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Coachella 2014 review: Day 3

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesPhoto by Frazer Harrison

Coachella 2014: Day 3

Rating:
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After a night of deflecting the dust storm and trying to find the way back to camp, Sunday looked to be a nice reprieve from the insanity of the prior two days of Coachella. Luckily, the lineup was just as jampacked with talent, albeit a little different than what was offered previous. Check out how I spent my Sunday in Indio with the following bands!

Jason Kempin/Getty Image
Jason Kempin/Getty ImagePhoto by Jason Kempin

Blood Orange

Dev Hynes is a bit of a virtuoso, working with everyone from Florence and the Machine to The Chemical Brothers over the past few years. The comparisons to Prince make sense, given his smooth voice and mega-collaborative output. His stage was littered with musicians, most powerfully one of the funkiest basses of the weekend.

This was one of those extremely pleasant daytime sets that just make sense for a festival like this, or even FYF. Lo-fi electronica with a backing band hasn't been done well thus far and Hynes might be making the case for why it takes a special artist to make it work.

Alesso

Being one of the top DJs in the world and also coming from Sweden means one thing: your Sahara performance better be good. Luckily for Alesso, it was and just about anybody who came in to see some fist-pumping tunes left happy. He spun two years ago to much appreciation and this time was no difference, although Flosstradamus was absolutely destroying the Mojave tent next door, creating some competition for those looking to jump up and down.

He played a ton of mixes, from Zedd and Dirty South to Axwell and the rest of the Swedish House Mafia crew. It was pretty positive vibe for a daytime Sahara tent, even if he wasn't able to unload all the lasers he probably would have liked to.

Neutral Milk Hotel

Jeff Mangum and his crew of shy merrymen delivered the type of set you'd expect from a semi-hermit during the daytime: quiet, reserved, and excellent. They haven't put out music together in nearly two decades, but those in attendance knew exactly what was in store.

Mangum asked the crowd not to use their phones during the set to capture any of the audio (media was not allowed into the pit for their set either) and while some disregarded that advice, most gave the band the respect it asked for. For this, they were treated to a succinct and stellar set from a group of guys twice the age of most in attendance.

For all the electronic sets that go on throughout the fest and the history of amazing rock and roll bands that Indio brings every year, it was nice to see a beloved rock group come out from the shadows and delight their worshippers for an hour. Nearly every lyric was sang back toward the stage, a sign of a true following that should leave Mangum feeling pretty good about his place in the world.

Calvin Harris

Man, whoever decided to put Harris on the main stage made the right move, as the field became instantly swarmed when his set started. Hit after hit bellowed out of the massive speakers, giving those far away from the Sahara plenty to rave about.

He kicked things off with “Close to You” and “I Love It” before hitting hard with “We Are Your Friends” and “We Found Love,” the Rihanna-guesting hit he brought her out for last time he played. The crowd was treated to tons of lights, lasers, and enough energy to power the Inland Empire for a week. The sound was pervasive enough to hear across the festival and was definitely one of the best sets of the weekend.

Lana Del Rey

Do not let the fanboys fool you: this was a joke. It wasn't the disaster that her Saturday Night Live performance was a while back, but unless Lana Del Rey was doing the greatest piece of performance art in live music history, her barely-lucid, ultra-boring, waste of a nighttime set was without merit. Her stage presence was invisible, as she walked slowly back and forth across the stage during the entire thing, taking a few seconds to slide down an invisible stripper pole in the middle of each passthrough for dramatic effect.

The fourth wall broke multiple times, between her asking for a cigarette and then bantering with the pianist about how much time she didn't have left. When she realized they had to cut the set short (mostly due to how long it was taking her to sing each song), the band capped off the final track by playing a 10-minute extended outro, probably to the chagrin of the Goldenvoice timekeepers on hand.

Even worse, she got into the crowd at the beginning and end of the set to mingle with fans, including kissing them directly on the lips and wearing floral headbands as if to say “Am I Coachella enough now?” No, Lana, you are not.

Beck

It is nearly impossible to predict what songs Beck will play, especially when he only has less than an hour to dazzle. He chose a wide array of his stuff, including a new take on “Gamma Ray,” a sped-up “Coachella” version that worked shockingly well. His emceeing skills were still as fresh as ever, ending the night with a medley that included “Where It’s At” and “High 5 (Rock the Catskills).”

It is hard to say what makes Beck such an interesting performer, but it’s easy to see how hard the man works when he’s bouncing from side to side of the stage all in a dapper outfit and slick hat. His band were no slouches either, providing the multi-tiered genius with enough room to groove while still keeping his musical vision alive.

Motorhead

Potentially the loudest thing without an 808 drum, Motorhead showed up right on time Sunday night to a semi-packed crowd howling for “LEMMY!!!” When the man finally appeared, the place went nuts in anticipation of a hard knocks metal show built to last. By the time “Ace of Spades” came on, old fans were already in metal heaven and new fans probably had no idea what the hell just happened.

Slash made an appearance for that final loud moment and those that stuck around got the treat they were waiting for, even if Slash kind of appears everywhere for everything. The drum and guitar solos (real solos, where the band leaves for a moment) were the only ones I saw all weekend, another reason why Motorhead will never die.

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire can only headline now, as they've done so once before during their four total stops in Indio. Each time, it’s in support of another amazing album and this show was no different. Although the setlist focused highly on Reflektor, cuts from Funeral and The Suburbs made their way into the 80-minute extravaganza.

Their cameo choice was an odd one, but one that worked, as Blondie’s Deborah Harry came on stage to rock out a nice version of “Heart of Glass” before singing backup on “Sprawl.” The moment seemed more genuine than some of the gratuitous hip-hop partnerships or obvious pop stars that come out with DJs.

Throughout their headline set, the crowd ebbed and flowed, mostly joining back along once the “Ooo-oo” and “Whoa-oh” moments showed back up. This group of talented folks have little left to prove musically, and the live spectrum has become something for them to play with without much danger. This makes for a somewhat safe show, even if the music is all good and nobody really goes home unserved.

Win Butler has become more divisive over the past years, dropping the “woe is me” look for one of a true frontman, tough and commanding. He says bold things, he makes bold music, and he rarely pulls punches. Hell, the band is just about as big as anything in the past ten years, so why not? But when he chose to attack the VIP culture Coachella has instilled over the past few years, it still came as a shock.

The amazing thing is that he is not wrong. More and more square footage is being given to those with more money, most notably the back of the Sahara Tent, which used to be a nice green field to chill out on during the day. It used to be large enough to house an art piece, but no longer. Smaller stages and tents now have special VIP viewing areas that didn't exist a few years ago.

From a money perspective, it makes sense, but for the fans that really could care less about the celebrity culture Coachella is so obsessed with...they really are getting the short end of the glow stick.