“There’s an ugly rumor that the reason that it was all grey and miserable is that two Sheffield bands are on,” joked Jarvis Cocker, frontman of Pulp, after fellow Englishmen The Arctic Monkeys played.
The similarities end there.
ARCTIC MONKEYS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU
Arctic Monkeys had a crowd. Dip-dye coiffed baby hipsters bounced and shimmied. Jordan Lawlor, the young curly hair multi-instrumentalist from M83 danced with his cute girlfriend. But Arctic Monkeys didn’t seem to care. They were all business with their post-punk Britpop swagger, angsty and unruly, with guttural guitars and slurred words. Frontman Alex Turner seemed unphased by the cheers of dancing hipsters around him, announcing songs with a sardonic tone in his voice albeit with a sort of charm.
“I tell you what Coachella you’re going to f**king love this next tune, it’s called “Evil Twin.” Get on this sh*t.” They also tripped around, sweating to songs like “Brick By Brick,” before which Tuner announced drummer Matt Helders as the “thunder thief, the rhythm panther.”
When the Arctic Monkeys ended, their crowd, which seems like it would be so on par with Pulp’s, left to other corners of the festival. Texts and whispers were floating around about the amazing Wu Lyf show.
But the die-hard Pulp fans stood true; a mix of well-dressed 30-something industry people and young, bashful girls who beamed when Jarvis Cocker took the stage. Signs flashed in the background inciting and enticing the audience. “Got your flannels on?,” one said. “Are you ready?,” another said. “Time to get your just desserts.” The one that really excited the audience said, “Do you remember this first time?,” which is the song that Pulp started with.
PULP HAS SEX WITH SPEAKERS
Preening and posing, Cocker was all about his audience, blowing kisses, engaging in witty repartee, throwing grapes into the audience from his pocket (we caught one!), and inspecting the audience with a flashlight right before “The Fear.”
“Now it’s gone dark and things start to happen in the dark,” said Cocker mysteriously before saying that “a lot of bands use dry ice,” but that Pulp had a “special kind of dry ice” that had a “delayed reaction if you inhaled some towards the beginning of the concert.” In the set, the band also played “Mis-shapes,” “Disco 2000,” “F.E.E.L.I.N.G C.A.L.L.E.D L.O.V.E,” “Sunrise,” and “Common People” to manic screaming and dancing. The “special ice” had kicked in.
The highlight of Pulp’s set was their erotic masterpiece, “This Is Hardcore.” Cocker took off his jacket, his tie, and humped in between the speakers, eating grapes on stage in true Libertine manor, and gyrating wildly.
One audience member truly appreciated it: David Hasselhoff taking pictures of himself next to the stage with some girls half his age.
DAWES IS YOUR GRANDPA’S MOONSHINE
Dawes brought rare twangy blues rock to Coachella as the sun set on the desert. Lyrics like “I want to know how you hold me close…” These guys will never be ‘trendy’ but as they continue to grow and evolve, they warm the audience with the type of roots music of which America’s made. Just like grandpa who drinks moonshine likes it….
WU LYF, SINGING WOLVES THAT SURF
Meanwhile, over at the Gobi tent, the notoriously mysterious UK outfit, Wu Lyf – a band from Wales – had its audience jaw-dropping and swaying to its dirty, smoked shoegaze. Their sound is distinct– not for its melodic surf guitar plucks, but rather lead singer’s tremendous wolf-like howls (seriously though, you’ve never heard a man with a voice like his….as he said “the sound a dog makes…”)
Coachella is becoming more and more known as the grandfather to festival electronica, which makes crooners like M Ward seems slightly out-of-place – at least when he’s a stones throw off from the Sahara tent. However, the bluesy singer-songwriter held his own as the crowd rocked to his steady guitar twangs and bitter-sweet lyrics.
THE BLACK KEYS WIN GLOW STICK-WIELDING FANS
With the sky dotted with scattered lights and warm glow of the stage lighting, The Black Keys made their quintessential low-key entrance. But the audience watching was so rabid and so varied, that Keys’ bourbon-soaked, syrupy energy was juxtaposed with drunken clamor and excitement. Ravers crept out of the Sahara tent, spinning their glow sticks while dancing to the blues-rock they’d likely heard on the radio.
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are not a verbal duo. They speak through their music in a way that most bands can’t. Carney beat on his rainbow striped drum set while Auerbach rocked a black studded leather jacket with a spade on the back. They played songs like “Ex Girl to the Next Girl,” “Dead and Gone,” “Thickfreakness,” “I’ll Be Your Man,” “Your Touch,” and “Gold on the Ceiling.”
M83 BRINGS THE HEAT TO COLD-CHELLA
The crowd for French band M83 was by far one of the biggest of the night and put on a show to match. Fans ran in droves to huddle around the Mojave stage – some even hanging from the tent wires to catch a glimpse of the foursome. Although frontman Anthony Gonzalez is known for his passion for sonic excellence, he took this opportunity to show off the band’s visual skills. Prior to his hitting the stage, a full-sized alien-like character hovered rom one side to the other as if coming to life right out of M83′s album art.
Waves of their dreamy electro-pop washed over the crowd, building excitement and sweat that thankfully warmed everyone up. “Midnight City” was recognized by the crowed within two notes of its start. It instantly set the crowd on fire.
REFUSED ARE ACCEPTED
Most of the feverish crowd at Refused knew every word – as lead singer Dennis Lyxzen writhed onstage – legs flailing – voice quivering. As expected, there was crowd surfing. The band played the night before to a room of 800. Now they’re playing to thousands. Lyxen said in front of last night’s crowd, “Last time we played was in a basement to 35 people.”
Oh how a good reunion can change things.
SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA HOLDS AMERICANS CAPTIVE
To close the first day of Coachella with a bang, Swedish House Mafia pulled out all the stops including fireworks, flame-cannons, unbelievable digital displays, and remixes of Coldplay’s “Paradise,” Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition,” and Diddy’s “Coming Home.” As if selling out multiple nights at Madison Square Garden wasn’t enough, the trio of DJs kept an inordinate number of festival goers planted at a time when most would be heading for the exits. The band put every laser light and bass speaker to use. Not a single piece of electronic equipment was spared in their attempt to captivate the audience.
They had the entire polo field in sensory overload with jumping, screaming and fist-pumping, including Paris Hilton, who could be seen up front grinning ear-to-ear.