Coachella Week: Andrea’s Saturday festival notes

Franz Ferdinand, Violet Femmes and more

After a four-year hiatus, Franz Ferdinand’s comeback set at the Mojave Tent was a highlight of Day 2 at Coachella 2013.
Photo: Andrea Domanick

5 takeaways from Day 2 in Indio:

1. Newcomers Savages set the bar high early in the day for their fellow newcomers who would follow them on the Mojave Tent stage. The London quartet’s dark, droning waves of post-punk managed to rouse even the most passive observers up from the grass to get a closer look at who was making all the fuss. Singles like “Husbands” and “She Will” proved to be the strongest songs in their repertoire—their first album has yet to be released—but many of their other tunes would benefit from adding sleek melodies to help focus their often scattered, brooding soundscapes.

2. Highly anticipated New Wave legends New Order delivered a set that didn’t disappoint, but also didn’t exceed expectations. For reasons beyond comprehension, the performance was accompanied by low-budget videos of abstract 3D objects and text akin to Windows screensavers; the images ultimately distracted from the band itself, which needed little more than some well-timed strobe lights to enhance iconic tunes like “Blue Monday” and “Ceremony.”  The group closed out with a nonetheless thrilling rendition of “Temptation,” which inspired a dance party on par with anything you’d see in the DJ-filled Sahara Tent, and returned for an encore of Joy Division songs. Tunes like “Atmosphere” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” were crowd pleasers by default of their novelty, but without original bassist Peter Hook—not to mention the singular vocals of late singer Ian Curtis—they ultimately made you long for, rather than celebrate, the originals.

3. After a four-year hiatus, some would call Franz Ferdinand’s triumphant return to the stage at the Mojave Tent a comeback set. More accurately, the performance served as a reminder that Scottish quartet never left. Like the Hives last year, the band proved they were more than a post-punk flash in the pan from the early '00s, reviving otherwise played-out singles like “Take Me Out” and “Do You Want” with rhythm and swagger that can’t be captured on a recording. They also debuted some promising new tunes from their upcoming record, marking a return to the meaty bass lines and melodies they departed from on 2009’s disappointing Tonight. There were plenty of other great performances Saturday night, but if you missed Franz Ferdinand, you missed the best set of the day.

4. Festival organizers’ mishandling of stage and set time assignments for performers continued to baffle on Saturday: Franz Ferdinand and Major Lazer filled the Mojave Tent well beyond capacity and comfort, performing with an energy and command of the stage that the largely prosaic main stage lineup could’ve benefited from. Acts like indie dance outfit Hot Chip, meanwhile, fell flat on the main stage, where their normally tight electronic sound bled out into a bass-less, pitchy soup. Similarly, Janelle Monáe’s rousing soul performance would’ve been better suited to get crowds riled up under the sunshine on the outdoor stage, rather than crammed into a tent at the end of the day.

5. That said, Violent Femmes' sundown set on the main stage was so perfectly executed it almost made the other lineup missteps forgivable. It’s been years since the folk-punk troubadours have performed together, and despite their influential status, their appearance on Coachella lineup seemed to go largely under the radar until the quartet took the stage just after 6 p.m. Their winking, lackadaisical odes to hedonism and self-destruction did well to fill the field with curious onlookers, and they kept them there—the Femmes a perfect soundtrack for kids at various levels of intoxication sprawled out on the grass, taking in the last bits of sun before embarking on the mischief of an impending Saturday night.

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Andrea Domanick

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