A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone about Coachella, and specifically this year’s lineup.
“It’s not as fun as it used to be,” he said.
On Friday, as I walked around the Empire Polo Club, I pondered my friend’s assertion. I don’t agree: Coachella is still fun!
There were a lot of changes made to the layout this year. The new Sonora Tent, an air-conditioned space inspired by the Glass House in Pomona that hosts a lot of the smaller rock acts, has been moved to where the Mojave Tent used to be. The Mojave Tent has been moved to where the Sahara Tent used to be, while the Sahara Tent moved to the front lobby area, close to the Ferris wheel.
I spent a couple of hours of wandering aimlessly and taking in the vibrant art installations. One highlight: Spectra, designed by design studio NEWSUBSTANCE (right). I was in awe: At 75 feet tall, the interactive tower features colored windows that spiral along with the design to the top. These different colors make for interesting views when you stop to look out the windows as you go up and down.
Here are some music highlights from Friday.
• Fazerdaze, a band from New Zealand, rocked the Sonora Tent’s early-afternoon crowd. Frontwoman Amelia Murray said it was surreal to go from recording music in her bedroom to playing at Coachella just a year after releasing the band’s first album, Morningside. The garage-rock-meets-dream-pop sound was a hit with the crowd, who gave the band a fantastic round of applause at the end of the 45-minute set.
• Cash Cash, a house-music trio, performed an energetic set in the Sahara Tent in the late afternoon. At one point, they stopped to lead the crowd in a sing-along of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” Hearing the entire tent sing the chorus was beautiful, and the trio complimented the crowd, saying we were all beautiful singers, before continuing on with the blasting set.
• SuperDuperKyle, a rap and pop star on the rise, put on a hilarious and entertaining set on the Main Stage in the afternoon. When Kyle went crowd-surfing, one of his onstage collaborators screamed at the crowd to bring him back to the stage: “Get in, loser! We got a Coachella to do!” During Kyle’s final song, he was on a surfboard—being passed around by the audience as he told them in which direction to send him.
• Whatever The War on Drugs’ sound is—’70s? ’80s?—it was perfect for the early evening as the sun set behind mountains. The drummer is a show of his own, looking like he came right out of a time machine from the ’70s.
• After all the talk about St. Vincent’s Weekend 1 performance, she managed to live up to the hype during her Weekend 2 set: It was everything that’s awesome about pop and rock, with intense 3-D visuals and a psychedelic pop feel. I suspect that Lady Gaga wishes she was St. Vincent, because St. Vincent has edginess and charisma—a woman who isn’t afraid to make people shake their asses and rock out during the same show
• Jean-Michel Jarre (below) might have played to crowds of more than 1 million, but at Coachella, his crowd was sparse during his Outdoor Theater-headlining slot. This is a shame, although it’s understandable: He’s in the midst of his first-ever American tour, and he had to compete with SZA and Soulwax, Jarre did start to win people over at the end, who were most likely wondering what in the hell was going on, as the visuals from the stage included pyramids, distorted video footage of Edward Snowden talking about Internet privacy, lasers and lights shooting around everywhere—all along with the French electronica that is Jarre’s sound. The further you stepped away from his show, the more impressive his visuals looked.
• Whether or not you’re a fan of The Weeknd, it’s indisputable: He was incredible on Friday night. His visuals on the Main Stage were over the top and intense. At times, The Weeknd reminded me of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, as he’d perform—and you’d only see a little bit of him as visuals played over the entire stage.
As people were exiting the festival for the night, many of them felt compelled to stop and watch The Weeknd a bit—it was hard to walk away.