Coachella Week: Andrea’s Friday festival notes

London’s Palma Violets commanded the stage in the Mojave tent at day one of Coachella.
Photo: Andrea Domanick

Daft Punk party foul In a move that was as brilliant as it was obnoxious, fest organizers played a cleverly-crafted promo video for Daft Punk’s new album, Random Access Memories, before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs main stage set. The video, which featured the DJs performing with Pharrell on the main stage video screen, gave the impression the Coachella legends were about to take the stage for a surprise set, inspiring a sudden stampede/mass migration to the main stage. This was admittedly a great move to both promote the album and maximize the crowd for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, further stoking rumors that Daft Punk might come out for an appearance during Phoenix’s headlining set tonight. Still, much like you should never cry “fire” in a crowded theater, one should never cry “Daft Punk” at Coachella.

The best set you (probably) didn’t see: Grinderman This was the show that did the most damage to my hearing on Day 1, and it was well worth it. The crowd was embarrassingly small, thanks to equally rare competing sets from headliners Blur and Jurassic 5, but it made seeing Nick Cave and company up close and personal that much more thrilling. The man is a paradigm for all great frontmen, something he reminded Coachella of as he howled and writhed across the stage, then collapsing on his knees to play keyboard breakdowns while guitarist Warren Ellis performed the equivalent of sonic voodoo on his guitar. Festival moment of the day: Cave simultaneously seducing and terrifying a young fan during the lascivious “Kitchenette,” during which he cooed the chorus “I want you…” while climbing atop the crowd to reach out to her, then, upon reaching her, screamed the refrain “I just wanna relax!” into her face. Coachella might be the last chance you’ll ever have to see Grinderman, who reunited solely for the festival; don’t pass it up.

Best new act: Palma Violets I’ve admittedly become a kind of Palma Violets evangelist since getting my hands on their debut, 180, last month; still, it made me all the more nervous that they wouldn’t hold up live. Luckily, I was wrong—so wrong. The London lads proved to have as much command of their stage presence as on their Britpop-tinged punk sound, goading the crowd to cheer and throw their hands up until the Mojave tent had tripled in attendance. Bassist/vocalist Alexander "Chilli" Jesson is a force to be reckoned with, striking Jarvis Cocker-esque poses, throwing water on the crowd, and eventually leaping into the crowd during closer “14” and grabbing a few of the fans in the front (myself included) to yelp into the mic along with him.

Headliner fail: Blur and the Stone Roses As an avid Britpop fan, I was hoping the dual headliners, who capture the largest festival crowds in Europe, would be able to conquer Coachella. In the end, it became clear the hype got lost in translation. A modest crowd lingered for Blur, who managed to captivate with spectacular, blown-out soundscapes reminiscent of last year’s Radiohead set on tracks like “Beetlebum” and “The Universal.” But oh, the poor Stone Roses: Three songs into their set, I was still able to walk right up to the abysmally empty central pit at the main stage, which at least allowed for some solid nerding out with fellow fans. Frontman Ian Brown, whose sunken cheekbones are inspire a striking resemblance to Skeletor, largely phoned it in, but at least managed to stay on key most of the time, which is better than what I’d read about their past headlining gigs. Lesser known in the U.S. than Blur, the Stone Roses would do well to swap their set times with Blur next week.

Safety first The festival’s art installations, which this year include a giant snail and white satellite dishes, is noticeably less climbable than in past years. Considering one fan fell several stories after mounting a bamboo tower last year, this is decidedly to everyone’s benefit.

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Andrea Domanick

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