From top: Giant Drag, Magic Numbers, Bloc Party, Gnarls Barkley. All photos (c) Jeff Miller.
Coachella Music Festival 2006, Day 2
April 30 at Empire Polo Field, Indio, CA
Coachella’s traditionally been more than just another music festival; it’s been a place where bands break (Arcade Fire, anyone?) or tumble into the sea of hyped-and-forgotten about (The Rapture? Sleepy Jackson?). So this year, I’m pleased to announce – via some superlatives – who truly shined on the second day in the desert, winning the audience over during some pushing-100-degree heat and possibly providing the soundtrack to your year. Or at least your summer.
Breakout band, Soul-singer divison: Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse’s new project, Gnarls Barkley, is evidently not just a clever name. For their first "official" US show (the band played a surprise set at the Roxy in LA this week) the entire 14-piece band – which included former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna and Beck’s old bassist Justin Medal-Johnston, alongside a phalanx of backup singers and a full string section – was dressed like characters from The Wizard Of Oz. It wasn’t just their cover of Pink Floyd’s "Breathe" that felt otherworldly; in their 40 minutes, they played through most of the forthcoming St. Eleswhere, proving that they out-Gorillaz the Gorrillaz, and that Cee-Lo may have the best male soul voice since Stevie Wonder. Inspiring.
Breakout band, poppy singalong rock divison: the Magic Numbers, so charmingly humble, began their set slow and warmed up immediately, once they realized that at least half of the 5,000-or-so members of their afternoon audience knew every word to every song on their self-titled debut. The two new songs they played both offered the same melancholy-drenched-in-sunshine cheer of the old ones; by the end of the set, the usually static band was dancing in revelry, realizing that Amerricans have embraced them in almost the same capacity as their British countrymen.
Breakout band, super-fucking-rocking division: Tool, who headlined Coachella for their first show in years and sounded tighter than ever. Even the non-metal kids had fists in the air. Too bad that Maynard hid himself in the back and that the video screens weren’t focused on the band, instead broadcasting inventive but distracting animations. If Tool go on a headlining tour (oh, wait, right), it’ll be a mind-bender.
Major disappointment, pop diva division: When Madonna was announced as part of the Coachella lineup, I thought it was inspired: in my mind, she’d play a set to cement her credibility in the dance scene, leaving hipster kids breathless and reminding those of us who track these things why she was important in the first place. Instead, she came on 20 minutes late, bitched at the audience about throwing water on “her stage” (note to Madonna: at festivals, we share) and playing 6 songs that all felt like a commercial for her new world tour. Which I will not be attending.
-- Jeff Miller