Coachella Weekend Two: Day Two

23 April 2012 | 11:50 am | Cambell Klose

If it's Coachella Day Two then this must be a hologram*... of Biggie Smalls... with Black Lips. talk about upstaging Radiohead. *Disclaimer: it's actually a cardboard cut-out.

There is something so unsatisfying about waking up in a tent less than five hours after you went to sleep, drenched in sweat and with your back contorted all out of shape.


There are now 18 of us bunkered down in our tiny little camping site, and we have eaten all our food except for a carton of tinned red kidney beans which no one seems game to try. Lurching over to the food stands for an $8 breakfast burrito is definitely a good option and the world seems brighter place after food. Sheltering from the sun all morning, we make a smash and grab raid to the festival grounds in the early afternoon. Just managing to catch the end of Dragonette, I run to the Mojave tent in time for The Vaccines. The heat hasn't changed the English rockers' wardrobe and they all appear on stage sweating it out in skinny black jeans and tight fitting t-shirts. Vocalist, Justin Young, introduces the band before launching into Blow It Up. Their Libertines-esque punky riffs are a lot of fun, and the short length of their songs ensure a high energy set. The crowd are positively simmering with anticipation by the time they play Post Break-up Sex. Seemingly out of nowhere at least ten British flags are suddenly being proudly waved as the mass of sweaty punters go crazy, some jumping around and others surging forward. Young drones through the more laid back, Lack Of Understanding before ending with Norgaard.

A quick dash back to the Sahara tent for Black Lips is well worth it. They are fantastic. Dressed like sailors they literally run and jump onto the stage. After creating mayhem for two songs (and somehow managing to make music in the process) they introduce their own special guest onto the stage. With Hypnotize blaring through the speakers their own hologram appears on stage, albeit the the form of a cardboard cut. Biggie Smalls, decked out in gold bling, waltzes out onto the stage. The audience, taken vaguely by surprise, hesitate for a moment before the entire tent erupts in applause and laughter. Hypnotize fades out to the sheer awesomeness of Raw Meat as the Atlantan four-piece continue their psychedelic punk assault on Coachella. It gets pretty wild there for a while, and although there is no nudity, a guitar is definitely smashed as the set reaches its sweaty climax. 

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Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson

With the post-midday sun hammering down upon our poor, inadequate bodies, we scurry back to the campsite to shelter. After water and a nap, the worst of the heat has passed. Kaiser Chiefs play at 5pm on the main stage. There is a certain nostalgia attached to them for me, and though I don't know any songs past their first album, Employment, I am still keen to go check them out. It turns out to be a good decision. There is something refreshing about how uncool they are - no one name drops Kaiser Chiefs if they are trying to impress anyone. Singer Ricky Wilson is exceptionally animated as he dashes across stage before jumping into the seething pit of sweaty, sunburned bodies, all the while still managing to sing. Pop anthems, Everyday I Love You Less And Less and I Predict A Riot are definitely crowd favourites. Ending with Oh My God, Wilson decides he wants a beer and weaves his way through the crowd in search of an elusive drink.

 As the sun sets Noel Gallagher drags his High Flying Birds onto the stage. It is perfect, sitting on the grass, listening to Noel sing and watching the beautiful Californians wander past. Everyone is chatting animatedly, enjoying the music and basically having the time of their lives. It is such an incredible vibe. Finishing with two Oasis songs, Little By Little and Don't Look Back In Anger he struts off stage. After some food (I didn't know chili meant meat and sauce - so there goes almost two years as a vegetarian...) it is almost time for The Shins. Having been awed by them at SxSW I am excited to see them again. They introduce a lot of new material into their Coachella set. Simple Song is exceptionally catchy and has quickly become a crowd favourite. But it is the older songs such as Kissing The Lipless and Saint Simon that elicit the most animated response from the huge crowd (it seems as though at least two-thirds of the festival have piled in to see them play). Even the second time around New Slang is an experience bordering on the otherworldly.

 No matter how good The Shins were, nothing compares to Bon Iver. I have waited years for this moment, and I couldn't imagine a more perfect setting for it. Sitting on the grass, surrounded by palm trees and a gentle desert breeze - it couldn't be any better. The stage is decked out with torn drapes that from a distance look like an ethereal cave that lights up when Justin Vernon and the rest of Bon Iver walk on stage. It is quite possibly the most beautiful 50 minutes of my life. They focus predominantly on music from Bon Iver, Bon Iver as opposed to For Emma, Forever Ago. Holocene, Calgary, Beth/Rest are all incredible, and it is one of those rare occasions where they sound exponentially better live. There is a depth to the songs when played live that is missing when listening on an iPhone. Everywhere around us couples are embracing and snuggling closer together, it turns out Bon Iver is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Blood Bank is amazing, but when he pulls out the acoustic guitar and plays Skinny Love the entire festival swoons.

At 11:05  Radiohead stride out onto the main stage. They are completely dwarfed by the giant screens installed for their show. Giant square screens that look like tiny mosaic tiles from a distance hang above them and they flash colours and images as they enter the stage. Almost the entire festival population is out to watch Radiohead play and they are not disappointed. The pulsating lights, ethereal, swirling images and Thom Yorke's whining vocals all live up to the hype. Opening with Bloom they then delve straight into 15 Step. It is a huge two-hour set, and is a pretty intense two hours. Surrounded by Radiohead zealots at the front of the mosh for the first part of the gig, I move back about midway through to a spot where I can enjoy it more without being quite so crushed. Wild is the only way to describe it. Thom Yorke throws himself around the stage, barely visible other than as a tiny black silhouette dwarfed by the towering stage and screens around him. Karma Police and Pyramid Song are, as expected, crowd favourites. For most people watching, it is less of a gig, than it is a religious experience that they will be talking about for years to come (this could in part be due to the copious amounts of psychedelics they ingested beforehand...). All good things have to end, and Paranoid Android is a perfect finale. Exhausted, it is time to join the masses of people heading back to the camp.