Best & Worst from Coachella -- Sunday

kills-cure.jpg
The Kills' Alison Mosshart / The Cure's Robert Smith
WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

THE BEST:

Best Haute Mess: The Kills
Tall'n'dark Kills guitarist Jamie Hince ("Hotel") dates Kate Moss. Kills singer Alison Mosshart ("VV") strikingly resembles model Helena Christensen. And the duo were absolute live wires of showmanship, convulsing and flirtatious and raw -- it was enough to make you feel drunk. The duo jerked around the stage like predatory specters, lurching into and away from each other with dangerous speed. Their sexy, blues-laced, lo-fi rock folded upon itself in the undersized confinement of the tent; the bass of "No Wow," from their sophomore album of the same name, beat down from the tent rafters like an uncapped tantrum. As messy, glamorous, and real as rock can get. -- Stacey Anderson

Best Live Remixing: Antony & the Johnsons
On the merriest of days, Antony & the Johnsons' ethereal piano ballads will only make you weep for an hour. But Mr. Hegarty knew the sun would come out at Coachella and prepared for it with the weirdest disco throwdown in history, his prior training in the field mostly being vocals on Hercules and the Love Affair's "Blind." For the set, Antony coaxed influential avante DJ Matthew Herbert into remixing his songs live. The result was bizarre and impenetrable. As Herbert sped the dirge-like songs at whim, Hegarty (ghostly pale in a white caftan) didn't alter his singing pace in the slightest, giving such depressing laments as "Another World" (from last year's amazing EP of same name) a calamitous awkwardness. Predictably, rebuttals were quick -- "I swear, on CD, it sounds good," apologized a man to his date as they fled the audience. True. But live, it sounds special. -- SA

Best Smile: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
So much has changed for the YYYs in the last six years -- the size of the venues, the number of magazine covers displaying their faces, the volume of beer Karen O upturns on her head -- but one thing hasn't changed, and it's that enormous, I-love-my-job grin. Karen O sports it at every gig, and the trio's mainstage set during sunset was no exception; they crossed the same decks in 2006, back when their sophomore album Show Your Bones was first hinting at sobered maturation, and the band seemed giddy but overwhelmed by the volume of the crowd. (Actually, she admitted as much then.) On Sunday, they seemed far more comfortable but also less frantically energetic; the real kinetic push came from drummer Brian Chase, though Karen vamped admirably with her cape of pumpkin-sized gold sequins. (Guitarist Nick Zinner barely moved or looked up, if at all, but he was the object of many homemade fan-girl signs.) The temperate vibe matched the confidence of It's Blitz!, their new Siouxie and the Banshees-influenced album -- not coincidentally, its first single, "Zero," also sounded the most assured of the set, and shimmered in the twilight as the afternoon's best mainstage song. And a certain someone had even more reason to smile. -- SA

Best Advice: Gaslight Anthem
You can't say that Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon doesn't care. In addition to repeatedly warning his listeners to stay hydrated and use sunscreen, the Springsteen favorite kindly suggested that, in this heat, people refrain from drinking White Lightning and "don't take the blue pills." Such a mensch. But to be fair, Fallon gave out a bit of a mixed message. His band's street tough and radio catchy Jersey-punk -- shot through with interpolations of soul classics "Stand by Me" and "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted"-- made it hard to keep cool.-- David Marchese

Best Gracious Anarchism: Fucked Up
Sorry to break it to Friday's ingratiating crowd, but the Hold Steady ain't punk. Fucked Up is punk. They are unrelenting, incendiary hardcore with breakneck songs that admit both absurdity and urgency. Early in the afternoon, far before any sane Coachellan felt too drunk, the Toronto six-piece turned the Mojave tent into a seismic mosh pit. Frontman Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham flung his sizeable frame into the front row, roared anti-establishment couplets from the diaphragm like Henry Rollins, and poured 10 gallons of water on his head, the rivulets mixing with the blood seeping from a cut on his head. Then he thanked the crowd ebulliently for being receptive and "not lame." Then he helped a drenched front-row brat find his Subaru keys. Damn, I want to be in this band. -- SA

