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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

I’ll admit it: I was skeptical as I walked into the Empire Polo Club for the start of Coachella Weekend 2—but a relaxed vibe and above-expectations performances led to a wonderful Friday of music.

Here are some of the things I took in:

• Just after 3 p.m., I found myself at the Coachella Stage watching Los Tucanes de Tijuana for the second time this week. The Coachella performance was much different than the one at Chella—and the Coachella crowd couldn’t seem to get enough. The band played 1994 hit “La Chona” early in the set and also at the end. “La Chona” has become a verb, of sorts, as people like to post online videos dancing to the song, and the Coachella crowd was happy to do so as well.

• Late in the afternoon, I was blown away by Calypso Rose’s set in the Gobi Tent (right). The 78-year-old calypsonian from Trinidad—she announced she’ll be 79 in two weeks—is now the oldest performer to grace the stages at Coachella. Despite falling down last week, she stood right back up as if nothing happened. She can no longer do the crazy calypso dances, but she teased the crowd a few times by pulling up her ankle length dress to her knees and moving a bit. She’s adorable … and she’s fierce. In fact, after her second song, she declared herself the “Queen of Coachella.” She also told the men in the audience to never raise a hand toward a woman, because they spent nine months in a woman’s womb, and they wouldn’t want anyone to hit their daughters—and she spoke from a place of authority, as she’s battled sexism in the calypso scene from men who were intimidated by her or felt inferior to her. It’s a wonder why more people weren’t at her set—because she is a true living legend.

• Anderson .Paak (first below) started off his early-evening set on the Coachella Stage with a blasting performance of “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” from his 2016 album, Malibu—and then was seen performing behind the drums. When I saw him perform at Coachella in 2016, I figured he was only going to become a bigger name—and he’s now a main-stage talent. He joked with the audience that the first-week jitters were gone, so he could relax—and that he was happy to see a turnout bigger than last weekend’s crowd. There were times in the set that felt like a Stevie Wonder set in the 1970s, and there were times that felt like a high-energy rap concert.

• U.S. Girls’ Meghan Remy is a bit eccentric, and the group’s headlining performance in the indoor Sonora Tent was a bit strange (second below). Performing right after punk/hardcore band The Frights was probably not easy for a psychedelic pop band—and the crowd was pretty dismal, to say the least, despite all the positive press the group has garnered over the last year. After about the third song, there was a minute of very awkward silence as Remy stared into the audience and calmly asked: “Are you out there?” The end of the performance was also strange, when she and two other band members got down on the floor of the stage, performed some strange movements, and literally crawled away to conclude the performance … something the audience wouldn’t have known if one of the band members hadn’t walked by and threw some guitar picks to the crowd while waving goodbye.

• As I waited for Lady Gaga’s headlining performance two years ago, DJ Snake’s wild DJ set—complete with a crazy light show accompanying it—offered great entertainment. On Friday, DJ Snake returned to the same stage, with almost the same scenario—playing right before the headliner. This time around, I decided to actually watch rather than just listen, and it was … let’s call it over the top. It was an absolute banger of a set that could probably be heard all the way in Palm Desert. DJ Snake went hard, and—other than an earsplitting number using high-pitched bird sounds—it was flawless.

• Childish Gambino’s intro was the same as it was last week: He started off on a platform about 25 feet off the ground that slowly lowered him down. His eyes were wide, as if he were ready for war, as he walked through the gospel choir accompanying him. After the first song, he took it down a notch, giving the audience two rules: Get down to the performance as much as possible; and put down the fucking phones and live in the moment. He saved his best and newer material for the end, after delighting the crowd with some of his lighter-hearted material.

Published in Reviews

Local audiences are going to get a rare chance to enjoy the music of Mon Laferte, the most successful music artist in Chile today.

That’s no exaggeration: She’s the most listened-to artist from Chile on Spotify. She’s the Chilean artist with the most Latin Grammy Award nominations in one year (five, in 2017), and she’s the best-selling Chilean music artist in the digital era.

Mon Laferte will be playing Chella at the Riverside County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, April 17, and will be appearing at Coachella on Friday, April 12 and 19.

Laferte is currently living in Mexico. During a recent phone interview, Laferte talked about the differences between there and her native Chile.

