Camera Obscura at Coachella 2010

Coachella 2010, Camera Obscura, MGMT, Muse, Hot Chip, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The xx, Devo, The Dead Weather, Dirty Projectors

Coachella 2010 Day Two Report – Camera Obscura, Muse, MGMT, Hot Chip, and more,

Apr 18, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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Day two of Coachella 2010 alas offered few highlights. This year Coachella has put way too many great artists on Sunday's bill, which will inevitably lead to a lot of Sophie's Choice-like moments of picking between which favorite artists to see. Whereas Saturday's bill suffered from a lack of must see artists, there was no shortage of artists worth checking out, it's just that few of them delivered. Matters were not helped by the fact that the best set I saw was also the first set I saw. Almost everything underwhelmed after that.

The day started with a 3:10 p.m. set by Scotland's always charming Camera Obscura. The beginning of the set was worrisome, in that the band opened with three slower tempo numbers. But for song four they picked up the pace with My Maudlin Career highlight "French Navy" and never let up from there. "We're so happy to come to Coachella at last...we're glad that we actually made it," said singer Tracyanne Campbell behind a pair of sunglasses and clad in a pretty dress. She was, of course, referencing all the bands stuck in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano. "We're very sorry for all the bands from Europe who never made it, so we'd like to dedicate this next song to them," said Campbell before the band launched into the appropriately-titled "Let's Get Out of This Country." The rest of their set included highlights galore, including "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken," "Tears for Affairs," and "James." Then they climaxed with the sublime "Razzle Dazzle Rose," always a chill-inducer, especially at the end when the trumpet comes front and center and the whole band really lays into their instruments.

White Rabbits didn't seem big enough to be playing the main stage and what I saw of their performance didn't do much to convince me that they belonged there, beyond the fact that they had two drummers. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' set did not start well. Lead vocalist Alex Ebert was adjusting his microphone stand when it accidentally fell off the stage and onto one of the press photographers in the photo pit. The photographer had a huge gash on his head and so Ebert took off his shirt and wrapped it around the photographer's head as a makeshift bandage. So Ebert was clad in nothing but white jeans and a long red scarf for the duration of the set. The band came off like some strange '60s religious group (or hippie collective), as if we'd stepped into a time-warp and were watching a set at Woodstock instead. Ebert sometimes shook as if he was possessed and he had a palatable chemistry with co-vocalist Jade Castrinos, especially on the crowd favorite "Home." Ebert and Castrinos opened "Home" by marching around the stage arm in arm, whistling. For "Carries On" Castrinos and fellow band member Nora Kirkpatrick both crowd surfed. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' set was like one big free-spirited party up there on the stage.

As I walked by the main stage, Coheed and Cambria were playing to a modest crowd. They had Tool-esque images of skeletons up on the video screens and made it look like the stage was on fire by pumping fake black smoke out of the top of the stage. Not sure why Coachella even books a band like Coheed. They don't appeal to either the indie or dance crowd, although I suppose people who showed up Saturday mainly to see a reunited Faith No More might have checked out Coheed. All I know is that one of these days lead-singer Claudio Sanchez needs to get a haircut!

What I saw of The xx, which admittedly wasn't much, was predictably a bit dull. This is coming from someone who thought their acclaimed debut album was a little overrated. They had good atmosphere, but The xx tended to pull back and be too subtle, rather than cutting loose. They are all slow build, but no release. Strangely, someone was crowd surfing, even though it didn't suit the somber music at all.

I've been trying to get my head around Dirty Projectors for years now, but apart from the obvious brilliance of "Stillness Is the Move," something about their quirky arrangements really bugs me. I was only able to catch one song at Coachella, but sometimes you want a beat you can dance to, rather than one you have to think about. Jay Z and Beyonce were apparently spotted watching Dirty Projectors.

Hot Chip brought flashing lights and beats you could dance to over at the Outdoor Theatre, just after the sun went down. They've played Coachella a couple of times before, but every year they graduate to a bigger stage. Is the main stage next? "This is our third time at Coachella and this has been the most fun we've ever had. Thank-you," said Al Doyle. Their joy was infectious and the English band mainly delivered, especially on "Ready for the Floor." Unfortunately the sound at the Outdoor Theatre was hit or miss all weekend, depending on where you stood and which way the wind blew, it just never sounded loud enough or deep enough where I was standing. Also, Hot Chip failed to play their best song (or at least my favorite), "Shake a Fist."

MGMT got a mixed crowd reaction by playing too many new songs from their just-released sophomore album, Congratulations, a game-changing record influenced by '60s psych rock (among other things) that likely won't appeal to fans of their dance-y singles. Of their first four songs, only song three was from their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, and that song was "The Youth," hardly one of their hits. The crowd seemed indifferent and I even overheard one guy say, "I'm just waiting for 'Time to Pretend.'" For their fifth song MGMT played "Electric Feel," which finally got the crowd going. But when the next song was yet another new one, several people started to leave. "Who's on drugs here?" asked singer Andrew VanWyngarden before the band played "Time to Pretend," the clear crowd favorite. "I've met a lot of cool bands [at Coachella] and they've signed my pants, as you can see. I wish you could all sign my pants," VanWyngarden later said. At one point he pleaded, "Please buy our album." There's nothing all that wrong with a band more excited to play their new stuff, but the songs from Congratulations simply didn't sound all that dynamic live, with the possible exception of "Flash Delirium."

MGMT were playing "Brian Eno" as I wandered over to the see the start of headliner Muse at the main stage. I'd seen Muse several times before, including a daytime main stage set at Coachella a few years back, but this time they just sounded bloated, weighed down by a few too many guitar solos. Singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy referenced Jimi Hendrix several times with his guitar playing, once even playing the U.S. national anthem in the style of Hendrix. There's no question that Muse put on a show, but it's all a bit too much at points, too theatrical without the panache. It doesn't help that Muse's best album is Absolution and that that was two albums ago. At one point Bellamy performed a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" on piano, singing through a megaphone.

Because Mew had cancelled due to illness, and because the Outdoor Theatre stage was purposefully left dark during the headliner's set, there was really no one else to see during Muse. I caught a bit of Flying Lotus, but he was just doing your standard glitchy knob-twiddling laptop annoyance, nothing fresh or new seemed to be going on there. Next, The Dead Weather were trudging out their tried old rock 'n' roll machine. Jack White now has three bands and I wish that one of them would look to the future (or the present) a little bit more. White played drums for the first three songs, but then came to the front for song four. "It's not too hot, it's not too cold, it's just right," said White, but doesn't that mean that their set was just lukewarm?

Finally, I witnessed a couple of songs by Devo, who were wearing corny grey uniforms, with plastic grey masks that covered the top half of their faces (which were taken off by the third song). The band performed in front of elaborately visualized and edited video images. We didn't stick around to see if they'd perform "Whip It."

By the end of it, Camera Obscura's set remained the best. The night ended with us spending a couple hours trying to get out the parking lot and to our hotel. The Coachella parking people were doing little to direct traffic, while the cops were telling off any civilian who tried to help direct traffic, while actually not doing anything themselves to help. After 10 Coachellas, you would have thought that both the festival and the local cops would have found a way to manage the traffic problem. But every year there's at least one night where it takes forever to escape the parking lot, which puts a big damper on the whole day.

 




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