Coachella Week: Andrea’s Sunday festival notes

Dust, dancing and Richie Hawtin’s broken hard drive

No band necessary: Grimes built excitement on top of her beats from the Gobi Tent.
Photo: Andrea Domanick

5 takeaways from Day 3 in Indio:

1.With the weekend’s largely idyllic weather, it was easy to forget that there’s a reason the Empire Polo Grounds are surrounded by wind farms. The last hours of the last day thickened the air with opaque clouds of rose-gray dust at sundown. The winds continued to pick up, testing the integrity of the Coachella stages and art installations and leading organizers to send an advisory to campers to pack up their tents. Those leaving early faced perilous road conditions, suggesting that sticking it out at the flat, open festival grounds may be the safest option if dust storms return next weekend.

2.The increasing divide between the DJ-oriented Coachella and the musician-oriented Coachella was epitomized this weekend when EDM legend Richie Hawtin canceled his headlining set in the Yuma Tent because—wait for it—his hard drive broke. In a DJ’s equivalent of “the dog ate my homework,” Hawtin wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night: “Unfortunately the technology that is the foundation of my career is not playing friendly today! So due to corrupt hard drive #1 and broken pins on hard drive #2 I'm not able to perform tonight at Coachella. Apologies and see you all next week!”

This comes from a DJ who once said in an interview with website ElectronicBeats that “vinyl is a pain in the ass.” You sure about that, Richie?

Hawtin did manage to get his hands on some spare hard drives (three, to be exact) and found some wiggle room in the Sunday night Yuma lineup for a 7:15 p.m. set that had fans nonetheless lined up for more than an hour for a spot on the dance floor.

3. Tame Impala impressed with a packed sundown set at the outdoor stage that ultimately may have been better-suited on the main stage. I admittedly don’t have a lot of patience for the Australian psych-rockers’ hazy melodies and lackadaisical bass lines, but seeing them live I finally understood what all the hype for these critical darlings has been about. Their live renditions injected nuance and energy into sleepy tracks like “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” These warm, expansive renditions claimed the rare ability to sound good no matter where in the crowd you were standing, and suggests Tame Impala just might have future headliner potential.

4. Cameo of the day: Garage rock king Ty Segall made an unplanned appearance during pals’ Thee Oh Sees raucous afternoon set at the Gobi Tent, after frontman John Dwyer spied him in the crowd and stopped the set to demand Segall join them in the performance. Even at a mainstream music festival, Thee Oh Sees never fail to bring a few surprises to their live show.

5. With no backing band, knob-turning electro singer Grimes had her work cut out for her when she walked out to a lone keyboard and sampler on the large Gobi Tent stage. Her heavily-programmed tunes made for one of last year’s strongest and most interesting debut records, but that doesn’t mean they equate to a worthy live performance. She proved skeptics wrong, kicking and tossing her fire-colored hair in the air like a young Karen O while howling into the mic. Ever more impressive were her live-programming skills, building up the crowds’ excitement in tandem with the melodies and rhythms she layered piece by piece on each song. When she’d eventually drop the beat—always at the last possible moment—the crowd’s frenzy hit a fever pitch. EDM button-pushers, take note.

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Andrea Domanick

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