Yo La Tengo: Charisma you can't see.
Yo La Tengo: Charisma you can't see.
Andrew Youssef / OC Weekly

Live from Coachella: Yo La Tengo, Julian Casablancas, Jonsi

What, exactly, were Yo La Tengo doing on the main stage?

Sure, the trio has been scoring rave reviews from critics for nearly 20 years, and they've steady built a dedicated, brainy fan base. But they're not exactly a band that everyone can love; they take pride in being boring.

But that turned out to be a virtue today. The thee members stood behind their instruments, looking hilariously small on the gigantic stage. After a few songs, though, the three got up and came to the front of the stage. They explained that Sly Stone had stopped by their "dressing room" to say hi, and to make a request: Could they, for once in their lives, do something while playing? Like, say, dance?

So they danced. Ira Kaplan and James McNew stood behind their mics, hands in pockets, awkwardly explaining the story about Sly. Then they broke into hula-style arm waving. Then some disco pointing. Then some running mans. All the moves were clumsily choreographed, a study in stiff, self-aware hilarity. After that dancing, they busted into a scorching rendition of "Sugarcube." From there, it was hit after hit--or at least what suffices as a "hit" for Yo La Tengo. And that was plenty.

We stopped by the Sahara Tent to catch a glimpse of Julian Casablancas, despite not having listened to the Stokes' front man's solo output at all. We lucked out, though, by walking up just as he and his band launched into the Strokes' "Hard to Explain." The crowd, understandably, went wild--and then thinned after it was finished.

Jonsi's set at the outdoor stage inspired quite a few people to lay for a spell in the grass (not that there weren't plenty of people doing that at all times of the day over the course of the festival). After all, that's probably the best way the Sigur Ros front man's music--characterized by his helium pipes and twikling, elves-in-a-workshop arrangements--is enjoyed. In his Icelandic accent, he asked whether we were tired, given that it was the third day of the festival. The answer: Sure, but that's alright. The best stuff is still ahead: Pavement, Thom Yorke, Phoenix, Gorillaz, etc...


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