Coachella’s live electronic sets hint at the festival’s future

Porter Robinson, shown DJing in Vegas, unleashed a dramatic live show at Coachella.

For all the growing discontent over the dominance of DJs at Coachella—no less than three performance areas are dedicated to them—it has hardly given up on live performance, which doesn’t always have to center around guitars.

Take Todd Terje’s masterful set with his live band, the Olsens. The Norwegian producer was flanked by a multi-instrumentalist and two percussionists to accentuate the depth and vibrancy of his exotic neo-disco. Numbers like “Strandbar” and the closing “Inspector Norse” showed the true potential of live dance music, driving the audience into a grooving, bouncing frenzy.

Then there was Porter Robinson, who solely DJs for his Marquee residency but has yet to bring his live show to Las Vegas. While initially strange to experience lulls in the beats while inside the normally raging Sahara Tent, Robinson’s ephemeral instrumentals and Japanese animation-inspired fantasias—executed via synthesizers, controllers, drum pads and a laptop—only punctuated the highs of rhythmic serotonin-dumpers like “Sad Machine” and “Flicker,” two standouts from last year’s EDM-free artist debut, Worlds.

Add Hot Natured’s house-flavored, R&B-kissed dance jams, Squarepusher’s frenetic forays into intelligent dance music and Gesaffelstein’s deliciously pummeling exhibition of minimal but evocative techno—to say nothing of Tycho’s post-rock house and the mirrorball Krautrock of Caribou and Ratatat—and you had ample demonstrations of the potency of live electronic music. As rock bands struggle to draw at the festival and music fans fatigue of commercial EDM’s button-pushers, expect to see more of its practitioners on future Coachella posters.

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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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