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Outkast's appearance this Friday at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival was perhaps the most hyped Coachella reunion show since the Pixies played the Southern California desert festival in 2004. But you wouldn't have known that from Friday's shockingly apathetic audience, composed of mostly unappreciative, casual fans who probably only wanted to hear "Hey Ya!"
[Photos: Coachella 2014 Music & Arts Festival ]
It should have been an exciting evening — this was the duo's first show in eight years (since 2006's "Idlewild" era), and it was a celebration of Outkast's 20 years in the business. And the night certainly started off strong with "B.O.B." It was a hits-packed set (other highlights included "Gasoline Dreams," "ATLiens," "Rosa Parks," "Aquemini," "GhettoMusick," "Roses," and "The Way You Move"); the chemistry and camaraderie between Andre 3000 and Big Boi was a thrill to behold; and their rapping was on point. But as the crowd's energy quickly, inexplicably faded, so did Outkast's, and the show began to lag.
Many times throughout the 90-minute concert, the duo seemed to seek validation, some sort of confirmation that spectators were actually enjoying themselves. "Are y'all alive?" Andre 3000 queried, more than once. "We just want to know one thing — are you having a good time?" Big Boi asked. These shoutouts were always met with a lukewarm response. When Big Boi's protégé Janelle Monae made a surprise appearance to sing her hit "Tightrope," she even mildly chided the audience, saying, "This is my favorite group in the whole world, and what we are witnessing is history!" — as if she were disappointed that the audience didn't share in her excitement.
Outkast's set was streamed online, and it appeared that many people watching at home were more excited about this reunion than actual Coachella attendees were. Twitter was soon teeming with outraged posts from fans watching the audience's lackluster response on the livestream.
The Coachella audience perked up a bit when another young surprise guest, rapper Future, joined Outkast on "Same Damn Time" and then performed two of his own tracks, "Ain't No Way Around It" and "Benz Friends." But perhaps giving so much stage time to Future wasn't the greatest idea. Soon Coachella's 1 a.m. curfew was looming, and Outkast ended up mashing up two of their most iconic songs, "Ms. Jackson" and "So Fresh, So Clean," rather than playing them in full. "Hey Ya!" also felt rushed, and truly, there was not nearly enough shaking-like-a-Polaroid-picture taking place on the field. Andre even ended up performing some of the song with his back turned to the audience.
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The show ended rather abruptly and anti-climactically, when Outkast attempted to bring out Killer Mike for "The Whole World" but the show was cut short due to the Indio area's sound curfew. "Thank you all coming out; I know it's kind of weird, 20 years later and s---. That's it. They said we can't do no more," Andre said with a shrug. "We'll see y'all next weekend," said Big Boi. (Clip below contains profanity)
Hopefully the festivalgoers at Coachella's second weekend will be more delighted to see Outkast. If not, then surely the duo will find more enthusiastic audiences at one of the many festivals they're scheduled to play this year, including Sasquatch, BottleRock, the Governor's Ball, Summerfest, and Lollapalooza.
Other "heritage acts," as they are known in the music business, struggled to draw large audience at Coachella, a festival that has become increasingly EDM-focused. The Replacements, Afghan Whigs, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Neko Case, and Bryan Ferry all sadly played to far-from-capacity crowds on Friday. However, those who did come to see those artists were much more pumped than Outkast's audience seemed to be. Specifically, fans actually did shake it, Polaroid-picture-style, to Jon Spencer's set (particularly when the JSBX covered the early Beastie Boys hit "She's On It"), and fans also loudly sang along to the "I'm in love with that song" line of the 'Mats' "Alex Chilton." And there probably wasn't a single person at Bryan Ferry's Mojave Tent set — which included Roxy Music classics like "More Than This," "Avalon," "Love Is the Drug," and "Virginia Plain," and featured a nine-piece band — who didn't think that performance was pure perfection. It's just a shame that there weren't more people there.
Ironically, many younger artists, including the two acts who played the main stage right before Outkast, trafficked in nostalgia — but received a much better response and played to much larger crowds. Canadian funkmeisters Chromeo really got the main stage party started with their '80s-tastic Eurotrash-meets-Electric-Boogaloo megajamz (think Klymaxx, the L.A. Dream Team, Billy Ocean, Zapp); mashup wizard Girl Talk kept that party going with remixes of everything from Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" to Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is." Girl Talk's set also featured a surprise appearance by old-school rapper Busta Rhymes, while none other than Sir Paul McCartney watched the show from the stage wings. Actual artists from the '70s through '90s may have had trouble attracting crowds, but newer artists with vintage sounds certainly didn't.
Also on the nostalgia tip, eccentric British songstress Kate Nash wowed with her witty-in-pink revue, which borrowed from multiple decades. Her garish stage appeared to be assembled from cast-off decorations from an '80s junior high school Valentine's dance; her all-girl band members looked like '90s riot grrrl bridesmaids in their pastel mini-dresses; her caped hippie-fairy outfit made her look like Stevie Nicks fronting Jem's Holograms; and she even covered Lesley Gore's 1964 hit "You Don't Own Me." Kate's set was one of the most entertaining of the day, and she filled the Gobi Tent with fans of all ages.
Coachella continues Saturday with a slew of baby bands and dance-tent sensations, but there will also be more "heritage acts" — among them the Pet Shop Boys, Nas, and the aforementioned Pixies. Which artists will be the buzz of day two? Read Saturday's reports later and find out.