Yeasayer at Coachella 2010

Coachella 2010 Day One Report - Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, Fever Ray, LCD Soundsystem, and more

Plus Sleigh Bells, Echo & the Bunnymen, Vampire Weekend, She & Him, and others

Apr 17, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern
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Coachella 2010 began under the cloud of an erupting volcano. Several of the European artists playing this year had to cancel their Coachella appearances due to the Icelandic volcano eruption grounding all flights from the U.K. and other parts of Europe. So day one of Coachella was greeted with the news that we wouldn't be seeing Frightened Rabbit, Delphic, The Cribs (with Johnny Marr), or Gary Numan after all. And only a few days earlier Mew had already cancelled due to illness. So this year's festival was already starting with some losses, Mew and Delphic probably being the most unfortunate ones. But while there were few artists playing Coachella 2010 who I both hadn't seen before and was dying to see (Pavement being one of them), the lineup was still rigged with enough great artists so that I had little time to eat and take breaks between bands. Here's what I saw during day one.

Sleigh Bells kicked things off in the Gobi tent. They had a simple formula: beats + distorted guitars + yell-singing = Sleigh Bells. Their set started promisingly. Derek E. Miller, glad in a red hoodie, took the stage first, playing his loud guitar. Then singer Alexis Krauss emerged, first saying "Shut," then pausing before yelling, "Up"; which is something some audience members may have been tempted to yell back at her after a few songs. Sporting big earrings, lots of bracelets, tattoos up her right arm, and one lace glove, Krauss flailed around the stage more yelling than singing. At one point she took off her t-shirt and tried to throw it to the audience, but it didn't make it too far. Sleigh Bells' greatest strengths were the dirty-sounding loud guitar and their deep beats. Alas, there wasn't a sleigh bell in sight. Sleigh Bells are a thoroughly modern band, in that they have yet to release their debut album and yet they still packed a tent at Coachella at 3:30 in the afternoon, with many of them fans singing along, all based on a few songs posted on MySpace and music blogs. Unfortunately, Sleigh Bells were kind of a one trick pony. All their songs sounded the same and became increasingly grating. At one point Krauss literally screamed and I decided it was time to move on. As I was leaving she was screaming as if she was a fireworks display.

Yeasayer was in fine form at the adjacent Mojave tent. "Very excited to be here," said singer Chris Keating. "It's my first time here, it's beautiful." "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp" were not surprisingly both the highlights and the songs best received by the crowd. The girl standing next to me had the set times of all the bands she wanted to see written in black marker on her arm. As I walked by the main stage Street Sweeper Social Club (Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and The Coup's Boots Riley) were making a racket. Riley said the banal statement, "We're Street Sweeper Social Club. We're more than a band, we're a social club." Why does Coachella even bother booking bands like that? I don't know anyone who was eager to see them.

While walking to She & Him I witnessed a guy propose to his girlfriend in the middle of the field. She said yes! "Sorry that the band before us missed their plane," said She & Him's Zooey Deschanel, referencing The Cribs, one of the volcano casualties. Deschanel was as endearing as ever. "Happy birthday to all of you whose birthdays are today," she said. And later she beamed, "I love you all," and even later said, "You're so wonderful and very attractive." She hopped around the stage with a smile on her face, often playing the tambourine, but also proved that She & Him was no vanity project by playing ukulele and electric piano. Meanwhile, M. Ward stood by her side, looking cool dressed in black and sporting hip facial hair. "We're playing the greatest Coachella ever," he promised. "We're very excited to be here. I know you can all feel the excrement in the air," he joked, referencing the smell form the adjacent toilets. Ward rocked a cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven," singing with conviction and attacking his guitar, while Deschanel played keys. Their set appeared to end with "Sweet Darlin'," in which both Ward and Deschanel played the same electric piano together, but after leaving the stage the band realized they had more time and returned for a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." They sounded much better than their recent SXSW performance I witnessed.

