Coachella Week: Spencer’s Saturday festival notes

Janelle Monáe performs a nighttime Gobi Tent set that might have been better suited for an outdoor stage during daylight.
Photo: Zach Cordner/Invision/AP
Bat for Lashes was plagued by sound issues early but eventually recovered and delivered a striking, stirring set at Coachella 2013.

Bat for Lashes was plagued by sound issues early but eventually recovered and delivered a striking, stirring set at Coachella 2013.

5 takeaways from Day 2 in Indio:

1. Coachella organizers should distribute video of Grizzly Bear’s evening Mojave Tent set to future performers as a paradigm of festival efficiency. The Brooklyn foursome hit the stage on time, said little (singer Ed Droste paused only to explain that time was short so he’d be keeping banter to a bare minimum) and expertly worked its way through a gorgeous batch of tunes that kept the tightly packed crowd in a state of hypnotic attention. Best of all, the group’s four-part harmonies and delicate instrumentation were mixed to perfection, quite the large-festival rarity.

2. On the flipside, Bat for Lashes’ late-afternoon performance in the same tent was plagued by early sound issues—Natasha Khan’s voice was buried beneath annoying loud synthesizers—but the British singer stayed cool and kept smiling, until the levels were adjusted and fans could revel in her musical magic. Khan’s voice, magnetic personality and compositional artistry were most striking during two late-set numbers, stirring ballad “Laura” and the bouncy “Daniel.”

3. Janelle Monáe’s 10:45 p.m. performance mostly filled the Gobi Tent, but her throwback big-band revue felt like it would have worked far better on an outdoor stage during daylight. Dropkick Murphys, Café Tacuba and Violent Femmes were safe main-stage picks from 3:35 to 7 p.m., but Monáe might have made a more lasting impact given the opportunity.

4. It was a mixed bag for veteran acts on Saturday. On one hand, The Evens, featuring ex-Minor Threat and Fugazi man Ian MacKaye, drew a respectable (and respectful) Gobi Tent crowd early in the day; the Descendents’ influential melodic-punk found a fairly large following at the Outdoor Theatre under the stars; and New Order brought a solid throng along for its night-capping Mojave Tent performance (despite going up against headlining Phoenix and post-rock favorites Sigur Rós, among others). But reunited D.C. garage-soul outfit The Make-Up, underground hip-hop icon El-P and British ska survivors The Selecter played to some of the weekend’s sparsest audiences in the Gobi Tent.

5. The Sahara (dance) Tent’s significant facelift—which brought the addition of a massive LED screen array around the stage, along with three screen-covered cubes hanging from the roof—was put to good use during Moby’s nighttime DJ set. I haven’t seen visuals that dizzying in the Sahara since Daft Punk’s 2006 pyramid performance (speaking of which, the French robot duo’s rumored guest appearance with Phoenix did not come to fruition … though R. Kelly reportedly did show up for a song).

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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