The funny thing about Coachella is... In this day an age you almost don't need my help in reviewing it when you can stream many full sets online in real time. Today was a little less frantic, only catching Birdy Nam Nam, Savages, Danny Brown, 2 Bears, Violent Femmes, Hot Chip, The Postal Service, The XX and Phoenix... like I said, "Only". That's the beautiful thing about Coachella is even on a day where you're not trying you still see a plethora of brilliant acts. Also key to Coachella are the wild art installations around the grounds, including this year, a power plant run by hippopotamus and giant moving snail.
While all the sets were fantastic, The Postal Service were especially cool/strange to see outside of the Northwest context, truthfully strange to see outside of my headphones. Though every track sounded nearly straight cut from the album, Ben and co. seemed in great spirits and sounded beyond tight. The XX delivered a powerful performance to a massive mainstage crowd and brought out special guest Solange for an Alicia Keys cover. The whole day was stolen however by you guessed it, Phoenix.
There was a lot of resistance when the line up was announced to the idea that Phoenix were capable of headlining the fest. Were they big enough? Would people care? And even though Phoenix are as solid as ever on any day, the band were beyond up for the challenge and happy to take it to the next level. Talking with the band after they revealed they spent a solid 24 hours onstage at the Polo Field on Wednesday working through every last detail on production and practice. And it showed, from frontman Thomas Mars climbing the soundboard rigging and crowd surfing his way back to the stage to the bands energy, thrashing about and jumping all over the stage, you could feel their excitement, you could feel they deserved this and they wanted to play the set they thought we all deserved, the best to the point that none of us could have predicted, right down to the special guest. Even on the side of the stage it was tough to discern who the man in the white hat with the diamond crested microphone was, but there was no question once he strut onstage and opened his mouth, undeniably, R Kelly had joined Phoenix onstage for a mashup of his hit "Ignition" and the bands own 1901. Putting those Daft Punk rumors to bed with what frontman Thomas called "the complete opposite". Chatting with the guys after their set, it was revealed that the group had never even met the "Trapped In The Closet" singer before their onstage collaboration, though you'd never have guessed.
The backstage scene itself was quite unreal with all kinds of French music royalty on hand, be it the robots themselves, Kitsune founder Gildas Loaec, or Daft collaborator DJ Falcon, it was a real moment to see childhood friends come together long graduated from their Versailles bedroomsin tandem with the massive success they've achieved. Also a long chat with Coachella founder Paul Tollet revealed the excitement even on the festival side about their new Yuma stage which Paul said he hoped "broke up the drops of the Sahara", the philanthropy the festival is responsible for in the Coachella Valley, and the new 30 year contract GV just signed to keep the festival in Indio which Paul pointed out "Bands headlining then probably aren't even bands yet, and maybe just coming to experience the festival for the first time this year" a cool thought indeed.