It was the first day of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival on weekend number two and one thing was evident; the band’s didn’t change much in the caliber of their skill. Unfortunately, the desert pulled a cruel trick on us. It went from 64 degrees to a blistering 104 degrees in one short week.
While people were complaining about the cold last week, there was no shortage of complaints about the heat today, but it was a temperature that the Coachella kids were used to.
And so what ensued was massive amounts of good vibes, partying, and lots of sweet, sweaty hugs. Over the course of the day and a dozen water bottles later, we got to check out bands like Kendrick Lamar, Gary Clark Jr, Grouplove, the Rapture, the Black Keys and more.
Kendrick Lamar: “My Plan Be To Win Your Heart Before I Win A Grammy”
A year ago, Compton-born Kendrick Lamar was a small underground hip-hop artist with notoriety amongst the “green-loving” teenagers for his album Section.80. Last weekend, the 24-year-old played an early afternoon Friday set to a devout following of fans. But it was his performance on Sunday night with the venerable Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre–who has claimed Lamar as their newest protegé–that sealed the deal on Lamar’s success.
With some of the biggest names in hip-hop touting his excellence as a rapper, Kendrick Lamar’s second Coachella weekend set was even more packed with an eccentric assortment of stylish hipsters, hip-hop heads swagged out in neon-colored muscle tees and sneaks, and “norms” coming to check Lamar out after hearing about his guest appearance last Sunday. Lamar seemed very aware of the difference between his first weekend turn-out and second weekend turn-out.
“I see a lot of Day One supporters,” said Lamar to the audience baking under the mid-day sun. “Gonna do some Day One old-school sh*t.”
Part of a hip hop collective called Black Hippy, the “hippy” being àpropos for the Coachella climate, Lamar was joined by one part of the collective, Jay Rock. Lamar kept dropping the name of his record label, Top Dawg Entertainment, which is now part of Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment.
Lamar’s lyrics are so literate and raw that he could be considered the West Coast version of Nas. For many hip-hop artists, the songs are all about the beats; for Kendrick Lamar, they’re about the meaning. Lamar has also stated that Tupac Shakur, who joined Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in hologram form last Sunday, is his favorite rappers and that poetic, literate style that Pac used shows readily in the young rapper’s performance.
“I think it’s about time to take it to the next level,” said Lamar after performing “Pu**y and Patron.” “Anyone want to get f**ked up with me after the show?” Lamar then went into a freestyle of the song before performing “She Needs Me” and “Hood Gone Love” with Black Hippy partner, Jay Rock.
Before performing “Faith,” Lamar got quiet saying that he was going to “contain this energy” and that the audience should “pay attention to the lyrics if they do anything else.”
“This is a moment and you are all part of this sh*t. This is international. This is ‘Hiii Power,” said Lamar sincerely before launching into a version of the song and then singing one of his hits, “I Am,” rapping the lyrics “My plan be to win your heart before I win a Grammy.”
As evidenced by Coachella Weekend Two, Lamar has done a pretty good job of that.
Black Keys Teach The Kids How To Carry “The Weight”
To honor the late, great Levon Helm, the Black Keys brought out John Fogerty from Creedence Clearwater Revival to sing “The Weight” or what many people know of as “Take A Load Off Annie.”
That was actual john Fogerty not hologram john Fogerty who just played with us at coachella.—
patrick carney (@patrickcarney) April 21, 2012
Frank Ocean “Swims Good” Through The Buzz and Proves His Staying Power
Frank Ocean isn’t the new kid on the block. The young R&B singer-songwriter born Christopher Breaux has been a ghost writer for artists like Justin Bieber and John Legend and is a member of OFWGKTA. While his Nostalgia mixtape singles “Novacane” and “Swim Good” have been shopped around to radio stations, Breaux has maintained his underground persona and has achieved a kind of devoted cult-status that can’t be mimicked once the masses get a hold of him.
Breaux, who is working on his debut album, flexed his inspirational songwriting muscles at Coachella. People doubted the legitimacy of his falsetto, but his voice is pure; there’s no production. Breaux’s soul resonates through his music. “Dude got heart,” said one girl in the packed tent.
Dude got heart. Everyone packed the tent. Ocean has such a beautiful voice, but his songs are dark, but real. We’ve never seen a crowd go so crazy over an R&B artist
Singing about the reality of an American wedding. It’s so real and yet grim all at once.
SebastiAn: Kisses The Audience With French Electro-House Bravado
“Follow the noodle,” said one SebastiAn partaker, a flock of bikini-clad young European trailing after him. A mixture of videos with his face cloned and singing, French propaganda-style warfare videos, and the words “primary colors” and “president” behind him. SebastiAn mixes disco-soul, funky rock guitar sounds, and a little bit of sexy euro-metal with an electronic beat and brought gaggles of girls with pungent young men slathered in cheap cologne.
SebastiAn, in true insouciant French fashion, chained smoke lackadaisically while prompting the audience to bow to him with the mere lift of his hands.
Gary Clark Jr. Brings Swampy Texas Guitar Blues To The Coachella Desert
There’s the Flavor of the Month buzz bands usually rife with twee-indie lyrics or monotone electro-pop hums; and then there’s the gritty, down-home psychedelic blues of Austin-based Gary Clark Jr. that seems to defy time and place. Gary Clark Jr. is one of the those musicians that could be equally as comfortable playing with the notorious Robert Johnson as he would be touring with “mainstream” musicians like the Black Keys.
