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Coachella 2008 Highlights: Days One and Two

April 28, 2008

Coachella 2008 Highlights: Days One and Two
By: Steven Hopper

An eclectic blend of popular indie acts, electro DJs, and classic artists line up at the Coachella 2008 Music Festival

This past weekend marked the 2008 edition of the Coachella Music Festival. Held in sunny SoCal, the event marked a variety of different musical acts from the world over, hosting a variety of indie bands, electronic music acts, and even a few classics like The Breeders and Prince. Your humble writer was on hand to check out the event on Friday and Saturday, seeing what the annual festival had to offer.

As I mentioned earlier, Coachella 2008 had a fantastic line-up crossing several different musical genres, meaning that there was something for everyone. The musical acts spanned five different stages across the venue, with the more well-known groups and headliners appearing on the larger Coachella and Outdoor stages, majority of indie groups appearing at the Gobi and Mojave stages, the DJ sets and electronic music mostly relegated to the Sahara stage at the far end. On the walk there were myriad vendors, selling food, water bottles (a necessity at an outdoor festival) and a concert memorabilia and t-shirt stand closer to the entrance and the main stage. Additionally, there were some pretty impressive large-scale art displays along to walk to the smaller stages. The sun was out in full force for both Friday and Saturday with temperatures approaching the 100 degree mark. Fortunately, there was quite a bit of shade at most of the stages, keeping concert goers out of the constant beating of the sun (good thing I packed my sunblock, otherwise I’d have turned into beef jerky by the end of the first day).

Friday

The first act on the table that I saw on Friday afternoon was Sebastian, a French electro-house DJ courtesy of the Ed Banger label. The set was a pretty awesome showcase of electro-house tracks, with the acoustics in the Sahara tent sounding fantastic, especially for an outdoor venue.

Next up was another Ed Banger DJ, Busy P, who played a fantastic set, featuring well known songs from other outfits like Justice and Prodigy, as well as a great mash-up with Michael Jackson’s "Thriller".

At one point, I wandered over to see The Breeders on the main stage, and was kind of disappointed. The band’s set was a bit troubled by some technical issues at first, but the majority of their performance seemed sort of uninspired, so I left to get out of the sun for a bit and check out the other stages.

Indie-electro act Cut Copy played on the Gobi stage, playing a great and energized set with some excellent tracks from their new album In Ghost Colours as well as some from their older albums.

Popular “drill and bass” artist Aphex Twin also played the Sahara stage on Friday night, beginning his set with some old-school acid techno and hip-hop (Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” being among the most recognizable) and gradually building into some crazy beats and off-the-wall pieces. As his set wound down, he had some people in animal suits come out and dance around a bit, adding even more insanity to a crazy set.

My personal highlight for Friday night had to have been Pendulum at the Sahara stage, the UK-based (they originally hail from Perth, Australia) drum and base act. The band performed their first live set ever in the US (as in, not a DJ set, but rather as an actual band with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards) at Coachella. The band delivered a rousing set from their huge hit album Hold Your Colour as well as pieces from their anticipated upcoming album In Silico, which drops next month. Lead singer/ keyboardist/guitarist Rob Swire was in a walking cast having just broken his foot three days prior, but hung in there like a trooper, playing the bands huge hits like "Fasten Your Seatbelts", "Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix)", "Hold Your Colour", "Slam" and "Blood Sugar", as well as their two latest singles from In Silico, "Granite" and "Propane Nightmares". It was great to see Pendulum tackle their songs as a live band, lending a new element to their unique sound. Hopefully, the US will see a full scale live tour out of these guys soon.

As much as I would’ve loved to see Fatboy Slim play on Friday night (the spirit was willing…) my back and legs started to give out, and I had to begin the arduous trek back to the cab stand and recoup myself for what promised to be a long and fruitful Saturday showing.

Saturday

My Saturday began much in the same fashion as Friday, with a great DJ set courtesy of France’s Kavinsky spinning on the Sahara stage. He played some diverse tracks from an assortment of artists, with the set including a remix of Justice’s "DVNO" and his own dance hit "Testarossa Overdrive".

Next, it was off to the Gobi tent to hear 120 Days. The band was a little late hitting the stage, a factor that unfortunately ate into their set, but they did what they could with their time, sounding like a cross between U2 and classic New Order. The lead singer took to the stage in full rock star fashion, parading around the stage and even banging on the drummer’s cymbals for one song.

After a short walk back to the Sahara stage, I checked out another DJ set, this time from electro artist Boys Noize. He did a phenomenal job of riling up the crowd, getting them into some select tracks from his album Oi Oi Oi and some great remixes, including Para One’s remix of "My Head", at one point even starting up a “break dance pit” on the floor. It was probably some of the most fun I’d had at the event.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I sauntered back to see Hot Chip perform. Even as the setting sun was poking through the awning of the tent, the band delivered a fantastic performance, playing some fan favorites like “Over and Over” and really getting the crowd going. Looking (and perhaps even sounding) a bit like McLovin from Superbad, lead singer Alexis Taylor did a superb job of performing, banging on a percussion set, playing guitar, and playing the keyboards while singing.

Next on the docket was Junkie XL who gave an excited DJ set with a good range of tracks, including some of his recent hits like Today and his cover of Souxsie and the Banshees’ Cities in Dust. At one point, DJ Steve Aoki came out on stage to offer some support, jumping around and rousing the crowd.

Following Junkie XL’s set, M.I.A. took to the Sahara stage. The crowd was pretty intense, with people pushing in in full force to see the Grime artist play some of her hits, including "Boys" and "Paper Planes". She took to the stage in a white wig that glowed in the blacklight on the stage, and delivered a very energetic set.

Next up, I went to scout out a place for Prince and to check out Portishead, who played through a mellow set and touched on a good chunk of their classics. The sun had gone down and the night was nice and cool compared to the heat of the daytime, making Portishead’s mellow trip hop vibe a good respite for the time.

Next up was the highly anticipated mainstage headliner, Prince. Even though he was added in at the last minute, you’d think that the entire event was planned around his presence. He came out on stage, claiming that he’d deliver a good show on the condition that the audience “let him choose the songs”, which luckily was a good thing, since he played a good amount of classics that the audience loved, including “1999”, “Controversy”, “Little Red Corvette” and closing the night with his most popular song, “Purple Rain”. Along the way, he threw in a few surprises, including having Morris Day take to the stage for “Jungle Love” and Sheila E. performing “The Glamorous Life”. He even played a few covers, including “Come Together” by The Beatles and a surprisingly awesome cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. The performance definitely had a real “Vegas” vibe to it and seemed a touch out of place for the concert, but was pretty energized and kept the crowd enthused throughout.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few performances that I missed that I would’ve loved to have seen (I had to catch a plane on Sunday, so I missed The Cool Kids, Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Chromeo, Simian Mobile Disco, and Justice (tear…) but the first two days of the show were an absolute blast. Here’s hoping next year will be even better.

Oh yeah, and before I go, big thanks for the Sony and Singstar crew for sending me down to check out the event :)

Gw
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