Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Coachella Day 3: The Strokes, Duran Duran, Jack's Mannequin & more!
It is one thing to endure the heat and fatigue (my poor feet!) with so many hours spent standing or running from stage to stage, but I don't recommend getting sick at Coachella.
On Sunday afternoon, I suddenly got both a terrible sore throat and a head cold to match.
But there is no way I was going to let the last day of Coachella 2011 escape my sights, so here is my report on day 3.
Eliza Doolittle (in a photo I snapped using my Sony bloggie) may have had the misfortune of performing early in the day on Sunday, but that didn’t keep a small and enthusiastic contingent from getting to the Gobi tent to catch one of her first-ever shows in the U.S. The 23-year-old London-born singer-songwriter is already a bonafide star in the U.K. with her self-titled debut a smash since its release in July 2010. (It drops stateside on Tuesday, April 19.)
Her fast-paced 40-minute set proves the Brits have unearthed another gem in the manner of Lily Allen and Kate Nash, one with a knack for writing and singing bouncy pop that blends winsome melodies with bits of jazz and Motown R&B. The hits (in England) she performed on Sunday delivered fully at Coachella, the breezy “Rollerblades” and whistle-anchored “Skinny Genes” true standouts.
The crowd, much of which likely shifted next to Mojave for the first big West Coast appearance from an even bigger breakout British star, Plan B, moved and cheered inside Gobi with good reason, ushering in a refreshing new talent.
Getting featured on the Coachella Stage was not a chance that Jack's Mannequin was going to waste on Sunday.
The quartet, headed by Orange County's own Andrew McMahon, had previously performed in Indio on the smaller Outdoor Theatre stage back in April of 2007. That day, like the one on the third day of Coachella 2011, an enthusiastic crowded braved searing temperatures in the middle of the day to soak in the band's piano-anchored alternative rock.
The quartet's reputation and following has continued to grow over the past four years, but McMahon seemed genuinely blown away by the large crowd positioned in front of the stage.
"It's such an honor to get to play here at Coachella," said McMahon at one point in the set.
While many young modern rock bands are content to let loud energetic performances and driving heavy rhythms be their primary method of connecting with an audience, what sets Jack's Mannequin apart continues to be melodic songcraft and how the always-engaging McMahon uses his mighty voice and piano playing to provide something far greater than a mere rock show. The fact that members of his band increasingly add so much to his songs (notably guitarist Bobby "Raw" Anderson, whose work on "Spinning" was especially strong, has pushed Jack's Mannequin from "very good" to "great."
Sure McMahon pounded on the keys (or danced on them from time to time as he stood on his grand piano and even stepped across the keyboard itself for dramatic effect), but it were those wonderful songs fueling the thousands of Coachella-goers singing along on the choruses of "Bruised," "Dark Blue" and "La La Lie" (with McMahon adding some great work on the harmonica on the latter) that gave the 50-minute set the might of something extra special.
With a new Jack's Mannequin album in the final stages of completion, the band shared the new "My Racing Thoughts," a rousing rocker with an undeniable chorus that will be sing-along moment the next time the band rocks out at Coachella.
After watching the high-octane Jack's Mannequin set where I was positioned under a burning sun, I was ready to kick back in the shade (not that the Gobi tent was anything approaching cool) and catch the genre-bending folk-rock of Angus and Julia Stone. Though the brother-and-sister outfit from Australia may draw comparisons with musical ancestors like Mazzy Star and The Church, the duo's dramatic 35-minute outing on Sunday demonstrated the Stone siblings are no mere imitators. Backed by a fantastic three-member group, the sound created on stage was equal parts Americana, indie folk-rock and post-goth electronica-tinged rock. In short, both ambitious and intimate.
In its opening moments, the song "And the Boys" showcased Julia's delicate and affecting voice; as a uptempo rhythm was added the song became more and more hypnotic.
The duo's laid-back approach was anything but when they performed "Private Lawns," a beautiful song with Julia's voice dancing with and around the hypnotic beat provided by the drummer while her brother added some nice lead work on his guitar. Julia then elicited well-deserved cheers when she picked up a trumpet and played a short but effective solo.
Death From Above 1979 is not exactly what the doctor ordered for this patient. I listened to the band's entire performance, mostly unimpressed with the noise rock.
The contrast between Death From Above 1979 and Duran Duran, the latter whose set followed on the same Coachella Stage, couldn't have been more stark. From the moment that Duran Duran took the stage, it was clear that this was not a show that anyone would forget.
After charging out of the gate with an energized version of "Planet Earth," singer Simon Le Bon declared: "We've been looking forward to this show for weeks and weeks, and it's gonna go off."
Indeed, even the oft-heard "Hungry Like a Wolf" that followed that promise was powerful on this night, and fit smartly into a set where Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor focused on tunes from the band's recently-issued disc All You Need Is Now. Highlights were plentiful, with the uplifting title cut off All You Need Is Now, string section-anchored "Ordinary World," driving "Girl Panic!" and inspired "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" among my favorites of the band's 65-minute set.
It was interesting to see the contrast between Duran Duran and the band that followed on the main stage, New York's Strokes. Although the Strokes' songs and sounds have an urgency and tempo to make them a natural to play in a prime slot, the group makes little effort to connect with the crowd other than via its driving music. But that didn't keep the faithful from dancing around on the expansive field while the group played "Hard to Explain," "Someday" and "Games."
Coachella 2011 ended for me on a definite high note. I left the Strokes a bit early and caught Neon Trees' full set in the Gobi tent. As sick as I was, I was glab I stood in and took in the high-octane alternative dance-rock set from singer Tyler Glenn and company.