Coachella Weekend 2 is officially under way.
While this weekend is essentially a repeat of last weekend, there was still a great deal of excitement and anticipation in the air.
“There are some awesome bands and great weather. It’s going to be a good time,” said a man from Calgary as he went through one of the security lines.
There was even excitement among the bands playing at the festival. “We are very excited to have opened the main stage,” said Lorna Thomas of Skinny Lister. “The crowd was up for it today, and we had a good time, and it was a great gig.”
Art installations are widespread throughout the grounds. One exhibit that caught my eye on Day 1 was called The Coachella Power Station, designed by Los Angeles artists Derek Doublin, Vanessa Bonet and Chris Wagner. It looks like a model of a power station, with costumed workers wearing white jumpsuits and horse masks. It isn’t very clear what they are doing, but they open tool boxes and stuff the mouths of their masks with plastic imitations of wood and grass chunks.
“I love it,” said Ramin Omid, from Marina Del Ray, Calif. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.” When I asked him what he thought about the costumed individuals inside the exhibit, he laughed and said, “They look like nuclear engineers to me.”
Another exhibit makes rounds throughout the festival. Balloon Chain, developed by Robert Bose, from New York City, is a kite-like chain featuring numerous helium balloons, pulled by individual operators who allow attendees to take hold of them for a few moments. When Andy with Balloon Chain allowed me to take control of the handle, the pull of the 1,800-foot-long cord with small balloons was incredible. “When the wind picks up, it’ll drag you across the ground,” Andy said. “Last weekend, we did shorter lines due to the wind. Last Sunday night, it was really windy, and we had to bring the Balloon Chain down.”
For those who are looking to cool down, Heineken’s air-conditioned “Dome” is an inflatable dome featuring a bar and a dance floor, complete with live DJs. “It’s super refreshing,” Paloma Martinez of Los Angeles said. “The music inside here is definitely different than what you hear out there.”
If you ever wanted to learn more about the subject of drinking water, the Oasis Water Bar is the place to go. “We’re sharing with people where our water comes from, and some potential places where our water might come from in the future,” the Oasis employee explained to me, before handing me a survey sheet asking questions, like: Do I own a water bottle? Do I drink tap water at home? Do I order tap water or bottled water in restaurants? Participants then receive a sample of one of the various waters; the one I tried was called “Moonshine Secret Sauce.”
It tasted just like water.
When it comes to music, Coachella Day 1 definitely featured some noteworthy performances.
Johnny Marr—former guitarist with The Smiths—played mid-afternoon inside the Mojave Tent. Walking onto the stage with a rose in his mouth, he opened his set with the opening track on his newly released debut album, The Messenger.
“Is anyone smoking pot? I know someone is!” Marr said in between songs, earning a laugh from the crowd. He asked the guilty individual to raise his hand; one attendee then pointed out the man to the rest of the audience.
“Here’s one you know,” Marr said before he started The Smiths’ tune “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which electrified the audience and led to a sing-along. Marr closed his set with the Smiths’ hit “How Soon Is Now,” which gave the crowd another opportunity to sing along to a song they actually knew.
Reggae legend and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry appeared in the Gobi tent for an early evening performance. Perry, known for producing Bob Marley, was colorfully dressed in attire inspired by punk rock and Rastafarianism. Perry’s reggae sound has always been eccentric and nontraditional; he was accompanied by a dubstep DJ and a reggae band.
Following Lee “Scratch” Perry was former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and his band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Biafra, who once ran for president on the Green Party ticket, is known for his heavy political themes in his music; he referenced the debate on firearms and people who fear having their guns taken away.
“If that were ever to happen, I’d get out my lawn chair with a glass of lemonade and watch it,” Biafra said to the audience.
Biafra taunted the audience with his strange facial expressions and hand gestures; he resembled a punk-rock circus clown, only without makeup. He performed two Dead Kennedys songs during his set: “California Über Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia.”
While The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are experiencing some negative reviews for their new album, Mosquito, their performance on the main stage proved the band still knows how to turn in a great live show. The band’s lead-singer, Karen O, is a pop-star diva with a little bit of punk-rock attitude. The combination of the band’s rock sound and dance elements got the crowd moving. They dazzled the audience with a performance of “Sacrilege”—backed by a full gospel choir—toward the end of their set.
While Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are playing Sunday night on the main stage, he also performed with his side project, Grinderman, in the Mojave tent. The stage featured sets of large amplifiers on each side; amplifiers were also placed on the ground level between the security fence and the stage. When the band started playing, the ground felt like it was shaking; the feedback from the instruments was screeching enough to almost shatter ear drums. While Cave generally sings ballads and well-crafted songs when he plays solo or with the Bad Seeds, Grinderman is a harder, faster, louder experience.
A reunited Jurassic 5 took the stage at the outdoor theater at 10:45 p.m. Jurassic 5’s positive and political themed hip-hop songs brought out a laid back vibe. An oversized turntable in the middle of the stage turned out to be not just a prop; both DJs, Cut-Chemist and Nu-Mark, took turns scratching the large record and messing with the mixer. As they say in one of their songs, “we came here to entertain,” and entertain, they did. They also made mention of Public Enemy being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dedicated their performance to them, stating that without Public Enemy’s influence, Jurassic 5 wouldn’t have come together.
With Damon Albarn supposedly at odds with Jamie Hewlett as far as the Gorillaz are concerned, it’s not a surprise that he is continuing the Blur reunion. Blur, who switched spots with The Stone Roses this weekend, took the stage at 11:35. The 3-D, hologram backdrop of the underbelly of a bridge was realistic; it actually looked as if the band were playing under a bridge.
The group proved worthy of being headliners. “Out of Time” had many people gently swaying side to side, singing along to the sentimental song about not having enough time to appreciate life. Of course, no Blur show would be complete without their hit “Song 2,” which made the audience scream “WOOOO HOOOO” along with Albarn.
Photos by Noelle Haro-Gomez