Arcade Fire is one of the most important bands of its generation. And on Saturday, the Grammy-winning Canadian group owned up to its reputation as a stellar live act with an intense, emotional set at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
The unquestionable highlight of the fest’s second day was the large band’s set of explosive, harmonic indie-rock. The band’s dynamic set focused on its latest, “The Suburbs,” but it also played plenty of attention to the group’s previous efforts.
Arcade Fire has made a name via its live show – a riveting mix of mass sing-a-longs and sweeping, orchestral flourishes. And on Saturday, the group unleashed an impressive set that was pretty similar to its recent concert at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center –- yet it strayed enough to make it a unique festival outing, thanks to the set-closing balloon drop that set the stage for some immense, color-coordinated action.
Coachella continued with its technological advances on Saturday, but the music made things seem seamless. Bright Eyes’ rootsy, rough-around-the-edges set was thoughtful and plaintive with frontman Conor Oberst handling the big-stage duties like an unfazed veteran. The Kills were expectedly rambunctious as U.K bluegrass newbies Mumford & Sons were as in-line and on-point as you’d expect.
The day’s surprise highlight came from hip-hop up-and-comer Lil’ B, whose too-short set in the Oasis Dome was a revelation of strange ingenuity, new-era mentality and uncannily prescient rhymes.
Clash offshoot Big Audio Dynamite threw down a throwback set of dub and pop that served as a potent reminder of the group’s groundbreaking influence on contemporary music. And Aussie pop group Empire of the Sun dug deep in its closet for some ’90s dance – and some stage flair/costumes – that had the surprisingly large crowd jumping to the rhythm. –-Ricardo Baca
Reverb editor John Hendrickson’s Festival Express
Best musical moment: Lil’ B had everything to prove as the sun went down on Coachella Saturday night. The YouTube-based “SWAG” rapper has been the butt of many a joke this weekend (in a Rebecca Black kind of way). His performance at the Oasis Dome, the smallest official stage at the festival, was packed to the brim with what seemed like rowdy 8th graders.
When the bass started pounding and hands began to wave, the scene looked like your textbook hip-hop show. But as soon as B jumped into his viral hit, “Ellen DeGeneres Cooking Music,” the crowd erupted into a full-blown mosh pit. Later, with industry executives and the lead singer of Titus Andronicus looking onward from a distance, B passed a full bottle of Grey Goose vodka into the manic audience. Whether or not the hype reflects B’s talent is irrelevant –- he’s proved that video playcounts and MySpace profile views can translate into real life fame.
Best non-musical moment: I had the chance to shoot the breeze with Rob McElhenney, a.k.a. “Mac” from the FX sitcom “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” last night. He was swinging back drinks with a small circle of friends and was quite shorter (and heavier) than he looks on camera. This encounter came one day after our photographer Joe McCabe saw McElhenney’s co-star Danny DeVito in the photo pit on Friday night going crazy for the Black Keys.
That’s not a mirage: While Animal Collective played a rousing rendition of “Brother Sport,” I nearly tripped over two of the three roving “Land Sharks” at this year’s festival. Picture a fast-moving RC car with a shark strapped to the top. And glowsticks, lots. Not for those in the wrong frame of mind.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.