Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saturday evening at Coachella Weekend 2: Sigur Rós, Grizzly Bear, Descendents, Guards, Two Door Cinema Club

Here is my review originally posted on The Orange County Register Web site on Sunday, April 21, 2013. This post reflects my coverage extending from Guards' performance in the early afternoon on April 20 to Sigur Rós' set which ended around 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, April 21. A long day and night to be sure!

Jónsi of Sigur Rós. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Coachella 2013: Guards, Grizzly Bear, Sigur Rós and Descendents stand out
Running from stage to stage and processing a wide range of performances that play out on any day at Coachella is as challenging as it is exhilarating. In all, I managed to catch complete or partial sets from 11 acts across Day 2. Here's my highlight reel.
Guards, a buzzing band out of New York City with roots in O.C.-spawned group Willowz, was one of the day's earliest performers and made the most of a 30-minute slot with an ambitious, involving display in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Gobi.
The quartet utilized big dynamics and strong material off its debut, In Guards We Trust, with singer-guitarist Richie Follin and singer-keyboardist Kaylie Church fusing nicely. The group's sound mixed heavy guitar, keyboard shadings and pleasing melodies artfully presented on "Coming True," achieving a huge finale that suggests big things are in store on their upward trajectory.
Grizzly Bear attracted an overflow crowd to Mojave. The group's recordings are a wonder, blending experimental and melodic elements in ways that the Brooklyn quartet (expanded to a five-piece via a touring keyboardist) nonetheless explores more deeply live. Soundscape highlights, enhanced by long-tailed lights that floated up and down: the '60s-tinged vibe of "Knife" and the adventurous "On a Neck, On a Spit," with its climb from sparse, almost acoustic launch to driving, dramatic finale.
The members of Descendents may well be middle-age men, but in a raucous performance filled with old-school punk gems ("I Don't Want to Grow Up" and "I'm Not a Loser" stormed mightily) their set served as a reminder that simple, straight-ahead melodic hardcore can still thrill. A devoted crowd gathered in front of the Outdoor Theatre to catch the Milo Aukerman-led South Bay group firing at full strength 35 years after its founding.
Northern Irish quartet Two Door Cinema Club serves up high-energy indie rock built out of propulsive rhythms and synth-pop stylings, but that lively approach was the perfect fit for the same stage earlier in the night, as the air began to cool. The large grassy space became a giant outdoor dance floor from the minute the group tore into "Sleep Alone" to kick off a 50-minute turn.
Singer and rhythm guitarist Alex Trimble's sweet tenor and Sam Halliday's sharp leads brought added layers to the free and fun approach on "Do You Want It All?" (complete with a dazzling light display) and "Someday," bolstered by a distinctive guitar line. The group teamed with the excitable faithful on "The World Is Watching," thousands of fans singing the lyric recorded by Valentina for Two Door's album Beacon.
Outdoor Theatre headliner Sigur Rós offered an understandably abbreviated version of its current two-hour concerts, but as Saturday stretched into early Sunday, the ambient Icelandic heroes didn't cut corners in terms of the power they can unleash in both established and new material.
For more than an hour, despite having to overcome volume bleed from Phoenix's set on the main stage, the churning, sometimes symphonic mix of post-rock and neo-classical was presented by the core trio abetted by eight other musicians (including string and brass sections) plus impressive visual art.
Though lead singer and guitarist Jónsi sings in Hopelandic (the band's own language), most in the audience didn't seem too concerned about gleaning any direct messages from the songs, gluing themselves instead to the intensity of the ethereal music.
Jónsi in action. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
The joyful "Hoppipolla," accompanied by images of falling lights, and the more haunting "Festival" represented the two sides of Sigur Ros' unique style. Another chilling moment: the title track off coming album Kveikur. Onto a gigantic rear screen morphed an animated racing horse, as a thundering drum beat cut through the night and Jonsi used his cello bow on his guitar in a graceful dance with the sight of thundering hooves.

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