INDIO, California – Perhaps it was a sign that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire and Hot Chip were sharing the same bill.
Whatever the case, Saturday was certainly one of the most scorching Coachella afternoons ever, with temperatures into the100s for hours on end.
That meant the tented stages provided plenty of shadowy solace, while pre-sunset outdoor acts were playing to their diehards and suffering while doing it. (Let’s just say there were multiple hipster rockers quoting Lil Jon’s infamous sweat-dripping lyrics.)
Still, Peter Bjorn and John and the Decemberists wore their suits and the Sahara tent was as raving as ever. Favorite shirt spotted while Richie Hawtin spun trance records: Rave Against the Machine.
Speaking of Sunday’s highly-anticipated headliners, fans got a little taste Saturday, as guitarist Tom Morello made his festival debut as the Nightwatchman, a Woody Guthrie-inspired, politically-revved folk singer. While there were certainly a few confused Rage fans, most rallied on (protesting just about everything), especially when perennial Coachella dude Perry Farrell made a surprise appearance.
The Chilis were Saturday’s headliner, but like BjÃ¶rk on Friday, they’re an act Coachella has already seen in recent years, so the excitement level was a little lackluster. (Rage, too, have played Coachella before, but that’s a different story.)
Regardless, Anthony Kiedis and crew rocked it solid, with nonstop hits predominantly from their most recent releases. Also tossed in for good measure were a few instrumental jams and a little Blondie (with John Frusciante on vocals).
On the Outdoor Theatre, Jack’s Mannequin also pulled a cover out of their bag of tricks #&8212; Tom Petty’s “American Girl” – although singer Andrew McMahon had already reeled in the audience with his own perfect-for-a-sunny-afternoon pop-rock ditties.
The Coachella Stage hosted a variety a songwriting gurus throughout the day, from the sugary Fountains of Wayne to the sweet Regina Spektor, the gritty Kings of Leon to the polished Travis. (The latter closed with “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” at literally the driest moment of the afternoon, but the words painted a pleasant picture nonetheless.)
The highlight, however, and probably the highlight of the first two days, was the Arcade Fire, whose monster roster, making friends and enemies of instruments they must only play in Montreal, came together to make epic jams.
With a neon-designed stage (inspired by the recently-released Neon Bible ), Win Butler led his army of musical misfits through material both new and old, inspiring mass sing-alongs mirroring just the sort of cultish moments the band seems to mock on the new album.
Earlier in the day, back-to-back Fratellis and Hot Chip whipped up quite a party in the Mojave Tent, with !!! and Ozomatli happily carrying on into the early evening.
In the Sahara Tent, LCD Soundsystem scored big with “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” on the same stage that, coincidentally, Daft Punk actually did play almost a year ago to the hour.
There were no robots at Coachella this year, however, but there was a parade of giant balloon animals (the details on the shrimp were impeccable), dudes with pizza-box hats shading the sun and one former cast member of “The O.C.” holding her drunken friend from falling over.
The sight of the day, however, had to be the clean fields that stayed that way well into the night. While they are usually littered within a few hours, Coachella launched a new recycling program this year where thirsty (and apparently broke) concertgoers can exchange 10 empty bottles for one new one. Now that’s hot.