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18 Apr 2015

Coachella Day 1: It Starts With Alchemy, and Ends With AC/DC

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Desert rock founding father Brant Bjork rocked the Coachella crowd—but didn't get the audience he deserved. Desert rock founding father Brant Bjork rocked the Coachella crowd—but didn't get the audience he deserved. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Coachella 2015’s second weekend kicked off at 11 a.m., Friday, April 17, with a bang for local music fans.

Alchemy—which also played at Tachevah earlier this week, and at Coachella’s first weekend—launched the weekend on the Outdoor Stage. While their Tachevah performance was good, their Coachella performance was even better. Vocalist Andrew Gonzalez noted that the audience was much better this week—and some fans even started a mosh pit during the performance.

After Alchemy, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger took to the Outdoor Stage. The band is fronted by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl; it was a homecoming, of sorts, since they met at Coachella 10 years ago. Their music at times sounded like Deep Purple, with a little bit of Pink Floyd thrown in. Lennon made reference to a couple of the band’s music videos, once claiming: “You’ll like it if you like nipples.”

After Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band took the Outdoor Stage. Bjork, the drummer of the pioneering desert rock band Kyuss, should have had a bigger turnout. The crowd was thin, but full of desert rock devotees. Bjork and his band managed to pump out a lot of volume and rock the audience at the same time. Desert local and Throw Rag frontman Sean Wheeler joined in for his last number.

I walked into the show by Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires—and soon discovered that the 66-year-old soul singer had young folks swaying and dancing to his sounds of love. However, Bradley went a few minutes over his scheduled set time—and show organizers cut the sound. Nonetheless, the band continued to play the last two minutes of his song without the PA system.

In the late afternoon, Azealia Banks took the Coachella stage. Banks has taken the world by storm, and I admit I was turned on by the first 15 minutes … however, I quickly grew tired of her act. I like my hip-hop with some rhyme and reason to it.

Speaking of rhyme and reason, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah began playing on the Outdoor Stage toward the middle of Banks’ set. The Wu-Tang Clan’s crowd was huge at the Outdoor Stage in 2013; Raekwon and Ghostface Killah managed to get a pretty large crowd crammed into the Outdoor Stage area for their performance this year. Raekwon handled the first two songs by himself, stating, “Ghostface is out back taking a shit.” After the photographers were ushered out of the photo pit, however, Ghostface Killah appeared. Their set was energetic, and featured songs from their solo efforts along with Wu-Tang works including “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthin’ to Fuck Wit” and “Triumph.”

As the sun began to set, Lykke Li began to play in the Mojave tent. The Swedish indie-pop singer put on a mesmerizing performance with a combination of songs both slower and upbeat. The visual effects at times made it look as if she were performing in a forest; at other times, the effects offered a light show.

I admit I had my doubts about Steely Dan performing at Coachella. Well, now, I can eat my words: Steely Dan performed to a large crowd, including many younger fans who obviously knew the material. The jazz/blues combo sound of Steely Dan was a hit, with many festival-goers screaming “STEELY FUCKING DAN!” in between songs.

While Steely Dan came from the initial psychedelic era, Tame Impala comes from a new era of psychedelic music. The Australian outfit had a large turnout at the Outdoor Stage when they played Coachella in 2013, and it was fitting for them to play on the main stage before AC/DC. The intro was Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” As Tame Impala played, the psychedelic visuals were fantastic; a combination of older songs and new songs filled the setlist. Tame Impala is new and improved: The band sounds a lot tighter now than it used to. When frontman Kevin Parker announced their last song, he told the crowd not to be sad, because AC/DC was going to come out—and it was going to get crazy.

He was right. AC/DC took the Coachella stage crowd by surprise when the stage got dark and the band got down to business—with no intro whatsoever—opening with “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” The setlist was pretty close to the Weekend One show, and the performance was just as good.

I overheard many younger people saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing AC/DC,” and, “My dad is going to be so jealous.” This proves that AC/DC is for everyone, including the children.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery from Friday’s Coachella goings-on.

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