“In Mexico, the music industry is much bigger,” Laferte said. “It’s obviously much more consolidated. It’s bigger; the roof is higher; there’s more diversity; there’s room to grow, and that nurtures an artist in several ways. In Chile, there’s a really good music industry, but it’s a lot smaller; the ceiling is lower. It doesn’t allow you to grow that much, and there’s not room to travel as much as you can in Mexico. But this is a very good moment for the music industry in Chile, and there’s a lot of new talent coming out.”

In 2003, she performed on the Chilean music-competition television series Rojo. She wound up becoming a regular on the show for four seasons.

“These programs are edited before they are aired. I feel that it didn’t hinder my creativity in any way, because my personality is very strong,” Laferte said. “There were a lot of times where I went off-script completely. Aside from what could have been edited when it was broadcast, it was a reflection of who I am as a creative person.”

Her latest album, Norma, released last November, was a collaboration with At the Drive-In and Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.

“It was a great learning experience,” Laferte said. “This was the first time I’ve ever given the production of an album to somebody else in full. The demos were given to Omar as guitar and vocals only, and I followed his intuition of his vision for those tracks, recording them live at Capitol Studios. It was a huge learning experience and something I loved doing for the first time.”

An accompanying film is slated to be released later this year.

“Initially, the album was created as an audio-visual piece. I didn’t intend to release the album first and the visuals later,” Laferte said. “When I wrote it, it was like a documentary on love, and the tracks went along with the visual piece—kind of like visual resources to tell the story beyond what music and lyrical arrangements can do. I’m very excited to see this come to life.”

Laferte said she’s excited about touring the United States and playing at Chella and Coachella.

“Being able to build my life around music and live off my music is the best dream come true,” she said. “Coming from Chile and having a career that developed from a small country and connecting to people performing at Coachella—those are the bigger rewards. I get to live for music.”

Chella, featuring Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte, Cola Boyy, and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, takes place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, in the Fullenwider Auditorium at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, in Indio. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit www.goldenvoice.com/#/event/370991.

Published in Previews

After Beyonce headlined Coachella last year, it was hard to imagine how Goldenvoice could top that this year.

And … uh, they haven’t.

That said, there are a lot of great acts on the bill at Coachella. Here’s a list of the performers I, personally, won’t miss.

Friday, April 12 and 19

U.S. Girls

This is the experimental pop project of producer and musician Meghan Remy. She has released seven albums, and after I heard her most recent album, last year’s In a Poem Unlimited, I hoped U.S. Girls would be on the Coachella lineup for 2019. Just about every music publication that reviewed the album gave it a high score. Remy’s brand of experimental pop goes into some interesting territory. It’s easy on the ears; it’s catchy; and it’s mesmerizing. Remy’s live performances have received strong praise, and it will be interesting to see what she does for Coachella.

Let’s Eat Grandma

While funny, this is not the funniest name on the lineup. (Look closely.) If you’re a fan of Tegan and Sara, you’ll love Let’s Eat Grandma. Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth have many interesting things going for themselves; they are able to belt out some beautiful harmonies, and they get down and dirty in some pretty chaotic samples and beats. I highly recommend checking out their album I’m All Ears before checking them out at Coachella.

The Frights

What do you get when you take a punk band that also incorporates surf rock and doo-wop into the mix? The Frights! The Frights go from goofy and off the wall to all of a sudden sounding like Minor Threat. It’s a beautiful mixture of chaos and playfulness—and it’s a whole lot of fun. In a lineup that is less focused on rock bands, The Frights definitely stand out.

Kacey Musgraves

Last year at Stagecoach, Kacey Musgraves played on the Mane Stage during a strong wind storm right before headliner Keith Urban. Despite the challenges—and appearing frustrated at times—Musgraves put on a memorable set for the large country audience. I have to wonder: How will her performance play out at Coachella? It’ll be an interesting sight to see; every year that a Stagecoach performer is included in a future Coachella lineup, the result always seems to be memorable—in a good way.


Saturday, April 13 and 20

Steady Holiday

Dre Babinski has had an interesting career. She’s a model and actress who has worked primarily in commercials—yet she also has quite a knack for songwriting. Her music videos are haunting, and her music is dark and yet beautiful. You can hear bands such as Portishead and Goldfrapp in her music, along with her stated influences of Leonard Cohen and Burt Bacharach. It can make you feel joy—and make you cry. She was well-received at Coachella in 2016 and will no doubt dazzle attendees in 2019.

