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Coachella 2010: The best, the worst, the random and the fest's most killer haircut

April 20, 2010 |  9:54 am


Best Breakdown (Long-form): LCD Soundsystem
, "Yeah."
It started with a propulsive four-on-the-floor beat with a saucing of trademark cowbell. Then came little synthesized squiggles, Exacto-sharp guitars and an assertive disco bass line. Then James Murphy started with the lyric that became Friday's insatiable anthem: "Yeah, yeah, yeah…." It seemed an invitation to every single person in earshot, from the band to fans to the beer vendors to nearby retirement homes, to drop whatever they were doing and throw down like the world was ending. Four days later, we're still singing along.

Worst gaffe by the soundboard: At last, a reunited Pavement returns to make up for its disastrous 1999 appearance and what happens to them? Several seconds of opening number "Silence Kit" is, well, absolutely silent due to some technical fumble or another. At least the band, which merrily carried on with their nostalgia fest, didn't seem to mind -- they've always liked being the underdogs.

Best Lighting: During the final moments of Little Boots' last song, a triumphant rendition of “Stuck On Repeat,” a frantic, pointed pulse of purple, green and yellow lasers fanned across the tent seemingly penetrating the forms of every dancing body they touched. The sheer amount of Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation that Victoria Hesketh unleashed on the Gobi tent Sunday night was mind-blowing; three giant fans of red, white and blue beams refracted over every inch of the tent and made her already-giddy disco jams feel like a rave fantasia.

Best Portent: This year, we needed reminding that Coachella takes place in the desert. Past years, the temperature has typically climbed to the high '90s and low 100s, but 2010 was blessed with cool, dry weather that barely inched past 90. Hardly a misting station was in sight because no one really needed it, and the dance tents, even at their most jammed, weren't the usual unbearable pits of, um, eau du human fragrance. As a result, everyone seemed a lot more happy and chill. 

Best Competition for the Headliners: Whatever was going on at the outdoor stage. It's hard to figure out the weird science of what makes a good main stage act and what's better served by the smaller outdoor theater, but on more than a few occasions, it was clear that the bookers need to rejigger the algorithm. With massive audiences that kept piling up, Phoenix, Dead Weather and Thom Yorke's Atoms for Peace all belonged on the main stage.


Best Hairstyle (performer): Yo-Landi Vi$$er, Die Antwoord. Yes, La Roux was the obvious favorite, what with a Bob's Big Boy swoop that you halfway expected to see a surfer riding. But then Yo-Landi Vi$$ser steps up with the gutsiest mullet of this early decade: bleach blond, stretching halfway down her back, way short on the sides. It was a thing of beauty. 

Best Supporting Hairstyle: La Roux. Her red hair was gelled into a point at the top of her head that glowed like the flame of a candle and was pretty much the only thing visible to many of her fans as they tried to jam themselves into the packed tent on Friday night.

Best Hairstyle (crowd): While trying to cut through the writing masses of Tiesto fans -- whose ranks were so thick they could've constituted a new desert city -- we ran into a dancer girl with a mullet, mohawk and a side ponytail. It was a thing of fearless beauty that could probably only work on unicorns -- or Tiesto fans.

Best Rap Name: Yo-Landi Vi$$er. Because ... you know ... just look at it.

Worst Move (All-around): Booking Sly Stone was a risk. While a funk-soul pioneer, and one whose presence would help Coachella draw connecting lines from the past to the present, Sly is an eccentric and a recluse, and his days as a dependable performer are a long shame. It was a shame he was even allowed to take the stage Sunday night, as fans witnessed a depressing spectacle. Sly mumbled, stumbled and had to be led off-stage a few songs into his set, and those who saw the performance from the beginning said that the artist came out ranting and berating his band and the audience. The worst, however, was seeing fans point and laugh at such a moment. It was heartbreaking, and Sly would have been better left a Coachella no-show mystery rather than a disaster.


Best Cover Song (Pop): The sunny California pop of She & Him doesn't often rock out. Singer/actress Zooey Deschanel is more suited to a slower, sweeter pace, but at Coachella, her partner in the band, M. Ward, went on the guitar attack with a cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." It was brisk and on-point, and a quick wake-up call to anyone who was getting too comfortable in the desert heat.

