Maximum Performance

Five Cool Things Witnessed on Coachella 2013 Friday, Weekend 1

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

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Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs [photo: Debi Del Grande]

Southern California's desert musicfest Coachella began in earnest on Friday, bringing highlights like a mini-set of Smiths songs from Morrissey's better ex-half, Johnny Marr; a Britpop double-header of Blur and Stone Roses; fantastic live sets by Beach House, Jake Bugg, Divine Fits, and Foals; and a Daft Punk album-preview commercial that bizarrely generated more buzz than many of the day's actual performing artists. And along the way, some random radness ensued. Here are five cool observations from day one in the desert.

1. Ron Mael of Sparks did this dance…
Coachella's Gobi stage was the latest stop on venerable glam/pop/operetta/new wave/just-plain-weird duo Sparks's "Two Hands & One Mouth Tour"--and while the front of the tent was crowded with diehard fans, the lookie-loos and various passers-by in the back, probably just hoping to hear the '80s hit "Cool Places" with a possible cameo by Jane Wiedlin, appeared perplexed by the wacky Mael siblings' skewed show. This wasn't the most festival-friendly of Coachella sets, as Russell Mael declared himself a "Suburban Homeboy" and skipped and minced about the stage to whimsical nursery-rhyme-style remakes of "Angst in My Pants" and "This Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us," all while wearing Newsies short pants and kneesocks. Meanwhile, his more buttoned-up brother Ron sat sternly in his German-accountant spectacles, playing olde-time saloon piano. But then, when Ron stepped away from his keyboard to bust a move, his dancing was way cooler than anything the kids were doing in the neighboring rave tent. Sahara-stage revelers, please take notes.

2. Karen O wore this outfit…
Some women wear sundresses to Coachella, or the regulation hipster-girl Coachella uniform of denim cutoffs and slouchy boots. But not so for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, aka the hippest girl ever. There's no such thing as a casual Friday for this rock goddess, not even on a Friday at a dusty festival in 90-degree heat. So of course the newly peroxided YYYs frontwoman took the Main Stage in a Princely metallic purple pantsuit and hologramic cape and crown, brandishing her gold mic stand like a scepter, like the Queen of Coachella that she is. Later she donned a black leather biker-babe jacket with her initials "K.O." written on the back in metal rivets, and she was a TKO indeed.

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photo: Debi Del Grande

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photo: Debi Del Grande

3. Blur's Damon Albarn hugged this onstage sign-language interpreter...
There's not really much more to say about this except awwwwwwwwww. While Blur were playing their feelgood singalong "Tender," Damon stopped singing along for a moment, set down his guitar, and sprinted across the stage to embrace the sign-language interpreter standing stage-left. And that was just a universal sign of AWESOMENESS.

4. Ariel Pink and Dam-Funk brought this funk…
The last time psych-rock eccentric Ariel Pink played Coachella, things didn't go so well. But there were no onstage meltdowns this time, just pure funk heat, when he joined electro-boogie synth sorcerer Dam-Funk on the Main Stage for a surprise cover of Donnie & Joe Emerson's 1979 soul-pop rarity, "Baby." (Dam-Funk guested on the recorded remake, which appeared on Ariel's recent LP, Mature Themes.) Oh, and did I mention there was a keytar onstage? Good times.

5. Buzzy Brits Palma Violets were this awesome...
These garage-rock London rabblerousers (think the Libertines, the Vaccines, Jesus & Mary Chain) kicked out the Coachella jams fast and furious, and at the end of their frenetic set, there was an onstage punk-rock pogo party. These possible contenders to Blur's Britrock throne played the Mojave Tent like it was the Main Stage--where, if there's any justice, they'll be performing at Coachella 2014.

For more Coachella reportage, check out Yahoo! Music's 2013 Summer Music Guide.

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