Magazines like Rolling Stone called Clark the “Best Young Gun” and only a few months ago Clark played the Red, White, and Blues event at the White House. Clark Jr. is one of those artists that you discover, knowing you have found something special, hoping that you can hold onto him as your own as long as possible. But judging from the massive crowd who braved the triple-digit weather at Coachella Weekend Two, Clark Jr. is no longer a secret.
His psych-rock infused blues guitar style in a fashion that mimics Jimi Hendrix combines with a soulful voice, modern-style edges (Clark Jr. wobbled his guitar strings to sound like the scratching of a vinyl), and a laid-back demeanor. For his Coachella set, Clark Jr. kept it low-key–in both fashion and musical style. Wearing a “wife beater” and a beanie, bathed in a sheen of sweat, women around commented on how attractive Clark Jr. is, but it’s not the sort of cocksure, swaggering attractiveness of a rock or hip-hop star. Clark Jr. was full-fledged man, playing songs like “Bright Lights,” “Find Somebody Else,” and “Heavy Heart.”
Instead of clamoring around the stage, Clark Jr. fans took it easy, lounging on the grass while he grinded into long instrumental riffs. Young kids in neon-colored tutus stopped in their tracks taking notice of his impenetrable guitar stylings.
The Rapture Takes Us Higher
One thing that the Rapture can bring is “more cowbell.” According to our girl on the street, “they redefined more cowbell because they were literally hammering away on the cowbell.”
What ensued was one of the “most lively crowds that we’ve seen today. Even rowdier than Afrojack. ” Blues-master Gary Clark Jr. was there watching. He was arm and arm with his model girlfriend during “Sail Away” in the guest section.
Ska-nking It Up with Do Lab, Madness, And Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong
While traveling from stage to stage, one might have happened across the Do Lab, a desert oasis (literally) full of water hoses making the faux-Indian feather headdresses sopping wet, but a perfect five-minute break before the dry wind sucked the moisture out of the happy dancers once again. The DJ at the time addressed the crowd, “I see you like to skank it out. I’ll stick to that.”
Meanwhile, right before British two-tone ska band Madness went oJimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong were playing on the Main Stage, getting that same crowd “irie.” “In Jamaica, we say when we’re happy ‘irie,’” Cliff instructed the crowd. “Are you “irie?” Of course the whole crowd cheered before Cliff and Armstrong performed “I Can See Clearly Now,” which someone pointed out was on the Cool Runnings soundtrack.
Grouplove’s Andrew Wessan: “I’ve Been Waiting My Whole Life For This Moment”
Artsy American indie rock band, Grouplove formed in 2010 without the mission to become a band. “We never really planned to be a band,” said Grouplove in an interview last week at the KROQ Coachella House. “We just stayed in touch because we like each other.”
Hannah Hooper, Christian Zucconi, Sean Gadd, Andrew Wessen and Ryan Rabin come from all over the world, but their vibe is straight Southern California and, in fact, the band played their first show at hole-in-the-wall Silverlake venue, El Cid less than two years ago. The band was quickly signed and this is their first Coachella.
The band then played their song “Spun,” which Wessan sang on. It’s hard to say who plays what or who is the definitive lead singer in Grouplove. It really is all about the group love. Even though the boisterous Hooper and azure-locked Zucconi are the primary singers, Gadd also sang his song “Chloe,” a song where he “found the melody at a hostel in London.”
Zucconni wore a floral shirt; Hooper was wearing a brightly-colored sheer jumpsuit with a neon-green bathing suit underneath. The band had decorated their stage in keeping with the natural environs; long grass snaked in front of the stage and Hooper’s keyboard was swathed in flowers.
Grouplove is a strangely, capitivatingly dichotomy band when they perform. At one moment, they illicit a sort of ’90s-grunge in their songs. It’s not just the look; it’s the guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the attitudes. And yet, their is an air of breezy happiness to everything they seem to do, even amongst the stifling crush of the daisy-decorated hordes.
A dream according to Andrew Wessan, a Californian. “What’s up guys?,” said Wessan addressing the audience, holding something that looked from afar like an electric mandolin. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment, so this is rad. My parents are right back here, so this is for them.”
Pulp: Do You Remember The First Time? What About The Second Time?
It’s been a long week for cheeky Britpop heroes, Pulp. Right after their first performance at Coachella last weekend, Pulp flew up to San Francisco and then played a show in Pomono which one Pulp fan standing next to us said was “for the fans.” At Coachella, Pulp was playing all the hits, including many of the same songs they played last weekend like “Disco 2000″ and “Common People.” Frontman Jarvis Cocker’s voice was a little more strained than usual, but his usual charm and swagger were intact.
“Tonight is our last show in North America,” said Cocker mischievously before playing “Monday Morning.” “So, we should go all the way. Let’s not fart around, because who wants to think about a Monday morning after a weekend here.” Someone threw glowsticks at Cocker. He picked them up, studied them, and made a subtle jab at the EDM movement. “Where do you get these? No f**king around, yeah, at a shop. I know, but where would you use one?”
Before performing the appropriate “Sorted Out For E’s and Whizz,” Cocker gave a nod to the great American tradition of “4/20.” “You thought this was dry ice,” quipped Cocker. “You’re so wrong. I learned this morning about this holiday about people smoking marijuana…This is dedicated to anyone participating and you’re all participating now,” continued Cocker in a haze of smoke.
Afrojack Brings His Girl Back Into The Action
Paris Hilton was there…again. And blowing kisses to the fans.