With one weekend fully complete (see our photos from day 1, 2 and 3) we now begin weekend 2 of Coachella 2013. As with 2012, this weekend is nearly identical to weekend 1. The major difference being a switch in lineup positions between posted headliners Blur and The Stone Roses. Also, Biffy Clyro formally dropping off the bill as they cancelled a large portion of their tour dates. For those that weren’t here, or weren’t watching selections from last weekend on the official live stream, day 1 was still a bounty of talent almost too numerous to take in.
Highest marks belong without a doubt to How to destroy angels_, the new project from Nine Inch Nails’ mastermind Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, his wife Mariqueen Maandig and art director Rob Sheridan. True to previously stated reports, the band’s live is a great spectacle to behold. The band begins ensconced behind a curtain of luminescent tiny rods. The band is backed by a massive video wall, and a multitude of imagery is forward projected upon it. The curtains open periodically revealing the five players (former NIN keyboardist Alessandro Cortini is also a part of the live band). “The Wake-Up” and “Keep It Together” starts things off with minimalist energy and sinister grooves. Later Maandig takes center stage and puts her back in “How Long?” Similarly, “Ice Age” is a plucky piece of ominous ambience. Most impressively, “The Loop Closes” finds Reznor and Maandig singing “The beginning is the end / it keeps coming around again” during a swirling, mounting crescendo. Nine Inch Nails wowed people with their scope, power and forceful artistic energy. How to destroy angels_ has deftly positioned themselves on only their first tour to be a band that could equal NIN’s success and prominence. Sure, there are noticeable moments that sound akin to Nine Inch Nails or the bleeps and bloops of Ross and Reznor’s Oscar-winning score to The Social Network, but the band’s sound has found a unique position between dark art pop and forward-thinking electro.
Elsewhere on the bill, Blur and The Stone Roses cemented the different between aging with excellence and a somewhat lazy reunion. Last week’s main stage headliners The Stone Roses were fun in a pleasant sort of way, but the group’s lead singer Ian Brown appeared more than a little fried. He exhibited little energy throughout the band’s set, and somewhat awkwardly shook a tambourine shaker through almost each and every song. “I Wanna Be Adored” and “Love Spreads” delivered the goods, but were played in a bit of a loose fashion, lacking the punch and precision expected from them.
Blur on the other hand, played with passion and energy. The band seemed in better spirits through-and-through. Front man Damon Albarn played opener “Girls And Boys” with as much energy as if it was a number where the fate of the world was in the balance. It surely wasn’t, and even if it did, that song’s overly saccharine pop hooks wouldn’t be the thing to save the world, but what’s most important that Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, drummer Dave Rowntree and bassist Alex James all played it like they believed in it through-and-through. Expected staples such as “Tender” and “Song 2” nestled against cuts “Parklife” and “Beetlebum” and all the while Blur played the main stage like they absolutely deserved to be there.
Jurassic 5 drew the day’s largest crowd of the day at the Outdoor Theatre. The 6-piece band’s gigantic audience heard the band display nimble lyrical chemistry on “Freedom” and “A Day at the Races.” British Newcomers Alt-J also drew a large audience “Breezeblocks” and “Matilda” excellently displayed the group’s uncanny ability to fuse divergent melodic elements together into an alluring confection.
Returning champions Yeah Yeah Yeahs were also in top form. Lead singer Karen O takes strange and bizarre fashion sense and vocal delivery and winds it together so commandingly, it’s impossible to doubt it had to be that way. O is the rare female lead that enthralls neither through sex appeal of diva-inspired wailing. She has true arty nerve and doesn’t even remotely act like she should be self-conscious about it. That coupled with Brian Chase’s jazzy rendering of the drums and Nick Zinner’s thrashing, punk-infused guitar licks make them a legit contender for headliner status. It doesn’t hurt that they have a slowly mounting pile of stellar songs to pull from when they perform. “Gold Lion,” heartbreaker ballad “Maps” and new album track “Sacrilege” (complete with a live gospel choir) all made for distinct and necessary highlights.
On the under-attended side, Jello Biafra played the Gobi Stage with his new band The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Unfortunately, given that Biafra has scarcely had a consistent touring band other than his brief time with The Melvins since The Dead Kennedys broke up, there was a paltry amount of people present to see what was authentic punk rock played the way it should be. Biafra led a solid band (that former Rollins Band bassist Andrew Weiss) to a storming set of hard rock energy, pantomiming all sorts of evocative, hilarious gestures through every down second of every song. “Strength Through Shopping” and “John Dillinger” were straightforward and fun, but the real delight was hearing Biafra play “California Uber Alles,” “Chemical Warfare” and “Holiday in Cambodia” with the same manic enthusiasm he would have in 1980.
Other notable bands on the day included Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon’s side project with Brian Moen and Phil Cook, The Shouting Matches. The band is more-or-less a blues-rock band, but still jams in a way that’s fitting for 2 in the afternoon.
Metric did okay on the main stage in the midst of the worst of the afternoon sun. Lead singer Emily Haines did her best to keep the crowd excited as she sang, “Beating like a hammer / beating like a hammer,” letting each progressive syllable tumble out with extra emphasis.
Passion Pit continued on their path of success, getting the crowd amped on the main stage just before sundown. Lead singer Michael Angelakos stalks back-and-forth on stage nearly peering down at his microphone as he coos out each line in his trademark falsetto.
Canadian band Stars played early on the main stage, taking their indie pop and playing with a touch more rocking energy to an early afternoon crowd.
Gayngs offshoot Poliça also played early, but wove a lush tapestry of chill dance music. Lead singer Channy Leaneagh bopped through each number with a charming happy spirit.
Johnny Marr displayed a stately professional demeanor throughout his early afternoon performance. Playing choice cuts from The Smiths and his own recent solot material, Marr’s guitar playing is accomplished and effortless. Unexpectedly, he’s a pretty good singer too.
And lastly, Beach House played to a decent-sized crowd at the Outdoor Theatre lit almost completely in shadows. The trio all sat at their instruments and strummed out each part with the dreamy texture that people like, but fell a little short of the airy brilliance that Mazzy Star has all but mastered.
All photos by Raymond Flotat