Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coachella Day Two: Rx Bandits, Porcupine Tree get it going

Pity those who didn’t get to Coachella early on day two.

Two of the best performances I caught on Saturday amounted to a one-two punch on the Outdoor Theatre stage, thanks to Long Beach-based Rx Bandits’ 55-minute set and Porcupine Tree’s foray on the same stage that was to follow.

Rx Bandits made the most of their early showtime (12:30 p.m. is early, especially with the sweltering early afternoon sun), performing in front of a relatively small but rabid fan base that was here to see “their” band.

When the band originally formed in Orange County in the late 1990s, Rx Bands (then billed as the Pharmaceutical Bandits, the group was part of the popular ska movement (think No Doubt, Jeffries Fan Club, etc.). No more.

The band now plays a masterful blend of folk, blues, jam rock and doses of just about everything. Master chops and strong song selection were key to RX Bandits’ solid outing at Coachella, including several tracks where singer-guitarist Matt Embree and lead guitarist Steve Choi would dual on electric guitars. Bassist Joseph Troy and drummer Christopher Tsagakis were part of the well-armed outfit.

Porcupine Tree proved to best several more high-profile hard rock bands that I also saw perform on Saturday, including buzz trio Band of Skulls and main stage rockers Coheed and Cambria. Indeed, I thought the relatively-unnoticed English group performed one of the most impressive sets of day two, with several concert-goers coming up to me and asking “Who are these guys?”-styled queries.

The nuance of the British folk-meets-progressive rock of Porcupine Tree was a revelation, notably the beautiful and reflective “Lazarus” featuring lead singer Steven Wilson seated at the keyboard and singing one of the key songs from “Deadwing.” Later in the set, he set out with his bandmates on the ambitious “Time Flies.” One of the featured tracks on 2009’s “The Incident,” “Time Flies” featured him playing both acoustic and electric guitar and showcased the natural comparisons that can be drawn between this band and genre pioneers such as Pink Floyd.

Although the quartet has been around since the late 1980s, it’s nice to see Porcupine Tree getting some well-deserved accolades. Count me among the group's newest fans.

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