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Coachella 2010: Dinner hour gets aggressive with Them Crooked Vultures

April 16, 2010 | 10:01 pm

John Paul Jones plays bass for Them Crooked Vultures at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio on Friday No wonder the post-sundown sets are so in demand at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Those seeing the main stage from afar Friday night might have thought a fire was rising out of the desert, as Them Crooked Vultures was flanked by dozens of perfectly arranged golden lights,

As the dinner hour approached, Coachella got a little aggressive with its top-billed acts. The rock super group Them Crooked Vultures, featuring Josh Homme, drummer Dave Grohl and bassist John Paul Jones, brought a moment of groove-inducing rock 'n' roll fury to the fest, while electro duo Pretty Lights shook the biggest dance tent with a mix of techno force and live drumming. Performing against a spacey backdrop that would have wowed the kids at JPL, Pretty Lights cut and chopped vocals, using them only to serve the beat.

For Them Crooked Vultures, one needn't have heard more than 45 seconds of "Elephants" to hear the band's prowess. Over an extended intro, Homme etched haunted house-screeches out of his guitar, but the effect was more attention-demanding than frightening. Grohl and Jones were caught in a rhythmic give-and-take, taunting and letting their instruments bite each other, with late-night-attic clanks and just hints of a beat emerging out of the murkiness.

Yet when the song finally cut loose, it wasn't an explosion, but more a trance-like feel. Homme's vocals don't overpower; instead they drift into the churn of guitars. The band showed off hints of a blues muscle, especially on "Mind Eraser (No Chaser)," Grohl and Jones alternated between a stutter and a strut. It was hard rock at its most hypnotic -- no wonder why Homme said during the set that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy was one of his favorite artists.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: John Paul Jones on bass for Them Crooked Vultures. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times