Mediocre? You Can't Be Serious

In defense of Coachella

The Magic Numbers, 3:30 p.m.:Highly anticipated performance from this U.K. foursome—two brother/sister pairs—ends up one of the best of the day. "I didn't know there would be this turnout," front man Romeo Stodart blurts out shyly, obviously floored by the apeshit crowd response to the band's devastatingly danceable pop songs. Still, their unstoppable melodies are overshadowed by one thing: singer/percussionist Angela Gannon, whose voice drives the crowd into a screaming frenzy every time she nears the microphone.

Ted Leo, 4 p.m.:
It's a shame that the festival organizers pit Teddy boy against the Magic Numbers, since many, myself included, are torn over which set to attend. I end up choosing both, although, sadly, I kind of wish I'd stayed over at the Main Stage. Ted's got catchy hooks and licks for days, but overall they sound minute and tiny coming from the outdoor side stage. Next time, book him in a tent.

Jamie Lidell, 5:10 p.m.:It doesn't take long to find out exactly why everyone's fussing over Jamie Lidell: this pale, skinny U.K. guy is, well, the pale, skinny U.K. reincarnation of Morris Day, up to and including a sidekick responsible for following him around onstage and adjusting his wardrobe. Lidell is cocky and charming and 100 percent worth every ounce of fuss: dude samples his own beatboxing, loops it into a dance track and then busts out with crazzzzy funky soul. Unbelievable.

Sleater-Kinney, 6 p.m.:
Again, festival organizers inexplicably split the audience between S-K and Bloc Party, but this time I make a choice and commit to it. Sleater-Kinney may just be the best band touring today—when they're not facing difficulties with sound and equipment—and this performance is no different. Sticking mainly to songs from The Woods and All Hands on the Bad One—but also digging out "Get Up" for the oldster fans!—the all-woman trio lays down some of the heaviest, thickest chords heard all weekend and then closes on a 14-minute distorta-jam that wins over every single dude in the audience.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 8:05 p.m.:
Walk by just as Karen O wraps up "Y Control" on the jumbo monitors. She looks and sounds incredible. Did I really choose to eat a veggie burger over this? Sad face.

Madonna, 8:30 p.m.:And finally—FINALLY!—Madonna. I've seen people run at Coachella maybe two times: to the Pixies and to Radiohead. This, however, is the equivalent of those two times combined and then mixed with the running of the bulls for good measure, as hipsters, bros and hip-hop fans all sprint toward the looming dance tent for Madonna's performance—some of them pushing babies in strollers. Outside the tent, the crowd's at least 25 people deep, not to mention the fans sitting in grandstands a couple hundred feet behind those people. And we're all there, and everyone is bouncing around trying to see the stage, and then we wait. And wait. And wait. When the curtain opens nearly half an hour past start time, the reaction is beyond anything and everything I've ever witnessed at Coachella. Madonna launches into "Hung Up" off her new album and then later into "New York" and "Ray of Light"—even playing guitar for those two. "Should I play an old song?" she asks. The crowd goes nuts. "Should I take my pants off?" The crowd goes even nutsier. And then it's "Everybody," and she's gone. Five songs, 25 minutes, maybe less than 100 words. Only Madonna could get away with that. And only at Coachella would I let her.

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