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Coachella 2012: Gary Clark Jr. versus Death Grips

Gary Clark Jr.

On paper, Texas guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and Death Grips rapper MC Ride couldn't be more different. Clark is is a showman on the guitar, spinning around after a mean solo, bending his knees with a riff, his black brimmed hat, sunglasses and beard covering his face.

MC Ride, a.k.a. Stefan Burnett, is a skinny shirtless screamer with tattoos all over his torso and a scraggly beard that makes him look just a little bit unbalanced. The two acts played back to back in the Gobi tent.

What they shared was a level of shock that was jarring and magnetic. Clark plays the kind of electric blues that owes a debt to both Freddie King and Jimi Hendrix, not necessarily a combination you'll often find these days on the Coachella roster. 

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

You could see the thrill in the eyes of a lot of moms and dads in the crowd when they realized that an artist here was speaking a language they understood, especially when Clark did a searing version of Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun." Last time I saw him do this was in the tiny Sayer's Club in Hollywood to an audience of about 150. In front of a few thousand, the distortion and energy was magnified, and Clark took full advantage.

But it wasn't just the old folks: the kids in the pit bellowed and howled with each wicked, distorted solo, experiencing an expert singer and guitarist whose paid dues were evident with every swipe of the strings. It was a different kind of noise for the hip-hop and dance kids, and certainly convincing.

MC Ride and Death Grips were loud, brash and menacing, and unlike any of the other cool groups on the Coachella bill. The only guitar to be found was during a Link Wray-sampled track called "Spread Eagle Cross the Block," in which the "Rumble" riff was harnessed to the hard-pounding live drums of Zach Hill and the distortion of keyboardist Andy Morin. The result was rap with the frenzied energy of a hardcore punk show. The group has two albums coming out on Epic this year and earned a lot of new fans with their set.

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-- Randall Roberts @liledit

Photo: Gary Clark Jr. performs at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio on Friday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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