Idris Elba

We’re used to seeing Idris Elba—aka the next James Bond?—onscreen in films such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and the Avengers series. I had never heard his music until recently, and I was pretty amazed by his vocal talents. His voice has a lot of soul, and after watching some footage of his DJ sets, I’m even more fascinated. It’s hard to say what he’s going to do at Coachella, but whatever he does, it should be fantastic.

Ty Segall and White Fence

Ty Segall is one of the best things to happen to the current era of rock ’n’ roll in this current era. While many know who he is, more need to know who he is. He evolves with every record he puts out, every band he puts together, and every collaboration in which he finds himself. White Fence, his collaboration with Tim Presley, is nothing short of earth shattering and will blow your fucking mind. Forget what is going on elsewhere at Coachella and get your ass to this performance.

Mac DeMarco

It’s got to be interesting when someone defines what he does as “jizz jazz.” DeMarco has a sound that is a melding of ’80s smooth rock and psychedelic pop. A lot of what he does also feels like early David Bowie. His music video for the song “Nobody” (the song will be on his upcoming album in May) features DeMarco in lizard makeup wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar, which speaks to his sense of humor and bizarre persona. Considering he sells out venues around the world, you should circle this one on your Coachella schedule.


Sunday, April 14 and 21

Mansionair

If you are a fan of ODESZA, you might remember the appearance Mansionair made on ODESZA’s 2017 album A Moment Apart. With the release of Mansionair’s first full-length album, Shadowboxer, earlier this year, we’re finally getting a proper glimpse of this Australian indie-electronic trio. The album took three years to make; part of the album’s creative process was a retreat to a cabin in the mountains. Shadowboxer is receiving a lot of praise from fans and critics alike, and this Coachella performance is one I’m really anticipating.

Alice Merton

There are thankfully a lot of women on the Coachella lineup this year—and Alice Merton may just take the world by storm one day. Her sound is similar to that of Florence and the Machine, and her debut album Mint was clearly made on her own terms. Her vocals sound flawless throughout, and you can clearly feel the soul and beauty reflected in her songwriting.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

If you’re seeking more of Saturday headliner Tame Impala on Sunday, the closest thing you’ll find is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The band’s psychedelic sound is a throwback to the ’70s; you’ll also get a dose of kick-ass garage rock. The band is currently touring behind last year’s album release, Sex and Food. After packing Pappy and Harriet’s last year, this group will amaze you.

Blood Orange

I purchased the album Negro Swan on a recommendation from an employee at Amoeba Records in Hollywood and put it in my CD player for the nighttime drive back to the desert. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) is clearly an artist of conscious thought and is singing about all of the right things—self-exploration, the political struggles facing the black community, the anxiety of LGBT people, and much more. Blood Orange is definitely on to something, and I can’t wait to experience whatever he has up his sleeve for Coachella.

Published in Previews

Superorganism may very well be the most interesting band you’ll see at Coachella.

Superorganism is actually more an art collective than a band, made up of eight members from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The group’s closest comp may be Gorillaz … but even that’s not quite right.

Figure out Superorganism for yourself on Saturday, April 13 and 20.

Superorganism’s videos seem like pop-culture propaganda—spoofing modern society. During a recent phone interview from London, Harry (real name: Christopher Young) explained his view on their music videos.

“I think it’s always propaganda to a degree,” Young said. “It’s certainly not a conscious thing on our part, but I think the ego that drives you to write songs and (makes you) feel like you have something meaningful to say to the world is inherently propaganda. We don’t set out to do that, but I think you can pick up quite a few things that run through our record. I like to think that we leave it open to people to interpret what they want out of those songs. We definitely try to have consistency and cohesiveness in what we present to people.

“In terms of mainstream pop music, it depends on whether you feel the Beatles saying, ‘All you need is love,’ is propaganda, or if ‘fuck the police’ is propaganda. But if you have a strong message that you want to convey, you are going to be propagandists in your results, whatever your intentions may be.”

The video for “The Prawn Song” (embedded below) references various recent memes … including, ugh, Tide Pods.

