This years’ unprecedented 2-hour sellout of the inaugural double-weekend Coachella Arts & Music Festival set the tone for things to come, and the 2012 edition certainly didn’t disappoint.
With many big-name artists unveiling new live sets, unheard tunes, and of course, holograms of deceased rappers, there are always fresh attractions that set Coachella apart from other music festivals. While these new gimmicks generated conversation, the real reason why we were all there was for the music.
With more electronic/dance oriented artists on the bill this year than ever before, many DJ’s were supplanted from the usual EDM home base of the Sahara tent and dispersed between the Gobi and Mojave, as well as Swedish House Mafia and Justice holding the main stage down on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
My experience started Friday at 2:30 with Breakbot, The French nu-disco/electropop producer from Ed Banger Records. Rarely do acts in the Sahara (or any other) tent pull large crowds so early in the afternoon, but with the more dance-hungry dynamic, Breakbot packed out the tent. Playing classics such as “Fantasy”, “Shades of Black”, and ending with his most well-known song, “Baby I’m Yours”, we were treated to one of the day’s most unique and good-feeling sets.
The Ed Banger onslaught continued with fellow Frenchman SebastiAn, whose style and sound could not be more different than his labelmate’s before him. Opening with his rendition of the French national anthem and the colors of France flying on the video screen behind him, he appeared from behind his stage and raised his arms like a dictator appearing before the masses. The eerie propaganda films playing throughout his set and pounding French electro threw the crowd into a frenzy, it was easily one of the more high-energy sets of the day.
I partook in a small break after the Frenchmen ended, and found myself at the beer garden behind the Sahara while Alesso took the stage in front of a very crammed tent overflowing with bodies. I was not impressed by the (lack of) creativity in his song choices, as he played a very similar set to his Masquerade Motel performance during Miami Music Week. On the plus side, there were lots of lasers, and the crowd seemed to be having a good time.
Best set of Friday, and possibly the whole weekend was M83 playing live in the Mojave during a late evening performance. Dropping new and old hits such as “Colours”, “We Own The Sky”, and the omnipresent “Midnight City”, there was no shortage of excitement. I’ll admit I got a little misty during “Sitting”, the 2001 release on his self-titled, inaugural studio album. The music was mesmerizing and well performed from start to finish, and none of the effect was lost with the inclusion of live instruments and vocals.
Amon Tobin was somewhat of a curiosity to me. Headlining the Mojave after M83 and bringing his already legendary ISAM visual setup in tow, people started streaming into the tent. As the collection of dark cubes started to come to life with splashes of light and color across the screens, the Mojave erupted in cheers. Sadly, the fact that the energy level in Tobin’s music is middling to poor compared to the other headliners meant that the amount of interest people had was generally lost pretty fast when they realized it wasn’t going to pick up. I’m all for atmospheric, experimental and dark vibes, but I was tired at the end of the night and needed a little pick-up myself.
I caught the first 30 minutes of Swedish House Mafia’s set before Amon Tobin, and it was exactly what I expected it to be. When I came back to catch the last 15 minutes of their set, I don’t know why I thought it would be any different than before. They were totally predictable and played all the most popular progressive house “bangers” that all other DJ’s in the genre play, though the only thing that set the Mafia apart from everyone else is that there are three of them, and they have more lasers and fireworks than everyone else combined.
Along with M83 on Friday, the DoLab on Saturday afternoon was the highlight of my weekend. Situated in the center of the festival grounds, the stage is equipped with water cannons and flanked by shaded tents to trap the sound and provide cover from the daytime heat. Dirtybird Records artists Worthy and label boss Christian Martin were in the house providing a long mid-afternoon bloc of bouncy tech house, techno, and fantastic vibes. Much different setting and mood than at the other stages, and definitely one of the greatest experiences connecting with people in the crowd over the whole weekend. Christian Martin was even meandering about in the crowd and said hello during Worthy’s set! What a boss.
Saturday was a rather light day schedule-wise for me, so I once again hit the beer garden while bored and happened to catch part of Sebastian Ingrosso’s set. His set was nearly identical to Alesso and Swedish House Mafia’s.
Los Angeles based producer Flying Lotus was once again on hand this year, and did not disappoint. This genre-defying artist eludes mainstream popularity but somehow manages to fill out the tent he plays each year, which is a bit disappointing as I got stuck in the back of the Gobi once again. Dropping a mixture of new and old tracks as well as a few unreleased gems from his upcoming album, FlyLo provided us arguably the best performance of Saturday.
My first foray to the Outdoor stage brought me to Miike Snow who was closing out the corner of the polo grounds with a relatively early set. They came on late and played for only 45 minutes which was a shame because what they managed to do in the limited amount of time was definitely appropriate for a closer. “Silvia” was the highlight of their performance, and “Paddling Out” didn’t disappoint, as well as “Black Tin Box” featuring Lykke Li on stage providing some serious vocal boost.
I’ve tried to give Kaskade a fair chance in the last couple years, but his live performances pale in comparison to his studio productions. Once again this was the case when he closed out the Sahara tent on Saturday night where he played nearly an entire hour of contemporary electro mashed up with his classic acappella’s. While I give him credit for mixing things up and taking a chance with a different overall sound in his set, it was a little disappointing to a long-time Kaskade fan yearning for some old school, groovy house.
Metronomy at the outdoor stage was the perfect way to start off the last day of Coachella 2012. While the temperature picked up into the 90’s overhead without any cover to shield us, it was nice to finally enjoy the best weather the festival had to offer thus far. Although their set only lasted for a tick less than 40 minutes, the band did not disappoint either, laying down some funk-inspired indie rock that set the tone for the rest of the day. Seeing them play “The Look” live was one of those rare moments I’ll kick myself over for dancing and not standing still and recording the entire thing.
After making my way to the main stage to enjoy lying on some grass, soaking up sun & rum, Santigold came on. I’ll admit, the last I heard from her was when she went by the “Santogold” moniker, but it’s good to know the name is the only thing different about her. She still has a great voice, puts on a fun performance with a very hip outfit to go along. Dropping hits like “L.E.S. Artists” and surprisingly, “Hold The Line” by Major Lazer made the crowd get their dancing shoes on and wake up from the heat induced lull.
Three and a half hours later the main stage started to overflow in anticipation of the return of the French duo Justice. After a 20-minute delay due to “technical difficulties” Gaspard and Xavier finally came on and sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Genesis” from the legendary album “Cross”. With only half an hour left to work with after that, it was rather slim pickings with them only getting in 6 more tracks before being cut off.
The last full set I caught was the crown jewel of the entire festival. While I was terribly conflicted between DJ Shadow and Modeselektor, my love for German techno ultimately won out, and I couldn’t be more content with my decision. The Mojave crowd had dispersed and headed for Dre & Snoop at the main stage and Avicii in the Sahara, so I moved all the way to the front of the tent and waited until the duo appeared. Opening with their track “Berlin” and dropping jacking hits like “German Clap”, it was a riot from start to finish with their eclectic, varied taste in music weaving in and out of different sub-genres while staying true to their sound. If you have a chance to see them, do NOT miss out.
Avicii was everything you would expect, except he now has a giant head he stands atop while he is “DJ-ing”. He ended his set and turned off the sound then when everyone started walking away he dropped Kernkraft 400. It was quite the confusing choice to end the set.
There were definitely ups and downs in the Coachella 2012 experience as Goldenvoice was testing out the two-weekend format, but overall it seemed like a resounding success for all parties involved.Tweet