On Sunday, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival closed out its second and final weekend. It was a weekend full of music, sun, art, booze, food and fun. Over 200 bands took to the assembled stages in the Indio desert oasis. Though for better, or for worse, some stood out more than others.
It was impossible to catch everyone, but the personal lineup for each attendee likely featured a list of memorable performances. The headliners included AC/DC, Jack White and Drake; but there were undoubtedly others that provided highlights.
While the lineup remained essentially the same for both weekends. The guests, set lists and, in many ways, the performances in general differed greatly. Which was better is simply a matter of personal preference.
zoomdune.com was on the scene, with this reporter taking in what he could. Obviously subject to personal bias and observations, here is a “best of” list, of sort.
Best performance: Brand New
Though the 2015 edition of Coachella featured a diverse blend of acts; one genre gravely under represented was metal. Brand New is not generally considered a metal band. On Sunday however, they proved they could play the part. Their fans packed the Mojave tent, and they did not leave disappointed.
What followed a set filled with the more aggressive numbers from their catalog that leaned heavily on their past two releases: “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” and “Daisy.” Their crowd was impassioned, as was their performance. They did offer a few fan favorites, in “”Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” (though the for the latter the offered a darker, heavier version than found than the original) and even played a new song entitled “Mene.”
Perhaps the only thing that singer Jesse Lacey did not provide was between song banter, instead Brand New delivered a no-frills set of solid music, rocking out than almost anybody the entire weekend.
Biggest disappointment: Florence + The Machine
It is almost unfair to label Florence + The Machine as the biggest disappointment of Coachella’s second weekend. It is not for lack of effort. The fact that she was there at all is a testament to Florence Welch’s resolve.
Welch put so much into her weekend one performance, she was left with a broken foot. But the show must go on. Florence played sans the Machine, instead offering a 30-minute acoustic set.
While fans were treated to a unique performance (which included a cameo from Father John Misty), it was probably not the performance they would have preferred. Known for her energetic stage presence, she was confined to a stool. Though the injury cost her a lot of what makes Florence + The Machine’s live sets memorable, her incredible vocals still made the set enjoyable.
Best guest appearance: Kanye West (during the Weeknd)
While other artists brought out several solid guests of their own, this contest wasn’t really even close. Unimpressed by the Weeknd, people were headed for the exits when Kanye West made his way to the stage. For those who either stuck around or made it back, they witnessed something special.
Often a guest appearance only lasts for a single song, usually a track that the artist scheduled on stage and the artist making a cameo were on together. Such was not the case for West’s appearance.
Fans were instead treated to a mini-Kanye West set reminiscent of his headlining gig at Coachella in 2011, one that saw him run through four songs including his new hit “All Day” and his classic “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Ever the showman, he worked the crowd into a frenzy and his delivery was spot on.
Worst guest appearance: Nicki Minaj (during David Guetta and Drake)
Nicki Minaj might just as well have been a normal attendee of the festival. While she did show up for two sets on Sunday, she did not offer anything of substance during either.
First, Minaj came out while David Guetta played one of their many collaborations together (“Hey Mama”). She halfheartedly lip-synced her part, before departing. Guetta played two additional of their collaborations sans Minaj, and was probably better off for it.
At least with Guetta, Minaj offered some semblance of a minimal effort, when she reappeared for Drake’s headlining set on Sunday, she simply strutted around the stage for a minute, gave her Young Money counterpart a hug, and left.
Minaj offered very little during her appearances at Coachella. Then again, perhaps she saved the gathered masses from her own shrill, annoying voice.
Best crowd: David Guetta
At 47, David Guetta is somewhat of an elder statesmen in EDM. Judging from his set on Sunday, he has learned a few tricks of the trade over the years.
After seeing Flosstradamus (who played on Saturday), Guetta switched up his set list in favor of several of his more hip-hop oriented offering. He even played songs he did not produce (i.e. “Fancy”). And the crowd ate up every minute of it.
The tempo was right for dancing, which the people did. Guetta encouraged clapping, jumping and singing. The people obliged him. Not even a pointless cameo from NIcki Minaj could bring the people down from the high of the Guetta-inspired dance party.
Worst Crowd: Drake
Alas, poor Drake, he had a rough go of it during both weekends of Coachella. After weekend one, he was bashed for being too R&B-centric and somewhat lackluster. Though he may have improved during his weekend two offering, he still underwhelmed.
20 minutes after his scheduled start time, Drake took to the stage. The set began with the crowd annoyed, and ended with them unimpressed.
His setlist was much more rap-centric, and his delivery was solid. Still, Drake struggled to keep the crowd engaged, with many heading for an early exit. A lot of this may have had to do with his song selection, as his set relied heavily on his latest release “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” The people wanted to hear the hits; and for the most part, they were left wanting.
Drake tried to get the crowd engaged, but to no avail. He tried to have them sing the first verse of “Crew Love,” but perhaps should have picked a more recognizable tune. His set was fine technically, he simply did not connect with his audience.
Biggest announcement: Jack White
Frenetic and filled with masterful solos, Jack White delivered a solid performance during his Saturday gig. That being said, it was what he said that may have made the most lasting impact.
White revealed that he intends to take a long hiatus from touring. While he will play a few scattered acoustic shows, he will retire his electronic guitar for the foreseeable future. Such an announcement was rumored to be looming, and White confirmed his fan’s fears.
At least he left them with a great (albeit jam-heavy) set.
Vintage performance: Bad Religion
Emerging on the punk rock scene in 1979, Bad Religion have been around the block a few times. Yet, they still bring it live; offering intensity and exuberance usually reserved for those with far fewer grey hairs.
Having taught previously at both UCLA and Cornell, singer (and Ph. D holder) Greg Graffin took fans to school with his potent delivery during the songs, and his whimsical and witty banter between. His band followed suit, playing fast, but also playing clearly. With a precision often lacking in punk rock.
The heat was sweltering when they played Saturday afternoon, but they were not to be deterred. Bad Religion delivered, just as they have been doing for over three decades.
Best under-the-radar performance: Keys N Krates
Though they do not have quite the fanfare of acts like Drake and the Weeknd, the Toronto-based Keys N Krates may have delivered the best performance of all the bands that came down across the border from the Great White North for Coachella.
Playing two sets on Friday, they brought something different to each. When they played the Sahara Tent, they kept the bass heavy; womping with the best of them. When they took to the Heineken House a couple of hours later, they focused more on they hip-hop element of what they bring to the table. This was turntablist Jr. Flo’s time to shine, and his scratching was on-point.
A breath of fresh air in the electronic music scene, Keys N Krates combine the best elements of bass music with a live band. For different reasons, both of their sets were among the top of Friday’s performances, if not the entire festival.
Best Remix: Alison Wonderland – “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
Alison Wonderland may be new to the electronic music scene, but she already knows how to work a crowd. She worked the gathered ladies into a frenzy during her early Saturday set, dropping her version of the classic Spice Girls song.
Her version of the song left the vocals recognizable enough to register with the audience, but she made the song her own. The tune was transformed into a frenetic, jungle-esque dance tune, with masterful vocal mixing.
Best Cover: Vance Joy- “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen
It was odd hearing “Dancing in the Dark” done acoustically, but it strangely worked. Stripped down and melancholy, he made the song his own. It was simple and beautiful.
The large crowd that was overflowing from the Mojave Tent seemed to enjoy it. Joy lacked intensity, but that wasn’t really what he was going for. If you just wanted to relax, chill out and get lost in the music, then this was the perfect opportunity. He may never be “The Boss,” but just being Vance Joy isn’t half bad either.