Congratulations, we've survived another day at the 104-degree Coachella Music Festival! The spirit of one-upsmanship was more apparent on Saturday as acts flexed their rolodexes to bring out some more surprise guests. But it seems the best guest stars have been the ones who are not really there. The Black Lips, in a very successful attempt to top their last set when lead singer Cole Alexander dropped trou and played his guitar with his wing wang, made a bid that even Snoop and Dre will have to work to top: A "hologram" Biggie Smalls. Well, not so much a hologram as a life-sized cardboard cutout of the deceased rapper. But hey, hologram Tupac was 2D as well, and as the band pointed out, their "hologram" you can actually touch! The cutout danced around to Smalls' "Hypnotize" as the crowd sang along and the rowdy Atlanta-based band shotgunned some more beers. Not bad for the achingly early 2:15pm slot, and not as painful to watch as junk hitting guitar strings.
In other guest news, French dj Martin Solveig had the rave tent going hands-up wild during his daytime set when he brought out Dragonette lead singer Martina Sorbara to perform their hit, "Hello," a.k.a. that song from that Trident commercial. The Canadian electropop singer roused the crowd in an all-white ensemble and gave some actual on-stage movement to the dj stage. The Shins' longing indie rock set welcomed back identical twins sisters The Watson twins to sing backup vocals as they did last weekend, and Miike Snow also had a repeat guest with Swedish songbird Lykke Li.
While guest performers are always a fun surprise, whether digital, cardboard or flesh, French house dj David Guetta had a little too much hype attached to his guest, after this journalist was passed the information that he had a "once in a lifetime" performance planned. With Usher guesting at Guetta's last set, what could be better: Madonna? Chris Brown? Nope, it was Sia. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Sia, but "once in a lifetime?" Not so much. Even Sia herself seemed to smirk when she mentioned it was the "first and last time" they'll perform together. The dj, whose biceps must be ripped from having his arms waving in the air more than on his laptop, played several of his pop collaborations with Kelly Rowland and Usher, along with mixing Avicii's "Levels" with every dj's favorite song to play, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." I wonder how Gotye, who is also playing Coachella, feels about hearing his song played multiple times by other acts, including during yesterday's mind-melting set by Swedish House Mafia. By the time that Sia came out for the final song of the set, much of the crowd had dispersed for the neighboring SBTRKT, but there was still some enthusiasm about her appearance as some rushed forward with cameras out. She sounded simply divine, dressed in a fuzzy coat to perform Guetta's latest single to come to America, "Titanium." It was certainly the most genuine performing seen during Guetta's set.
British artist SBTRKT was a welcomed break from Guetta's house bangers, as he brought deeper, sexier dubstep and R&B beats that didn't have people doing that crazy running man-looking rave jig. The electronic music artist also did his own singing, covering Brit singer Jessie Ware's part during his single "Right Thing To Do." But the luckiest man at Coachella is probably dj Sebastian Ingrosso, who performed a total of four times throughout the two-weekend festival. One third of Swedish House Mafia, he performed with the Mafia, plus had his own solo set in the double lineup that had Mötley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee walking away last night. Spending more time by the dance tents yesterday, much of the music started to sound the same in all honesty, so let's switch gears to some of the more analog performers.
English folk musician Laura Marling was simply darling in floral pants during her mellow set. She was accompanied by a cello player, giving Coachella festival-goers a breather from rock guitars and booming bass. In the tent next door, and kind of intruding on Marling's music, were the bearded Georgia boys of Manchester Orchestra. The epic indie rock and Guitar Hero-worthy riffs had one imagining head-bobbing in the back of a donut-ing Barracuda in a Circle K parking lot. St. Vincent showed music fans once again that pretty girls can also rock hard while Kasabian, whose roadies supplied the crowd with hundreds of glow sticks, showed that rockers like pretty light-up things too. Azealia Banks, who in the past week announced she will be working wit Missy Elliot and signed with Lady Gaga's manager, graced the stage with her filthy-fun female rap with longer fire-red hair, black vinyl, neon fishnet, and pasties.
Of all the antics that went on at Coachella, Leeds lads Kaiser Chiefs had one of the most involved ones, as frontman Ricky Wilson decided that mid-set was a good time to make a beer run. The singer came off the main stage, into the crowd, and somehow made it all the way to the beer garden to grab a brew (which is pretty far of a walk when you're supposed to be performing), headed back and climbed the soundboard scaffolding as fans went nuts around him. Definitely a one-up from Wilson's climbing around last weekend when he "only" scaled the media tower. There's no denying that beer is one of the main food groups fueling rock!
But one who wanted nothing to do with antics, one-upping, or even any more exposure than the very basic essentials, was Neutral Milk Hotel's lead man Jeff Mangum. Mostly alone on stage with just a mic and acoustic guitar, the musician requested that no photographers be present and that the jumbotrons be turned off. Modest guy or diva move? One may never know with the historically reclusive artist. Although he was little more equipped than a coffee shop show, his music echoed throughout the crowd with surprising force, playing Neutral Milk Hotel favorites for the cheering devotees.
The biggest names playing Saturday night had essentially the same sets as last weekend, but were nonetheless amazing to see. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds brought another standard rock set, ending with one of my personal Oasis/karaoke favorites "Don't Look Back In Anger." The cheeky Brit also apparently had his NME "Godlike Genius" award on top of his amplifier the whole time, showing Coachella that he may be well-behaved nowadays, but he can still flex his ego. Bon Iver, who still wins for "Prettiest Stage Decoration" swooned audiences with their dreamy, sleepy indie rock. And Radiohead (who looks amazing from the ferris wheel, I must say), had white guys in the crowd mirroring his wacky "Lotus Flower" music video dance moves as Thom Yorke wailed in the most stunning way, as he always does. The voyeur-ish video screens that had cameras set up in various places on stage, including Yorke's mic stand, looked much like a glitchy, security camera monitoring room, adding to the foreboding (but somehow sexy) feeling that Radiohead has always beautifully conducted.
Whew! Alright, well there's one more day left at Coachella and we'll have our fingers crossed for more guest stars and wild antics, plus we'll have our toes crossed too for another Rihanna cameo. Come back later to read our recap of Sunday's sonic selections!