Coachella 2012 Saturday: English Gentlemen, American Girls & Childish Gambino
After an unseasonably cold, damp, and blustery first day at California's Coachella festival, day two of Coachella finally brought the sunshine. And surprisingly, one of the day's brightest and hottest sensations was Childish Gambino, the rap alter ego of charismatic "Community" actor Donald Glover. NBC's "Community" has been rumored to be in danger of cancellation for months now, and this writer surely hopes that doesn't happen--but suffice to say, if that sitcom ever does go off the air, Donald clearly has a career plan B to fall back on. His hip-hop-career is clearly no vanity project--and judging by how strong his Saturday Coachella set was, he might want to consider making hip-hop his plan A.
Gambino/Glover hit the main stage Saturday afternoon wearing a black boot on his broken foot, but the injury hardly slowed him down; the man was so energetic onstage, it was entirely believable when he threatened, "I'm gonna break the other one!" (Later, when trying to rile up the crowd--which was already very enthusiastic--he pointed out, "I don't see nobody bouncing. I got a broken foot, and I'm bouncing!" Crowd bouncing of course ensued.) Backed by a Roots-style funky live band that included multiple percussionists and even a violinist, Donald was an entirely convincing MC, combining the swagger and braggadocio of his obvious predecessor Kanye West with the perpetually grinning likability of another sitcom sensation/rapper, Will Smith. And the man was just a STAR. Highlights of his extremely well-received set included "You Know Me," when he brought out of-the-moment rappers Kendrick Lamar (who's rumored to be guesting with Dr. Dre at Coachella on Sunday) and Danny Brown, and also when he sampled both the Adele and John Legend versions of "Rolling In The Deep" to come up with a fresh spin on the overdone song. But Donald held his own most of the time, especially on his squirmingly, uncomfortably real ode to soured relationships and exes with benefits, "Heartbeat." Over across the field, hyped buzz rapper Azealia Banks sadly ended her otherwise awesome Coachella set a full 25 minutes early, but Childish Gambino made the most of his stage time, and he never disappointed.
But of course, for most punters, Coachella Saturday was all about--as Bon Iver's Justin Vernon joked onstage during his own set--"a tight little group from the U.K. you might've heard of called Radiohead," one of the best festival bands ever. (Radiohead's Coachella 2004 headlining show is still the stuff of legend.) Playing a brilliant 20-song set in front of a sensory-overloading backdrop of multiple flashing flatscreens, frontman Thom Yorke told the audience the band was "playing new songs to prove we are still alive," and they proved that right away when they opened with the King Of Limbs track "Bloom"--followed later by KoL's "Morning Mr. Magpie," "The Daily Mail," "Staircase," "Give Up The Ghost," and "Lotus Flower," and even a totally brand-new song, "Identikit." But the group dabbled in tuneage from throughout their more than 20-year (yes, TWENTY!) career, including "Idioteque" off Kid A and "Pyramid Song" from Kid A's companion album, Amnesiac; "15 Step," "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," "Bodysnatchers," and "Reckoner" from In Rainbows; and "The Gloaming," "Myxomatosis," and "There There" off Hail To The Thief.