Just before Grizzly Bear I spotted a couple literally having sex just outside the tent. Hopefully they at least conceived a baby, maybe a musician to play the 2030 Coachella! The NYC-based quartet really deserved to be playing a bigger stage than the Mojave tent, although that was a step from the Gobi tent, where they last played. "It's been three years since we've been to Coachella. It's our favorite festival in the States," said Ed Droste. The band's harmonies were as gorgeous as ever, but their music felt a little sleepy for a festival set. "Two Weeks" predictably got the best response. "Fever Ray, Jay Z, LCD Soundsystem...my mind is spinning," enthused Droste about the rest of the evening's lineup. "Is it too much? Never!"

"It's nice to finally be invited to play Coachella," boasted Echo & the Bunnymen vocalist Ian McCulloch. "Once we're finished you'll obviously all go home," he half-joked, adding that maybe MGMT were worth sticking around for, even though they were playing the next day. The '80s band played such favorites as "Lips Like Sugar" and "Bedbugs and Ballyhoo." "Nothing Lasts Forever" morphed into a cover of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." McCulloch called Reed "America's greatest living songwriter" and said that "the most expensive meal I've ever paid for" was when he took Reed out for dinner. The song then morphed into a cover of Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," but don't fans want to hear classic Echo songs, not covers? McCulloch's voice has still held up over the years, but the band as a whole lacked that fire they once had.

LCD Soundsystem performed under a giant 360-pound disco ball at the main stage. James Murphy and co.'s beats got a little too repetitive after awhile and Murphy had an annoying tendency to have too many of spoken word parts that drowned out the great music his backing band was making, sometimes coming off a little too much like Art Brut's Eddie Argos. "We're going to do a faux pas, which is two new songs in a row. Sorry," Murphy apologized. Vampire Weekend were over at the Outdoor Theatre, but could have easily commanded the main stage, since their second album Contra did debut at #1 on the Billboard album charts. They were a nice breath of fresh air.

Jay-Z went on 25 minutes late. The set was already running 15 minutes late when a 10-minute countdown began on the video screens. So I headed over to Fever Ray, who delivered the most unique and bizarre set of the day. Her set was all smoke machines and lasers, and she was hidden in the back for most of it, refusing to take center stage or to even reveal her face at first. Her band was also clad in weird outfits and masks. One member wore an incredibly tall hat, as if he was a religious figure from another dimension. The music was dark and ominous, with foreboding beats. I caught half a song of P.I.L., and let's just say that some old punks should just stay at home and not even bother. Jay-Z was going finally getting going as I was leaving, but I couldn't have cared less.

 



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Old punk
April 17th 2010
6:08pm

wow.  you think p.i.l. should stay home.  i’m gonna hafta de-twit you.  you obviously don’t know crap.

Mark Redfern
April 19th 2010
10:57pm

Well, admittedly I didn’t see a ton of their set, but what I saw didn’t impress me. I’m sure a diehard fan (which I’m not) was more taken by their set. De-twit if you must.

Candyce Chrystina Moore
April 20th 2010
6:15am

Wow. Your review of Sleigh Bells was bull shit. I was at the Sleigh Bells show, on the gate, in the front, on the left. To say Sleigh Bells was a one trick pony with all their songs sounding the same, would be just like saying Thom Yorke is a one trick pony with all of HIS songs sounding the same. Whether that be from, Eraser or from Radiohead.

Maybe you should have stayed to the end? The crowd never stopped dancing, but during Crown on the Ground [the last song] the crowd went postiively nuts

Old punk
April 20th 2010
11:09pm

Well, to be fair, maybe you’re too young/I’m too old?  And music is about personal preferences.  I’ve seen some of the dinosaurs and sometimes it’s not pretty.  Even still, while p.i.l. wasn’t the Sex Pistols, I’d much rather catch a piece of history than have to see people you mentioned above (nameless) continue to rely on a genre instead of hitting a note properly.