Day two of Coachella’s second weekend brought some good news: I’m not nearly as sunburnt as I expected! Saturday again brought the heat, with temperatures climbing towards 108, so the artists brought a little heat of their own, especially EDM acts like Kaskade and Miike Snow. Read about the day’s 10 best moments below.
1. Kaskade’s anti-Radiohead dance party: They started prepping early: one dude walked over to my grassy corner near the Sahara Stage to find a little "privacy," as he put it, to strip down and slip into a black-and-white-checkered, face-covering unitard, which his girlfriend kindly positioned for him (hey, it’s hot and sticky, okay?). He looked like some sort of rave-bound insect. Another guy nearby started counting down the time ‘til Kaskade took the stage. First it was in five-minute intervals. Then he counted down a full 10 minutes. In seconds. Apparently the drugs worked. And when the Chicago-bred DJ-producer born Ryan Raddon hit the stage, it was explosive. Flat LED screens positioned on the underside of the tent, stretching from one end to another, flashed kaleidoscopic color patterns while a sexy woman's voice huffed "Look into my eyes” ad nauseam. Then—Boom! Crash! Sirens! Jet engine sound!—and the party was underway. This was the other side of Coachella—and it felt a world away from Radiohead, who were playing the main Coachella stage on the other end of the Polo Fields. You could hear the Oxford band kick off their set, but soon they were silenced by Kaskade's dance party. I’m a huge fan of Thom Yorke and Co., but this was hard to leave.
2. Miike Snow’s inaccessible dance party: By the time I made it to the Outdoor Stage for this Sweden-based electro trio featuring Britney Spears producers Bloodshy & Avant and U.S. singer Andrew Wyatt, it was hopeless: the crowd was so massive that there was no chance of penetrating it. So I shimmied on the fringes, taking in the epileptic seizure-inducing light show that looked like that one scene from Contact—it was that bright and eye-boggling. Make a note: If you’re gonna see Miike Snow at a festival, show up really, really early. The hands-in-the-air-and-they’re-never-coming-down groove fest that was underway near the stage was envious. Also: “Paddling Out,” from Snow’s psychedelic new EDM LP Happy to You, is a fantastic collision of pop beats with jangly piano and I love it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the band has gotten this big.
3. Manchester Orchestra’s hilarious, then powerful, entrance: While waiting for the angst-ridden Atlanta hard rockers' set to start, the camera servicing the main LED screen scanned to a dude hugging the front rails, who gave the crowd one of the zanniest googly eyes I’ve ever seen. It was… HILARIOUS and everyone roared in laughter. Good timing: just then the quintet walked onstage and the crowd's chuckles turned to wails as Andy Hull led the band in the twin guitar riff-a-palooza “Everything to Nothing.” Keyboardist Chris Freeman turned away from his instrument and headbanged along so intensely that I worried for his neck. Whiplash!
4. This happened:
5. Zeds Dead make heat exhaustion desirable: I really hate to make Coachella all about the heat, but, at least on Saturday, it really was. So deal with it (which was, in fact, the advice I was given from numerous people when I complained about the relentless heat). DC and Hooks, the whizzes behind this Toronto DJ duo, brought the warped, wiggling beats at the scorching five o’clock hour and I’ve perhaps never sweated so much in my life. Really. Especially when they transformed the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" into a dubstep blitzkrieg. I wondered how many of the youngsters surrounding me (the crowd was Coachella's youngest so far) even knew the artist behind the original sample. But it doesn’t really matter. A good song’s a good song, no matter its BPM. Those youngsters danced so hard it got humid.
6. The Head and the Heart lose themselves in song: I’m not a huge fan of the new acoustic folk craze, but Saturday afternoon, Seattle's the Head and the Heart made a bid for my affection. This was all thanks to Charity Rose Thielen, the pixie-ish blonde singer who wore a pink skirt and polka dot top. She straight lost herself in “Rivers and Roads,” and it was stirring to see. She stood up on her tippie toes, clenched her neck, closed her eyes and let it wail. It was something to behold.
7. The pervy, and possibly drunk, robot roaming the VIP section: All of a sudden, as I sat eating my burger during a break between sets, a robot named Hot Shot Few Thousand appeared before me, rolling around the VIP section and talking (really!) with random people. Who was controlling this technological specimen? Whoever they were, they were hilarious. The robot chased a leggy model around in circles, saying, “I love you." When she hid behind a garbage can, he wept, “Where are you? I need you!” Soon a drunk dude invited the robot to meet another girl. “Will she go to prom with me?” (Turns out she won't). Hot Shot later chanted “Coachella!!!” and “vodka Red Bull,” and asked for cigarettes, which he ACTUALLY SMOKED. “I’ll smoke anything man,” he deadpanned. “You have a lighter too?” Soon another pretty girl arrived and he sprung a metal erection. The small crowd busted up laughing. “Oh, yeah, Bon Iver tonight," the robot said. "They're gonna put you to sleeeeeeeeeeeepppppppppppp.”
8. Sidecar Tommy’s award-winning advice: A brief drop into the never-ending dance party that is the Do Lab, a sort of EDM haven with big props (all sorts of big multi-colored blocks and 20-foot-tall teepees), revealed what everyone already knew: “Give it up for water,” the Oakland-bred DJ-producer Sidecar Tommy hollered at the start of his set. “Water is the headliner! Drink up. Give it up for water!" Well said. He then bent Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” around a pounding trance beat, and the dancers onstage, armed with squirt guns, pumped, aimed and fired.
9. Bon Iver’s advertisement for the Midwest: Wisconsin should thank Justin Vernon big time. Because of the Bon Iver songwriter I’ve been getting pretty darn curious—what’s up with Wisconsin? First, Vernon broke onto the music scene with his I-wrote-my-debut-album-in-a-cabin-in-the-Wisconsin-woods-during-a-heartbroken-winter legend. He also built a studio near his hometown of Eau Claire, and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. He paid his stomping grounds tribute with the one-two of "Brackett, WI,” which has one of the more gorgeous falling melodies in his catalogue, and the meditation on his Midwest youth "Michicant." On “Calgary,” the boys’ vocal harmonies might've earned them the title of Best Boys Choir in Wisconsin. It's clearly time for a visit.
10. Radiohead’s live revival: Thom Yorke recently told Rolling Stone about Radiohead's live revival at the hands of their new touring member, Portishead’s Clive Deamer, the other bald guy behind the drum kit (and occasionally on the keys and more). “Having another musician to go back over old stuff was as important as coming up with new songs… to breathe new life into them is a good feeling,” Yorke said. Clearly. Yorke was jovial throughout the Oxford band's headlining set. He danced, natch, but wore a smile on his face the whole time. He hardly resembles the pissy, anxious, paranoid outcast of a decade ago. On “There There,” bassist Colin Greenwood—who in the three times I’ve seen Radiohead wore only a scowl—cracked a big smile as he locked in with dueling drummers Deamer and Phil Selway. They were cheeky, goofing on little solos, nodding at each other encouragingly and letting the crowd revel in it. After “Karma Police,” the sea of fans broke into the final verse, one more time just because. “I lost myself / I lost myself,” they chanted. Yorke took the opportunity to play conductor, swaying his arms and leading them in two more bars, a cappella. "Just beautiful" he said. Later, he added, “Before we decided to play these big shows, we asked ourselves why…” Yorke preached. “It’s about the collective. It’s about what we can do together.”