Coachella rocks yet again

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend was just one of the performers at Coachella

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend was just one of the performers at Coachella

Alas, Coachella has come to an end, and for a lack of a better word, let’s just say it was AWESOME. Although marred by a few technical and organizational difficulties, this year’s festival otherwise went on without a hitch. Here’s a brief recap of the good, the bad and the fucking ridiculous at Coachella.

This year you couldn’t go wrong with the three headliners: Gorillaz, Muse and Jay-Z. Jay-Z started the party right on Friday night, playing a veritable “best of the best” set-list that had even the coolest of the cool kids throwing their hands up in the air. As if hearing “99 Problems,” “Empire State of Mind” and “Big Pimpin’” wasn’t good enough, he had none other than his lovely wifey Beyoncé join him on stage to do a rendition of “Young Forever.” And just to put the icing on the cake, their duet climaxed with an explosion of fireworks into the night sky. Jay-Z knows how to leave an audience happy and wanting more, and he certainly did it right this time.

Saturday night’s headliners played an equally explosive show on the main stage. Starting off the set with their latest hit, “Uprising,” Matt Bellamy and company completely owned the stage with their raw, energetic presence. Coachella promoters had been critiqued for picking Muse as main-stage headliners, saying they weren’t as well known in the U.S. as they were in Europe and Australia, but seeing the crowd of thousands screaming and singing along was enough to silence critics. Whether or not Muse is as famous here is irrelevant; they put on a show that showcased their undeniable musical and crowd-pleasing talents.

By the time Sunday night rolled around, people had experienced two days of quality live music, and the expectations were high for the last act. Damon Albarn and his digitally-fronted band Gorillaz did not disappoint. The audience embraced the rare opportunity to see Gorillaz in concert, and the thousands of remaining concert attendees flocked to the Coachella stage. Backed by three huge digital screens, cartoon band members Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russell were as much part of the show as Albarn and crew, which included The Lebanese National Orchestra for Arabic Music, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, De La Soul, a digitally projected Snoop Dogg, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, (two former members of The Clash). It was a jam-packed roster of musical stars from hip-hop to punk to Arabic and classical music.

Albarn proved that his genius and insanity have yet again blended to create something indescribable. Dressed all in nautically-inspired stripes, a nod to the new “Plastic Beach” album, Gorillaz balanced out their new material like their hit “Stylo” with their old classics like “Clint Eastwood,” “Feel Good Inc.” and “Dirty Harry.” The only sour note was the decision to play a relatively short set (only an hour and a half) and to end the night — and the whole festival — with a melancholic rendition of “On the Cloud of Unknowing” with Bobby Womack. Other than that, the show was an experience for all the senses.

I don’t think I was the only person who noticed that Coachella was a bit of a boys club this year.  There were no female headliners, as usual.  But the ladies we did manage to catch put on shows that would rival any of the boys there.  First there was Charlotte Gainsbourg.  This French chanteuse made hearts melt with her beguiling accent and gorgeous features (being the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg no doubt explains some of her musical talents and physical charms.)  Performing tracks from her album “IRM” (which was produced with a big helping hand from fellow Coachella veteran Beck,) Charlotte captured the hearts and ears of all listening. Looking classically rock-star chic in black leather pants and framed by her long brown hair, it was hard not to be enamored by her.  Backed by members of Beck’s band her delicate sultry voice was a standout, even though she was drowned out by the music and the noise of the crowd.

Another highlight was Florence + the Machine.  This fiery siren is a relative newcomer to the scene, but those not familiar with her and her music were definitely enlightened by the end of her set.  Wearing gold booty shorts and a sheer dress, Florence mesmerized every single member of the audience with her powerful, booming voice and flaming red locks.  She enthusiastically jumped off the stage to greet her eager fans, and seemed to float like a spirit over the enchanted crowd.  Not to mention the fact that she was joined on stage by Nathan Willett, the lead singer of Cold War Kids, for a duet of their song “Hospital Beds.”

Let’s not forget Allison Mosshart of The Dead Weather.  While people may have initially been drawn in by the prospect of seeing Jack White’s new side project, it was singer Allison Mosshart who kept them interested.  Writhing and wriggling on stage like she was demon possessed, Mosshart was a sight to behold.  Her massive black hair lashed about in the wind, while the band rocked out to songs like “Hustle and Cuss” and “Cut Like a Buffalo.”  The atmosphere of the outdoor theater was perfect for their performance; highlighted by blue stage lights and rising winds, the Dead Weather truly looked like they were stirring up Mother Nature’s ire with their thrashing, savage music.  Mosshart was strangely seductive in black, as she tip-toed across the stage, nearly teetering of the edge.  Her performance captivated and excited anyone around who could hear.

For a complete Coachella photo gallery, click here!