I finally went to Coachella. I went to see Rage Against the Machine back in 2007 but that was only a single day. I haven’t been back since, because they made it mandatory to buy 3-day passes and up until now there weren’t enough bands I liked playing to justify spending that much money. That changed when both Refused and At the Drive-In announced they were reuniting for it. And then I looked at the rest of the lineup and realized it was going to be amazing.
So here are all the bands that I was able to see and what I thought:
- Neon Indian - This was not a great start to the festival. I liked the couple songs I’ve heard from them but their live show definitely needs some work. The electronic elements that work great in the studio did not translate well. It just seemed to drag.
- Girls - I went along with my friends to see this band; I’d never heard them before. Pretty generic Indie Rock, nothing really stood out but they weren’t bad either. However, they were accompanied by a trio of female gospel singers that got to show off on a few songs which was pretty cool. Also, the singer was wearing a ridiculous Tim Lincecum full body photo shirt which was awesome.
- Frank Ocean - Another one I was tagging along with friends for, this time it was amazing though. I don’t think I would listen to him too much on my own but he’s a very strong singer to watch and listen to live.
- Atari Teenage Riot - I walked through the tent they were playing in to catch a few songs on the way to the next band. A lot of noise. And not the good kind. The female vocals are grating and difficult to listen to. It sounded like a bunch of 5 year olds with keyboards. Judging by the amount of people watching them, I think my opinion is shared by a few more.
- The Black Keys - I do not like The Black Keys. I wanted to check them out though since everyone else seems to like them. My opinion was not changed. Their music is still meh, and their drummer is still completely terrible.
- M83 - My biggest regret is skipping Explosions in the Sky to see M83 since I figured Explosions would be easier to see in the future, which is still true. I can’t get into their albums at all, they’re just boring to me. But I was hoping their live set would change that as some bands do. Nope.
- The Black Angels - Since I left M83 early, I had time to check out the band in the next tent on the way to Refused. They were awesome. It was a 60’s/70’s jam rock vibe. I was only able to listen to a few songs but I will definitely be downloading some of their music.
- Refused - Not much to say. They were amazing. Again. Hopefully they keep playing shows in some capacity, but at least I can say that I saw them twice so far, each time was incredible. In this set the singer, Dennis, pointed out that they didn’t really fit in with the other Coachella bands (true), saying there were “a bunch of dudes with laptops.” Hilarious.
- Swedish House Mafia - A typical DJ group. If I had had a few more drinks at this point I probably would have enjoyed them more. Their light show was amazing though. The whole stage was video screens, accompanied by lots of smoke and lasers.
- Childish Gambino - I’ve been a fan of Donald Glover’s alter-ego ever since I saw him on Conan. His live show was as good as expected. He played the popular songs off his album along with a live band and even did a few freestyles which were pretty good. I definitely will be seeing him again the next chance I get.
- AWOLNATION - I listened to these guys play the main stage from the beer garden so I wasn’t paying strict attention. But what I heard I liked, so I will be looking into more of their music.
- tUnE-yArDs - This band is mainly a woman with a delay pedal(s?). And it is amazing. Her setup is a floor tom, snare, hi-hat, ukulele, and two microphones, one of which is hooked up to the delay pedal. She is backed by a bass player and two saxophonists. She uses the delay to loop vocal patterns and drum beats and then plays her ukulele and sings over it. The music has a tribal-beat-islandy feel, a little like Vampire Weekend. I have a feeling that I probably won’t listen to an album all that much, but watching her layer all the music live is pretty cool.
- Manchester Orchestra - I go back and forth with this band. I didn’t care for their first album, liked their second album, and didn’t care for the third. However, I love seeing them live. Their music translates much better to a live setting and they execute it extremely well. They have an energy that is definitely not captured in the studio. This set was no different, they were great.
- Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - The main thing this band does is make me wish Oasis was still making good music. The songs are decent, but they are pretty boring to watch play so I stuck around for a few songs and headed to the next thing.
- Squeeze - Apparently I’m in the minority of people that love this awesome 80’s band because none of my friends even knew who they were. They mainly played their singles which was fine by me. The vocalist still sounds exactly the same. They were awesome, but I kept getting distracted by all the old white guys reliving their youth by horribly dancing, which was even worse than the hipsters dancing to indie bands, and just as hilarious. The song that everyone knew them for was “Tempted”, but I highly recommend grabbing their singles or best-of album because they have some great other songs.
- Flying Lotus - I caught the end of their set and remember liking it, but nothing specific, and not enough to make a lasting impression.
- SBTRKT - Another group that I had no clue who they were and left wanting to go download all of their stuff. A couple guys with drums, some electronics, and some actual smooth vocals. Electronic music tires me out quickly because of it’s lack of vocals so this group was perfect for me.
- Radiohead - They both lived up to expectations and disappointed a little. Their set as a whole was great. The set list was a good selection from multiple albums, Thom Yorke’s vocals were amazing, and the stage setup was rad. Instead of one video feed, they had it in split screen with extreme close ups of all them and their instruments. The disappointing part was that there was a bit of sloppiness; missed notes and transitions here and there from the guitars and bass. I guess it could have been intentional but I spent a good part of the songs wondering about that and it was distracting. Not distracting enough to not be thoroughly entertaining though. And finally being able to see “Paranoid Android” performed live was a dream come true.
- Santigold - I had heard of her before but never heard her music. She was really good and fun to watch live, but I won’t be downloading her music any time soon.
- Beats Antique - Electronic music with a banjo. Don’t need to say anything else. They were really, really good.
- Thundercat - They were good background music while we sat on the grass and relaxed, that’s about all I remember.
- The Hives - Not a huge fan of them but they were fun to watch play live, and the singer was yelling nonsense between songs. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was pretty funny, especially with a Swedish accent.
- Gaslamp Killer - Another DJ, but I enjoyed it a lot.
- The Weeknd - This was one of my most anticipated groups to see of the weekend. Sometimes his vocals were a little weak but the songs are so good it didn’t matter, and the live band played the hell out of those songs. They ended the set with an acoustic version of “Wicked Games”, my favorite song, which was perfect. As soon as I got home and could actually stay awake I went straight to my guitar and learned it.
- Justice - More DJ! But they were so good that I will probably go get some of their music, which is more than I can say about any other vocal-less electronic music from the weekend.
- Girl Talk - Another anticipated act that completely lived up to expectations. Some highlights were Eminem’s “My Name Is” over some Radiohead and the “Rolling in the Deep” vocals over a slower dub step sounding song. He also had about 50 fans up on stage dancing the whole time. It was a lot of fun.
- At the Drive-In - They were amazing. Every song was perfect. I had two minor gripes though. Cedric doesn’t scream anymore which is a bummer, but the rest of his vocals have gotten way better. And Omar did not look like he was enjoying himself at all. He basically sat by his amp, looked down, and didn’t move at all. Those two things did not deter from the set at all though, I hope they keep playing.
- Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg - I think everyone has already heard/read about their set and HoloPac. It was an awesome show overall, even more so because I don’t think I would ever just go to one of their shows outside of a festival or group show. Eminem’s guest spot was awesome, although I personally would have rather seen “Guilty Conscience” over “Forgot About Dre”. 50 Cent is terrible, he can barely get his words out. His signature semi-mumble is even more pronounced live. Hologram Tupac was cool but I could barely see him from where I stood and it was only one song which kind of sucked. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him though.
The whole weekend was amazing. The experience has me seriously contemplating doing the presale layaway before they announce the lineup; we’ll see.
So, who did I miss out on and why am I wrong about the groups I didn’t like?