After years of attending Coachella, from before they added a second weekend, I decided to see if the experience is any different going the second weekend. This year, it was different because of Prince’s death.
First time I saw Prince? Cow Palace in mid 80s.
Last time I saw him? Oakland in 2011. (Note the Bay Area theme). Larry Graham opened and Prince joined him for a stellar Sly Stone medley. (Graham was a mentor to Prince in their Jehovah’s Witnesses faith). Carlos Santana joined Prince later in the show. They scorched through a selection of early Santana tracks. Carlos sat down and Prince carried on with more early Santana gems. Probably out Carlos’d him.
Best moment at a Prince concert? Coachella 2008, before he even took the stage. All the lights around the massive perimeter of the Indio Polo Fields shifted to purple, bathing the acres in his color. Wherever you were at Coachella, in front of whatever stage, you were drawn to the main stage to see him.
As I prepared to depart for the second weekend of Coachella last year, I reflected that many artists were likely amending their set list for a Prince reference. Sure enough, many did.
And on Friday night all the perimeter lights were again in purple.
A clip from Prince’s Coachella performance was displayed on the massive screens during a long gap between performances on the main stage.
The first best gig of the weekend was from St. Germain. All the best clubs in Marrakesh play this band, featuring musicians from all over the African continent. It was a bit disconcerting not seeing the vocalist on stage, but the genre is forgiving that way.
The golden hour on Friday presented the most difficult choices, as many great artists were playing simultaneously: Of Monsters and Men, St. Germain, BØRNS, Underworld, M83. The latter two bands were especially good, with M83 channelling elements of the surging parts of Pink Floyd.
Gallant hustled from the Mojave tent to join Sujan Stevens for a credible cover of “Purple Rain.” The echo and sway of the refrain had the audience dutifully wooing along.
Ellie Goulding finished with nothing on main stage for a long time, sending a tsunami of people to Coachella stage to see Jack Ü. The result was as crowded and as dangerous a crush as I have ever seen at Coachella.
The good news is aircraft were seen pulling banners around the venue on Saturday morning, which portended calmer winds. A non-scientific survey at Best Buy and CVS revealed that both were doing brisk business, especially in liquor and bandannas at the former and portable chargers, replacement phones (and burner phones for international attendees) at the latter.
On Saturday, James Bay brought his crooning Scotsman canon to the Mojave stage, and it was excellent. A long tasty dinner intervened, so I sadly can’t fully report on Rhye, Arcs or Courtney Barnett.
But Disclosure was a stunner. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the band. In the Gobi tent, RÜFÜS DU SOL brought their Aussie brand of dance to the desert. The trio also brought the last two thirds of their name: Down Under they only go by their first name.
But that was it for me on Saturday. Although the Polo Fields were abuzz all afternoon with the open secret that Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar would be joining Ice Cube for the penultimate show on the main stage, I only enjoyed it from a distance. I wanted to like the next big LA-centric act, but by the time Axl Rose was wheeled on stage on Dave Grohl’s throne Guns N’ Roses sent me and a huge number of folks for the gates. What was Rose thinking, breaking his leg on the even of a multi-million dollar set of gigs?
On Sunday Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats finished their set on the main stage with a nod to their impeccable influences, a tasty cover of “The Shape I’m In.” Levon would have been proud.
Rancid then took their buzz saw guitars through a scorching set.
Pete Yorn delivered a solid set in the Gobi tent, with a strong trio backing him up he left most of the audience very satisfied.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a hometown darling, apparently relied on their good will to start their Outdoor Stage set with a meandering approach, which I found over indulgent.
That pushed me over to see Chris Stapleton, who was excellent. His country stylings included an opening truncated version of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and it was near-prefect.
Goldenvoice continues to set the standard in music festivals, having built Coachella to the preeminent such event in America, if not globally. The have bought more land and have cleared it with the authorities to expand attendance from 100,000 to 120,000.
Let’s hope they keep the quality and good vibrations consistently strong.
(photos by Brad Auerbach)