Coachella 2017: Lady Gaga’s pop, rappers’ prowess dominate Day 2

Lady Gaga on the main stage (Photo by Erik Voake, courtesy of Coachella)
Lady Gaga on the main stage (Photo by Erik Voake, courtesy of Coachella)

Veeder’s Day 2:  Lady Gaga, SURVIVE, Gucci Mane, Bon Iver, Schoolboy Q, Future, Four Tet/Daphni/Floating Points, Thundercat, Ben UFO, Car Seat Headrest, Floating Points, Shura

Lady Gaga’s headlining performance anchored pop music’s dominance of the Coachella lineup Saturday, but rap retained the flash with some of the day’s biggest moments coming from rappers making cameos, including Drake crashing Future’s set, Diddy coming out during Gucci Mane’s set and Atlanta trio Migos joining those two as well as DJ Snake.

The 13-minute set Lady Gaga played during the Super Bowl halftime show in February served as a primer for the 90-minute, career-spanning show that she delivered Saturday night, as well as the debut of a new single titled “The Cure.” While there was no faux rooftop leaping to the stage below, her attention to showmanship was unmatched, complete with costume changes, elaborate choreography and fireworks. Nearly every choice got people up and moving, from “Just Dance,” “Born This Way,” and her Beyoncé sans ‘yoncé collaboration “Telephone,” but even her stripped-down take of “The Edge of Glory” had the lawn singing along. She capped the set off with “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” and the Little Monsters seemed gleeful.

On an expansive Saturday that turned four blisters into six:

2:37 p.m. — U.K.’s Shura closed out her set in the Mohave tent with “Touch” and “White Light,” jamming out the latter to the point where she attacked her sampling pad triggering cues in a climactic fervor in the punkest synth-pop display of the day.

3:11 p.m. — After a few minutes, London’s Floating Points are already deep into their Mohave tent journey down a dark and vibrant electronic wormhole. Mastermind of the four-piece (and neuroscientist) Sam Shephard remained seated for the duration behind an array of keyboards and an analog synth as they played only a few songs, but stretched each of them out for many minutes of ebbs and flows. The music has the feel of jazz without horns, a loosely-structured freeform with bleeps and bloops in lieu of sax and trumpet bursts, anchored by a dynamite rhythm section playing with subtle intricacies as Shephard and the guitarist layered in the atmospherics. They were easily one of the most engaging acts of the day.

4:15 p.m. — The first time I heard Car Seat Headrest, I had such a visceral and adverse reaction to what I was listening to that it left a “one and done” taste in my mouth, and I have subsequently not cared for them since. I have even been known to say, “I hate Car Seat Headrest.” Cat Seat Headrest entered from stage left, and I stood ready to see if seeing them live would invoke the same reaction.

4:47 p.m. — Cat Seat Headrest began with “Vincent,” the slow-building turned hard-charging number from last year’s “Teens of Denial,” and I slowly started to change my tune. Before, I didn’t care for Will Toledo’s voice or how his music sounded on record. Now, I find myself engaged by his voice, more monotone and subtle as he stood there in a periwinkle suit and black glasses beneath his mop of black hair. And his three-piece backing band of a bassist, guitarist, and drummer is great, charging through the material with an energy that only live music can provide. This sounds like Elvis Costello or Craig Finn meets Cloud Nothings, and I like all three of those things. By the time they play “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)” and “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” there’s a contingent of youth excitedly bop-moshing up front like puppies pawing at one another. I walked away from the Mohave tent excited and surprised that Car Seat Headrest may have just gone from band I hated to a band filling a void I didn’t know I had.

4:54 p.m. — People poured into the Yuma tent for Ben UFO, and it was a ray of sunshine under the cool, manufactured breeze. The set was full of bright grooves and pulsing beats where his transitions sounded more like the tracks morphing seamlessly into one another as opposed to sequenced that way. It was a great warehouse party in an air-conditioned desert tent mid-afternoon with a deep house remix of Techtronic’s “Pump Up The Jam” that was dooooope.

5:26 p.m. — Leaving the media tent, someone looking at their schedule said, “People keep saying Thundercat is great.” “He is!” I blurted. 

5:32 p.m. — Thundercat came on stage, harnessed his six-string bass guitar, and then said, “Hey.” He pedaled the board below to make sure he was set, and then said, “Cool.”

