Dance music owned Coachella on Saturday—but it wasn't thanks to white-hot EDM artists like Benny Benassi, Julio Bashmore or even Baauer. Instead, it was two very different interpretations of the of-the-moment genre, one tender and emotive and the other straight booty bangin' down by da beach, boi.
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and producer Dntel's reunited project The Postal Service certainly qualifies as EDM. But the duo subscribe to a different definition of acronym: Let's call it Emo Dance Music instead [knee slap].
Playing their first major festival appearance since reuniting, the Postal Service drew the biggest crowd yet at the main stage; the mass stretched to the food vendors some 150 yards back. And for good reason: After releasing their debut, the 2003 synth-pop gem Give Up, the duo swiftly broke up, only fueling the band and album's legendary status. That only grew over the following decade, propelling Give Up to go platinum—no small feat for a email side-project. Now they're back for a 10th anniversary victory lap.
Onstage, Gibbard called the long-defunct band "imaginary," as most had never seen them live. Turns out, they're great in concert. Tamborello posted up behind a laptop on a podium, while Gibbard bounced from guitar to keys to drums, lisp-whisper-singing his hopeful, sentimental lyrics. Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis joined onstage, as the band—also featuring two other members—played their hits including "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," "Nothing Better" and "Brand New Colony," which stretched into a swelling jam with screeching guitar meanders as Lewis and Gibbard cooed in unison.
The neon-warm, 8-bit video game bleep-blop bounce matched the stage set of tall LED rectangles, which flashed pulsing lights like the volume on an '80s boom box, and projected patters and pixels.
The highlight, naturally, came with "Such Great Heights." A frenzy sparked at the digital twinkle of song's intro. A group of kids near the stage lit multi-colored sparklers, waving the fizzling smoke and cackling color above the thousands of heads, in plain sight for all, like hold a flag or roman candle or torch and declaring this a momentous occasion for all. Picture it; it was beautiful. It might have been the precise beginning to summer 2013.
Over at the Mojave Stage, Diplo's Major Lazer threw a far, far more unhinged, debauched and entirely outrospective dance throwdown. It was the largest crowd at this stage all weekend; shirtless bros and their blond girlfriends poured out of the tent, dancing on garbage cans, support beams, shoulders, any and everything. This was Molly central. Solange and Earl Sweatshirt even showed up to work it in the pit.
Diplo, perched in a podium fashioned after an old school boom box, played tracks from his upcoming album, Free the Universe, and welcomed LP guests like Jamican dance hall artist Busy Signal, who stoked the crowd with ass-shaking back up dancers. Diplo took a moment to jump into a human-sized inflatable hamster ball and roll over the crowd, a la Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. Later, Major Lazer instructed the massive throng to remove their shirts, twirl 'em overhead like a helicopter, then throw 'em in the air. For a moment, thousands of t-shirts flew in the wind.
"Hey man, this shirt doesn't fit," said one concertgoer, recovering someone else's t-shirt. Hey, dude, it's a souvenir.