If there was only one person who could describe how day two of Coachella was going, that perfect person would have been Ice Cube. At the beginning of his set he shouted, “Is this motherfucker on?” Coachella was indeed on in many different ways and what appeared to be like any regular day was soon transformed into a day filled with special appearances and thrills that kept listeners riveted.
One of the most talked about shows prior to the festival was the headlining Guns N’ Roses set at the Coachella Stage. Rightly so, especially since Axl Rose was just named the new fill-in lead singer for AC/DC on the remainder of their Rock or Bust tour dates and rumors were swirling as to what kind of special guests they would have. Well, hardcore GnR fans were not disappointed, nor were the people who only knew the band’s most famous one or two songs. Complete with fireworks, pyrotechnics and special appearances Guns N’ Roses set was impressive both vocally and instrumentally as well as visually. The introduction to the band seemed odd, even for them. It began with the Looney Tunes Theme Song and considering the things that would occur afterwords, the theme song was entirely fitting. The lights dimmed before Slash, in his signature hat and maniacal looking hair appeared on stage. The lights came up and Axl Rose sat on a throne beneath the spotlights that dangled from above. Yes, Axl was sitting. Was it part of the performance? No, Axl had recently broke his foot and like any good rock star, he doesn’t cancel, he powers through and plays the entirety of the show on a throne. It was not just any throne though, it was the same throne that Dave Grohl used last year when he had his leg injury and Axl paid tribute to him by thanking him for the chair. Despite the leg injury, this did not stop the band from rocking harder than if Axl was entirely healthy and free of broken bones. Instead, they channeled their energy into the music itself.
The first song they played was “It’s So Easy.” Slash sprinted back and forth across the stage never missing a note, his fingers moving perfectly over the fret board. Axl sat triumphantly in his chair, his voice not wavering and sounding as if he were performing these songs all the way back in 1986. The set continued on in this manner, Slash romping around on the stage while Axl sat on his throne and apologized for not being more active. His apologies then led him to welcoming their surprise guest Angus Young from AC/DC. Together, they played the AC/DC classics “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff.” The crowd screeched in excitement and after Angus left they continued to play with the same ardor they began the show with. They finished up the evening with the Bob Dylan cover “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” and “Nighttrain.” As they left the stage, the crowd continued to cheer. The cheers slowly mutated into a roar and the band was coaxed back on stage by eager fans. For their encore they played “Patience” and “Paradise City.”
Another set that had rumors swirling was Ice Cube. There was talk of a reunion of N.W.A. and guest after guest was meant to appear and appear they did (including Snoop Dogg, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Common, but no Dr. Dre). After an ominous voice announced him, harsh colors of black and red permeated the area near the stage. Ice Cube burst out onto the stage and the crowd erupted into cheers. The applause grew louder and the look of approval washed across everyone’s faces as he sang “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.” Men flipped off their hats as they forcefully nodded along and girls towering above the crowd on people’s shoulders waved their arms in elation. Ice Cube continued to rap and the crowd once more was overcome with a wave of excitement when “Check Yo’ Self” began.
There was so much talent on day two of Coachella it was difficult to choose which bands to see. Luckily, not many bands were mediocre and the talent of most of these artists was astounding to experience. Disclosure put on a performance that was amazing, not just for their guest list, but because they put on a genuinely enjoyable show. “White Noise” was the first song and the way in which it was paired with the lights proved a remarkable experience. It only got better from there starting with the appearance of Lorde who sang the song “Magnets” with them. Lorde’s charisma on stage is beyond compare.
Earlier on there was also Run the Jewels. Their show was immensely impressive. The video displayed on the big screen behind them near the beginning of the set comparing Donald Trump to a pig before violently destroying him didn’t entertain you, then the rest of the show did. They began with a pre-recorded video introduction by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and this set the tone for the remainder of their time on stage. They began with “Scenes” before continuing with “Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)” and “Lie, Cheat, Steal.” Much like most other sets during the day, Run the Jewels did not disappoint in the special guest category. They were joined by Gangsta Boo for the song “Love Again (Akinyele Back),” Nas for “Made You Look,” BOOTS for “Early” and finally Gary Clark Jr. accompanying them on guitar during “Angel Duster.”
