Final Coachella Report by KCRW Volunteer: Lulu Mickelson
Day Three started with the haunting harmonies of Los Angeles’s very own Local Natives, whose driving percussion and powerful chords captivated devoted fans and curious listeners alike. They opened with “Wide Eyes,” the song that deeply moved me when I first heard Garth Trinidad play it over the airwaves three months ago and gave me goose bumps in the Gobi Tent. The group had a great way of being accessible and yet completely original, a mixture that made crowd favorites like “Airplanes” and “Sun Hands” inspiring and refreshing in the heat of the day.
Then, based on my friends’ soaring and unceasing recommendations, I went to see MuteMath. And I was impressed. The New Orleans-based band carried the crowd with charisma and walls of sound. Their soulful songs were full and flawless and their stage presence was wild – fifty minutes of dancing, jumping, and equipment destruction that climaxed with the drummer crowd surfing while standing on top of his base drum.
Next it was off to Florence and the Machine, who drew in a massive crowd with the highest concentration of Brits and Aussies I saw all weekend. Unfortunately, between her late arrival and the balance of sound that made it hard to hear her incredible voice from where I was standing, the performance did not pack the powerful punch I had hoped for. Although she did give us all a treat by bringing out Nathan Willett from the Cold War Kids to sing a terrific rendition of “Hospital Beds.”
One tent over, I caught a few tunes by the talented Julian Casablancas. The cheers were a little louder for Stroke’s favorites like “Hard to Explain” than his solo material. But he did get a lot of people grooving to his new hit, “11th Dimension.”
From late afternoon to nightfall, I was weaving my way up to the front of the Outdoor Theater. First to the gorgeous voice of Sigur Ros’s Jonsi who hypnotized the crowd with his pure, piercing vocals and heart wrenching minor soundscapes. The band wore unusual deconstructed costumes that evoked the dress Native Americans and at times the songs took the same tribal tone.
Next up, the French rock stars and KCRW favorites, Phoenix. “Tonight we are keeping it simple; it’s just going to about the music,” explained front man, Thomas Mars, since their stage decorations and lighting crew could not get a flight over from Europe. The set was energetic and well played, focusing mainly on their latest and most popular album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The crowd sang along, eating up the irresistible laissez-faire attitude of the performers.
Then came the crowing jewel of my entire Coachella weekend. With no small amount of elbowing, patience, and discomfort, I managed to be at the front of a crowd of tens of thousands to see a true supergroup in action. Atoms for Peace rocked Coachella. It was the ultimate musical combination: unusual and unceasing percussion, Flea’s untouchable bass lines, and Thom Yorke, one of the coolest and most original artists alive. Wow. It seems impossible capture the electricity that was on that stage. Collaboration at its best: funky, powerful, and incredibly cohesive. Towards the end, Thom Yorke did take a few tracks on his own, carrying the crowd with a new track that layered his voice to create one of the most beautifully intricate pieces I have ever heard live. Then he did solo renditions of the Radiohead favorites “Airbag” and “Everything In Its Right Place” that got everyone chanting. The band came back out for a few wailing last jams off Yorke’s solo album that showcased both Yorke’s and Flea’s fantastically sporadic and uncensored dance moves that was echoed in the grooving of the crowd. The energy flowed from the stage into the crowd and back again in one of those classic and unrepeatable Coachella experiences.
Despite sore feet and extreme exhaustion, I ended the night going crazy with my best friends to the Gorillaz before we jumped in the car and headed back to reality, leaving a makeshift weekend community of music lovers and melody.