Coachella 2012 Friday: ’90s Nostalgia, But No 90-Degree Weather
Coachella, the giant three-day music festival that takes place every April in Southern California's (normally scorching) Indio desert, for all intents and purposes kicked off 2012's entire summer music festival season on Friday, April 13. But the weather was so un-summery this year, confused festival-goers might've thought they'd somehow accidentally teleported to Britain's rainy Glastonbury when they boarded the free Coachella shuttle. Rain? At Coachella? A festival famous for dry heat in the near triple-digits? It really almost didn't feel like Coachella at all, as shivering music fans huddled together in scarves and woolly hats instead of their usual sundresses and teeny American Apparel bikinis; the video screens on the two outdoor stages were lowered out of fear that the harsh desert winds might topple them over; and the queues for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate snaked considerably longer than the lines for frozen margaritas (definitely a Coachella first). It was enough that when reggae legend Jimmy Cliff played the main stage and optimistically sang, "It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day"--well, this writer practically shook a cold, wet fist at his lowered-video-screened likeness and shouted, "Liar! Why must you lie, Jimmy Cliff?" Jimmy's musical weather forecast never did come true.
But despite the lack of face-melting heat in the 90s, there was plenty of hot, eardrum-melting rock 'n' roll to be had on Coachella's chilly first day, much of it from the newly nostalgic '90s--as in the decade. Everyone from hardcore collectives Atari Teenage Riot and Refused, to reunited slowcore duo Mazzy Star, to legendary Britpop bands James and Pulp performed (those latter two artists likely felt right at home in the positively English gray weather), and even many of the newer, younger acts--like the Teenage Fanclub/Sonic Youth-channeling Yuck, Dr. Dre-associated rising rapper Kendrick Lamar, and Pavement-pounding Girls, all pictured below--gave off a distinctively '90s vibe. And many millennial kids in the crowd were rocking some seriously retro Generation X fashions (tights under denim shorts, Body Glove neon, potato-sacky babydoll frocks, Doc Martens) as well, even if they'd really been born into Generations Y or Z.
Spectators of all ages must have been most impressed by the main stage set by the recently reunited, Different Class-ic lineup of Pulp, who really seemed like the day's headliner--they were in fact so absolutely, astoundingly amazing, it's a wonder that the next main stage performers, actual headliners the Black Keys, weren't so intimidated that they just packed up their gear and got right back on their tour bus, knowing that they'd never top what the almighty Sir Jarvis Cocker and company had just achieved. "Do you remember the first time?" one of those half-mast video screens flashed, at the start of the set, and then Jarvis strutted out, resplendent and seemingly untouched by time, with his skinny tie and even skinnier frame. The fans (most of whom were actually seeing Pulp for the first time, since Pulp hadn't toured the U.S. since 1999) responded so explosively, it was as if every single person in the crowd had hit up the nearby Red Bull Speakeasy bar and shotgunned a Red Bull four-pack right before the gig.