It's amazing, considering how many reformed bands have famously played Southern California's Coachella festival (including this year's Specials, Pavement, and PiL), that it took 11 years for one of them to get around to covering Peaches & Herb's "Reunited." But in a pure-genius move, that's exactly how regrouped San Francisco punk-funk-metal gods Faith No More opened their Coachella 2010 set on Saturday evening.
Standing in front of a screen emblazoned with the words "Faith No More: Second Coming" and wearing a flashy devil-red zoot suit, vocal powerhouse Mike Patton ironically yet earnestly belted out the schmaltzy love ballad in a moment that was reminiscent of FNM's early '90s remake of the Commodores' "Easy." This effectively set the tone for a fun, high-energy spectacle--which, incidentally, also included a daring Patton crowdsurf and a few bars of Michael Jackson's "Ben."
Of course, Faith's setlist was also crammed with hits--like "Epic," "Out Of Nowhere," and, surprisingly, the pre-Patton early cut "We Care A Lot." This made for, quite literally, an epic show. But it was their "Reunited" cover that really generated the good vibes. All Coachella reunion bands should be required to perform that number from now on.
However, the good vibes started vibing much earlier in the day, over in nearby Palm Springs, at the annual Anthem magazine pool party. An indie Indio-adjacent oasis of BBQ, plentiful swag, and muddled-to-order artisanal margaritas--where the likes of college rapper Asher Roth and snowboarding Olympian Shaun White rubbed scenester shoulders with American Appareled revelers, and superstar DJs like Peanut Butter Wolf, Playgroup, and Ed Banger manned the decks--Anthem's bash was THE party to see and be scene at during Coachella weekend.
Back over on the festival grounds in the Gobi Tent, Danish garage rockers the Raveonettes could have been bummed out by the absence of their full lineup--several of their bandmates had been unable to make it to Coachella due to that freakish volcanic ash cloud hovering over Europe's airports right now. (The volcanic cloud also caused the total cancellation of Coachella acts Gary Numan, Frightened Rabbit, the Cribs, Bad Lieutenant, and Talvin Singh, sadly.) But instead the Raveonettes' core duo, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, made the most of their situation and played an unusual stripped-down, instrument-swapping set (including a rare moment of Sharin on drums) that was a real treat for their fans.
And the love kept flowing over on the second stage, where British electropoppers Hot Chip's sunset show had festivalgoers gleefully boogie-ing to their sentimental new monogamy-minded hit "One Life Stand" and their perennial floor-filler (or, in this case, field-filler) "Over And Over." However, later on that same stage, the set by Brooklynites MGMT wasn't quite as feelgoody.
MGMT drew one of the biggest second-stage audiences of the weekend--seriously, the field was so packed, it was nearly impossible to get a view of the stage-flanking jumbotrons, let alone the actual stage. But with a setlist consisting of mostly cuts from their largely disappointing sophomore-slump album, Congratulations, they just didn't keep up the momentum or keep the ever-dwindling audience's attention. While distinctive Oracular Spectacular indie-disco tracks went over extremely well with crowd--glowsticks were immediately whipped out and enthusiastically waved about for "Electric Feel" and "Time To Pretend"--spectators responded noticeably more lukewarmly to MGMT's newer tunes, all of which sounded like wannabe Nuggets or Paisley Underground outtakes. (It's ironic that in trying to craft an ambitious second album, MGMT actually ended up sounding so unexpectedly derivative.)
And, it should be noted...the band DID NOT PLAY "KIDS." You know, their most popular song. The big festival-ready anthem that those thousands of fratboy fans waited patiently, and then not-so-patiently, to hear all day. This career-suicidal refusal to give the people what they want capped off a frustratingly underwhelming set from a band that had actually performed one of the breakout gigs of Coachella 2008. #MGMTFAIL
More impactful rock 'n' roll extravaganzas thankfully took place later that evening. First, Muse thoroughly electrified the main stage, with singer Matt Bellamy looking every inch the stadium star in his neon trousers, rooster hair, and metallic shuttershades as he led his all-powerful power trio through a 90-minute, laser-beam-enhanced, bombastically OTT greatest-hits set.
Seven years ago, Muse played on Coachella's main stage for the first time--only back then, they were the opening act, with an undesirable 2pm timeslot. However, even back in 2003 they seemed like a destined-for-greatness, full-fledged arena-rock band, not some indie up-and-comer...and tonight, in their deserved prime-time headlining slot, they truly arrived.
And over on the second stage, hardest-working man in indie Jack White--already a Coachella veteran with many White Stripes and Raconteurs appearances under his red leather belt--appeared with another one of his bands, the Dead Weather, who are about to release their second album in the space of a single year. This time Jack took a backseat, so to speak, playing drums most of the time instead of guitar. This allowed Kills frontwoman Allison Mosshart, possibly the toughest rock chick alive today, to take centerstage as the Dead Weather's fearsome and fearless leader. With her feral eyes staring out at the crowd from the jumbotron and her curtain of thick-fringed black hair being whipped by the desert winds, Allison was a completely convincing and compelling rock star who clearly belonged on the main stage, not the second stage. And with raw charisma like hers, it's only a matter of time. See you at Coachella 2011, Allison.
And finally, returning to the subject of reunited Coachella bands, new wave pioneers Devo, who are preparing to issue their first new studio album in two long decades, energetically closed Saturday over in the Mojave Tent.
It was a little odd that Devo were booked in an intimate tent, considering that Public Image Limited played a bigger outdoor stage the night before, and it's fair to assume that a larger, more mainstream demographic is familiar with Devo hits like "Whip It" than, say, PiL's "Flowers Of Romance." But while the Mojave Tent started off packed when the devolved legends (wearing their trademark jumpsuits and updated energy-dome hats in blue instead of red) first appeared, the throng soon thinned out when the band played mostly new and unfamiliar songs. And it seemed that many concertgoers really ONLY wanted to hear "Whip It," as there was such a frantic mass exodus after Devo performed that number, one might have assumed the Mojave Tent was on fire or something. It's a shame Devo frontloaded their setlist with less popular tracks and played "Whip It" so early, because spectators patient enough to stick around, and savvy enough to realize Devo are no one-hit-wonder band, were treated to a succession of venerable classics later in the set, including "Girl U Want," "Uncontrollable Urge," "Mongoloid," "Jocko Homo," "Satisfaction," "Secret Agent Man," and the triumphant finale "Gates Of Steel."
It was impressive how fresh and fun these songs still sounded after nearly 30 years. Devo, in their first-ever Coachella gig, were reunited at last, and it felt so good.
Additional reporting by Don Andrews Jr.
All concert photos by Mike Orlosky. For more of Mike's Coachella pics, click HERE.