How Coachella’s final day symbolizes the electronic music fever pitch

Coachella 2014 embraced electronic music like never before, from the Sahara Tent to the main stage.
Photo: Scott Roth/Invision/AP Photo

Coachella 2014 ended resoundingly: a day chock-full of dance-worthy delights to keep our exhausted, punished bodies moving through the festival, leading up to a rock headliner (Arcade Fire) trying to build its own rhythmic bona fides with the album it’s currently promoting. Never has electronic music been so dominant at the 15-year event, and Sunday’s more grooveable events (listed below) proved that—as well as the generational shift from guitars to beats.

•Five out of six of Sunday’s closers hailed from the dance music genre.

•The traditional home of dance music at Coachella, the Sahara Tent doubled down on EDM and more commercial dance music on Friday and Saturday, but ethereal prog duo Flight Facilities and rambunctious house twosome Duck Sauce lent the BPM hangar some diversity on Sunday.

•There was even a live band at Sahara on Sunday—sort of. Boulder, Colorado, electronic act Big Gigantic ended its DJ set by having members of the local Shadow Hills High School marching band play along to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.”

•Many of the indie-leaning participants were dance-friendly bands, from more relaxed, afternoon-appropriate acts like Poolside and Classixx, to austere tech-aficionados Factory Floor, to lively electro rockers STRFKR, to the R&B-tinged Blood Orange.

•Live act Rudimental, which blends R&B and reggae with drum ’n’ bass breakbeats, thrilled a packed Mojave Tent usually accustomed to four-on-the-floor beats.

•Top 40 mainstay Calvin Harris not only landed a main-stage slot, he got one earlier in the evening as opposed to closing it. The ensuing scene—which drew such an enormous crowd, groups in the separated eating area over 500 feet away were dancing along in earnest (caveat: it was that loud)—looked like the festival equivalent of Hakkasan, with massive screens flanking Harris, ambitious lighting and the requisite confetti drop. And maybe the Scot producer/DJ had Las Vegas in mind: His second-to-last song was a remix of The Killers’ “When You Were Young.”

•The Yuma Tent, which proved the legacy of Chicago house and Detroit techno lives on regardless of the EDM onslaught, arguably saved its best schedule for last. I saw a bigger crowd for Art Department’s sublime, pre-dinner set than I had all weekend. Even more showed for Maceo Plex, who played this writer’s favorite DJ set of the weekend, highlighted by his excellent remixes of GusGus’ new single, “Crossfade,” and Kavinsky’s goose-pimpling “Nightcall.” And shuffling along to techno legend Laurent Garnier’s unrelenting throbfest was akin to what Jack must have felt like gunning for the beanstalk with the giant at his heels (sans the terror).

•Critic fave Disclosure closed the Outdoor Stage and drew one of the most sprawling audiences that this Coachella veteran has ever seen in that performance space. Its set could represent a breakthrough for the English duo not unlike Arcade Fire’s at the same stage nine years ago. (Oh, and Howard Lawrence’s bad back—the source of a sudden Brooklyn Bowl cancellation-turned-rescheduling last week—seemed magically healed for Sunday’s performance. Maybe that new August 6 gig at the Bowl will sell better—er, go off without a hitch this time.)

•And speaking of Arcade Fire: The Montreal band may still firmly thrive in the rock category, but it has increasingly reminded its fanbase that the genre, at its best, is also dance music. Some examples: The epic mirrorball opener “Reflektor”; the frantic Haitian/Jamaican fervor of “Here Comes the Night”; and a cover of one of dance music’s most iconic anthems, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” with that band’s singer Debbie Harry singing lead. While singer Win Butler’s onstage nod to musicians who “play instruments” sounded a little embittered and reductionist, it also put a fine point on the cultural shift in music and, specifically, at Coachella, which has always embraced electronic music, but never to such an extent.

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Mike Prevatt

Mike started his journalism career at UCLA reviewing CDs and interviewing bands, less because he needed even more homework and ...

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