“I think it stems from the influence of Devo and these ideas reflecting society through absurdity more than making a heavy-handed comment on society. Our comments are still somewhat serious,” Young said. “I always think of ‘Prawn Song’ in particular: The message of the song once you unpack it is serious about how humans are entrapped in the environment of our world and various flaws we have. I think a sense of humor is integral in our presentation. Even in the art and pop world, I really struggle with things that take themselves serious without any irony or any capacity to appreciate absurdity. The Tide Pods are a big part of that. What a weird meme to have taken off, and it plays into that Devo theme perfectly.”

Seven of Superorganism’s eight members live together in a house in London. I asked if that ever becomes too much.

“There comes a point where you’ve just come off tour, and you’ve been on a bus together, and you come back into this house that’s full of the same people you were just on a bus with—and you can get a little bit of cabin fever,” Young said. “But all of us have our various ways on how to deal with that, like going off to hang out in a different city for a while to get a bit of a peace of mind, or going for walks around the local area and clearing your head. I try to hang out with my mates who are totally into video games and don’t know a lot about music when I’m back in London, because it’s nice to be in this refreshing zone. That’s the nature of being an artist: It’s a lifestyle first and a job second. We all have our ways of trying to clear our heads.”

In a band with eight people, how do you resolve conflicts in the creative process?

“I wouldn’t say ‘conflicts.’ That’s too strong of a term,” Young said. “Our guiding ethos is really helpful in how we construct things, because it negates conflict before it’s begun. Our guiding ethos is you should invest your ego in the outcome; don’t invest your ego in the process. … That means a good idea will flow, and a bad idea will sink. We don’t get too uptight or upset over our ideas not making the cut. We don’t tend to have culture-specific disagreements for music, but if I have an idea for a guitar part in a track, and Soul (Earl Ho) presents a better one, I guess you could call that a conflict. I’m always going to go with what the best idea is instead of making sure my part is heard.”

Nearly everything that Superorganism does is made in-house—even the production of their videos and their live shows.

“I think that it’s a combination that we set this project up as an art collective,” Young said. “On one hand, we can do everything in-house. Robert Strange (Blair Everson) does all of our visuals; he makes the videos and the visuals for the live shows. He’s downstairs in the bedroom below mine right now working on stuff. We can assemble all of this stuff at home with minimal support. Most artists have an idea for what their visuals should look like and how to put it together, but they need to hire a videographer who can do that, and if it’s someone who has a lot of experience, that’s where it’s going to cost you. … We try to keep that stuff at home and do it for the absolute minimum. That’s where our record label, Domino Records, comes in. Things happened so quick for us in the beginning. They were really confident about coming in and giving us more support from the start. Before we even played a show is when we signed our record deal. It meant that Domino was happy to make the advances and cover the setup (things) we couldn’t do, like hire a projectionist and understanding the lighting rig.”

Coachella comes in the midst of Superorganism’s tour of the U.S., and Young said he’s excited to go into states like Georgia and Colorado, rather than just the usual cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

“I think it’s a weird time for music,” he said. … “One thing that I’ve noticed that happens quite a bit in America, probably because we’re on an indie label, is we tend to get kind of grouped together with what I would describe as ‘indie-rock acts.’ Personally, I feel deprived by that. We’ve worked hard to create something very modern and electronic, and we’re not really rock. Because people really like to categorize things, a lot of the artists we’re categorized with tend to be throwback ’90s alt-rock things. Our stuff has electronic beats and a little bit of a guitar, but it’s all pretty synth-heavy.” 

Published in Previews

Coachella 2018 will be remembered for a lot of firsts.

Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline at Coachella. This was the first year when there was no rock headliner—and a year when rock music took a backseat to rap.

It was also a year of change. The Sahara Tent—known in the past for featuring some of the biggest names in EDM—had a new layout and was in a new location. This Coachella introduced West Indio Market, a large food court.

Yeah, Coachella has come a long way since the first festival in 1999; in fact, my friend Courtney, who attended the first few incarnations of Coachella, said it’s totally unrecognizable compared to those first festivals.

However … let’s examine these aforementioned 2018 remembrances. Was there really less rock music at Coachella in 2018? I’m not sure that was the case, outside of the headliners. The Sonora Tent featured a long list of up-and-coming indie and garage bands, while A Perfect Circle drew a large crowd to the outdoor amphitheater on Sunday night, even though Eminem hitting the Main Stage about 15 minutes later. I also saw plenty of rock bands in the Mojave and Gobi tents.

