Another Coachella: the desert, the outdoors and enough random absurdities to keep the ADD-stricken generation in check — the frost pods, the unmanned roaming robots and touch-activated percussion-spitting scrap metal creatures. Oh yeah, and then there was the music.
It might have been hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but on day one — Saturday, April 29 — Lyrics Born had no trouble gettin' this party started right in the Gobi tent at So Cal's Indio Empire Polo Field. His raspy flow didn't miss a single funkafied beat. At the Mojave tent, the energetic, soulful and gritty TV on the Radio offered one of the more inspiring sets of the day. And back at Gobi, Imogen Heap's banter was soft, but once the beat dropped, her versatile voice had no trouble piercing the dry desert air.
Despite the fact that the sound fell a bit flat — even with a string section — Kanye West had no trouble aiding the packed audience to sway in unison with the valley breeze. And as the sun descended behind the mountains, Sigur Ros helped turn the heat into atmospherically lazy and melodically dramatic comfort on the Coachella Stage. A hop, skip and a beer garden away, Damien Marley worked the crowd into a reggae-infused frenzy, at one point busting into his father's “War.” But day one belonged to closers Daft Punk, with the crowd fully transfixed on the robots spewing sonic wizardry from the stage.
On Sunday, Gabriel & Dresden's dirty, dusty house beats were a perfect welcome to day two; Hasidic Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu grabbed attention for his beatboxing more so than singing; the spastic Jamie Lidell sampled, scratched, sang and screeched; and Bloc Party put on a predictably great set at the Outdoor Theater. Amidst formidable competition (Ladytron, Lady Sovereign, Depeche Mode and many others), one of the most rewarding acts of the weekend was Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo as Gnarls Barkley. Donned in Wizard of Oz costumes, the band got everyone dancing to its funky party soul and closed with the scorching single, “Crazy.”
Madonna showed up a half-hour late onstage at the Sahara tent to more than a few boos. But she had much of the crowd getting down once the Les Paul — toting pop icon and her dancers performed cuts from her dance-music infused Confessions on a Dance Floor. Following the queen of pop, Massive Attack was absolutely phenomenal on the main stage. People got busy dancing, the set oozed pure seduction, and it only got better once the band brought Horace Andy, Deborah Miller and Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser onstage.
It was a fantastic weekend, although after attending every single Coachella, this writer couldn't help but feel 2006 was the most crowded and commercialized year yet. When a festival that has once prided itself on offering a uniquely eclectic blend of cutting-edge acts brings in the most commercial act in the world (Madonna), you have to wonder.