Coachella 2011 Day Three Report – Kanye West, Duran Duran, PJ Harvey, Twin Shadow, and more | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Coachella 2011 Day Three Report – Kanye West, Duran Duran, PJ Harvey, Twin Shadow, and more

Plus Trentmøller, CSS, The Strokes, Best Coast, Chromeo, and others

Apr 20, 2011 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Coachella 2011: Day 3, Sunday April 17
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Day three of Coachella 2011 was already the weakest day in terms of the lineup, so this year’s festival ended with more of a whimper. There were highlights, including some ’80s New Wave legends, and some dancing Danes. And then there was Kanye West.

An early high point was the first set we saw on Sunday, Twin Shadow at the Mojave tent. Twin Shadow is the NYC-based project of George Lewis Jr. and live he has a full band channeling his modern New Wave vibe. His debut album, Forget, was one of 2010’s very best debuts and one of the best albums of the year overall. Lewis has a beautiful deep voice and one song started with just vocals and keyboard. “This is our first Coachella of hopefully many more to come,” said Lewis before performing “At My Heels.”

Spain’s Delorean were one long nearly continuous trippy dance party at the Gobi tent. It was a blast for a little while, but eventually became a bit one note, as all the songs blended into one.

The band Fun weren’t much fun at all over at the Outdoor Theatre. In fact, they were truly terrible and were one of the worst sets we saw at Coachella this year. (We were only watching them because we were eating nearby.) At least two clichéd songs seemed to be about going out on a Saturday night, the band utilized tired and cheesy guitar licks and rock ‘n’ roll posturing, and lead vocalist Nate Ruess pretty much demanded that the audience sing along. Why did Coachella book this lame band? Jack’s Mannequin over at the main stage also seemed like a particularly uncool band to book. Who’s really coming to Coachella to see a band like that?

CSS jumped on the scene with 206’s crazy Paris Hilton-referencing dance-punk debut album Cansei de Ser Sexy. But 2008’s follow-up effort was less well-received. Now they have a third album on the way and they are back at Coachella for a second time with something to prove. The Mojave tent was overflowing and the Brazilians opened with songs from their debut. Lovefoxx was a fiery frontwoman. She wore a red cut-off t-shirt that simply said “trash” and crowd surfed while singing such classic CSS lines as “suck, suck, suck, my art tit.” “Let’s get very dehydrated,” Lovefoxx said. Hopefully their energetic set bodes well for a return to form on their third album.

Best Coast weren’t all that much better live than on their overrated debut album, although their lo-fi sounds were marginally more effective in a live setting at the Outdoor Theater. The trio played as the sun was setting and it’s a shame Coachella didn’t book more compelling performers for that coveted sunset slot. “I’ll be appearing with Kanye West tonight, in my wildest dreams,” frontwoman Bethany Cosentino joked. “Kanye if you hear this, I’d love to sing guest vocals on one of your songs.” She gave a shout-out to her parents, “Hey to my mom and dad if they’re watching this on YouTube. Say hi to my mom and Dad. They probably aren’t even watching.” They played a new song called “When You Wake Up,” that sounded like all their others songs and featured the lyrics “It’s always 11 a.m. when you wake up.” Best Coast were just as lazy as the subject of their song.

The Gobi tent was running at least 20 minutes late, so I missed my window to see Foster the People, who had a packed crowd eager to see them. Next door in the Mojave tent, Denmark’s Trentmøller had a foreboding sense of dread that was punctuated by danceable beats. The musician/producer had a full band and their cinematic tones that seemed destined for a David Lynch soundtrack. I was only able to catch the first few songs before heading over to Duran Duran, but that was enough to declare them one of the highlights of the day.

Duran Duran didn’t disappoint over on the main stage. The ’80s New Wave veterans played a slew of hits (“Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Notorious,” “Rio”) and even songs from their recently released Mark Ronson-produced new album All You Need is Now fit in fairly seamlessly with the classics. Scissor Sisters’ Anna Matronic joined the band on stage for the duet “Safe in the Heat of the Moment,” which she also sings on the album. “I’m on stage with Duran Duran and I’m freaking out,” Matronic said. Simon Le Bon’s vocals are still strong and the band sounded tight and profession. Le Bon dedicated the rousing “Ordinary World” to “absent friends, anyone you’re missing.”