If you love music, and you attend Coachella with an open mind, you’re sure to stumble across a new band or solo artist to love. I was exposed to many great new things over the weekend, like SuperDuperKyle—and I found myself adding a handful of new artists into my music library when I came home.

Here are some highlights from Sunday.

• Punk-band FIDLAR put on a wild show in the Mojave Tent on Sunday afternoon. For Coachella attendees who were trying to find something edgier, it was a welcome time, given the craziness of the mosh pit. Lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper was decked in hospital scrubs and said, “We’re going to try something new,” as he went went down into the crowd and started a new FIDLAR song called “Alcohol.” Carper also told the ladies later in the set that if anyone made them uncomfortable or inappropriately touched them in any way, they had permission from “Fidlar, LLC” to “punch them in the fucking face.” He told the men before starting one of their songs, “Dicks off the dance floor—we’re going to have a ladies-only mosh pit,” before actually ordering men away from the moshing area. “Dudes, don’t you dare try and gentrify this shit!” he said.

• The Do LaB remains a popular attraction. The small tented area back near the nice indoor bathrooms has always been a fun party, and I have talked to some people who actually spend most of their festival time back there. During my visit to The Do LaB on Sunday afternoon, the party was in full swing, with water hoses squirting down the crowd, outlandish outfits and nonstop dancing in the heat.

• Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington performed an early-evening set on the Outdoor Stage, drawing a small crowd that grew over time. He told the audience that he didn’t really want to talk much, but he did say he believed the diversity at Coachella “wasn’t meant to be tolerated; it’s meant to be celebrated.” Washington changed up his setlist for Weekend 2, playing mostly songs from his upcoming and still-unreleased new album for the first time. His backing orchestra and vocalists gave his set a real psychedelic feel, but the jazz created positive vibes the longer you watched. It was something attendees needed after a long day in the heat.

• Over the past few years, Goldenvoice has put at least one EDM act on the Main Stage. On Sunday night, ODESZA was that EDM group for this year—and the performance was beautiful. Atmospheric, uplifting and beautifully performed songs featured some vocalists, some guitar and even a full drum choir. The visuals accompanied the performance in a powerful way—and while ODESZA didn’t create its logo out of drones as the group did last week, it still delivered a hell of a performance that will be talked about for years to come.

• Despite lukewarm reviews of Eminem’s Weekend 1 set, I kept the Sunday headliner on my personal schedule. His set started out well, and Eminem had a lot of energy—but he was reluctant to perform any of his hits, and I soon realized why people had complained during Weekend 1 that his set was scattered and messy. He lost much of the crowd during the set. “Stan” (it would have been nice to have a Dido or Elton John cameo) and “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” were performed after the 30-minute mark, as was “Love the Way You Lie.” Also, a new rule needs to be created: If Dr. Dre is going to appear as a guest, he needs to perform something besides “The Next Episode” and “California Love.” I know Dre can do whatever he wants … but it’s starting to become a little too predictable.

Published in Reviews

Jacob Banks was the first unsigned music act to appear on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.

He’s since released two EPs before scoring a record deal with Interscope Records and releasing a third EP—so it’s appropriate that he finally had his Coachella moment this year.

His R&B/soul sound is at times dark, and at times uplifting—with moments featuring a gospel vibe and even some African music. (Banks was originally born in Nigeria.) During a stop at the press tent at Coachella on Sunday, Banks said he never dreamed he would become the performer he is today.

“I was never trying to make a name for myself,” Banks said. “The lucky thing about me is I’m from a city in the United Kingdom called Birmingham. The music industry didn’t really know much about me, and I was making music more out of necessity. As long as I could pay my rent and be alive, I was OK with that. I was never trying to really be heard—and my manager could testify to that.

“I did my own PR and did my own radio plugs, because I didn’t have anyone, and there was no blueprint,” Banks said. “I never struggled to be heard, only because I wasn’t trying to be heard. I was just trying to make my music for people who listened to it and allowed me to be fine financially. All of this—including Coachella—was never in the books. My dreams were never that big.”

Banks said creative freedom is something he takes very seriously.

“It’s everything to me: I need to have creative freedom,” he said. “The reason being is I have to live with my decisions, and creative freedom doesn’t always mean I make the right decisions. It means I make the wrong (decision sometimes), and I have to take responsibility for it. This is my life’s work. I have to be able to put my name on everything I do, and proudly. I have to be able to be creative to the fullest of my ability.”

