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Coachella Bites the Dust

Like a tempest of biblical proportions, a relentless dust/sandstorm descended on the Coachella closers



    Like a tempest of biblical proportions, a relentless dust/sandstorm descended on the Coachella closers in grand fashion Sunday night.

    The glorious winds that had so sweetly tempered the weather on the third and final day of Coachella’s first weekend quickly evolved into something out of a scene from The Mummy. By the time the sun set on the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, the cool breezes making Sunday the most moderate day of the weekend had turned into a dust- and sand-distribution powerhouse, driving some fans home early and forcing many others to don bandanas, bank-robber style.

    Of course, it didn’t spoil everyone’s finale. A reunited Wu-Tang Clan -- accompanied by a conductor-led full orchestra -- performed to an overflowing Outdoor Stage. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their seminal debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the NYC MC collective ripped through a slew of original hits from “Bring da Ruckus” to “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit.”

    Bandleader RZA had trouble wiping the smile off of his face as his crew ran through the group’s best songs, as well as a few of their individual hits. There was no ODB hologram for the group’s one fallen member, but they did bring the crowd to a frenzied zenith when they trotted out longtime collaborator Redman for “Da Rockwilder.”

    Sunday was filled with other amazing performances as well. Grimes, the pint-size Canadian electronic artist, delivered a mesmerizing afternoon set in the Gobi Tent using only a keyboard and a slew of loop pedals. Flanked by water-gun toting dancers, the minimally equipped singer was relentless in her movement and execution, never allowing her 50-minute set to drag.

    San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees were a perfect tsunami of energy and weirdness, as singer John Dwyer’s feral yawps and face contortions punctuated an electric set, and Denver breakouts the Lumineers played to a massive crowd on the Coachella stage. By the time they played their crossover hit “Ho Hey,” the sing-along could seemingly be heard as far away as Rancho Mirage. Additionally, New York shoegazers DIIV, newly rediscovered veteran Rodriguez and the venerable Nick Cave all brought their A Game to Indio with stellar Sunday sets.

    While it’s likely the first weekend of Coachella 2013 will mostly be remembered for just a few hours of weather, for those who were there, the three days in the desert were filled with plenty of magical moments.

    With incredible performances from Johnny Marr and Jurassic 5 on Friday, alongside a Violent Femmes’ album-long sing-a-long and a surprise Phoenix-set-appearance by R. Kelly on Saturday, it won’t be hard to pick out highlights when looking back on the this year’s first weekend.

    Not to mention the taken for granted Coachella standards of amazing artwork and the almost-hard-to-comprehend beauty of those desert sunsets. Aside from the rogue sandstorm, the setting at the yearly event is always as impressive as whatever is onstage.  

    With 90,000 people milling about, those odd cases of unforeseen inclement weather, maddening traffic and a slew of other inconveniences, there are plenty of issues to take up with the three-day festival in Indio.

    But for those who love an eclectic roster of music and rejoice in celebrating that in grand style with a massive throng of likeminded music lovers, it’s almost impossible do any better.

    Until next year …

    Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of