hmv.com reviews… Day 1: The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2015
Coachella was the major game-changer in what now seems like a festival-mad world. Organizer Paul Tollett and his Goldenvoice team’s vision in 1999 not only transformed an otherwise dusty back region of California, it showed America how to do the festival right. Taking influence from European festivals like Reading and Glastonbury, Tollet created a juggernaut in music festival land.
Now with a massive, marquee lineup playing two consecutive weekends each year, Coachella also spawns many secret shows of high-profile artists on the days between. Couple that with literally hundreds of pool parties up and down the desert valley from Palm Springs to Indio and the most attractive, fashion-conscious festival crowd in the world and you start to get the idea of what is all before you.
At Coachella, it’s easy to people-watch for three days. Compounding the distraction: with over 170 music artists on offer, getting to everything you want to see becomes impossible. Experience dictates that one picks set times strategically, embracing and enjoying full sets and soaking in those magic moments that stay with you a lifetime. These were five highlights from Friday (April 10th). Highlights from Day 2 here; check back tomorrow for highlights from Day 3.
Brooklyn-based, Canadian-born Kiesza was the first afternoon delight at the Mojave Tent, drawing a capacity crowd for that stage. Dressed in a Wonder Woman-type outfit in red and blue with New York Yankee logos and flanked by two dancers and backing band, Kiesza made many new friends.
With a crowd wanting to dance and her first Coachella, you could see Kiesza was ready to bring the house party. Personal highlights were her stunning vocal performance on “Vietnam” and the closing dance party she created with “Hideaway” both from her Sound Of A Woman album. Special guest rapper Joey Bada$$ was pulled from the wings but Kiesza really scored by name-dropping L.A. native Diplo who has helped her with production duties. Kiesza 2 Coachella 1!
You could feel a little tension in the air as Azealia Banks took the stage in her cut down jean shorts with one very large stars and stripes flag behind her. Coachella crowds want people to be winners and have a good time; pretty soon it was apparent all was right with Ms. Banks. Opening with "Idle Delilah” to the sun-drenched crowd, by the time we got to “Heavy Metal and Reflective” from album Broke With Expensive Taste that crowd was a sea of clapping hands.
The tension in the air had obviously disappeared and by the time Banks got to 2012’s jaw-dropping “212” that propelled her to world fame. Coachella starts rapping words and singing publicly something it probably shouldn’t, but hey no kids here, right?
The sunset stage times on both the Coachella stage and Outdoor stages are reserved for those special artists the promoters believe will bring the magic. That honour on day one went to The War on Drugs on the main stage and drawing the largest crowd of the event so far. Adam Granduciel, Kurt Vile and company brought the perfect sunset soundtrack. Starting the set with personal favorite “Under The Pressure” from 2014’s Lost In The Dream full-length, it was apparent we were about to be taken on one of those musical journeys - with natural moving light - that Coachella is so famous for creating.
Playing very close together for a main stage set, you could tell The War on Drugs wanted to keep the experience personal and let the music do the talking. Keeping exchanges with the audience to a minimum, this was all about the music and time to let the soaring guitars and dream-like vocals float up over those palm trees painted by a perfect sunset.
As light became dark and the lighted palm trees surrounding Coachella faded from blue to pink, Alabama Shakes took to the Outdoor Stage just after 7 pm. Brittany Howard is a god-like genius when it comes to vocal manipulation. Opening with “Rise to The Sun” accompanied with a full backing vocal quota froze us to the spot in awe. Considering Alabama Shakes only formed in 2009, the synergy all the players have is unworldly.
During the middle of the set for “Heartbreaker” and “I Ain’t The Same” from the self-produced full length Boys & Girls, it seemed like a Southern miracle was unfolding as the smoke billowed. Coachella has the ability to take you places if you let it, Alabama Shakes and especially Howard just picked us up and gave us a tear-filled journey. Howard summed it up perfectly at the end wishing the audience “I hope you have the best f***in night of your life!”
On paper Tame Impala are the perfect Coachella band even though previous appearances have been divisive. The first three songs seemed a little tame. Then something happened after “Mind Mischief” from 2012’s Lonerism when they drop into new track “Let It Happen.” Kevin Parker announced, “This is officially only the second time we have played this song and are you ready for new jams?” This really was a pivotal moment - photographers left the pit and as the band prepared to drop the new material – and all the stress disappeared.
“Let It Happen” is an eight-minute piece of production genius, and Tame Impala were completely in control. Following with “Elephant,” it was off on the Tame Impala journey, hanging tight or jumping off the boat. It really is quite simple - go see this band live and buy the new album when it drops, these boys from Perth, Australia are the complete real deal!
Surprise Artist of the Day
Early birds do catch the worm. Early Mojave Stage performer Nini Kabi’s vocals take a young Stevie Nicks coupled with soaring guitar lines reminiscent of early Simple Minds. Stand out track was “Wings” from Haerts self-titled debut album.
Other notables for Day 1: R3HAB, Gorgon City with special guest Jennifer Hudson, Ride, Interpol & Kimbra.
Check back tomorrow for more Coachella highlights from Day 3!