Banks said new music is coming soon.

“We have an album called Village, and it’s coming out in September,” he said. “For every project I do, I always try to move forward. I think this is more introspective, whereas the last one was kind of outwards. This is looking inside at life, learning things and unlearning things, and working on myself.”

The Coachella audience was appreciative of Banks. His performance on Sunday afternoon in the Mojave Tent was well-attended.

“It’s been fun, and I’ve enjoyed this week more than last week—only because I was sick as shit last week,” he said. “It was hard, but I always say to my boys that ‘I wouldn’t have shit to cry about.’ I get to express myself for a living, and as long as I’m breathing, I can sing. I’ll find a way to give a good show, even if it kills me. People are giving me their time, and time is the only currency that matters. If people are coming to my show, they could be anywhere else in the world, but they’re choosing to be right here and right now, so we’re going to give you a good-ass show.”

Beyoncé’s Coachella Weekend 1 performance made news around the world.

Well, her Coachella Weekend 2 performance was just as impressive, even if it was pretty much a direct copy of her set last week, complete with the Jay Z appearance, and the Destiny’s Child reunion.

Although Beyoncé started about 15 minutes later than scheduled, it was an incredible spectacle—with the energy of a crowd of more than 100,000 people.

The Internet stream truly didn’t do her performance justice. Being there in person to witness the show—to hear Beyoncé’s voice and feel the energy of that crowd—was amazing. This is what big-time live music is truly about and why people go to shows. Beyoncé held the crowd for close to two hours—and there were people as far as the eye could see until the very end.

Of course, there were some other great performances during the day.

• X Japan had the unenviable task of headlining the Mojave Tent on Saturday night during Beyoncé’s set. However, I was able to take in some Japanese rock in the Sonora Tent in the afternoon, thanks to the all-female Japanese punk band Otoboke Beaver (below). This group was quite a sight. I’ve seen some all-female Japanese bands in the past, and they seem to always be entertaining, with a cranked-up stage presence and performances that always go above and beyond. The mosh pit the group stirred in the Sonora throughout the performance wasn’t for the physically weak.

• Shortly before CHIC was scheduled to perform on the Main Stage in the afternoon, the video wall suddenly turned on—and showed Nile Rodgers walking through the crowd with his guitar on. He was talking with and meeting fans who were already gathered in the area.

• Like Beyoncé, David Byrne—the former frontman of the Talking Heads—turned in a buzz-worthy set during Weekend 1, and recaptured the magic during Weekend 2. The stage setup one would expect—guitars, bass, drums and keyboards—were gone. Instead, Byrne and his backing band played on a bare stage with only a curtain of streamers hanging behind and to the sides of them. Byrne still sounds fantastic, and it seems as if he has many ideas left in that brain of his (or at least the brain he was shown holding up at the beginning of the performance—while seated at a table and singing).

• Haim, an all-female pop trio of sisters from the San Fernando Valley, had to feel a little pressure, given they were playing right before Beyoncé—but they put on one hell of a show. Bassist Este Haim reminded the audience that it was the second anniversary of the death of R&B and rock legend Prince, and then added that it was also the 10th anniversary of Prince’s fantastic performance at Coachella in 2008, which she attended. She said that if it had not been for Prince’s inspiration, she wouldn’t have been playing music today. To conclude the set, all three sisters pounded out a drum/percussion solo before they stood in the middle of the stage, hugged each other and walked off the Main Stage.

Published in Reviews

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.

Published in Reviews

Barring any huge surprises, Coachella 2018 will be known as the year of Beyonce … and no rock headliners.

The lineup might be hard to navigate—but I have you covered with this compilation of acts you should make time to check out.

Friday, April 13 and 20

The Buttertones: OK, we did not say Coachella 2018 was going to be completely devoid of rock. The Buttertones are a Los Angeles outfit that has been getting buzz for its brand of garage rock. The band features Sean Redman on bass (formerly of Cherry Glazerr) and Modeste Cobián on drums and other instruments. (I remember Cobián from Jeffertitti’s Nile; he’s a show of his own.) If you want to hear how weird this band can get, check out new track “Baby C4.” If you’re a fan of bands such as Shannon and the Clams and Ty Segall, you’ll love The Buttertones.

