Coachella ’07: Part 2

Silversun Pickups

Reminiscent of early ’90s alternative rock, Silversun Pickups have all the elements that made groups before them, like The Smashing Pumpkins, so successful.

Rather than playing a few chords during verses and choruses with a guitar solo in the middle of the song, the instrumentation is consistently varied and complex. Distorted but catchy and melodic guitar parts blend with Brian Aubert’s high-tuned vocals and bring alternative rock fans a refreshing yet nostalgic sound that not many musicians writing original songs can pull off. And when Aubert unleashes into sections filled with yells, his vocals have that classic ’90s raw angst to them, much more so live than on CD.

Arctic Monkeys

The energetic English rockers known as the Arctic Monkeys were out in full force this year at Coachella.

Although they had just released a new CD three days before the show, they mostly stuck to their last album’s material, which seemed to be a good decision. The Monkeys’ fast and furious musicianship was showcased on the main stage the first day of Coachella, and if this group didn’t get the crowd moving more than any other band that Friday, they definitely came close.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Chili Peppers have been playing for longer than most UC Irvine undergrads have been alive, and their live performance has become legendary. Their show on Saturday completely justified their reputation.

Flea and John Frusciante jammed on bass and guitar for a few minutes before Anthony Kiedis ran on stage to kick off the vocals for the opener, ‘Don’t Stop.’ Everything that followed in the next hour-and-a-half proved that the Chili Peppers have only improved with age. Flea and Anthony still run around like maniacs, and the members of the Chili Peppers seem to always get better at their instruments with time.

Arcade Fire

As the sun set over Indio Field Saturday night, Montreal’s Arcade Fire commanded the audience’s attention with their distinctive brand of upbeat-but-brooding melodies.

The group wasn’t so much a band as it was an orchestra with theatric leanings. There must have been about a dozen performers onstage. While a percussionist on the left side was busy tearing apart his drum set and beating on a dismantled tom, chorus girls calmly sang and played strings over to the right. The act was definitely a highlight of this year’s festival.

The Decemberists

One of the most unique sounds from this millennium belongs to The Decemberists. These indie rockers from Oregon use accordions, organs and various string instruments, besides the standard guitar, bass and drums to accompany their tales of warfare and sea adventures.

The concept may sound kind of weird, but the band’s medieval aura made for one of Coachella’s most enjoyable performances this year. Whether competing in a band-organized dance contest or playing the part of a despairing ship’s crew being swallowed by a giant whale, the audience had a blast throughout their set.

The Roots

When they played live, The Roots transformed from a great hip-hop band on CD to a jam band that can rock with the best musicians of any genre.

Halfway through their set, they broke out into a 10-minute cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War.’ As guitarist Kirk Douglas explained, Dylan wrote it about a ‘bullshit war,’ and it was especially relevant now. Douglas would sing a verse or two, then the band would rock out until it seemed like they had moved on to something else, then Douglas would kick back into another verse. Everyone quieted down for the haunting lines: ‘I think you will find when your death takes its toll / All the money you made will never buy back your soul / And I hope that you die and your death’ll come soon / I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon.’

Jack’s Mannequin

Something Corporate’s frontman Andrew McMahon led his side project, Jack’s Mannequin, to an all-star performance. The band played at the same time that Regina Spektor took the main stage, so his audience was smaller than it could have been, but at a festival like Coachella, this is a bonus for fans.

McMahon played on a Baldwin grand piano, but was more mobile than many lead guitarists on stage. He bounced in and out of his stool and, at one point, even knocked it out from under him. When he wasn’t hammering the ivories, he ran around the stage and climbed on top of his piano during a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl.’ Not bad for a guy who recently recovered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Fountains of Wayne

For over 10 years now, Fountains of Wayne has consistently put out solid pop-rock records without receiving much publicity. They had their brief moment in the sun with the oddball ‘Stacy’s Mom,’ but this hit may have been more of a curse than a blessing, since its adolescent silliness and musical simplicity wasn’t characteristic of the album, ‘Welcome Interstate Managers,’ that contained it.

They were given the main stage Saturday afternoon and showed the talent behind their pop sensibilities while avoiding the drier radio hits.