Bronson’s Day 2: Classixx, Nicolas Jaar, Warpaint, Thee Commons, Dreamcar, Roisin Murphy, Chicano Batman, Local Natives, Downtown Boys, Bastille, Mitski
The biggest takeaway from this year’s Coachella boob job — an expansion of 40-some acres that ratcheted up the festival’s capacity to 125,000 — is not the pure geography, but the newly staggered set times on major stages. With fewer conflicts for prime acts, the festival’s Big Deals are thus guaranteed to be Really Big Deals. And some of the crowds are staggering, the result of mass migrations between stages.
Which accounted for the main stage-sized crowd on Saturday at the Outdoor Theatre for DJ Snake (last name: Oil Salesman), who tended to his EDM sheep with genteel words like “clap your hands motherfuckers” and “make some motherfucking noise” during a set that included guest appearances from Migos and Lauryn Hill. After Bon Iver ended on the main stage, the crowd surged east for DJ Snake, and then back west again for headliner Lady Gaga’s eye-popping song-and-dance.
(To address Gaga’s question “Have you all found someone you want to sleep with yet?,” the answer was yes, and sometimes in public.)
A richer festival experience, though, could be found not by following the sea of bodies but in the nooks and crannies — especially the new Sonora Tent, where upstart punk, Latin and indie-rock bands played the kinds of music that once commanded greater space on Coachella stages but has lost favor in pop-obsessed times. There, you could find the political, sax-spiked punk Downtown Boys, the contemplative mopery of Slow Hollows and the rebel psychedelic-cumbia-punk of Thee Commons.
The chronology of day spent mixing it up:
2:20 p.m. — A crowd of eager earlybirds play “tent-tag,” darting from the Mojave next door for Shura and then back to the Gobi Tent for Mitski. She joked about ascending to the top of the “Mitski” Google search — previously it was the MIT Ski team — and the confessional rock on her 2016 ablum “Puberty 2” played well to a half-full tent, especially “Your Best American Girl.”
3:15 p.m. — Victoria Ruiz of Rhode Island quintet Downtown Boys issues one socio-political screed after another in the Sonora Tent, and thank you, because Coachella is increasingly light on current events and heavy on current fashion. In between three-minute dollops of proto-punk, she decries facism, capitalism, duplicity and cultural homogeneousness, and she does it in two languages, and she gets in your face doing it. Joe DeGeorge’s blasts on the saxophone are the musical exclamation points.
3:38 p.m. — Bishop Briggs guests with Banks & Steelz on “Wild Season,” which Florence Welch sang on their album.
3:45 p.m. — Local Natives used to cover Talking Heads (“Warning Sign”). Now they cover Kanye West (“Ultralight Beam”). The local faves ascended to the main stage in this, their third, Coachella appearance. What was new: songs from their “Sunlit Youth,” appropriate on a toasty afternoon, including the anthem “Fountain of Youth” and the also-relevant “Dark Days.” On the latter, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram joined the quintet to sing the part that Nina Persson of the Cardigans sang on the album. What was old: Local Natives still end their set with the kinetic jubilation of “Sun Hands.”
4:40 p.m. — Chicano Batman reprise their 2015 visit to the Outdoor Theatre, again baking in their dapper tuxedos and again spreading the gospel of good vibrations by way of Latin-tinged psychedelic soul. Like the Lemon Twigs on Friday, they give the 1960s and ’70s a good name. Joined this time by two backup singers, the quartet has been a hard-touring gang since the March release of their new album “Freedom Is Free.” They’re a little rough around the edges, but they spiritedly jam and give everyone a turn at a solo, endear themselves to everybody with “Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm)” and cover Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Like we said, good vibes.
5:55 p.m. — Bastille is what sells. Outsized synth-pop with chewy choruses done by good-lookin’ British dudes. They earn an extra-large, and extra-youthful, crowd at the Outdoor Theatre. Squeals, for reals.
6:15 p.m. — Róisín Murphy is into her fourth costume change in the Gobi Tent. Big fuzzy magenta wig … a tubular accoutrement wrapped around her neck … a target she straps to her face … a cape and mask. Along with her off-center electronic music, she puts the avant in avant-pop. Weirdly engaging.
6:10 p.m. — Two Door Cinema Club is probably killin’ it on the main stage. They killed it last time they played Coachella. Their latest album “Gameshow” kills it. Their fans kill it. The early-evening desert visit is killin’ it. But it’s a long, long way, and our legs are definitely not killin’ it.
7:16 p.m. — Dreamcar — AFI’s Davey Havok with No Doubt members Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young — earn a warm reception of their New Wave/”new romantic”-styled pop. Havok is pretty swoon-worthy as the frontman, and here ’80s revivalism seems in capable hands. Their album “Kill for Candy” is out in May; they close the title track and if we could only find out Members Only jacket.
7:45 p.m. — East L.A.’s Thee Commons rev things up as the final band of the night in the Sonora Tent, their danceable melangé inspiring a pit of moshers who skipped in circles throughout the set. Friends came onstage to play guiras; a pink gorilla made an appearance to frolic; another in a calaca costume joined in; saxophone was played. It was the most fun a gringo can have in a language he doesn’t speak.
8:35 p.m. — L.A. quartet Warpaint was typically mesmerizing and more muscular than ever inside the crowded Gobi Tent. At the entrance, a guy debates his girlfriend about whether they should run and see Schoolboy Q (his choice) or stay for Warpaint (hers). She wins the argument. Theresa Wayman wore a cutoff that read “Eat More Pussy,” and Warpaint closed with the people-pleasing “New Song.”
10:05 p.m. — DJ Snake (last name: Oil Salesman) has flames onstage. Wow.
10:40 p.m. — Chilean producer Nicolas Jaar starts his slow-building set in the dark Mojave Tent, sparsely lit as he manipulates his gadgets to create otherworldly electronic sounds. The imagination wanders …. Is that the sound of film burning? Is that the sound of drones having sex? Has my heartbeat been digitized? All these things you wonder as you fall into Jaar’s universe. At he nears the finish, Lady Gaga starts on the main stage an 8-minute walk away. But maybe you’re not ready to depart the safe haven Jaar has provided.
11:35 p.m. — In the shadow of a speaker standard, a couple unites under a blanket. Lady Gaga is also performing “LoveGame.”
12:08 a.m. — A bit late, Classixx start their set in a packed Mojave Tent and it’s clear that despite the hour, the dance party is not over yet. Past the witching hour, people are bounding up and down to their buoyant synth-pop. Sean Guerin of De Lux (who played Coachella last year) does guest vocals on “In The Fine Times,” from the recent Classixx release “Faraway Reach.” Then Tom Krell, aka How to Dress Well, sings “Just Let Go,” confessing at the end that he’s high on acid right now but encouraging everybody to be safe. Advice taken, we head for the exit.