It’s a cruel law of nature that no matter how much you plan ahead, at the critical moment when you need things to go off without a hitch, something will inevitably go wrong. I’d been at Coachella prepping for the festival for a few days without a hint of trouble, but of course the morning the festivities are set to actually begin, I arrive to discover that my wristband isn’t working. You have got to be kidding me.
Some five hours later, after visiting several customer service tents and baking in the desert sun, I finally made my way back to the production tent sunburned and dehydrated, but not defeated. This was no time to wallow in self pity. It was time to lather on some aloe vera and forge ahead to catch some awesome music.
Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All)
After taking a moment to recoup, I decided that the only way to fully recover from this morning’s frustrations was to catch Odd Future’s set at the Sahara Tent. The controversial hip-hop collective has been one of the most buzzed about acts this year thanks to their raw sound, shock-and-awe tactics and no-holds-barred live shows. Surely, this was the cathartic release I was looking for.
Odd Future are certainly not the first band to make a name for themselves by being unapologetically offensive and vulgar, but it’s the way they do it—spouting obscenities while retaining an element of, well, goofiness and absurdity, that makes them so refreshing. At the end of the day, you can tell they’re just a bunch of teenage skater kids messing around and seeing how many buttons they can push before they set off the alarm. Despite their youthfulness and penchant for profanity, their music is actually really, really good, and I could see why critics and fans alike are quick to compare them to a modern day Wu-Tang (but with a little bit more swag thrown in).
Their high-energy set featured a guest appearance from Pharrell, who’s apparently Tyler, the Creator’s musical idol. Tyler called the moment “the best moment of his life,” and as far as high points of my day went, it was definitely up there.
After the set, I wandered out and headed over to catch Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, who’s album Before Today was one of my favorite records of 2010. But it looked like Ariel was being a bit of prima donna and walking off stage for smoke breaks after every other song, so I didn’t stay for long.
Interpol: Under Surveillance
Around 7pm crowds started to gather for Interpol at the Coachella main stage. The band came out looking dapper, sporting their signature suits in spite of the lingering heat and proceeded to play a crowd pleasing set of some of their best-loved tracks. The performance was accompanied by visuals designed by Andi Watson, HPX, and Weiden + Kennedy, as well as the debut of a new animation from David Lynch. Two giant screens flanked the stage, displaying a four channel video feed of low-fi, grainy, live “surveillance” footage of the band and crowd. The video quality and camera angles made it feel as though you were watching actual security footage, and the uncomfortable (and uncomfortably long) close-ups of audience members turned the unsuspecting observers into the observed.
For the song “Lights,” the screens switched over to a never-before-seen short film from David Lynch called I Touch A Red Button Man. Dark, deceptively simple, and slightly disturbing in that distinctly Lynchian way, the film merges the mundane (a deranged looking Pinocchio-like character pressing a red button) with the uncanny, creating an unsettling effect.
United Visual Artists and Mira Calix
At the end of Interpol’s set, the crowds started migrating to their next destination but were quickly stopped in their tracks when the stage suddenly started to move and an ethereal light and sound poured forth from the structure. The sides began to close in on themselves, moving slowly, groaning like a great beast awakening from a deep slumber, and eventually closed altogether to form a cube. Looking around, people seemed legitimately stunned. The guy next to me couldn’t tell if the stage was moving, or if he was just tripping really, really hard.
The five minute audiovisual performance by United Visual Artists (light design) and Mira Calix (experimental soundtrack) felt at once alien and prehistoric. Not knowing what to expect, the crowd watched in suspense, completely entranced by what was happening in front of them. The music swelled to a crescendo and the abstract lighting designs morphed with increasing speed, working up to a fever-pitch before dissipating and going dark.
The performance was exhilarating, and from the comments I caught on my way back to our trailer, it seemed that, legitimately, people’s minds were blown. All around me, I heard people remarking they thought their heads were going to explode. All in all, not a bad start to the festival.
Photos courtesy of Peter Sutherland. From left to right: Main stage at night; Tyler, the Creator of Odd Future; the crowd at Odd Future; Tyler crowd surfing; Interpol; Interpol; surveillance visuals during Interpol’s set; main stage during Interpol’s set; surveillance visuals during Interpol’s set; main stage by UVA during their audiovisual performance; the stage transforms into a cube; abstract light display on the cube.