Perfume Genius: I first saw Perfume Genius at Coachella in 2015—and it was one of the most mesmerizing things I’d ever seen. Mike Hadreas has invented a pop sound that’s all his own. A lot of his songs are semi-biographical and address the bullying and death threats he received during his youth for being gay. He’s also written songs addressing other controversial subjects, ranging from domestic abuse to the problems younger gay men face in today’s LGBT world.

The War on Drugs: I know a lot of local musicians who were playing the War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream in their cars or in their practice spaces circa 2014 and 2015. Why? Because the War on Drugs is a great band that has warm psychedelic jams. The band’s keyboard and guitars make me feel like it’s well worth putting down some hard-earned money on their vinyls.

Jamiroquai: My Jamiroquai superfan editor would raise hell if the British nu-funk band were excluded from this list. I’m fascinated by Jamiroquai, given the group is downright huge in Europe—yet all Americans seem to remember about Jamiroquai is the smash-hit song from the late ’90s, “Virtual Insanity.” Jay Kay and co. have been on many Coachella attendees’ wish lists for years. If you’re in the mood for some disco dancing and fantastic funk music, Jamiroquai is who you should see.


Saturday, April 14 and 21

Cherry Glazerr: Named after NPR news personality Chery Glaser, this Los Angeles indie-rock band fronted by Clementine Creevy has been plagued by lineup changes—including going from a four-piece to a trio—but the music has remained fabulous, including sophomore album Apocalipstick in 2017. Creevy is the subject of a documentary put out by VICE called Clementine Creevy: The Millennial Punk Feminist Icon.

Jason Bentley: You might know him from your daily commute as the DJ on KCRW, but he’s also a DJ in the Los Angeles club scene. He told me when I interviewed him a while back that his favorite music to play is house music—specifically at 124 to 126 BPM. Considering he has an ear for great music, Bentley will be a fine Coachella catch.

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers: Nile Rodgers told Rolling Stone that he would be playing Coachella in 2017. That didn’t happen; turns out he was a year off. He played a big part in Daft Punk’s 2013 megahit album, Random Access Memories, and he’s been part of recordings with David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and so many others. Oh, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Need any more reasons to see him?

David Byrne: Many Coachella attendees will be millennials who have never heard of the Talking Heads; they will be wondering who in the hell David Byrne is. Well, he’s not just a musician; he’s an author, a soundtrack composer, and an artist who created an interactive exhibit combining music and technology, allowing people to “play the room.” Considering he’s worked with St. Vincent, who is performing on Friday night, they may appear during each other’s sets.


Sunday, April 15 and 22

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Thisis a pop band out of Australia that has received praise from a lot of rock writers, including the legendary Robert Christgau, who is not easy to win over. The band has a lot of catchy tunes that will get stuck in your head. The group put out the EP The French Press on Sub Pop Records last year, and fans have been waiting patiently for a full-length album. This is one band that could make pop music cool again.

Motor City Drum Ensemble: German house-music producer Danilo Plessow (below) goes by this moniker and is becoming one of the most recognizable producers in the world. The one thing I love about his stuff is that it has elements of soul, disco, jazz and ambient music. Just about anything he puts together can get you grooving. He’s proclaimed he’s bringing the soul back to techno and house … and it’s about time!

The Drums: The Drums made a big splash in 2010 with the group’s self-titled debut album. The duo of Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham did quite well for themselves in subsequent years, too—but Graham announced he’d left the group last year, leaving Pierce to carry on. The latest album, Abysmal Thoughts, is solid all around, so it will be interesting to see The Drums live without Graham. I’m betting that Pierce will keep the band going successfully for years to come.

Kamasi Washington: You probably recognize his name if you’re a fan of Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar or Run the Jewels—and his collaborations with these acts have made him almost as famous as they are. This jazz saxophonist is no stranger to Coachella, having performed here in 2016—and it has warmed my heart to see jazz at Coachella in recent years. I’m really stoked for Kamasi Washington.

Published in Previews

Punk-rock band FIDLAR released its self-titled debut full-length in 2013—creating a wild party that seemed like it would never end.

FIDLAR’s songs—with lyrics paying homage to wild partying and skateboarding, all with a psychedelic/surf-rock feel—were a breath of fresh air, and paid tribute to the original days of Los Angeles punk.

Then came follow-up Too in 2015. Frontman and guitarist Zac Carper was singing a different tune with a new perspective after a stint in rehab—although the songs sounded just as gnarly and chaotic.

