British bands kicked off Southern California’s annual Coachella music festival on April 12, with Blur and The Stone Roses taking to the stage, while a surprise video from French duo Daft Punk had fans abuzz.
Blur, who led a new wave of rock-infused Britpop in the 1990s and recently reunited after a six-year hiatus, brought their trademark no-frills style to the Coachella main stage.
Lead singer Damon Albarn, who last performed at Coachella with animated music group Gorillaz in 2010, quipped about the sunny desert climate weather, saying: “A lot of our songs have been informed by our bad weather ... it’s very nice to enjoy your sunshine.”
The reunited band, formed by Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree, performed some of their best-known hits including Girls & Boys, Beetlebum, Coffee & TV and the rabble-rousing Parklife and Song 2. Albarn also slowed the tempo with tracks such as Out of Time and Tender.
Blur were followed by The Stone Roses — comprising Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni — who kept the show going until past midnight at the festival, with hits including I Wanna Be Adored and a long rendition of Fools Gold.
Known for springing surprises on the unsuspecting audience, Coachella has often produced moments in past festivals that captured media attention, such as a hologram of late rapper Tupac appearing on stage and performing last year.
Eager to keep the tradition of surprises alive, a teaser music video by Daft Punk shown prior to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set on 12th had audiences excited for an appearance from the French duo, who were not on the Coachella line-up this year.
The two-minute video showed R&B artist Pharrell Williams singing a new song by Daft Punk called Get Lucky, from their highly anticipated upcoming album Random Access Memories.
Daft Punk, formed by French musicians Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, last performed at Coachella in 2006 and in the United States in 2010, as a surprise guest for French band Phoenix’s show at Madison Square Gardens in New York.
The teaser video suggested Daft Punk may once again join Phoenix, who headlined Coachella on April 13.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were one of the most-talked about bands as lead singer Karen O fronted a lively, dynamic andelectric set, featuring their hits Sacrilege, Maps and Gold Lion.
Earlier in the day, British artists such as James McCartney, son of former Beatle Paul McCartney, indie-rock quartet Alt-J,indie-folk singer-songwriter Jake Bugg and BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong fronted Coachella’s many outdoor stages.
Other highlights included Modest Mouse, Passion Pit, Icelandic folk group Of Monsters and Men, Trent Reznor’s newest venture How to Destroy Angels and Canadian sister duo Tegan & Sara.
Newcomers The Neighbourhood, an indie-rock band from Newbury Park in Southern California, were one of the first bands to perform and lead singer Jesse Rutherford told Reuters how important Coachella was as they prepare to launch their debut album I Love You on April 23.
“What I hope for it doing is really helping us launch ouralbum and career ... I want it to be that people who didn’t see us are left wanting to see us,” Rutherford said.
Grammy-winning French indie rock band Phoenix headlined the festival on April 13, bringing R&B singer R. Kelly as their special guest on stage amid rumours that French electro duo Daft Punk would join them.
Phoenix’s lead singer Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai, played a selection of old and new songs against the star-lit backdrop of the festival, held in the desert in Indio, California.
The band, which is due to release its album Bankrupt! on April 22, sang new songs Entertainment and The Real Thing.
It also serenaded the crowd with favourites from its last album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, such as Lisztomania and Fences.
Kelly’s appearance came as a surprise to an audience expecting to see Daft Punk after a teaser music video by the electronic group was played at the start of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set the previous day.
He joined Phoenix for a mash-up of his hit single Ignition with Phoenix’s hit 1901.
This is the third time Phoenix has performed at Coachella and its first time headlining the annual three-day event. “Our vision of Coachella is that you can never be medium. It’s either fantastic or a big catastrophe, we don’t like medium things. For us, it’s always been an extreme experience. The first time we played was our worst show ever, and the second time was one of our best shows ever, it’s either a huge failure or success,” Mazzalai told Reuters ahead of the band’s set.
After the success of the 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which spawned hits such as 1901 and won a Grammy for best alternative music album, Phoenix returned to the studio to record Bankrupt!.
“We have the album of our dreams and there was no compromising at all. In three years, we grew up and we have a different vision, but we’re still the same with having total freedom,” Mazzalai said.
