Coachella 2009 Day 2 report: Bob Mould asserts his dominance, Amanda Palmer causes a traffic jam
It was still more than 24 hours before My Bloody Valentine was to assault the crowd at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival with an onslaught of guitar noise, but Saturday afternoon revelers who took in Bob Mould's set should be well prepared. In what was unquestionably the loudest set of the fest thus far, Mould rifled through a career-spanning performance, turning in a earphone-worthy 45 minutes that gradually drew out melodies from a wall of guitars.
Mould's most recent release, "Life and Times," is about reflection. His Coachella set was more about asserting some dominance. There's nary a younger act on the bill that doesn't owe some debt to Mould's work in Husker Du and Sugar, ranging from the fuzz-laced assault of the Silversun Pickups to the hearty heartland rock of the Hold Steady.
Opening with Sugar's "The Act We Act," Mould didn't waste any time getting the set off to an electrified start. The guitars buzzed the crowd, but hooks would slowly materialize, and his band somehow found the space to drop in surprisingly lush backing harmonies. Only a pair of songs from "Life and Times" were performed, and the title cut offered a brief breather, with Mould slowing down for a moment. "Take you back to the place I left behind," he sang, and then moments later broke into the devastating, choppy riffs of Husker Du's "New Day Rising."
Other notes from Coachella Day 2: Attendance figures haven't officially been released for the 2009 edition of Coachella, but The Times was told that the 10th edition of Coachella was on track to be the third-best attended in history. Today's fest feels a bit easier to navigate than the Paul McCartney-headlined fest opener, but Dresden Dolls vocalist Amanda Palmer caused a mid-afternoon logjam.
After a set of vampy burlesque tunes, largely pulling from her solo effort "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?," the artist crowd-surfed to the back of her audience. Performing in one of Coachella's tent side-stages, she let the crowd prop her up and covered Radiohead's "Creep" on ukulele. She eventually set the instrument aside toward the end of the tune, leading a crowd sing-along instead, and then she staged a parade across the festival grounds with vaudeville circus troupe Lucent Dossier. Fans were eager to get up close, and credit Palmer for breaking down the walls between stage and crowd. Those trying to rush to another stage, however, were probably out of luck.
It was a moment of welcome spontaneity in an otherwise low-key festival afternoon. Few must-see acts graced the midday stages. Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers and the Southwestern experimentalists Calexico are worthy acts, especially in a desert setting, but it's hard to get psyched for artists who tour regularly.
The evening promises a bevy of A-list acts, ranging from M.I.A. to TV on the Radio to Tinariwen. Earlier, however, Thenewno2, led by Dhani Harrison (son of George), offered light dream-pop that was pleasant enough background music, but never really took off. Likewise, indie-pop act Blitzen Trapper merged folksy instruments with odd Pavement-like melodic detours, but the band's mid-tempo songs evaporated in the ever-increasing heat.
Pop & Hiss will post more updates throughout the evening.
Photo of Amanda Palmer by Michael Buckner / Getty Images