5:48 p.m. — Thundercat brought out soft soul legend Michael McDonald for their collaboration “Show You The Way,” and while Kenny Loggins didn’t also join for his verse, everybody got pregnant nonetheless. They then played McDonald’s Doobie Brothers hit “What a Fool Believes” and Thundercat’s “Them Changes.” It’s a treat any time you get to experience Thundercat play live because the man can accomplish so much more with a bass guitar than almost any other person out there. The term “virtuoso” was designed for him, and he never fails to disappoint.

6:21 p.m. — Four Tet, Daphni, and Floating Points are off to the races with their three-hour DJ set in the Yuma tent, with Daphni, aka Caribou, leading things off. Any one of these gentlemen could give you three hours of gems you’ve never heard of, so their collective divvy of the window provided ample time for a tasty tag team of deep cuts. 

8:12 p.m. — Future continued his reign as the sexual Darth Vader of hip-hop, metaphorically starting before dusk and ending well after sundown by bringing out Drake for the track “Jumpman” off their collaboration “What a Time To Be Alive,” and sending people running en masse squealing toward the main stage. Drake stayed for “Gyalchester” off his new “mixtape” “More Life,” then got a call-and-response going for his whiny anthem “Fake Love,” cutting the music out for the crowd to scream/sing, “I got fake people showin’ fake love to me / Straight up to my face, straight up to my face.”

Future’s turn into hip-hop villainy over the last few years has spawned an entire aesthetic that sounds like “The Empire Strikes Back” theme took a nose dive into a cup of codeine cough syrup. With bubble butts making it clap on the massive screens, and backed by longtime DJ Esco, he ran through the hits, many of which were someone else’s that he had guest spots on (21 Savage’s “X,” Ace Hood’s “Bugatti (Remix),” A$AP Ferg’s “New Level,” Ty Dolla $ign’s “Blasé”), a curious move from a man who is the only artist in history to have back to back weeks of different No. 1-charting albums this year and only performed one track from either. Future’s 50 minutes on the main stage sounded like a good example of the hip-hop pop aesthetic of 2017. He not only brought out Drake, but also Migos to perform two songs, “T-Shirt” and “Bad and Boujee,” ceding four of his 14 tracks to other artists, and playing one of the most lively sets of the day.

8:50 p.m. — “I’ve always had to come out on other people’s songs, but tonight, Schoolboy Q is in the motherf*ckin’ house,” he told the packed Outdoor Theatre field as the evening’s rap party continued migrating east through the grounds. The set was steeped in his West Coast gangsta funk sound and pulled from his multiple releases, including “Hands on the Wheel” from 2012’s mixtape “Habits & Contradictions” and over a half dozen tracks from last year’s “Blank Face LP.” Of his 15 songs, he only brought out guests for one, “Telephone Calls,” featuring A$AP Rocky and Tyler, The Creator, but he didn’t need the distraction, confidently plowing through song after song like “Dope Dealer,” “Hell of a Night,” and “John Muir,” while rocking a white shirt that read GIRL POWER. 

9:39 p.m. — Bon Iver‘s figurehead Justin Vernon invited the main stage’s audience to gaze upward to the sky as the percolating Tangerine Dream-y beat expanded into an electronic reworking of “Minnesota, WI.” Slotted in the same penultimate slot that The xx were the night before, Bon Iver garnered the same level of interest on the well-attended lawn with his brooding and experimental pop-rock, leaning hard into last year’s album “22, A Million” by playing all but one track of it. The band also jammed out the fan favorite “Creature Fear” and closed with “Beth/Rest,” going over with the crowd better than expected.

10:42 p.m. — The rap party culminated with Gucci Mane‘s set in the Sahara, which played like a post-incarceration victory lap, appropriately featuring “1st Day Out Tha Feds” early on, classics “Freaky Gurl” and “Lemonade” in the middle, and cameos from Diddy, Lil Yachty, Migos and Rae Sremmurd throughout. Bodies spilled out of the tent in every direction as Migos performed “Bad and Boujee” for the second time in two hours, as well as “Slippery,” then Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” amp them up even more. Diddy ran through “I Need a Girl,” “It’s All About The Benjamins,” and “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and if you had a dollar for every time “It’s Gucci!” was yelled, you’d have all of the money.

12:16 a.m. Capping off the Gobi’s day was the “Stranger Things”-soundtracking synthwave squad SURVIVE, giving the sparsely populated tent with a nightcap of moody electronica.