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Sun Sets on Coachella



    Following the physical endurance test that was Saturday, attendees at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday waited as long as possible before shuffling onto the sun-baked Empire Polo Club field. The previous day had peaked at a soul-rending 107 degrees, so Sunday's high of 102 felt comparatively balmy. By the time the last notes of Wild Flag's "Romance" rang through the desert air, there were only a couple more hours of daylight left and already plenty of shade for attendees to enjoy.

    Sweden's the Hives took to the main stage around 6, decked out in their signature top hats and tails in flagrant disregard of the Indio climate. Despite the formal attire, the ragtag group still managed to seem disheveled as it launched into "Try It Again," from The Black and White Album. Singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist screamed and sneered his way through the song, backed by Chris Dangerous' speed-bag percussion. Almqvist relentlessly worked the audience, ordering them to scream, flattering them for being superior to the previous weekend's crowd and informing them how much they all loved the Hives' music. The frontman's excessive banter oscillated between amusing and tiresome, his marble-mouthed wordplay simultaneously evoking Eddie Murphy, Mitch Hedberg and Borat.

    As the last rays of sunlight faded from the valley, electronic duo Justice appeared on the main stage, backed by their signature light-up cross. The band's distorted beats and laser-gun synths quickly got the tired crowd to its feet, creating an instant dance party the likes of which is usually reserved for the Sahara tent. Little could actually be seen through all the smoke and strobes, and Justice could have just been playing their album on iTunes for all anybody knew. But if they were, the crowd didn't seem to care.

    Beirut's organic set couldn't have been more different from Justice's. Backed by a five-piece band that included trumpet, trombone, and accordion, frontman Zach Condon had an affable, unpretentious stage presence, his eyes conveying age and wisdom from behind his youthful face. Beginning with "The Shrew," Beirut played a series of drunken ballads for the adoring crowd. A slowed-down version of "Elephant Gun" lacked the power of the recorded version, but songs like "Postcards From Italy" and "A Sunday Smile" soared, brimming with the bleary-eyed passion that makes the band's music so intoxicating. That Condon has succeeded in seducing a young California crowd with, of all things, Baltic music is no small feat indeed.

    Next, Florence & the Machine began their set at the Outdoor stage, drawing a massive crowd that dwarfed the one from Radiohead's main-stage show the previous night. Florence Welch's vocals sounded every bit as powerful live as they do on record, and even the bros in the crowd sang along to her frilly songs. But as on their sophomore album, Ceremonials, Florence & the Machine's music was bogged down by their lead-footed pretension. Decked out in long, flowing robes, Florence tried so hard to be uplifting and bombastic that she instead came across as manipulative and overwrought. Her talent and verve are undeniable, but some occasional moderation would be a welcome change of pace.

    Coachella finally wound to a close with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's highly anticipated set, which drew the weekend's biggest turnout. Backed by guest stars like Wiz Khalifa, Eminem and a certain hologram, Dre and Snoop displayed an easy rapport and confidence. Comprised of crowd-pleasers like Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice," Eminem's "Forgot About Dre" and even House of Pain's "Jump Around," their set felt like a greatest-hits retrospective of rap's last two decades. Tributes to fallen comrades Nate Dogg and Tupac only added to the nostalgic feel and provided the festival with a strong and emotional finale.

    Chris Maroulakos is a writer and managing editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.