Radiohead may have played a stupendous encore of the OK Computer classic “No Surprises” at Coachella Friday night, but unfortunately, not all went OK during their headlining show. The veteran festival band suffered some very surprising and downright inexcusable technical difficulties, the likes of which have never been witnessed on Coachella’s main stage — forcing Radiohead to stop their show four times and even leave the stage twice.
Whoa. For a fourth time Radiohead's console has popped. I have never seen this sort of malfunction from a main stage act #Coachella
— Gerrick D. Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy) April 15, 2017
And Radiohead's sound is out for I think the seventh time now? I'm losing count. This sucks so bad for them. Feel terrible #coachella
— Gerrick D. Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy) April 15, 2017
The first sign of audio trouble came during the band’s third number, “Ful Stop” from 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. While the song didn’t come to a full stop, so to speak, the console did sputter out for more than a minute, cutting off all sound while Radiohead played on, totally oblivious to the fact that the audience could no longer hear them.
Meanwhile, fans watching the show on YouTube and live-tweeting from home (and quickly turning #Radiohead into a trending topic) assumed that the sound issues were limited to the live stream — not realizing that frustrated spectators at Indio, California’s Empire Polo Field were experiencing the same bizarre silent treatment.
not sure I agree with Coachella's decision to stream the Radiohead set without audio
— alex gödken (@alexanderflam) April 15, 2017
— Chris Sheerin (@TopherSheerin) April 15, 2017
youtubes livestream of brochealla is suuuuuer wack. radiohead is preforming and somebody is screwing w the aux hahaha
— ???? (@ryan_mague) April 15, 2017
— Paige Hamblin (@paigehamblin) April 15, 2017
At first, this seemed to be just a temporary glitch; frontman Thom Yorke jokingly blamed “the f***ing aliens again,” and the show continued. But just two songs later, during In Rainbows’ “15 Step,” the sound shockingly cut off again, and after Radiohead played silently for another couple minutes, they gave up and exited the stage. A few minutes later, they reemerged amid encouraging applause for “The National Anthem” and “Let Down” — only to have the audio completely drop out again during the latter tune. Audience members gasped as Radiohead took another long break, wondering if this time the U.K. group was leaving for good.
''please stand by for radiohead audio difficulties'' pic.twitter.com/wAovBnuxlW
— let down (@siamesedrearn) April 15, 2017
"technical difficulties" even sounds like a Radiohead lyric
— Danny Bowes (@bybowes) April 15, 2017
Thankfully, Radiohead did return, with good sport Yorke quipping, “Can you actually hear me now? I’d love to tell you a joke to lighten the mood. But this is Radiohead, so f*** it!” With that, they played The Bends’ ironically titled “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” without any setbacks, and — to loosely quote another Radiohead classic — everything fell into its right place from that moment onward, as Yorke and company gloriously got their groove back.
— Jennifer Sullivan (@dearcalliope) April 15, 2017
— SS (@vodkastone) April 15, 2017
Unfortunately, by that point many concertgoers had given up and staged a mass exodus to either neighboring, less snafu-riddled stages or the parking lot, so when Radiohead wrapped with “Karma Police,” that song may have been directed at some errant sound engineer who was about get fired. (At press time, AEG/Goldenvoice had not responded to Yahoo Music’s inquiry regarding what exactly caused Radiohead’s audio problems, also an insider with some knowledge of the situation said it seemed like “the board lost sync.”)
— ♬Jonathon Schommer☣ (@Druminfected) April 15, 2017
— Brian H (@RunTheJules) April 15, 2017
Happily, most of the surprises that took place at Coachella Friday were pleasant ones. Best of all was the cameo by classic rock icon Todd Rundgren, who joined L.A. powerpop combo the Lemon Twigs in the Gobi Tent for a rousing, high-kicking rendition of his 1972 hit “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.” Of course, most of the millennial concertgoers in attendance had no idea who the seminal 68-year-old art-rocker was (“Supposedly he’s a legend,” shrugged one unimpressed youngster within earshot), but teenage Twigs brothers Michael and Brian D’Addario (ages 17 and 19) declared Rundgren their favorite artist of all time. And the way the D’Addario held their own alongside Rundgren proved they are worthy heirs to the man’s psychedelic-pop throne. “Twiiiiiigggggsssss!” Rundgren roared in approval, as the set came to a boisterous close.
Earlier Friday afternoon, over at KROQ’s party house, another bunch of legends from a very different era joined forces, as Dreamcar, a new (and new-wavey) supergroup comprising AFI singer Davey Havok and the three non-Stefani members of No Doubt: Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, and Tom Dumont. (Some snarky fans have jokingly dubbed the project “No Gwen.”) While the charismatic Havok is definitely not trying to replace Gwen Stefani, on Friday he was definitely channeling another famous blonde-bombshell pop star, “Lucky Star”-era Madonna, as he rolled on the ground like a boy toy during the band’s acoustic poolside performance.
Back at the actual festival, another major Friday highlight was the live U.S. debut of Australian sound-collage maestros the Avalanches, incredibly almost 17 years after the release of their groundbreaking, sampledelic debut album, Since I Left You. Performing with two guitarists, a live drummer, and two live vocalists (including underground Baltimore rapper Spank Rock), the reclusive band triumphed in the Mojave tent, bringing their painstakingly pastiched studio productions to vivid life.
Back over on the Gobi stage, 20-year-old Atlanta rapper/singer Raury — absolutely fabulously attired in a jeweled-and-fringed white tunic and flanked by foxy, funky, bellbottomed backup vocalists — put on an ambitious rock ’n’ soul revue, from the moment he declared, “This is not just a show! This is an experience!” to the end, when he executed a dramatic trust-exercise-style backwards fall straight down to the stage floor. (It’s a miracle that after that risky stunt, he didn’t leave the Gobi tent on a stretcher.) This showman is destined to graduate to bigger Coachella stages in the future.
And finally, back on Coachella’s biggest stage, Father John Misty — who just released one of the best albums of 2017 so far, the grandly Randy Newman-esque Pure Comedy — stunned during his spectacular sunset show (with the Lemon Twigs brothers in the audience, watching admiringly). Misty’s set wasn’t exactly feelgood festival fare — his windblown, theater-of-the-absurd spectacle featured a three-piece-suited orchestra and plenty of existential lyrics about humankind’s impending doom. But when he crooned, “The only thing that seems to make them feel alive is the struggle to survive/But the only thing that they request is something to numb the pain with until there’s nothing human left/Just random matter suspended in the dark/I hate to say it, but each other’s all we got,” there was something hopeful about his delivery, something illustrating the redemptive and unifying powers of music — and that made him the perfect Coachella main stage act. And at least he didn’t suffer any sound issues.
Coachella continues Saturday with Bon Iver, Future, Bastille, Gucci Mane, and the real queen of Coachella (sorry, Vanessa Hudgens), the one and only Lady Gaga.