Out of Town / Photo
Coachella Photos: First Saturday. Radiohead, tUnE-yArDs, the Head and the Heart, and more.
by Josh Bis
on Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 3:10 PM
Radiohead: I'm pretty sure that when I picked up my first Radiohead album as an impressionable youth, the idea of seeing them perform may not have even occurred to me, let alone being able to see them and their giant aqualuminescent stage show three times in the span of a month each time being ushered to the front of the crowd for the chance to point heavy photographic equipment in their general vicinity for a few songs. So the great personal thought experiment of last night's very good career-spanning plus-brand-new-material show was reconciling the thrill of seeing a band that I love leading tens of thousands of people in a "Karma Police" singalong with the very real world concern of how a pleasant springlike desert afternoon turns into a very cold evening by the time midnight rolls around and the band's only about halfway through their set. After our designated three song photo time, I floated around in the crowd, zoning in and out while pre-editing photos, gawking at some of the more creative costuming (feltcraft Deadmau5, neon wolverine) through first encore's "Everything in its Right Place" showstopper of a closer, returning to the warmer embrace of the more distant VIP viewing cage for the second encore (aside: a million thank yous to Goldenvoice for situating the press tent among the very important; more festivals should do this please). Given their vast catalog, I'm still a little bit excited to see what they brew up from next weekend.
the crowd for the Head and the Heart
Various observations: I was pleasantly surprised to see that Seattle's the Head and the Heart drew an impressive midday crowd (above).
Department of the Kids Are Alright: The lightly stoned kids in front of me wiping away so many secret silent tears during Jeff Mangum's set. Although this was my third time seeing him, I was right with those dudes. The previous Radiohead digression applies perhaps even more strongly here, particularly since Neutral Milk Hotel was long defunct by the time someone shoved In the Aeroplane Over the Sea into my hands. Although Jeff Mangum doesn't want to be photographed or have video recordings of himself made, he's seeming more and more relaxed with every performance, cajoling the audience to sing along, and asking everyone whether they're happy (they are) throughout the set. This show was maybe the first time in history that a crowd went wild with applause at the mere appearance of a French Horn player on stage. By the end, he'd called out a miniature Balkan-style band, complete with accordion, drum, and various muted horns to spectacularly close out the hour with "Two Headed Boy / Fool."
Other observations:St. Vincent has grown up from cheery Sufjan acolyte in to a dark eyed rock goddess. At one point, diving into the crowd to furiously sing not-yet-released "Crocodile". I love Bon Iver. His (their?) doubly self-titled album was one of my favorites of 2011. But I was pretty shocked when the massive audience went wild at just the opening chords of sleepy "Holocene". But still, it's an impressive graduation from his spinning platform guest spot last year at this time during Kanye West's epic festival showstopper. As much as I like him, I did leave early to make sure to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the very first time. There, I learned that it turns out that the thing that appeals to the fewest Coachella attendees is listening to a Canadian post-rock collective sitting in the dark while playing gloomy symphonies that conjure visions of dire survival after the apocalypse. There were some phenomenal moments, but staying for their whole performance was among the luxuries of knowing that I'll be back next week to catch the more upbeat likes of Miike Snow.
Similarly, the knowledge of repeating the festival made me more comfortable chilling out with Andrew Bird's golden hour set, laughing as devotees in the audience had the audacity to try whistling along, pondering whether any other living human musician is more suited to covering Kermit the Frog's "It's Not Easy Being Green", and appreciating his hit-packed closing montage with a vision of nuclear-induced environmental collapse much sunnier than Godspeed's. I'll take snacks, dancing bears, and adderall over large barges and radio discharges any day.
More photos after the jump. I'm gearing up to head back for the final day of the first festival weekend where Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg will be closing out the festival. If you're not here, tune in to Coachella's incredible videography, which should streaming the hits all day.