But the wow moment of the set came when they performed “A View to a Kill,” their theme for the 1985 James Bond film of the same name. They dedicated it to longtime Bond composer John Barry, who collaborated with them on the song and passed away earlier this year. The song started out with a string section that played snippets of other Barry-produced Bond themes “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “You Only Live Twice” before segueing into “A View to a Kill.” In the meanwhile, Le Bon had a costume change into a white tux with a black bowtie (à la a certain super spy). The song began with stripped down with mainly Le Bon and the string section, but soon the full band broke in, at which point Le Bon loosened his bowtie. It was a fabulous moment for anyone who grew up in the ’80s, especially those who were both Bond and Duran Duran fans. “I want everyone to smile at Nick Rhodes because he’s going to take your photograph,” said Le Bond before the sound of camera clicks lead into the band’s last song, “Girls on Film,” which was briefly morphed into a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”

I’ve never bee a fan of The Strokes, mainly because of Julian Casablancas’ filtered vocals and too-cool-to-care attitude, and what I saw of their main stage performance did nothing to change that opinion. Chromeo, meanwhile, garnered the biggest audience I’d seen all weekend at the Outdoor Theatre, incited plenty of dancing, and dedicated an older song to the fans who have been with them since the beginning. Phantogram had a bigger crowd in the Gobbi tent than Wire did there at the same time the night before. They partially channeled Blonde Redhead, but frontwoman Sarah Barthel’s vocals were a little weak.

PJ Harvey took to the Outdoor Theatre 20 minutes late. She wore a white dress and had an elaborate arrangement of feathers in her hair. For the first few songs she sang and played autoharp, and although things perked up when she strapped on the electric guitar and performed such classics as “Down by the Water,” overall it was a bit too sleepy and understated for her to be headlining as the last artist at the Outdoor Theatre for all of Coachella 2011. She hardly engaged the audience, barely saying anything to them. Despite all of this, one diehard fan in the front row held a pre-printed (and maybe pre-laminated) sign that read “PJ Harvey is the real closing headliner.”

That task fell to Kanye West. Regardless of what you think of the rapper’s outspoken behavior, and whether or not you think My Twisted Dark Fantasy deserved a 10/10, it can’t be said that West isn’t a showman. At the beginning of his performance, at least, he tried to put on a spectacle. Crazy synchronized dancers heralded West’s arrival, which came via a moveable platform that raised up high above the audience with him singing on it (while Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon was down on the stage contributing Auto-Tuned vocals). The next song, “Power,” featured fireworks. So now the audience was primed for some crazy show that would top his entrance, but for the rest of the set West just confidently performed hit after hit. No amazing special guest showed up. He didn’t leave the stage via a jet pack. Which is all fine. John Barry’s “Diamonds are Forever” got a second main stage airing that night thanks to West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” which samples it, and all in all, if you’re a already a big fan of Kanye West then you probably left impressed. But non-believers probably just left early.

And so with that another Coachella was over. 2011’s festival saw several improvements over 2010’s. Less tickets were sold (on purpose), so it was less crowded. Getting in and out of the parking lots seemed easier (at least we didn’t experience any two hour traffic jams leaving the festival as we had in previous years). The great bands were fairly evenly spread across the three days, and even though there were a few annoying conflicts (such as Duran Duran vs. Trentmøller vs. The National) and Sunday’s lineup wasn’t as solid as the other days, there didn’t seem to be quite as many scheduling conflicts this year. But on the flipside there weren’t as many wow moments this year. Sure we had the light up balls during Arcade Fire, Kanye West’s entrance, and a reformed Suede. But there weren’t as many Prince-covering-Radiohead, crazy-surround-sound-Pink-Floyd-music-as-a-pig-floats-away, and Bauhaus’-Peter-Murphy-hanging-upside-down-while-singing moments. Of course, that pig wasn’t meant to float away, and classic moments can’t always be planned. But if a reformed Suede, then why not book a reformed Pulp too (maybe Coachella tried). Why not follow the “Don’t Look Back” model and have bands perform classic albums in full (Primal Scream has been touring Screamadelica in full, for example.) Why not have Suede play all three nights, each night playing one of their first three albums in full as they are doing in London next month? Why not have a comedy tent, as so many festivals do? Duran Duran was great, but it was not wholly unexpected, unlike past classic Coachella performers such as Prince and Paul McCartney. Personally I’d rather watch some previously mainstream, but still great, artist I’ve never seen before rather than Kings of Leon or Lauryn Hill. Coachella is arguably the most important and most respected American music festival right now, but there are ways it can be even more interesting. Having said that, nice job Coachella organizers, thanks for another great year. (


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