The magic of Coachella hung in the air as the bustling cityscape of Los Angeles morphed into the baroness of the desert. As an East Coast transplant, this was my first time at the festival and thus far, it has not let me down. I caught a handful of acts that I was keen on seeing, and each one demonstrated a fundamental component of the festival circuit.
Read on for recaps of Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, La Roux, LCD Soundsystem and Jay-Z.
I always felt like I was one of the ten people who had never seen Passion Pit perform, and I was listening to them since the tail-end of 2008. For a band from Cambridge, MA, they have done exceptionally well and make my fair hometown a little bit cooler. Singer Michael Angelakos and his crazy high voice is sounded a bit thin as he tried to sing and capture the whispery intimacy he achieves on Manners. But that didn’t matter to the folks at the Outdoor Theatre as they showered the band with a warm reception. Angelakos was seemed to not have much to say except continuously ask if the audience was having fun, and he steered the quintet’s performance the best his could to capture a sea of people. With just a few chords, the crowd catered to his wishes and a wave of bodies were jumping and singing along to “Sleepyhead.” If a festival set is a sampler of a headlining show, then Passion Pit is certainly worth seeing once again.
Was 2009 the year of the Grizzly? It sure seemed like it with the popularity of Veckatimest, but something was lost in their live set. The toned-down beginning numbers were too much of a departure from the rambunctious energy of Passion Pit and their fans. That’s not to say they didn’t perform well—they did—but at festivals, especially, you learn when to make the decision to head over to the next show on your list. My judgement is no judgement here, folks. I liked the record (not loved) and I was neither impressed nor inspired to stick around.
Performing next door to Grizzly Bear, the notion that entrance to La Roux’s tent would cost a life was far from my mind. But from all the pushing, cramming, and overall rowdiness, there was no getting into this show. I bet it would have been fun to be inside the show, but her vocals did not travel well to the outlying areas of the Gobi Tent. The packed showing indicated that she is infinitely more popular than imagined, but she might do well to amp up her stage presence and live delivery.
James Murphy does his own thing and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. It’s been working for him and on the Coachella mainstage, in his classic white suit and guzzling champagne by the bottle, he was in disbelief that he was performing before HOV. That must have felt like a once in a lifetime moment for him, and seeing LCD is probably akin to that. Murphy has a knack for building up a song and letting it erupt; it works to a surprisingly good effect. Clearly he has a lot of heart, but he seemed to ramble between his songs and, based on reactions, some of the songs were a bit flat, but “Yeah” and “New York, I Love You (But You Are Bringing Me Down)” were strong closing numbers.
The man was on fire and delivered one of the most incendiary performances of recent memory. Hit after hit, seamless transitions and an extra large heaping of bravado seized the swelling crowd’s adoration. He called out individual fans from the front rows to those by the sound board, seeing them all cheering for him; for a man with a larger-than-life persona, he seemed completely down to earth and concerned with connecting directly to the audience members. Memphis Bleak performed with him and the Roc Boys throughout the evening, and though the rumors that Dre or Drake would make a special guest appearance, that honor went to someone on an entirely different level of “specialness.” The one and only Beyonce came out to perform “Forever Young” and the song was not complete without a fireworks display. Jay, who had just removed his sunglasses, was clearly glowing and the duet set a tone perfect for the first night of Coachella.