Bankrupt! was inspired by the idea of “starting from scratch with a clean slate” and led the band to explore new ideas and themes, he said.
Los Angeles indie electro-rock group The Postal Service warmed up the crowd ahead of The xx and Phoenix’s headline slot. The group, led by Death Cab For A Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, set a mellow and dream-like vibe as darkness fell over the festival grounds.
British indie pop band The xx pumped up the tempo with tracks such as Islands and featured special guest Solange Knowles, sister of singer Beyonce, performing a cover of Aaliyah’s Hot Like Fire.
“It really is a dream come true to be playing the main stage,” lead singer Romy Madley-Croft said to the crowd.
While rock acts dominated the Coachella line-up this year, festival organisers made sure to include dance acts to stick with their tradition of providing a stage for the growing influence of electronic dance music.
Baauer, the 23-year-old DJ behind viral YouTube hit Harlem Shake, performed early on the 13th and made the crowd wait until the end to hear his hit song. Harlem Shake has led to a trend in which people make videos of themselves standing still during the first part of the song before breaking into wild, energetic dancing.
Italian DJ Benny Benassi was one of the highlights at the Coachella dance tent, with the crowd spilling out as they revelled in his dance-floor tracks. British dance act Hot Chip kept the party going with crowd-pleasers including Over and Over and Ready For The Floor.
Rapper 2 Chainz, one of the few R&B and hip hop acts at Coachella this year, performed as did British electro-folk musician Bat for Lashes.
British folk artist Ben Howard played a soft set of songs from his Every Kingdom album, while the Dropkick Murphys got the audience dancing with their crowd-rousing Irish rock tracks including Rose Tattoo.
California rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers closed out the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 14, amid high winds that swept across the desert and prompted attendees to don extra layers.
The Chili Peppers, formed by Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer in 1983 in Los Angeles, showcased a catalogue of songs from their last four studio albums.
The band sang their classic hits, dark love letters to their home state of California, including Dani California, Californication, Parallel Universe and Under The Bridge, as fans sang along in a finale to Sunday’s events.
The Chili Peppers eschewed the tradition of headliners featuring a special guest, instead keeping their set all about their own music, with the exception of a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground.
Prior to the Chili Peppers, Wu-Tang Clan drew a large crowd as all the living members of the hip hop collective came together to perform a set filled with their hit tracks, including Bring da Ruckus and Clan in da Front.
The Staten Island collective, which has included rappers RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard who died in 2004, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year with a new album, A Better Tomorrow, released in July.
The group will also perform 10 dates across North America and Europe at music festivals this summer, kicking off with Sunday’s Coachella performance.
As winds of around 56 km/h swept across the festival in the California desert town of Indio, some 210 km east of Los Angeles, revellers dressed for the desert sunshine were forced to cover up as dusk fell across the grounds.
Coachella, which began as a two-day festival touting rock music in 1999, has expanded into a three-day festival with more than 150 bands performing across six separate stages, with the same line-up featured across two consecutive weekends in April.
While Coachella organisers Goldenvoice don’t release attendance or ticket figures themselves, concert-tracking website Pollstar.com said the concert grossed $47.3 million across two weekends, with more than 158,000 tickets sold.
While in recent years, the festival has boasted top artists such as Madonna, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Paul McCartney among its headlining acts, this year the festival returned to its rock and taste-maker roots with Blur, The Stone Roses, Phoenix and the Chili Peppers.
Earlier on Sunday, Grammy-nominated folk band The Lumineers took the main stage in the afternoon, playing tracks from their self-titled debut album.
The band are part of a new wave of folk-rock bands taking the US pop charts by storm, along with British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons and Icelandic folk group Of Monsters and Men.
Lead singer Wesley Schultz told the Coachella crowd that the festival was the largest live audience the band had ever played and led attendees in sing-a-longs, including the band’s hit singles Ho Hey and Stubborn Love.
The Lumineers warmed up the outdoor main stage ahead of indie-rockers Vampire Weekend, who played to the crowd as the sun set across the festival, with hits including A-Punk and Holiday that got attendees dancing.
London-based dubstep-electronica singer James Blake set a mellow, ethereal vibe for the crowd at sunset at one of Coachella’s tented stages, singing tracks from his self-titled debut album.