Photos and words by Natasha Aftandilians
Coachella–what began as a festival showcasing alt-grunge bands and electronica over a decade ago has evolved into a strange gathering of disparate acts and people that’s too random to successfully pin down with a label. The last two weekends saw reunited rock legends, surprise guest appearances, million dollar DJs, indie darlings, and so much more all gathered in one place and the results were, predictably, pretty unpredictable. Here are some of our highlights from our two days in Indio:
Pics of Coachella 2015 -Day 1
Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
Sean Lennon (son of that OTHER Lennon) and his girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp-Muhl are Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger and they took to the outdoor stage early Friday afternoon, looking like the physical embodiment of music festivals of yore. Think Woodstock Bohemian meets early Lollapalooza grunge. “Security almost didn’t let us backstage because they didn’t believe we were supposed to be on stage,” Lennon announced before launching into a cover of Gandalf’s “Golden Earrings.” Kemp-Muhl and Lennon make a beautiful pair, musically and romantically, and we have Coachella to thank for bringing them together as the two met here ten years prior. Just one of undoubtedly many love connections made at the Empire Polo Fields every year.
The portly gourmet chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson made 4/17 feel like 4/20 the minute he came onstage, dressed in camouflage like an outcast member of Duck Dynasty with a fat blunt in one hand and a microphone in the other. “Mr. Wonderful” took the opportunity to join his fans in the crowd, signing autographs on the middle of his set and offering his services as a purveyor of “superior” weed. We don’t remember much after that.
The indie electro duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn had the Mojave tent jam-packed Friday afternoon. The massive turnout seemed surprising at first but once the pair took the stage it became apparent that the attention was well deserved. Meath flexed and posed like an interpretive dancer while Sanborn brought life to tracks from the band’s self-titled debut, popping and locking like one smooth-operating android. Her melodic cooing and Sanborn’s simply satisfying beats blended together seamlessly into one smooth set.
This wasn’t Kimbra’s first time at Coachella. In 2011, she took the stage with Gotye, who helped launch her into fame with their duet “Somebody That I Used to Know.” She managed to avoid the curse of the one-hit wonder, unlike her counterpart, and she’s been delighting fans with her gloriously jazz-infused glam pop since then. Taking the stage in a coat made of hundreds of plastic tendrils and go-go boots that would make David Bowie swoon, she launched into a flamboyant rendition of “Nobody But You,” striking dramatic poses and flashing her massive smile between every line. She looks and sounds like a pop-princess Snow White, her voice capable of hitting unreachable highs and soulful bellows in a matter of seconds. The only thing more impressive than her singing was her outfit—each layer she shed revealed a new garment more brazen than the last, from an anatomically themed poncho to a shimmering disco ball of a dress that had heads spinning.
Azealia Banks has been having a rollercoaster of a year rich with twitter feuds and assorted other controversies including and a prolonged battle with her (former) record label that lead to the delay of her album Broke With Expensive Taste’s release. Unfortunately, these ups and downs have seemingly obscured the thing she is best at doing: writing some of the most provocative rhymes you’ll ever hear. Her time on the main stage Friday afternoon was her opportunity to take all the drama, set it on fire, and rise from its ashes. Unabashedly brassy and unapologetic, she sped through new tracks like “Gimme a Chance” and “Heavy Metal and Reflective” like an old pro, bouncing across the stage and spitting every line with the feisty grin of someone who knows she’s killing it. She was and she deserves some triumph.
The War on Drugs
Anyone who was within 200 feet of the outdoor stage when Alabama Shakes started playing was quickly lured in to singer Brittany Howard’s web the minute she opened her mouth. The band’s soulful southern rock made for the perfect soundtrack to the sun setting over swaying palm trees, Howard’s voice shimmering like the light of the Ferris wheel spinning in the distance. Even songs from their new album, Sound and Color felt as home as familiar favorites.
