Saturday. Mastering the Pattern at Coachella

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Coachella Report by KCRW Volunteer: Lulu Mickelson

A grin lodged itself on my tan cheeks Friday morning and hasn’t left since. Because there is nothing like the first beats of a favorite song ringing out over a crowd of thousands. Nothing.

The day started with a disappointing no show from the Scottish indie up and comers Frightened Rabbit. Although I could not get any straight answers, the whispers around the grass claimed it might have something to do with the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. The empty stage provided a weird reality check – volcanoes, economic crisis, political tensions, and disasters usually don’t make it through the festival gates into Coachella’s forever sunny musical universe.

This real world connection lasted until I stopped by the Mojave Tent brimming with swaying Camera Obscura fans inhaling every note. Maybe it was the midday heat or the band’s particularly fashionable and sun-conscious fans, but looking out at the sea of heads, this crowd had the highest concentration of floppy hats and fedoras I have seen all weekend. The group put out a great vibe, even taking the time to dedicate a song to the bands who weren’t able to get there, confirming our suspicions that volcanic ash was keeping some of the lineup on the other side of the Atlantic.

Then it I was off to support KCRW’s very own Jason Bentley. Our Morning Becomes Eclectic host crafted one of the most fantastically eclectic dance sets I have ever heard. Everything from the Beach Boys to Radiohead made an appearance within the addictive dance beats that had hundreds of people up on their feet grooving. Many of them were KCRW devotes determined to grab a dose of their favorite station in the midst of their Coachella experience.

Across the grounds at the massive Coachella Stage, the White Rabbits put out a strong set. If you haven’t heard a track from these guys, they are definitely worth a listen. The six-member Brooklyn-based (although originally from Missouri) alternative band embraces a controlled chaos in their unique sound and (in their) performance. They have two primary drummers, one on a classic drum set and a second standing percussionist using larger drums in unusual ways, like banging tambourines and maracas in place of drumsticks. The band was always switching instruments and positions, as lead singers would take a turn pounding the drums and at least four of the members added their voice to the harmonies. I only wish these guys had played in a tent as opposed to the monster stage so their pounding could have been even more potent and appreciated.

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. What a show! This large, out-of-the the box, folk-rock ensemble brought music with pure and delightful entertainment. They drew quite a crowd to the outdoor stage and they used it. From the moment the group’s leading man, Alex Ebery, accidentally tipped his microphone stand off the stage and onto the head of a guy in the front row, prompting him to take off his shirt and tie it around the delighted injured fan’s head with a profuse public apology, spontaneity dictated the show. Members of the band walked into the front rows of the audience, crowd surfed, and shared the microphone with with avid fans. The group was a blast, every second filled with a level of individuality only they could pull off.

The XX by Lulu
The XX by Lulu (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

As the sun was setting, The XX came on, projecting their austere, emotional style onto the colors of the desert at dusk. They had a cool, understated stage presence like their music. The sound was polished but they had a neat way of letting go and riffing at the end of their songs. They fed the crowd with slight, mysterious comments. Like, “This is probably the first time we haven’t worn black in five years.” They had on white tops.

Then night came and the 15 high-beam lights that surround the grounds turn up into pyramid, reminding you every time you look up that this is the epicenter of musical culture at this moment in time. When the dark comes, many of the art installations also illuminate, such as the bud-like orbs and a giant paper crane.

Paper Crane - by Lulu
Paper Crane - by Lulu (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I spent a lot of my night in the Sahara Tent with Cascade and David Guetta, one of thousands going crazy at every drop of the bass. The experience was enhanced by awesome light shows, giant balloons, and crazy glowing robots.

Alas, one can’t see every act, but from incredibly far away, I did catch some of MGMT, who opened with their newly released “Flash Delirium.”

And Muse was simply epic. A true headliner. Their wailing guitar echoed across the fields as everyone screamed out their favorite anthems. The night ended with the DJ Tiesto and an undulating field of music lovers dancing off another great day.

More to come.