READ MORE OF THE BEST FROM COACHELLA ON PAGE 2 >>

THE BEST:

Best Old Timers: (Tie) X and Paul Weller
Los Angeles punk legends X's setlist was chosen by fans who voted for their favorite songs online. The quartet didn't need the gimmick. Sounding lean and hungry, singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka sneered through the caustic "White Girl" and "The Once Over Twice" as if they might never sneer again, while guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake gave everything a breakneck rockabilly strut. It was a good night for rock veterans, as, later, Brit icon Paul Weller matched X's ferocity with an hour of hard-grooving psychedelic R&B and taut pop highlighted by a Johnny Marr-assisted mad dash through the Jam's "Town Called Malice" that should have made Morrissey jealous. -- DM

Best Replacement for the Sunday Paper: Okkervil River
Coachella-goers: not morning people. In fact, they're not even mid-afternoon people, as indicated by the sparse crowd that welcomed Austin's folksy troubadours Okkervil River. But those who were there, sprawled out on the festival lawn, warding off Saturday night's MSTRKRFT hangover, were treated to a soothing, pristine set of cerebral tunes that blared gloriously from the main stage's epic sound system. "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene," off last year's The Stage Names, had enough spunk to coax the sleep from folks' eyes, and then frontman Will Sheff reeled 'em in with his band's best song, "Black," an urgent rant to a lover who's moved on to someone else. But then again, just like reading the week in review, the good stories aren't always the ones about the good news. -- Peter Gaston

Best Urge to Kill Squelched: The Brian Jonestown Massacre
This alt-shoegaze band has seen some 40 members in its two decades, but even the most loyal fans are predominantly interested in frontman Anton Newcombe and his roaring psyche; his antagonism is legendary and indiscriminate, and has ruined more than a smattering of live gigs. (See: Dig!) But, in possible prediction of Coachella's rubbernecking audience and their taunting ("Dandy Warhols rule!"), he cut temptation off by facing drummer Dan Allaire for nearly two-thirds of the set. Sadly, his back wasn't as photogenic as mutton-chopped tambourine man Joel Gion, who slapped the thing with precise, preening glee. Occasional collaborator Zy Lynn lent her pipes to "If Love Is the Drug," and the group trotted without transgression through a rapid set that included "Got My Eye on You" and "Nevertheless." But even with his eyes aloft, Newcombe cut an irascible figure; next to me, a slobby gent in a Kobe Bryant jersey relentlessly hopped in place and flipped the bird to the band... until the singer shifted slightly in his direction, then he switched quickly to a less contentious thumbs-up. And all left unscathed. -- SA

Best Extended Set: K'Naan
Almost no one gets to bust out a self-indulgent, three-hour set on a festival bill -- I'm looking at you, the Cure -- and occasionally, the relatively short allotted set times leave fans wanting way more from a particular band. Such was the case with Somali rapper K'Naan, but the non-satiated lucked out, thanks to hip-hop duo Clipse's cancellation of their own Coachella gig, which was meant to follow K'Naan's in the Gobi Tent. Given some extra time to set up and perform, the MC whipped up an Afrobeat inflected rhyme storm, backed by an ace band that tempered more roughly hewn beats with sunny bursts of electric guitar. But most poignant was a mesmerizing rendition of "Somalia," off his February release, Troubadour. Perched alone on a stool, his band remaining silent, K'Naan mixed free verse poetry, song, and street-savvy lyrics that graphically depicted his homeland's recurring cycle of madness and death. Given the recent Somali pirate attacks, and the hearty American pride fest that they spawned, it was the timeliest message of the festival, a direct quote from the source. -- PG

