By Matthew Cheadle
California’s answer to Glastonbury, the Coachella Music Festival, wrapped up the first of two weekends on Sunday night. The event, which was started twelve years ago, featured a host of major acts in rock, rap, and dance, and for the first time in its history, is to be repeated in the exact same order at the same site next weekend.
Friday saw chilly and wet weather, something of a stranger in those parts of the world in April, but the crowds were warmed by stand out performances from the likes of Black Keys, Pulp, and DJ trio, Swedish House Mafia.
The Black Keys, returning to the festival that has hosted them many times before back in their more obscure days, blasted their way through their brand of stripped-back garage blues with customary raw power. This gave way to the blistering beats of the Swedish Mafia, complete with pyrotechnics and over the top visuals relayed on 4-storey high LCD screens.
In familiar festival tradition, the stage went from the sublime to the ridiculous (or possibly vice versa) when veteran Brit-Poppers, Pulp, arrived. During a dynamic, hour-long set they delivered classic festival fare with hits such as “Disco 2000” and “Sorted for Es and Whizz” an appropriate paean to “20,0000 people standing in a field”.
The Brits were much in evidence again on Saturday with Kasabian, Noel Gallagher and Radiohead amongst the big names. Radiohead are in many ways perfectly set up for festival sets. Not only can they provide arm waving rock anthems but more and more these days they bridge the gap between rock and dance with heavy use of beats, two drummers, and an experimental sound which feels right at home at Coachella, getting the large crowd on Saturday night dancing like demons.
Sunday night saw the turn (and return) of Hip Hop royalty. Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg delivered a roof raising 90 minute set of hits and were joined by an abundance of Gangsta-guests starting with Eminem and 50 Cent and ending with the biggest surprise of the weekend…a full body sized hologram of Tupac Shakur performing with Snoop on “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz most wanted”. Created by the same Hollywood visual effects team that worked on movies such as Tron: Legacy and X Men: First Class at a reported cost of between $100,000 and $400,000 the hologram took a period of four months to make, and surely opens the door for more ‘beyond the grave’ performances at festivals in the future. Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain next year, anyone?
And so Coachella gets to happen all over again next weekend with another sell out crowd in attendance. This barely disguised commercial move enables the organizers to flog another 75,000 tickets, and sadly speaks volumes for the festival’s ever diminishing innocence and spontaneity. Will there be any new guest-star appearances or even changes to sets to keep the crowds in suspense or will the knowledge of what is to come merely heighten the sense of anticipation?