Of course, there was the legendary early punk band The Damned. Despite being eclipsed in crowd attendance by Halsey, it is easy to see the staying power that these guys have within their genre. They played the song “Ignite” and even though they are a much older group of gentlemen, they still thrashed and rocked as hard as any other young performers out there could hope to.
Much like yesterday, there were also a handful of bands that were surprising in a good way. Alvvays, the band from Nova Scotia, sounds like a pretty standard indie pop band. It’s agreeable and easy to listen to, but unlike most pop, Alvvays is lyrically focused. Their song “Next of Kin,” for example uses descriptive imagery that not many musicians are capable of. While they do so one is whisked away to a whimsical and damaged world.
Chvrches and Bat for Lashes were two bands that were outstanding. Perhaps it was not such a huge surprise that Chvrches put on a great show, but the surprising thing is the energy that they have display throughout the course of their set. The lead singer, Lauren Mayberry, gallops around the stage as if she is a dog marking her territory and her band mates equally match her with their own enthusiasm. This excitement was most prevalent in the songs “Never Ending Circles” and “Leave a Trace.”
As for Bat for Lashes, it was an ethereal experience. She slowly approached the microphone while her sheer, blue dress floated gently behind her. She began singing “Lilies” and the serenity of her voice overwhelmed the crowd. She then transitioned into “What’s a Girl To Do” and the small crowd on hand cheered in approval.
For originality, the award goes to Sophie who had a show in the smokey Yuma tent. While tired concertgoers lounged on the beds sporadically placed around the tents, Sophie dropped insane beats spliced with cutesy sounding music. It was as if his intention was to trick someone into thinking she played mild house music before slapping them in the face with fierce bass.
Halsey was also supremely impressive. First, her show was visually stunning. The set pieces were incredibly abstract, the pyrotechnics were thrilling and the best part was the Cirque Du Soleil type of acrobatics her back-up dancers employed. While she sang “Hold Me Down” a very flexible performer twisted around a pole and did flips while Halsey danced around her. She then performed her hit “Castle” which served as a calling card and as soon as she began to play, floods of people flocked to the stage and danced energetically.
While there were some unforgettable bands today, there were also some lackluster performances as well. James Bay failed to leave an impression. Despite how brief his set was, he still managed to not capture the audience’s attention. The Arcs were not necessarily forgettable, but they just seemed out of place. They even brought out Joe Walsh from the Eagles who was fantastic, but something about their show seemed unsuccessful. Perhaps it was the lack of energy from the crowd, but it was unfortunate to see The Arcs not live up to their potential.
Lastly, the band that was the biggest upset was Silversun Pickups. They were competing with Ice Cube, but even if they were not, it still would have been a disappointing show. They played their hits “Panic Switch,” “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance),” and “Lazy Eye” and while it was good it was not great. They even inserted some silly banter between the members of the band, but ultimately their standup routine failed to capture the listeners present.
At the end of the day though, the vibe was that of pure happiness and satisfaction. Most bands and musicians had special guests and did not disappoint in their overall quality. They played with all the passion that one would hope for.
Guns N’ Roses Set List
- It’s So Easy
- Chinese Democracy
- Welcome to the Jungle
- Double Talkin’ Jive
- Live and Let Die
- Rocket Queen
- You Could Be Mine
- This I Love
- Speak Softly Love
- Sweet Child O’ Mine
- Civil War
- Whole Lotta Rosie (with Angus Young)
- Riff Raff (with Angus Young)
- November Rain
- Knockin on Heaven’s Door
- Paradise City
Chvrches photo by Raymond Flotat