The Los Angeles outfit, whose name stands for “Fuck It Dog, Life Is a Risk,” also features Elvis Kuehn (guitar) and Max Kuehn (drums)—both of whom are sons of T.S.O.L. keyboardist Greg Kuehn—as well as bassist Brandon Schwartzel. The group will be performing at Coachella on Sunday, April 15 and 22.

During a recent interview with Schwartzel, he said the band members were amused that they were finally offered a Coachella slot.

“Funny enough, we never thought we would ever get to play Coachella,” Schwartzel said. “Bands that we knew or played with were playing it, and we were like, ‘What? Why don’t we get to play?’ Then we kind of just figured, ‘Fuck it; it’s never going to happen, so let’s just not even think about it anymore.’ Then when we stopped thinking about it, it happened. I don’t know how it happened, but we were like, ‘OK!’ That’s par for the course for our band: As soon as we stop caring, shit starts happening, and we get the thing we were thinking about.”

FIDLAR had been busy after the release of Too.

“We had been touring for a while before and after the record came out, until early 2017,” Schwartzel said. “We took a minute just to be human beings again and live in the apartments that we pay rent for. We kept busy doing a few shows. I worked on a lot of artsy video shoots for other people and arts-department kind of stuff, keeping busy. Half the year passed by, and we started working on new material that we’re finally starting to finish up.

Too had a lot of lyrically heavy songs about sobriety and a new sober perspective on life from Carper. I asked what’s ahead on the third record.

“The first record was where we were at as an individual collective; that was the vibe of partying and getting fucked up,” Schwartzel said. “On the second record, Zac had gotten sober, so a lot of it was us and him collectively dealing with that. The third record will be about what’s been happening since then. It’s always very in the moment. We’ve been a band for a while now, and now people know who we are, and with that comes a lot of different things. We’re not four dudes living in the same apartment anymore. We’re not dealing with Zac getting sober anymore. It’s just about life now, dude.”

On Too, there’s a song called “Stupid Decisions,” on which Carper screams: “And I took too many drugs, and I drank too much. Yeah, I made some stupid decisions!” I asked Schwartzel if he feels like the band is maturing as the members get older.

“I think the biggest thing we joke about is that we wish we didn’t start playing live as high-energy as we did, because now it’s a lot more exhausting than it used to be,” he said. “You go from being 21 to 30, and your back hurts; your neck hurts; and you start to feel it a lot more. I think that’s the biggest insight to getting older so far. We’re still who we are at the same time, so we’re not completely changing who we are.”

The subject of what, exactly, is or is not punk rock has been thrown at FIDLAR before—and Schwartzel has an interesting perspective.

“It always comes down to: ‘What is really punk?’ That’s something that we’ve always had trouble defining for ourselves,” he said. “We have an attitude that’s very punk, I guess. We’re not a super-agro ‘fuck the government’ punk band, though. When it gets genre-specific, there are electronic artists who are more DIY than the most-DIY punk bands, but it just sounds different. I feel like (the members of) Die Antwoord are the most punk people out there, because they just do whatever the fuck they want, and are wild and weird.

“Who fucking knows what punk is anyway? There’s nothing more freeing than creating stuff. You get good at it and don’t have to worry about having to pay a bunch of people to make a bunch of mediocre shit for you.”

Skateboarding and surfing have been the subjects of FIDLAR songs in the past—but probably won’t be in the future.

“None of us really skateboard anymore,” Schwartzel said. “We’re in a band that tours all the time, and we can’t afford to get hurt. We can’t play through a 10-week tour, break an ankle, and do what we do.”

Being one of the few rock bands at Coachella this year is not a problem for FIDLAR.

“In a way, it’s kinda tight, because we don’t have much competition in our genre,” Schwartzel said. “If there are any rock people who go to Coachella, hopefully they watch us play. Hip hop is the new rock, or something, and it’s cool because it’s different. We’re not all like, ‘Fuck, we need more rock bands out here!’ We just happen to be a band that plays loud rock music.

“I’m stoked to play with Beyoncé. Hopefully she’ll come onstage during one of our songs, and we’ll try to work it out. But I’m stoked to see her, and I’ve been a long-time Beyoncé fan. It’s cool that there are no scenes or genres anymore. Everyone listens to everything, and that’s cool. You just like the music you like.”

Published in Previews