Thousands of people descended on Southern California's desert music festival, Coachella, on Friday, and while headliner Outkast's reunion was on everyone's lips, many were ambitious enough to brave 100-degree temperatures to catch several exciting rising artists who performed sweltering sets long before the sun had set.
Dum Dum Girls
Dum Dum Girls proved that they can be incredibly dark and Goth, even in the middle of a blazing hot day on an outdoor stage in the scorching desert. The four-piece band (led by frontwoman Dee Dee Penny, whose stage attire consisted of little more than black pasties and short-shorts) maintained their cool, detached demeanor, playing several songs from their recent album, "Too True," hardly cracking a smile or interacting with the crowd. Truth be told, they seemed more concerned with their stylized image than engaging with the audience. When they repeated the chorus "I feel nothing," in the song "I Got Nothing," it appeared that several audience members felt the same way.
Thankfully, New York electro-rock outfit MS MR provided a heartfelt antidote to the Dum Dum Girls' apathy. Pink-haired Lizzy Plapinger strutted on the main stage with tremendous energy — her soulful voice ringing out across the massive, crowded field spread out in front of the main stage. "Holy f---, there are a lot of you here!" she told the crowd. "Thanks for coming out early."
Plapinger and her partner in crime, Max Hershenow, looked like they were having the time of their lives as they performed several of their strongest tracks, including their lively debut single, "Hurricane." They also delivered a sultry cover of Arctic Monkeys' "Do I Wanna Know." Plapinger told the audience that this was her band's Coachella debut, although it was in fact her fourth time at the festival as a patron. "I had some of the best times of my life here," she said, and the crowd roared back in response. They were obviously having the time of their lives, too.
"Portlandia" fans will tell you that the spirit of the '90s is alive and well in Portland. Well, it's definitely alive and well in Jagwar Ma. The Australian band took a page from the early '90s Madchester scene, led by groups including the Happy Mondays and the Soup Dragons, who adeptly combined indie and psychedelic rock with dance music. Jagwar Ma did exactly that, but with their own modern electronic rock spin, and to great effect. The trio had the packed Gobi tent dancing and fist-pumping, and when they sang "Come Save Me," several blissed-out fans looked as though they had found their saviors.
Although revivalist soul singer Aloe Blacc has been around for a while, he's been flying relatively under the radar until recently. His 2013 album, "Lift Your Spirit," has been receiving plenty of attention and critical acclaim, and his impressive live shows have been winning over new fans wherever he goes. Coachella was no exception. In the crowded and sweltering Mojave Tent, Blacc was accompanied by a full band replete with a trumpet, a saxophone player, and a flautist. His feelgood, upbeat anthems had the crowd dancing despite the heat, with some of the biggest cheers reserved for "The Man" and Avicii collaboration "Wake Me Up."
This has been HAIM's year. Playing for a huge crowd on the Outdoor Stage, the sister trio proved why they've been getting so much love for their infectious pop tunes. Performing several songs from 2013 debut album, "Days Are Gone," HAIM brought their A-game, playing with reckless abandon and injecting incredible energy into the proceedings, despite the draining heat. Bassist Este Haim chatted up the audience and frequently pulled her legendary "bass face," which several fans had pictured on signs they proudly held up during their set. "It feels so good to be back in Southern California," Este said. "We were born and raised in the San Fernando Valley." The band also did a rockin' cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well," and somehow ended up looking like sexy female heavy metal gods while doing some serious shredding with their long, straight hair blowing in the breeze.
Shortly after the sun had set over the Coachella Valley, producer Nicolas Jaar filled the Yuma Tent with partygoers eager to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic musician and bask in the mood his unique compositions create. Unlike some DJs who revel in the spotlight, Jaar remained shrouded in darkness and fog for most of his set, letting the music be the main focus. His downtempo beats built steadily to a satisfying crescendo, and he kept things interesting by sampling unexpected sounds such as gospel choirs and remixing a sultry Rhye song. His beautifully paced set created a trance-like dreamscape from which many of us didn't want to awake.