Coachella may be known for its attendees embracing the styles of the 60s festival fashion, but the lineup this year really had no bands that harkened back to the music of the decade. Thank God, then, for Tame Impala. The Australian psychedelics stepped into the mix as the trippiest band of the evening. Kevin Parker’s wisp of a falsetto was lighter than air above the heavy plodding footsteps of fan favorite “Elephant” while swirling colorful graphics melted into the big screen behind them. It was a feast for the eyes and ears and, in particular, all the members of the audience happily tripping on any of a number of casual hallucinogens.
All the dads serving as chaperones for their teenagers at the festival were rewarded for their patience Friday night with an epic set by rock legends AC/DC. Brian Johnson, Angus Young and the rest of the band (RIP, Malcolm) strutted across the stage like they hadn’t aged a day in the last 30 years and delivered pitch-perfect renditions of classics like “Back in Black” and “She Shook Me All Night Long.” Their set, combined with the presence of Steely Dan on the lineup made Coachella 2015 the most parentally friendly year yet.
Pics of Coachella 2015 – Day 2
Australian electro-soul singer Chet Faker takes the silver medal for must seductive set of the festival, bested for gold only by The Weeknd. His subtly sexy cover of 90’s classic “No Diggity” had everyone (Chet included) feeling themselves. His set provided a much needed dose of chill as the sweltering midday sun wasn’t the only thing making people in the crowd feel woozy.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne has exactly one song that most people can name but for some reason, the lanky Irishman was granted a prestigious slot on the main stage (it might have something to do with the legion of women in the crowd who were hanging on to every word that came out of his admittedly handsome face). While his set was inoffensive and competently fulfilled, it wasn’t quite enough to get us to church.
Run The Jewels
2014 was the year that el-P and Killer Mike let it be known that they weren’t going to rest until they achieved world domination and it seems that conquering Coachella was just one step on their way to achieving that goal. Faced with a swarm of finger pistols and fists in the air, the dynamic duo was relentless, doling out the knockout punches left and right. From “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” to “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1,” every single rhyme was delivered “with the grace of an African elephant” and the subtlety of a bulldozer. After having seen Run The Jewels three times, this writer can confirm that P and Mike are pretty much never NOT on fire.
Father John Misty
Josh Tillman is a man who appreciates a healthy dose of irony. Why else would he perform songs about love and devotion to his wife while surrounded onstage by topless girls in masks or pose for pictures in front of a neon “no photography” sign? He swings his hips like a young Mick Jagger while singing about his own insecurities and paranoia and the downfall of American society (with a laugh track). His sense of humor may be a defense mechanism for some deep-seated issues, but he channels all his emotions into a performance that is a proud showcase of his vulnerabilities.
Tyler The Creator
FKA twigs (or the future Mrs. Robert Pattinson as many devastated fangirls know her) was a vision in crystals on Saturday night as she made her Coachella debut in the Gobi tent. Minimalistic beats boomed to a deafening level while Twigs vogued and posed with the elegance only a classically trained dancer could achieve. When “Two Weeks” came on, the beauty of her voice combined with the seizure-inducing array of flashing lights bouncing off her strappy jewel encrusted dress made for a delicious sensory overload.
What do Drake, Jayden Smith, and E from Entourage all have in common? They were all eagerly awaiting Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd headlining on the main stage Saturday night. “Can I get on top of you tonight, Coachella?!” the PBR&B star shouted at the top of his lungs to thousands of women screaming their assent, thereby cementing his status as the sexiest man within a 10 mile radius of the city of Indio. The lust was palpable, especially when Tesfaye busted out his sultry new track “Earned It” which might be the best thing to come out of the 50 Shades of Grey franchise, period. And oh yeah, Kanye West came out for a few songs too. No big deal.
