Day two of Coachella is where the rubber really hits the road for most guests. The full blown exhaustion that’s present on day three hasn’t quite reared its head, but those who went too hard or were just a bit too overzealous about seeing everything they could, start to realize what a beast this festival is. But where most people would slow down and take it easy, the crowd at Coachella dives headfirst into the madness with a fervor that is both enviable and concerning. But if you just take a look at the Saturday lineup it’s easy to see why people push their exhaustion to the side and swim wholeheartedly in the waters of what is often the most jam packed day of the entire festival.
While the start time for Saturday was technically the same as it was on Friday, there was a clear expectation that a larger number of people would be onsite early in the day, an expectation that was exemplified by a surprising number of fan favorites on the earlier bill for the day. While CHON may have been one of the unexpectedly early acts (though one could imagine that they don’t play well to a Coachella crowd) this test case was more fully realized with early day performances from powerhouse artists Lee Burridge and serpentwithfeet.
Burridge’s set took place in the massive dance hall that was the Yuma tent. The mercifully air conditioned room served as both a haven for house lovers looking to dance, and weary footed roamers looking to catch a brief respite from the angry sun. While the massive room was nowhere near full a surprising amount of house fans were on their feet near the stage dancing and chatting with their friends. Burridge’s deep knowledge of bass even prompted those seated on the suede bleachers in the back of the tent to groove along as they caught their breath.
serpentwithfeet did not have the same benefit of air conditioning that Burridge did, but he still provided one of the most unique moments at this years Coachella. Typically a serpentwithfeet show is mostly improv with a backing track and a lot of crowd interaction and while the presence of dancers indicated that this set would be a break from the norm, the Coachella gods had different plans. Mere moments into the set his backing track cut out completely and they were unable to recover it for the rest of the set. While many artists would’ve called it a day and apologized to the audience, serpentwithfeet delivered a personalized improv set that would stack up to anything else throughout the weekend. And the most impressive part of all was not only that he created the whole set out of thin air, but the crowd actually grew and drew in closer as he did it.
Ty Segall is one of those placements that is sure to bewilder both fans and uninitiated alike. As a garage rock artist with one of the more consistent and prolific outputs of the past decade he is viewed as something of a legend within the rock community for his unrelenting sound. So it’s natural for those that are plugged in to wonder why he’s only playing at 3pm and it’s equally normal for those who are unfamiliar to ask why he’s not playing a small stage. Those who found themselves among the second group wouldn’t find many answers as he and his band went from one noisy guitar noodling solo to the next, but while he was alienating one audience he was endearing himself to longtime fans. The moderate crowd that stuck around was clearly enjoying the show, and found all their expectations met. There was a lot of guitar being played very seriously without any pomp or circumstance and it made as many friends as it did disinterested passers by.
Shame took the stage in the Sonora venue about 15 minutes behind the listed schedule. The small crowd that had gathered there to see them had a few eager souls who looked ready to mosh but a majority of those in the tent stood about with their heads bobbing around. As with most of the early acts in the Sonora tent Shame delivered the same potent performance that most punk groups default to, but reined it in to keep in accordance with the expectations of the festival. Ultimately this left the set feeling a little toothless, but the performance, instrumentation and jovial nature of the performers more than made up for it.
Speaking of punk, The Interrupters were hard at work bringing back some early ’00s pop/ska punk. While the genre itself gets a lot of flak – and rightfully so – it’s infectious live energy is outright undeniable. The fast paced drums and bouncing rhythms were able to get just about everyone on their feet. But given the bad rap the genre has received over the years, even the heartfelt speeches about fighting depression and bigotry couldn’t attract more than a medium-to-good size crowd. But all those who were there certainly were having an excellent time, some music is just better live and The Interrupters were taking great advantage of it to the point that they even did a mini wall of death style mosh pit. It felt like Warped Tour all over again, in the best of ways.
