By Shannon Carlin & Scott Sterling
Arcade Fire seemed to be feeling rather feisty last night. A few songs into their set, which seemed to hit all four of their albums in just the right capacity, Win Butler got behind the piano to play “The Suburbs” and started thanking Coachella for inviting them back. A sweet gesture if he didn’t then continue by saying, he knew there was a lot of “fake V.I.P room bulls–t” going on at the festival, but that seemingly special area of the grounds “super sucks” and no one should care if they’re a part of it.
Butler would later come out and shout out all the bands who still play their instruments, perhaps a not so thinly veiled reference to the overwhelming amount of EDM acts on the bill this year.
But they weren’t just there to cry foul, they were there to perform for all their fans. Maybe quite specifically those who were hundreds of feet away even though they waited all day in the same spot instead of just walking through a separate entrance.
For this show, the band upped their stage presence and theatricality, even the on-stage camera man was wearing a ghostly get-up as not to stand out. Régine Chassagne also got her own little moments such as her posing fit as the object of affection during “Joan of Arc” and her move to a special platform out in the crowd so she could sing “It’s Never Over (Orpheus)” along with a smooth moving skeleton. Not to mention her duet with special guest Debbie Harry for a cover of her band Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” Harry then stuck around to lend Chassagne a little help on “Sprawl II,” and even though poor Debbie didn’t always seem to know what she was exactly supposed to do–to be fair there’s a lot of things you can do with streamers–she went with it.
As time wound down, the band brought out their signature bobble heads, which on this night included Barack Obama and David Bowie, for a performance of “Here Comes The Night Time” before launching into “Wake Up.” At this point they were already working over time, but were determined to finish things out, even telling the crowd if the sound cuts out, keep singing.
The festival kept them plugged in until the end of the song, but the band wasn’t quite ready to stop, so they grabbed their instruments and joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who had already made their way into the crowd. The band walked around the field, playing “Wake Up” the whole time, with backup from the thousands who stuck around. The band then made their way out the V.I.P exit and onto the street where they continued to keep playing with the jazz band. All while those in the non-V.I.P section of the crowd just kept right on singing “Wake Up,” proving Butler’s point that it was just as fun out there.
We’re not sure if Arcade Fire and Beck consulted with one another before the show, but the singer was also not interested in keeping to his given set time, running so far over that they eventually just pulled the plug on him. Beck also didn’t stick to a set that was heavy with songs from his latest album, Morning Phase, a more somber, introspective record, choosing to only play “Blue Moon.” He spent the night revisiting all his hits, kicking the show off with an even more trippy version of “Devil’s Haircut” before going right into “Loser,” complete with the dance moves we’ve all grown to love.
Beck had fun with the crowd, showing off his sense of humor by breaking out his Spanish for “Que Onda Guero,” throwing in a little bit of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” at the end of “Think I’m In Love” and asking everyone to get in his Hondai to fly off into the sunset on “Debra.” With time nearly running out, Beck launched into the set closing “Where It’s At,” which featured a tiny little special guest, his son Cosimo on the tambourine. Who, unsurprisingly, dances just like his dad. During the song, Beck also talked about getting the call about Coachella in 1999–the inaugural year–and having the founders of the fest ask him if he wanted to play. He remembered them taking him around the empty, sandy lot at the Empire Polo Grounds, where it is still held, showing him where everything would go.
Fifteen years later, he explained, he was back on the same stage with the same band, doing some of the same songs. To celebrate this milestone, he kept the song going, breaking out the harmonica for a bit of “One Foot in the Grave” off his 1994 album of the same name and a snippet of “High 5 (Rock the Catskills).” As he launched back into “Where It’s At” he made it clear, even if they pulled the plug he was going to keep going. So when they did a few seconds later, that’s just what he did, grabbing his bass player, guitarist and son to do one last dance, all while the crew was starting to break down his equipment. The guys eventually took their bow, hugged it out and made their way off stage by forming a protective circle around the singer. We’re assuming he might have been a marked man. How old would Beck be in 15 more years? That might be the next time he’s allowed back.
The phenomenon that is Lana del Rey was in full effect for her almost fanatically anticipated set on the the third and final day of the first weekend of Coachella 2014. Del Rey has still not played very many Southern California shows in her brief but meteoric career, so a swarm of hardcore fans descended on the Outdoor Theatre well before her scheduled 8:15 set time.