Drive Like Jehu
The post-hardcore cult favorites Drive Like Jehu only released 2 albums in their short lifespan before breaking up, but they’re arguably one of the most influential and underrated bands of the last 20 years and that’s exactly why it was such a shame to see the Gobi tent nearly empty when they took the stage Saturday night. While it’s not exactly surprising that a rock band going up against Flosstradamus and The Weeknd was basically playing to an empty tent, it’s still pretty disappointing and a telling sign about the Coachella demographic. While there couldn’t have been more than 100 people watching their set, those who did stick around were excited to mosh and grateful for the chance to witness this unlikeliest of reunions.
Pics of Coachella 2015 – Day 3
Getting people to show up before 1pm at Coachella can be a difficult task for the bands with early slots on the lineup, so LA based pop rockers Saint Motel took advantage of their place on the main stage to reward the early risers with a dose of Las Vegas style showmanship. Backed by a bevy of dancing showgirls decked out in feathers and sequins and a full brass section, their set went out with an exuberant bang as lead singer A/J Jackson lead the audience in singing their finale “Cold Cold Man.” Just goes to show that sometimes being fashionably late is overrated.
After one electrifying performance on the Late Show with David Letterman last year, these Illinois garage rockers have made a name for themselves as sneering punks who got Paul Shaffer to thrash and pelvic thrust on the floor in homage. Lead singer Mario Cuomo (not THAT one) brought that same air of nonchalant weirdness and unpredictability to the main stage Sunday afternoon. Staring with dead eyes into the crowd while playing with the zipper on his jeans, you got the sense that Cuomo was either stoned out of his mind and/or contemplating whipping his dick out for the world to see. At one point in the middle of “Who Needs You” he ran backstage, grabbed a giant fake potted plant and held it above his head trophy. “I stole one of Drake’s trees!” he yelled proudly before the ficus toppled over. Knowing how sensitive the Canadian rapper can be, Cuomo was lucky Aubrey Graham wasn’t there to see it.
Mac DeMarco looks and sounds like a guy who doesn’t take himself very seriously. The guy has a wardrobe that consists solely of dingy overalls and Simpsons t-shirts and a track record for putting various objects in his butt while onstage. He’s a goofball and that’s why his fans love him, which is why the crowd of mostly too-cool teenagers was thrilled to crowd-surf to his breezy, retro yacht rock and let Mac be the class clown. Thankfully no drumsticks were inserted in places where they don’t belong today.
Jenny Lewis deserves major props for having committed to wearing the same outfit (her rainbow painted suit from the cover of The Voyager) to nearly every live performance last year. But we can’t blame her for ditching the suit in favor of a similarly colorful romper on Sunday. Opening with upbeat “Head Underwater,” Lewis played songs from both Rilo Kiley’s catalogue and her solo career. She moved with such carefree energy around the stage, from piano to guitar and back and then taking a swig of her official “The Voyager” wine in a move of brilliant self-promotion. Even if it wasn’t Jenny Lewis approved, we’d love to have a glass of wine with her.
Marina and the Diamonds
Marina Diamandis has managed to combine the affinity for high-fashion costumes and flair for alter egos into one delicious pop diva package that’s visually and aurally enticing, so it’s no surprise that when she took to the stage in a flowing silver dress and plastic “FROOT” headpiece, there was a massive crowd of fans already waiting for her. Kicking things off with the bratty, in-your-face anthem “Bubblegum Bitch” and rolling in to favorites like “Primadonna Girl,” Marina was in top form, showcasing her Disney princess vocalizations and pouting for the crowd. She had all the makings of a proper pop star, but with twice the talent to spare.
Annie Clark was probably the best guitar player to grace the festival grounds of Coachella this year (sorry, Angus and Swami). To just watch her play one song and the way she absolutely throttles her axe with such intense focus sent shivers down our spines. She opened her set emerging from the dark and assumed her position with stiff robotic movements and shuffling footsteps, blasting through “Digital Witness” and “Cruel” in rapid succession. In an increasingly digital world, Clark is one of the last remaining analog guitar heroines, and for that, we will always love her.
Florence and the Machines
Fitz and the Tantrums