Hop Along mercifully pulled attendees away from the sun for a moment of much needed recuperation. They too started late, so it seemed something happened earlier in the day at the Sonora tent to push things back further than expected. Once they took the stage it was clear that the slight delay was worth it. For the first time of the festival that we had captured an intense band that was able to truly embody the energy of their music and the primary weapon they used was lead singer Frances Quinlan’s immaculate voice. As she slipped between falsettos and rasps her voice absolutely dropped with passion. The crowd may not have been as mobile as they were for acts like Turnstile or Shame but this isn’t quite the same breed of music. This sound and the spot on performance demanded a slack-jawed look more than a roiling mosh, a fact that made the set all the better. Anyone going to weekend two should add this group to their short list.
Some artists don’t perform the way you’d expect, Mac DeMarco is very much one of those artists. Anyone who has heard the woozy, half stoned cadence of his studio albums would likely assume that his live shows consist of him sitting on a stool waxing poetic about chaining Viceroys. In reality, it’s not impossible the show ends up with him literally hanging like a monkey from exposed ceiling beams, with one hand on the beam and the other pulling his pants down to Moon the audience. This juxtaposition made the prospect of a Coachella set all the more exciting. The set turned out to be a pretty typical set, though the fervor of the crowd surrounding the stage would’ve been quite unexpected for the uninitiated. He did play a new song called “Nobody” from his upcoming album Here Comes The Cowboy due out May 10. The only thing that registered as strange was his stage visuals, which were just someone playing through the game Earthbound. If there were any single thing to take away from the set it’s that DeMarco knows his audience and they’ll eat right out of his hand. But with such skater trash charm, who wouldn’t?
Meanwhile in the time since Jay Burridge’s set, the Yuma tent had transformed from an oasis of relaxation into a sea of people. The once-life-saving air-conditioning was now replaced with a mass of humanity. But given the overall mood or at least what could be gleaned of it in the pitch black tent, no one seemed to mind. Deep Dish served up some of the most punishing bass of the weekend during his turn at the table and people could feel their nasal cavities open up in the same way they do when eating spicy food. It almost felt dangerous, but there was an intense pleasure to the way he alternated between the low end and mid end, making sure to let the audience check and see if they could breathe from time to time. Yuma may have proved hard to stand out in, but if anyone pulled it off it was Deep Dish.
Bob Moses filled an interesting space on the lineup in much the same way that Gorgon City did yesterday. After seeing their set and hearing their impressive mix of live instruments and electronic, it’s easy to see why they had gathered such a large crowd. The interesting thing about their crowd is that Bob Moses plays a style of music that has largely gone out of fashion but with enough of a twist that it turns from contrived to intriguing. Tonight that was more than enough for a Coachella crowd featuring more than a few recent arrivals looking to settle in and get primed for the big slate ahead of them.
Just after Bob Moses finished, Maggie Rogers was accomplishing the impossible over at the nearby Gobi tent. Her recent smash album and swift rise to prominence took the mid-sized stage and transformed it into an absolute madhouse. When it was possible to catch a glimpse of her, she clearly held the crowd in the palm of her hand by delivering dancey, jovial renditions of her biggest hits. She clearly proved herself as someone who should be playing a much larger stage in the coming years should she ever come back to Coachella. In keeping with her expectation-shattering performance she had more stage production than just about any performer we had seen at the Gobi stage to date, featuring snaking lights and a dynamic light show that would’ve been more at home on the Outdoor stage. But none of that could match the sheer magnetism of her performance which drew people in and didn’t let them go.
The prospect of putting foreign bands on big stages always comes across as a bit of a gamble, some artists less than others. At Coachella in particular a Latin artist like J-Balvin has no issue packing a late set at the main stage but French band Christine and the Queens came off as a far riskier venture. Upon reaching the venue it was easy to see why Coachella would place Christine and the Queens on such a high billing. Sure, the crowd gathered around the stage wasn’t particularly impressive in terms of size but the show in front of them certainly was. Chris positively beamed with confidence and joy, her set included wisely used backup dancers, dynamic lighting, pyrotechnics and even a snow machine, creating a highly produced, eye catching environment. The highlights of the set were her joyful declaration that it’s weird and scary but empowering and exciting to be “out,” before launching into a charged rendition of “Tilted,” and an excellent stripped-down cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Her joyful atmosphere made sure to attract more and more attendees as some of the more high profile shows began to wrap up, and Chris proved more than worthy of their time and devoted attention.
