The online peanut gallery loudly bemoaned the Saturday curation for Coachella the second it was announced, some proclaiming it the worst programming day to date for the 15-year festival. They were dead wrong, and here are some reasons why:
1. Bombay Bicycle Club: Even I, a huge fan of its 2012 album A Different Kind of Fix, tempered my expectations for this on-the-rise British band and its earnest, rhythmic update of Britpop. But both I and an enthusiastic throng were pleasantly surprised with its vigorous yet charming afternoon set in the Mojave Tent. It was the sort of who-is-this?! Coachella performance that poises a band for bigger things. Las Vegans: Do yourselves a favor and catch the band tonight at Vinyl.
2. Holy Ghost: Despite vocalist Alex Frankel’s non-existent stage presence—mitigating factor: the guy was singing and playing multiple instruments—this Brooklyn synth-pop act dazzled in its late-afternoon set inside the packed Gobi Tent largely due to irresistible dance anthems like “Wait and See,” “It Gets Dark” and “Dumb Disco Ideas.” Its full-bodied and ecstatic indie-disco reverie was a welcome live-band contrast—or complement?—to the DJ-heavy lineup.
3. Future Islands: I’m still not sure I’m truly onboard with the rhythmic dream pop of this buzzing North Carolina-cum-Maryland indie outfit. But it performs its four-on-the-floor sentimentalism ably, and on Saturday, it fully engaged with a cheering, overflowing Gobi Tent—mostly due to the force of nature that is its fearless, if eccentric singer, Samuel T. Herring, who could sing like a disco diva one moment and a metal/hardcore growler the next. Another tip-off for locals here, as the band plays Beauty Bar on April 16.
4. Mogwai: It played before an embarrassingly small Mojave crowd, competing with Coachella Valley heroes Queens of the Stone Age (who sounded terrific), a massively attended Empire of the Sun set and current Top 40 hero Pharrell Williams. But those who admire intricately crafted guitar soundscapes and emotive post-rock instrumentalism saw the Scottish pioneers in great form, especially during favorite “Mogwai Fear Satan.”
5. Darkside: This may have been my discovery of the day, if only because I don’t have as much experience listening to or watching deep house/downtempo icon Nicolas Jaar’s new rock-inspired act. But he and bandmate Dave Harrington’s mostly instrumental performance—Jaar sang on occasion—was as revelatory as it was beautiful. Where Jaar’s disjointed Yuma performance on Friday wrinkled brows and sounded more like a headphone meditation than a cerebral dancefloor experience, Darkside’s cohesive and evocative presentation was both transcendent and grooveable. It also proved rock’s evolutionary promise in an increasingly electronic-music world.