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Four Cool Things Witnessed on Coachella 2013 Saturday Night, Weekend 1

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance (NEW)
April 14, 2013

Southern California's musicfest Coachella went into warp-speed mode after the sun set on the Indio desert Saturday evening, bringing on an absolute cluster-eff of conflicting gigs that one would have needed a jetpack and/or cloning machine to fully experience. (Seriously, whose bright idea was it to book Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Spiritualized, Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club, and Janelle Monae, all within a two-hour block of Saturday prime time?) Anyway, along with a bizarre-but-awesome surprise collaboration between French band Phoenix and R&B crooner R. Kelly (yes, that actually happened), there were a couple of other unexpected superstar pairings, a tribute to a fallen post-punk superstar, and a quietly triumphant comeback by an indie-pop supergroup. Here are four cool observations from the first half of day one in the desert:

1. Solange brought her "Fire" to the xx's chilled-out set…
Beyonce's younger, hipper sister has easily established herself as a darling of the indie scene, collaborating with cool indie acts like Devonte Hynes, Grizzly Bear, Theophilus London, Of Montreal, and Chromeo. And plenty of Coachella hipsters were thrilled see Solange's Main Stage cameo with Mercury Music Prize-winning downtempo British band the xx. While the R&B diva's vocals may have seemed like an odd match for the xx's hushed and minimalistic sound--especially since they were performing a cover of Aaliyah's "Hot Like Fire"--it totally worked. And it also WERKED.

2. New Order paid homage to Ian Curtis…
As the finale for their headlining set on the Mojave stage, new wave pioneers New Order played a trifecta of moody classics by Joy Division--the band from which they sprung, following Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis's 1980 suicide. As they played "Atmosphere" in front of a backdrop of funeral footage, "Transmission" in front of a stark black-and-white photo of Ian, and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" while the words "Forever Joy Division" and "Joy Division Lives" scrolled across the screen, there wasn't a dry eye or unraised goosebump in the house--and that had nothing to do with the sandy, chilly desert winds whipping across the field.

3. John Legend danced the pain away with Benny Benassi…
John Legend is no Coachella newbie--he performed in the dance tent with MSTRKRFT at Coachella 2009--but his unbilled onstage appearance with Italian DJ/producer Benny Benassi on Saturday night was still an unexpected thrill. The dynamic Benassi/Legend duo premiered their new joint single "Dance The Pain Away," out this spring, and the Sahara stage crowd went predictably nuts and did exactly what the song title ordered.

4. The Postal Service delivered…
Every Coachella lineup has its share of reunion acts, but the hype surrounding the Main Stage comeback show by the Postal Service--the electropop side project of Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and electronic artist Jimmy "DNTEL" Tamborello--was somewhat surprising. While their Sub Pop album Give Up was a leftfield platinum-seller, it was released a decade ago; was a hit mainly on the strength of its single "Such Great Heights"; and there was never a follow-up album. True to the album's title, the Postal Service gave up and moved on. It's no wonder, then, that Ben jokingly introduced the group, during their Main Stage reunion set, as "an imaginary band called the Postal Service." But this was the real deal. Judging by the Coachella audience's reaction (and large size), many people never forgot about this little band (augmented onstage by Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley fame). And the fans certainly didn’t forget the words to "Such Great Heights." At the end of their show, Ben quipped, "We might see you again, we might not." Let's hope the Postal service keep delivering.

For more Coachella reportage, check out Yahoo! Music's 2013 Summer Music Guide.