By the time she sauntered out in a short red dress and bemused smile, Lana mania virtually erupted, with screams of adulation all but drowning out her opening song, “Cola.”
While her set was heavy with recognizable hits (“Blue Jeans,” “Video Games,” “Summertime Sadness”), del Rey wanted to mark her return to America to play “the sexiest music festival,” by debuted her upcoming single, “West Coast,” from the Dan Auerbach-assisted album, Ultraviolence (tentatively slated for an early May release). Packed with big, reverb guitars and a swelling string section, the new tune adds a but of grit to her catalog of sweetly twisted anthems.
Closing on an extended version of “American Anthem,” del Rey finished the song by wading into the front row of the crowd, accepting flowers, kisses and declarations of “you changed my life,” it was an affecting moment that was oddly poignant. She emerged from the fray wearing a pair of flower crowns given to her by fans, bringing the trend she kicked off a few years ago in the music video for the title track of her debut, Born to Die full circle.
While UK house music revivalists Disclosure kept it funky to an huge crowd, rapidly emerging R&B star Jhené Aiko scored a prime nighttime slot in the tiny Gobi tent, and she made the most of the opportunity. Quietly storming through her soulful set that had her not only playing her own songs like “The Worst” with a full band, complete with a string section, she highlighted things with well-chosen cover songs–Erykah Badu‘s “On & On” and Tupac Shakur‘s “Keep Ya Head Up.”
Aiko exercised her low-key star power with two marquee cameos, as Childish Gambino joined for her their collaboration, “Bed Peace,” while Drake generated genuine hysteria when he strolled onstage to perform “From Time” from his most recent album, Nothing Was the Same.
Back in the perpetually pulsating Sahara tent, Armand Van Helden and DJ A-Trak‘s Technicolor collaboration, Duck Sauce, rolled out a cheeky stage show that featured an impressive stage show which included a trio of body rocking break dancers and a fun, upbeat energy that perfectly matched the duo’s turbocharged party house.
Calvin Harris had the honor of being the only EDM act to make it out of a tent and onto the main stage, where he he made the most of it with fireworks, confetti shooters. lasers and a two-tier stage where he seemed to hover over the crowd. Harris played his own tracks like “Feel So Close,” “Sweet Nothing” featuring Florence Welch, “I Need Your Love” featuring Ellie Goulding and his latest single “Summer,” along with Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” which he produced. He filled in the rest of his allotted time (he actually didn’t go over like the others) with a mix of songs like Icona Pop “I Love It and The Killers “When You Were Young.” Not that it mattered, whatever beat he was dropping the crowd was ready to go, no questions asked.
Before Neutral Milk Hotel’s set even started an announcement was made that the band would prefer those in attendance don’t take photos or shoot videos, this includes with phones. And they meant it. When frontman Jeff Mangum came out he politely, but assertively, asked everyone to put their phones or cameras down, pointing out people in the crowd who were choosing not to follow the request to let them know he meant business. He wanted this to be a shared musical experience, not a photo shoot. Then he launched into “Two Headed Boy” off his 1998 album, In the Aeroplane Over The Sea and no one seemed to care about the whole no-photos thing and chose to just listen like it was the ’90s, you know, when you didn’t have to Instagram a photo of the band to prove you were there having a good time.
The set included a ragtag backing band playing saws of varying key signatures, accordions, trumpets, clarinets on familiar tracks like “Holland, 1945,””King of Carrot Flowers” and “Fool,” along with “Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone” off 1996’s On Avery Island and “Engine” from the 7″ that also featured “Holland, 1945.” But it was the title track that seemed to be the crowd favorite with everyone singing along with Mangum as the sun went down. They seemed to just be taking in the special moment, just as Mangum wanted.
For Blood Orange‘s, (aka Dev Hynes) Coachella deut, he stuck to playing songs off his latest album, Cupid Deluxe including “Chamakay” with Caroline Polachek, “You’re Not Good Enough” featuring his girlfriend and bandmate Samantha Urbani, and “Bad Girls,” which many might know as the song that caused the fallout between Hynes and his collaborator, Solange, who also performed the song the night before during her own set. With only two minutes to go, Hynes did a “quick version” of album closer “Time Will Tell,” which this time around was a dedication to Oukast that had Hynes forgoing his own lyrics to throw in ones from the duo’s songs like “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya.”