America) have honed otherwise nocturnal house music into a softer party for sunny climes. Apart from the sheer joy of listening to LCD Soundsystem six years after they disintegrated, RÜFÜS’ set was probably the greatest segment of the entire festival, if only because a greater proportion of the crowd was peaking than at any other. As the quasi-Vangelis synths on “Innerbloom” resolved into the refrain, “If you want me, if you need me, I’m yours,” it was like being enveloped in a group hug. Oh, and they played a secret show at Do Lab on Sunday, too.
Guns N’ Roses
It didn’t help that he was mostly laid up with a broken foot, but Axl Rose has aged poorly: He falls somewhere between Mark Hamill and Bud Cort, who played Harold in Harold and Maude and then went to hell. (Slash, however, looks exactly the same as in 1991.) But Rose still has his pipes. Although the 15 years they spent on Chinese Democracy spurred GNR to lard up the first half of their (25-song!) set with cuts off from it, the hits dribbled out. “Welcome to the Jungle,” You Could Be Mine” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” commingled with some decent Misfits and AC/DC covers, although the promised pyrotechnics were pretty weak. “November Rain,” which was more of a power-ballad than even Meat Loaf could muster, sounded crystal-clear, and “Paradise City,” — the last final bit of the three-song encore — was a great song to walk back to the shuttles to. I justified skipping Grimes to see Guns N’ Roses on the grounds that the former is coming to S.F. this week and the latter might cash their alleged $8 million Coachella paycheck and immediately implode.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
Apart from Run the Jewels, the biggest Bernie Sanders shout-out came from Nathaniel Rateliff, who demanded at least three times that everyone vote for the Vermont senator. Whether you’re a Bernie Bro or a Shillary, you can’t go wrong hearing some Missouri R&B belted out into the full heat of day as if this were some roadhouse and they were getting paid in free beer. As Axl Rose nailed the high notes, the bearded, pug-nosed Rateliff tore apart the middle range with a voice that could have come down from Mt. Olympus on a thunderbolt. Perhaps the finest act for getting situated and meeting up with your friends in the shade at the beer garden.
Matt & Kim
While the members of CHVRCHES have an adorable on-stage presence — charming Glaswegian Lauren Mayberry in particular seems to be talking her way through her stage fright — Matt & Kim have mastered the art of banter. The Brooklyn duo burned through their set with plenty of I-love-you declarations and references to the highly satisfactory morning sex they’d had that day, before releasing a ton of balloons. Matt dorks out affably, Kim grins compulsively; they covered Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Van Halen’s “Jump."  They walked down Grand Street in daylight. I’m not sure I know anybody who owns a Matt & Kim record, but an audience with this big-sounding duo is a must whenever they’re on the bill.
Calvin Harris
And there was yet more Rihanna to come. Remember when Calvin Harris was a goofball armed with faux-swagger who released songs like “Acceptable in the '80s” on an album called I Created Disco? Now he’s a Giorgio Armani underwear model, dating Taylor Swift, and merging into the global DJ hyper-complex. Although Swift reportedly flew to Texas and back for a wedding this weekend, she was there to see Harris bring out Rihanna — not for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but well into the set for “We Found Love.” People expect big stuff like this, and the organizers tease it hard, but the fusion of pop megastars is what Coachella does best. Simply by virtue of being in a massive crowd, it will excite you. No matter how cynical you get about a festival that began in 1999 with Pavement and Spiritualized, it helps to remember that the headliner that year was Tool
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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