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Coachella 2009: TRV$DJ-AM and Atmosphere move the crowds with unique beats

April 19, 2009 | 11:33 am


When wonder twins DJ AM and Travis Barker come together to form TRV$DJ-AM, they incorporate a well of classic beats that transcend time and genre. Playing in front of a primed Sahara tent, they lit into manic real-time mash-ups of Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison,” the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which was the most rapturous received riff of the night. With AM’s agile turntable skills and Barker's pre-eminence on drums,  they dazzled with slick routines like a battle between the intro drum fill from Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” with Barker emulating the lick perfectly.

I like to call rapper Slug from Minneapolis group Atmosphere the hardest-working man in indie hip-hop. With a thriving record label (Rhymesayers), a popular record store in their hometown (Fifth Element) and a seemingly year-round tour schedule, he lives up to the title. Saturday night's set to close the Outdoor stage was light years beyond the somewhat spotty set they played back in 2004 when the turntables would skip every time Slug would jump. Instead, a strong live band anchored by production maestro Ant sailed through a surprisingly downbeat set thick with Slug’s highly descriptive hip-hop hard-luck tales, his voice sounding more controlled than ever. Opening with the classic "God Loves Ugly," they mostly leaned on their latest album, “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That ...  Gold.” Topically heavy songs like “Guarantees” and “Yesterday” took on even more significance in the cool desert night air as the Killers charged through their sparkly, radio-ready hits on the next stage. Far from the expected celebratory show, Atmosphere chose to mark the moment with something more meaningful and even profound.

—Scott T. Sterling

Photo of Slug from Atmosphere by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images