Best Show for a Festival Hook-Up: Groove Armada
There are thousands of people at Coachella who could care less about the indie rock heavyweights, who might know Franz Ferdinand more from World History class than from the pages of rock magazines, and who'd certainly believe that someone named Devendra Banhart had to be a woman. As soon as they arrive at the festival, these folks cram themselves into the Sahara Tent and just dance and dance and dance. So while the Cure's Robert Smith was applying his lipstick, some 5,000 people were cavorting to a surprisingly rocket-fueled DJ set from oft-downtempo British electronic duo Groove Armada, whose appeal makes sense to me for the following reasons: 1) Everyone in California wears cool sunglasses, and as long as house music is playing, wearing those sunglasses at night is completely acceptable. 2) Hearing songs you already know and love: guaranteed. Groove Armada certainly didn't write Daft Punk's "Around the World," but they had no problem turning it into an apex of the set. 3) If you're on the verge of a festival hook-up, it takes next to zero rhythm to grind away with a partner in time with the 4/4 beats of sexy house music. Trust me, there was plenty of that. -- PG

READ THE WORST OF COACHELLA ON PAGE 3 >>

THE WORST

Worst Appreciation for Time: The Cure
For an hour, the Cure was amazing. Alternating between the silvery guitar fantasias of the setting-appropriate "Underneath the Stars" and "Pictures of You" and shorter, poppier numbers like "Lovesong" and "The End of the World," it felt as if Robert Smith and his fellow gloom merchants might deliver a masterful festival-closing set. Too bad they ruined the strong start by playing for nearly three hours, devoting way too much of that time to aimless interminable guitar jams. SPIN's Peter Gaston summed it up when he said to me, during one of the seemingly endless solos: "There are fifty Cure songs I'd rather hear right now than this." -- DM

Worst Use of an Idiom: Lykke Li
Trying to rouse a somewhat placid mid-afternoon crowd, Swedish electro-popster Lykke Li yelled, "Wake up and smell the Swedish Techno Coffee!" Uh, okay. Really though, the blonde ingénue didn't need to worry. The burbling, keyboard-driven whimsy "Little Bit" and a surprisingly emotional cover of Kings of Leon's "Knocked Up" combined with the all black-clad singer's aerobically awkward dancing (or was it jazzercising?) eventually got the crowd moving. Later, Li hit the main stage to sing "Young Folks" with fellow Swedes Peter Bjorn and John. I believe the word for that combo is "smorgasbord."-- DM

Worst Pitting-Out: Friendly Fires
Playing in the scorching early afternoon, English dance-rockers Friendly Fires put on a hip-shaking show that raised the temperature inside the Gobi tent to dangerous levels. Two songs in, singer Ed McFarlane's oxford shirt was so soaked through with sweat that he looked more like a contestant in an office workers' wet shirt contest than a rock'n'roll frontman. Despite that, his band's burbling synths and stuttering guitar lines (sometimes accompanied by a cowbell -- and yes, someone in the audience yelled "More cowbell") achieved a dance-rock fusion that U2 could've benefited from hearing back before they did Pop. Bono, prepare the time machine -- there are some ideas I'd like you to steal. -- DM

Worst Use of a Giant Cube: Etienne de Crecy
Maybe I should just be thankful that someone is willing to shell out for a giant, glowing cube. But French house DJ Etienne de Crecy's massive stage prop didn't actually do anything that cool. Unless, that is, one thinks that lines lighting up the perimeter of the squares in the same predictable patterns over and over again while a DJ sits in the center is mind-blowing. The lighting just made me think of the following: Tetris, Hollywood Squares, Sudoku, Pong. Not sure any of those things are natural matches for Crecy's distorted beat fusillades. -- DM

Worst Facsimile of Stage Banter: The Horrors
As My Bloody Valentine got noisy across the grounds, frowns etched deeper into the Horrors' young mugs. Guitarist Joshua Von Grimm glared offstage and singer Faris Badwan swatted petulantly at his mic stand. Intractable, but not unexpected-- the five Brits used to spackle their faces with goth paint and cause bloody brawls at most gigs. Now they've scrubbed up slightly into a Velvet Underground-moppet vibe of flat-ironed shags and black leather, yet the material's still surly, Joy Division-bagging punk. As much considered, their faces were still exceptionally long, for readily disclosed reasons. "You know where I'd rather be right now," whined Badwan, pointing in the direction of Kevin Shields and Co. What an inspiring contribution. Did he stop to think it might be mutual? I almost left the tent just to spite him. Then I did because I'm not a masochist. -- SA

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