Music

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Rule Coachella’s 2013 Kick-Off

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Karen O (Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Karen O (Karl Walter/Getty Images)

“Friday night!”

It was a refrain Karen O, the extravagant frontwoman of resurgent New York art-rock heroes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs repeated throughout the band’s triumphant main stage performance that highlighted the first night of the vaunted Coachella music festival 2013.

While the Yeah Yeah Yeahs weren’t the night’s official headliner – that distinction would go to early ‘90s U.K. sensations the Stone Roses – Karen O (replete in a regal gold lame outfit and matching crown that screamed post-mod space alien space queen), positively ruled the night. Opening with “Sacrilege,” the first single from the YYYs brand-new comeback album, Mosquito (which hits stores this Tuesday, April 16), complete with a soul-stirring gospel choir, the trio roared through songs from all four of their studio albums to reveal themselves to be among the premiere bands of the ‘00s.

From the soaring majesty of “Sacrilege,” the band harkened back to the salad days of their 2003 full-length debut, Fever to Tell, with the high-energy guitar blasts of “Rich.”

Charging through crowd-pleasing numbers like “Gold Lion,” “Heads Will Roll” and “Zero,” Karen O displayed her customary exuberance, grinning gleefully while spitting geysers of water into the air and roaring into the microphone clamped between her teeth, fists thrusting triumphantly towards the sky.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs pulled the largest crowd on this opening night of Coachella’s 2013 march to complete U.S. festival domination (promoter Goldenvoice recently signed an extensive deal with the city of Indio to stage even more events through the year 2030 ), although their galvanizing performance (which ended on an emotional rendition of the band’s most recognizable hit, “Maps”), they were very nearly upstaged by a music video.

Just moments before the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs took the stage, a movie trailer styled clip for the wildly anticipated new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories (due in stores on May 21) was shown on the giant screens flanking the main stage, much to the delight of the crowd. From the opening shot of the band’s distinctive logo and strains of new song “Get Lucky” (it’s the one from the first of Daft Punk’s pair of now-famous TV spots), the video went on to reveal part of the tune’s music video, with N*E*R*D frontman/Neptunes producer Pharrell Williams on lead vocals and studio legend Nile Rodgers of disco pioneers CHIC on guitar, with the robots (Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo) on drums and bass.

It was a perfectly appropriate moment for Daft Punk to unleash the video teaser, as the gigantic crowd was heavily populated with music industry movers and shakers, not to mention an endless cavalcade of celebrities including Paul McCartney (seen hobnobbing with the band Phoenix), Katy Perry, Ed Cheswick, Alexander Skarsgard, Tony Hawk, OBEY artist Shepard Fairey, Chloe Sevigny and pop culture character of the moment, rapper Riff Raff.

Following the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Damon Albarn and the boys of Blur reunited to transport the massive festival crowd back to the glory days of mid-‘90s Brit-pop and the whole “Cool Britannia” movement. Opening with dance hit “Girls and Boys,” they reached back to 1991 and their second-ever single, “There’s No Other Way.” Ironically, a large percentage of the Coachella wasn’t even born when the tune first hit record store shelves back in the day. Filling their set with fan favorites like “Coffee & TV” and their biggest by far U.S. hit, “Song 2,” Blur was able to transcend just performing for the ‘90s nostalgia set and also grabbed a gaggle of far younger ears with their well-paced and dynamic set.

While marquee rock acts left a definite impact on the night, Coachella’s dance music quotient has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, and it’s only getting bigger. Much ink has been spilled regarding the festival super-sizing the Sahara dance tent to almost twice its former size, but in theory, it barely made a difference as the thousands of party people descending on the area kept it packed to beyond capacity for most of the night, thanks to high-powered sets from the likes of Bassnectar, Dillon Francis and EDM super-group Dog Blood, which features Skrillex and German techno artist Boys Noize. Is an all-EDM fest on the Coachella grounds only a matter of time? It would only make sense (and dollars, of course).

While newer acts like UK breakout band Foals, who crushed a packed Gobi tent with an epic set of aggressive but moody post-rock (complete with singer Yannis Philippakis crowd-surfing on his back while shredding on his guitar), and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor’s much-discussed How to Destroy Angels sparked synapses with a spectacular light show behind their grinding, industrial-tinged beat experimentation, it was headliners the Stone Roses who had the toughest time living up to their hallowed billing.

Opening with their signature single from 1991, “I Wanna Be Adored,” frontman Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire quickly shook off any early set rust to confidently march through their two-album catalog, pulling out songs like “Sally Cinnamon” for the older end of the audience who still remember the sensational days of “Madchester.”

For the majority of the younger show-goers, however, the Stone Roses sent them scurrying to the thump of the Sahara dance tent or to  explore the multitude of things to see and do across the massive festival ground (like wait in line to check out the new air-conditioned Yuma dance tent). Since on this raucous Coachella opening Friday night, the millennial generation chose to celebrate a band that came of age at the same time most of them did, leaving the likes of the Stone Roses to those upwards of twice their age so they could nostalgically relive their own glory days of youth.

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