Smino may not have packed the Gobi tent to the same degree as Maggie Rogers but the stage still hummed with life as he stepped onto it. Seeing how far he’s come in the past two years, from headlining a show at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana to packing an evening set at Coachella, has been inspiring. And speaking of the stage, he was taking the award for best stage of the weekend and running away with it. The stage featured a pink Pontiac Hoopti and stacks of tires that made it feel like a classic chop shop. Smino himself was as casual and confident as always. Every pause and verse was calculated to receive the maximum crowd impact, and so it did. Most impressively of he nailed almost every single one of his endlessly complex raps through songs like “Anita” and “blkoscars.” The energy in the crowd, especially toward the front was unlike any crowd on the day, people would’ve done anything to stay here, luckily they didn’t have to do anything.
Nearby Aphex Twin was laying down some of his signature weird glitchiness complete with equally glitchy visuals. Most of the visuals centered on the warping of his logo in time with the music. The crowd gathered inside and outside of his tent was impressive but one had to wonder at the effectiveness of nearly undanceable dance music at a festival such as this. Luckily most of the people present seemed to know what they were getting into, though a few stragglers did dip out after not receiving the injection of party jams that they craved. Ultimately the sheer technicality of the music, and the oft changing visuals, which now featured faces and crowd members warping and melting, managed to hold the crowd in place. There was something left to be desired from the showsmanship angle but the knowledge that this music was being performed live gave Richard David James a pass as he noodled away at his knobs and dials.
It’s tough to know where to start with Billie Eilish. The 17-year-old pop sensation seems to inspire both contempt and excitement in equal measures. Now, hot off the release of her latest record When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the mind boggling fact that she is now the first artist born after the year 2000 to have a number one album. With all this success now in her rearview, the only question remaining was if she’d be able to hold her own as a performer at one of the worlds most iconic festivals. The answer turned out to be an unequivocal yes. After a nearly half hour delay, a gothic horror animation, like something out of the game Don’t Starve, before she jumped on the stage like nothing happened. She played a good mix of songs from her previous releases but largely stuck to tracks from her new record with songs like “bad guy” and “you should see me in a crown.” Some of her songs, like “burn” had custom stage elements like a floating bed, that same song saw her bring out Vince Staples to perform his verse but unfortunately his mic wasn’t active, leading to a bit of awkward silence that no one on stage picked up on. It really is insane for someone Eilish’s age to deliver anything on this level but what’s most impressive is it never felt like the fame has gotten to her head and she’s just a kid having fun with the crazy situation she’s in, dancing goofy in front of 50,000 people. Wouldn’t you do the same?
Typically a festival saves its biggest hitter for the headliner. They also typically have that artist be a high energy pop or hip-hop star. All these “typically” statements were what helped to make the Tame Impala headline pick feel so inspired, or so frustrating depending on who you ask. Their set featured almost exactly what is expected to be on a Tame Impala stage, a decent dollop of smoke, a healthy heap of masters and an eye popping array of psychedelic visuals that even a straightedge kid could get lost in. Early on in the set they played their newest track followed by “The Moment” which helped to remind those in the crowd just how joyfully dancey their music can be. After that song wrapped they took a brief pause to talk about how they have played four Coachella shows and never did they think they’d be on the main stage this late at night, which served as a segue into “It’s Not Meant To Be.” As the set went on the graphics got trippier and the lasers got even more intense, they even dropped in their latest track “Borderline” towards the end of their set before eventually closing with a confetti strewn performance of “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Despite the surprising pick for headliner they certainly held their own. Their performance did add a bit of additional perspective to Childish Gambino’s performance on the previous night, revealing it for the impressive showcase it was by giving fans something other than Beyoncé’s legendary set to compare it to.
Photo Credit: Marv Watson