Editor's Note: Check out the Las Vegas Sun version of this story for a Coachella 2012 photo gallery and more coverage.
By Andrea Domanick and Spencer Patterson
Here's what was in store on Day 1 of Weekend 1 at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.:
Cold-chella: After 12 years of sweltering heat and scantily clad attendees, it finally rained at Coachella. Kind of. Sporadic late-afternoon showers barely dampened the heads of festivalgoers, but winds and chilly temperatures did dampen the mood for giddy sun children once the sun went down. Sets for highly anticipated comeback acts like Pulp and Refused seemed emptier than expected, likely because those dressed for the desert heat skipped out early — still, all the better for the die hards hungry to get close to the stage.
The scariest thing we saw: A young Coachella-goer, who had been treating a massive wooden art sculpture as a rock-climbing device, slipped. Fortunately, the crowd watching the stunt appeared to soften his fall. He showed no obvious signs of distress afterward. Whew.
Surprises: Odd Future fans, disappointed that the group wasn’t there, got a treat during the set of band member Frank Ocean; rapper/producer and group co-founder Tyler, the Creator, showed up. Expect more surprises next weekend — Eminem is rumored to be appearing when Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg perform.
The comebacks: If there’s a theme for this year’s festival, it’s big-name comebacks — particularly of the ’90s persuasion. Alt-rockers James are considered one-hit-wonders in the States for their single “Laid” (the unofficial anthem of “American Pie”), but they proved to be far more with a set of solid indie anthems packed with witty, insightful lyrics.
The Swedish band Refused had arguably the best set of the night, delivering their uber-aggressive, politically charged punk with the same passion and precision of their heyday. Not bad after a 14-year hiatus.
Brit rockers Pulp delivered an energetic set to a crowd who, while clearly enthusiastic about the reunion set, was somewhat subdued and sober as the icy wind arrived. The band’s set felt rushed and was largely a survey of their hits like “Disco 2000” and “Common People.” Still, fans were treated to favorites like “Mis-Shapes” and “The Fear,” which the band has shied away from on their reunion tour. Frontman Jarvis Cocker made the ladies in the crowd blush (and scream) as he writhed around onstage, simulated coitus with an amplifier and rushed into the audience, paparazzi-style, with a camcorder during “I Spy.” If the performance at times felt run-of-the-mill, there’s still no denying that Cocker has “rock star” down to an art.
Adjustments for next weekend: As is inevitable at a festival, certain bands were ill-suited for their stages and set times. The subtleties of WU LYF’s intensely emotional soundscapes were alternately lost or dulled during an early evening set; while still a strong performance, it affirmed that they’re a band best seen in a dark, intimate indoor venue.
French indie sensation M83 also might benefit from a larger space. This weekend’s set was packed, with spillover creating a crowded, uncomfortable situation that made the set decidedly unsatisfying to watch and listen.