Published Apr 22, 2010Supergroups, a menacing foreign volcano and myriad Danny DeVito sightings always make for a compelling festival. This year's epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival had all of the above and, as the name implies, some music too.
Coachella is pristine. Unlike many other festivals, the site, rimmed by mountains and dotted with palm trees, is naturally idyllic and populated with sundress-wearing models rather than Wellington-clad plebes. Still, it's not as staid as it sounds.
Early on, an Icelandic volcano ravaged the bill, seeing a number of high-profile cancellations. Regardless, a slew of Voltron-style supergroups made it out to the desert. For instance, Jack White's Dead Weather burned through a scorching, riff-heavy slot as singer Allison Mosshart strutted authoritatively. Similarly, Them Crooked Vultures played nuanced cock rock for the masses, and the Almighty Defenders (King Khan & BBQ Show plus Black Lips) riffed about Jihad, box-cutters and other family-friendly subject matter while dressed in creepy robes and suppressing giggles.
Conversely, many big-font acts disappointed, especially middle-of-the-road Brit outfit Muse (admittedly, expectations weren't particularly high), a regrettably real (aka not cartoon) incarnation of Gorillaz, and an underwhelming MGMT. That said, a swaggering, dapper LCD Soundsystem fostered a huge dance party, and a reformed and energized Pavement had dirty T-shirt kids singing in unison. And Jay-Z killed.
Draped in black from shoes to sunglasses, a tardy Jay-Z, running on bravado and big beats, waxed eloquent throughout a survey course in his hall-of-fame career, mining classics and recent hits, blowing out his voice, and bringing out Beyoncé to close the first day with a shimmering duet of "Young Forever."
Jigga aside, the fest largely belonged to tent shows, including a raucous Matt and Kim gig that featured a meditation on feminine waxing and a truncated version of Europe's "The Final Countdown." Furthermore, Beach House and the Dirty Projectors drew scores for surprisingly danceable afternoon slots.
Though the weekend would officially close with the afore-maligned Gorillaz performance, it's the sunset shows that symbolically end any festival - at least for those with selective memory. In that vein, ubiquitous French popsters, Phoenix, delivered a near-perfect singalong set just as the light disappeared. And that was that.