February 29, 2012


10 Most Legendary Coachella Performances

Karl Walter/Getty Images
Karl Walter/Getty Images

From dance parties to politics to pyramids to elegies to inexplicably glowing balloons, Coachella has covered a lot of ground (scorching hot desert ground, to be exact) since it appeared in 1999. As we look forward to Coachella 2012, here are the 10 most unforgettable moments from the California music festival’s storied history.  

1999: Pavement Nearly Breaks Up Onstage
Not exactly a stunning moment in Coachella history, but certainly one of the most infamous. In the fest’s first year, the groundbreaking lo-fi band all-but-imploded onstage. An ill Stephen Malkmus barely managed to croak out the words to what turned into a mostly instrumental set. They disbanded a month later, but happily included Coachella 2010 as part of their reunion tour.

2003: The Stooges Play First Show Since the 1970s
Having disbanded before their influence was fully disseminated, the alpha punks were used to shocking, disgusting and angering audiences in the ‘70s. So it wasn’t until 2003 that the combined powers of Iggy and the Asheton Brothers played to an audience that held them in reverential awe, waiting eagerly to be blown out of their skins.

2004: The Flaming Lips Roll Out the Hamster Ball
Nowadays Wayne Coyne doesn’t even leave the house to grab the paper unless he’s in a giant inflatable ball, but back then his "zorbing" around on fans’ heads was still a surreal novelty. It must have been especially troubling for those Flaming Lips fans who were already experiencing a self-induced alternate reality.

2004: Kraftwerk's Triumphant Set
Kraftwerk played their robo-reunion to audiences that were either worshipful or just as cold to the German pioneers as the second side of Trans-Europe Express.

2005: New Order Revert to Joy Division for Three Songs
New Order set aside dance-rock to pay tribute to its antecedent band 25 years after Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis took his own life. Fans weathered oppressive heat to hear “Atmosophere,” “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” resurrected for a brief moment in time.

2006: Daft Punk’s Pyramid Scheme
When Daft Punk unveiled their three-dimensional neon pyramid to enraptured Coachella fans, people responded much like they do to the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill: Why it is there? What does it mean? Is it Illuminati? And why does it seem to be staring back at me?!

2006: Madonna Storms the Sahara Tent
Purist fans scoffed at the idea of one of the world’s biggest pop stars playing a tent that usually fosters a rave-like intimacy, but hey, Madonna probably influenced half of the DJs that ever played there.

2007: Rage Against the Machine Reunite and Raise Hell
Playing for the first time since the war machine actually did start turning, RATM were all political fire and brimstone when they reunited for the first time in seven years to play the fest’s final day. During “Wake Up,” Zack de la Rocha made his infamous comments about how the Bush administration should be dealt with “as any war criminal should be.”

2010: LCD Soundsystem Steal the Show
Playing Coachella one month before the release of This Is Happening and one year prior to their final show, James Murphy’s brainy dance rock outfit managed to steal the show from headliner Jay-Z, who had the unenviable task of following them.

2011: Arcade Fire Drop the Ball
Their 2005 Coachella set is celebrated as well, but the Arcade Fire's set at last year’s festival takes precedent. With a surprising GRAMMY win under their belts, the Canadian outfit celebrated by dropping a bundle of glowing balloons that changed colors and stayed lit for the entire encore. It was yet another classic Coachella moment occurring while a song called “Wake Up” was playing.

Did we miss anything? Or did we literally cover every important moment, ever. What is the best (or most memorable) band you’ve seen there? Are you headed to Coachella 2012?