Coachella Recap Day 2: Radiohead, Andrew Bird, tUnE-yArDs, Destroyer and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Andrew Bird

Destroyer, Coachella 2012, The Big Pink, Tune-Yards, Andrew Bird, Noel Gallagher, The Shins, Bon Iver

Coachella Recap Day 2: Radiohead, Andrew Bird, tUnE-yArDs, Destroyer and More, April 15th, 2012

Apr 17, 2012 Bookmark and Share


True Tales of the Coachella Curmudgeon

Part two: In Which Our Hero Frees The Damsel In Distress

“Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” asked my friend, as I scrambled into his car at 3:30am. In respect to the lineup—which was far and beyond the strongest of the three-day festival—let’s get the “curmudgeon” part of this review out of the way first. Pro-tip: If you drive to the festival, double check the status of your parking lot. As learned the hard way, being waved into a lot, and into a parking space isn’t an assurance that your car will be there when you return. Nor should you be comforted by the complete lack of  “hey idiot, we’re going to tow your car”-style signs. And if you are so lucky as to find your car is missing from the lot at 1 am, do not expect much help from the security guards—none who will know what company might have towed your car, or how to go about obtaining said information. (Or for that matter, how to get to any lot on the festival grounds.) In fact, just take it in stride that you will be misdirected a multitude of times during your misadventure. On the bright side, if you do find a friend willing to peel himself out of his warm hotel room in the middle of the night to save your sorry butt, you will be given a ride by security—off the Coachella property to a dark shopping center where if you are raped, maimed, or killed, the festival won’t be liable. GO TEAM! 

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the rock.

The first stop of the day was Destroyer. While the band seemed somewhat (read: very) apathetic about their afternoon slot, and the smooth songs from last year’s album Kaputt didn’t really fit the upbeat festival setting—they sounded every bit as good live as they did recorded. Frontman Dan Bejar would have looked more appropriate had he truly embraced his lounge singer vibe and worn a suit (maybe Jarvis Cocker had one he could have borrowed?), but no one could begrudge him the beer in his hand.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the festival, The Big Pink proved to be all attitude and very little substance. Unable to match the brat-rock brilliance of recently released album Future This, they settled for a paper-thin sound, created largely from a laptop where Milo Cordell sat, looking more like he was checking his e-mail than rocking out. Between the thin sound and frontman Robbie Furze’s desperation to make us believe he was rock royalty, the only thing that kept me in the tent for more than a song was the band’s drummer, a woman who bashed the skins with a seemingly endless ferocity. Still, three songs were more than enough and I left—or rather bolted.

Perhaps The Big Let Down—er…Big Pink, is why I fell head over heels for tUnE-yArDsset. I’ve never been a big fan of Merrill Garbus’ hip-hop yodeling. And while I’m still not likely to be found rocking out in the office to w h o k i l l, I freaked out over her charismatic performance. Perhaps it was watching the musician create intricate live loops. Perhaps it was her face paint and gladiator-style evening gown. Or maybe it was just fact that she really wanted to be there. (“Just close your sunglasses eyes for a second and imagine a beautiful place with sun and mountains in the background and then open your eyes and you're here!” she giggled.) Whatever it was, I danced along with the crowd and—perhaps for the first time all day—started really feeling it. Oh, so this is the festival vibe you speak of!

As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Bird is a rock star. It was appropriate he went on directly after tUnE-yArDs set. Like Garbus, Bird creates a series of loops live—walking a high wire that takes extreme concentration and musicality. But while Garbus is the class clown, a charismatic goofball with a heart of gold, Bird is the unflappable cool kid. A fearless performer, even while building a series of intricate loops on guitar, xylophone, and violin, Bird still managed to indulge in several displays of intricate improvisation.

While most performers culled their set almost exclusively from whatever album they where trying to promote, Bird veered away from a Break it Yourself heavy performance, including cuts from nearly every album in his catalogue. Most surprising though was his cover of Sesame Street classic, "Bein’ Green." “I’m going to play this against my better judgment,” he muttered before launching into it. No Andrew, your judgment was spot on—as per usual.

After Andrew Bird I had one thing on my mind—Radiohead. I only had a mere four hours to go! With that in mind I headed over to the main stage to begin finding a spot. Normally at a festival this means sitting through some truly crappy acts. My luck started from the second I got there, where Noel Gallagher (and his High Flying Birds) was finishing up his set with my favorite Oasis tune, “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” (My sincere apologies to “Champagne Supernova.”)

The Shins—complete with their new lineup—were pleasant, but failed to raise much above that. Given the sheer amount of music I had consumed to that point, I was more than willing to embrace pleasant. (Please, no one tell my editor.)  Hearing “New Slang” again was welcome, (as the band is required to play at every show for the rest of their career) but the charisma light set’s only real shocker was a proficient cover of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.”

Confession: It took me ages to get onboard with Bon Iver. Now that I can count myself as a fan (insomuch as I have his self-titled sophomore album loaded onto my phone and occasionally give it an approving listen), seeing them live was an exciting prospect. On a set crowded with candles and dripping with a high-school Wizard of Oz vibe, newly-minted Grammy winner Justin Vernon gave a dreamy, underwater performance, hitting high points with “Holocene,” and “Skinny Love.”

And then there was Radiohead. Despite growing nerves (and a disgust at Coachella’s complete disregard the safety of its patrons) as I watched the fire isles slowly fill up with VIPs, even a curmudgeon such as myself could help but enjoy herself.

The only person in show business who can bust movies that wild without the aid of backup dancers, Thom Yorke was in high spirits, introducing his band with the vigor of someone playing an afternoon slot.

With not one but two drummers holding down percussive duties, the band sprinkled cuts from The King of Limbs into a set that adroitly mixed new cuts (“The Daily Mail,” “Identikit”) in with old favorites, (sing-along inducing “Karma Police,” near-riot inducing “Idioteque”). Their stage featured a series of screens that moved up and down from song to song, showing fractured and fuzzed shots of the band as they played.

Radiohead was afforded not one, but two encores—a festival rarity by any standard. They used both wisely, sprinkling in both the intimate (the Thom Yorke looping piece, “Give up the Ghost”) and over-the-top sublime (“Lucky,” “Paranoid Android.”) Is it even a challenge for the band to blow all competing acts out of the water? And easy festival highlight. (And all Radiohead fans everywhere said “duh.”)

And so, day two came to an exhausted and happy end, as it seemed like every one on the grounds did their best to exit through an inappropriately few number of wristband scanning stations. The sheer number of people created an unnerving bottleneck, which—had there been any emergency or panic—would have turned lead to someone being trampled. Safely on the outside of the festival, and still properly elated from a day’s worth of music, I said goodbye to my friends and headed off to find my car, a hunt that would come an end almost eighteen hours later…

(www.coachella.com)

 

 




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