Well, things came full circle on Sunday.
It may have taken two days to ramp up, but Coachella was back to its old self -- and the way people know and love it -- on Day III. The sun relentlessly blazed down on the polo grounds and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to do a thing about it. And the winds that had put a chill on Friday, and tempered things on Saturday, also took the day off.
While everyone -- artists and attendees alike -- got back to sweating it out in Indio, it did seem like the perfect way to close the three-day set. Weekend I got three different days of weather, and it was only appropriate to end on a scorcher.
I’m not sure if the typical festival temperatures brought more people out, but it sure seemed like it was more crowded on Sunday. Perhaps it was caused by the buzz that was already palpable when I arrived mid-afternoon around the word that Eminem and Warren G were going to join Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg for their festival-closing extravaganza. And that rumor not only turned out to be true, but the two West Coast rap icons also brought out 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa and Kurupt, along with a montage of Nate Dogg and a hologram of 2pac, during their hour-long set.
In past years, today would be a day of reflection on their performance -- along with countless others -- and talk of next year. But things have changed. In four days, Coachella will happen all over again. And because this is the first year of back-to-back weekends, it’s hard to tell how it will all play out. I would assume that the artists would change things up, try to one-up themselves, but I don’t know how that’s possible.
This weekend was every bit as memorable as any I’ve attended in the past. But only time will tell and it will be interesting to see.
While I had slid into a parking space on Days 1 and 2 practically unscathed, Sunday’s march into the dusty lots was a trial. I hit traffic a few blocks before the entrance to the festival grounds, and it was a virtual crawl from there. The 90-plus minute delay caused me to miss First Aid Kit -- a promising pair of Swedish twangers -= one of the biggest disappointments of my weekend, one bolstered by the fact that I heard that they were great.
But that meant my first set of the day was by Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, and the heir to Afrobeat all but made me forget my frustrating ride in. I left Seun to catch Santigold on the main stage, made a quick stop to watch some of East Coast indie rockers Real Estate at the Gobi, and from there it was onto a highly entertaining set at the Outdoor stage from the Orange County weirdos of the Growlers.
Fitz & the Tantrums were their typical entertaining selves, although they didn’t bring much new to the table. However, the Wild Flag set that I caught immediately afterward was quite engaging. The all-girl quartet/super-group seemed in good spirits, and singer/Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein ripped through her vocals and was given to high leg kicks throughout the set.
The Hives, all dressed in top hats, coats, and tails, were assisted by roadies dressed as ninjas and delivered the high-energy set that has become expected of them. But, as usual, it was the commentary from frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist that stole the show. “Do you loooove me, people?” he asked again and again. And even though the Swedish band hadn’t graced a Coachella stage in nine years, (on the same day, at the same time, nonetheless) the crowd’s reaction was an obvious “yes.”
Canadian crooner the Weeknd delivered big-time during his sunset session, making the debut of his current U.S. tour a memorable one. I’m not exactly sure who had more young ladies absolutely beside themselves at seeing a singer take the stage, Frank Ocean or the Weeknd, but they made those old tapes of Beatle-mania look subdued.
And talk about fanaticism. I know his breakout hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” is massive, but I never thought Australian singer/percussionist Gotye would draw the kind of crowd that he did. Outside of shows on the main stage, it was the most packed performance I saw all weekend. I guess people know more than just that one song.
Justice was my only buzzkill of the festival, the Canadian duo first making the crowd wait nearly a half hour to come on, and then delivering a mediocre set as a reward.
Thank goodness I ended my evening with a fantastic performance from Beirut and the good-loving chaos of Girl Talk. You always want to try and end on a good one.
I also tried to soak up as much of this year’s art as well -- from Garraplata, the giant, flame-throwing lobster, to a respite at the Shrine (made all the better on Friday and Saturday when the wind rattled through it), to the constant beacon of changing lights of the Gateway. I’ve learned to occasionally pop into The DO Lab each day to see what the fabulous Lucent Dossier Experience performance troupe is doing, as well.
It will be strange to sit home next weekend and see it all unfold again, but it seems that’s the way it will be with the festival moving forward. Although there are plenty of people gearing up for the weekend ahead of them, it’s time for me to say goodbye -- at least until next year.
Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com.