Best Cover Song (Soft Rock): Faith No More's poignant rendition of Peaches and Herb's touchy-feely '70s smash "Reunited." It was a thematically appropriate song (if a bit outre for a group identified with arty, mordant rap-rock) to kick off a reunion set touted by the pre-show banner that said "Faith No More: The Second Coming."

Best Male-Bonding Moment: Jonsi's Sunday evening outdoor set. Sure, his vocal output with Sigur Ros often recalls the songs of the humpback whale. But performing solo, the Icelandic chanteur literally had grown men breaking into tears throughout the fairgrounds with the aching beauty of his new sound.

Best Food Deal: Kogi’s Tofu Burrito. Did someone not tell Kogi, L.A.’s mobile Korean-taco lodestar, that the whole point of serving at Coachella is to jack up your prices 200% just because everyone's starving, stoned, and you can get away with it?  The $6 tofu burrito was, for those who braved the crushing lines, not only the tastiest meal to be had at the festival, but far and away the cheapest. Never before have we returned to the hotel bar at 2 a.m. surprised by how much cash we had left over.

Best Quasi Clash Reunion: Sunday's closing set from the Gorillaz encapsulated everything Coachella strives to do. Genre lines were shattered in moments as rock, soul, dance and hip-hop textures grace nearly every track from Damon Albarn's project. At Coachella, however, he had a backing band of legends, courtesy of the Clash's guitarist/singer Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon. Though some of us (this writer) secretly hoped for a Gorillaz take on "Bankrobber," the band's "Kids With Guns" suited just fine. The cut could have been a long-lost "London Calling" track, with its mix of politics and a roots-rock-reggae influence. When Mick and Paul flashed each other a smile, Clash fans surely got their combat rock fix.

Best Coitus Mimicry: Near the end of Major Lazer's incendiary set of tribal island pound, one of their two emcees went side-stage, grabbed a big utility ladder, and placed it in the middle of the stage. The music was pounding, the vibe was electric, and as the male emcee climbed maybe eight feet up the ladder, the female emcee did some low dancing beneath him. Up on a top rung, he lifted his arms into the air and, swoosh, leaped down on top of her, and they commenced moving to the rhythm. Crowd goes nuts. Then she climbed the ladder and -- boom! -- landed on top of him and they danced some more.

Best Non-Sequitur: After the Pavement show a barefoot girl with long blond hair and a white tank top turned to her friend and said, “Now I know why my mom drinks so much.”

Worst Idea: Nothing goes better with hot desert temperatures and a tired and possibly drunk or stoned crowd, than fire, right? Funk-soul revivalist King Khan instructed fans to pull out dollar bills and then set them aflame. Ask, and you shall receive, and about two dozen fans in a cramped tent started raving flaming dollar bills, dropping them on the dry -- emphasis on dry -- grass when the heat became too hot to handle. Let's see, 75,000 people in an enclosed field -- that's the time to increase the fire risk.

Best Random Gesture: Some hopeful young thing Scotch-taped a piece of paper to the side of the Gobi tent that read, "Dayna, went to go charge my cel phone. Will be right back!" The fact that it wasn't ripped down immediately made us feel a tiny bit warm inside. Granted, we noticed it on the ground 10 minutes later, but still.

Worst Non-Use of Video Screens: With European flights grounded because of ash from an Icelandic volcano, a number of Coachella sets were in jeopardy. Yet no information was dispersed to concert-goers. In the wake of a natural disaster, fans would certainly be understanding, and it's justifiable that Goldenvoice wouldn't want to create a panic by publicly discussing all of the acts affected. But once an artist was confirmed as a no-show, why couldn't such information have been passed onto the crowd? With giant televisions flanking the two outdooor stages, getting information out should be far from impossible, yet Coachella attendees were left to wander to empty stages.

Best Artistic Line-In-the-Sand: MGMT used its Coachella set on a Saturday as a mission statement, performing mostly tracks from the recently released "Congratulations." It was psychedelic pop at its most zany, and the five-piece-turned-heavily-detailed songs on record into a fast-moving live show with constant shifts in direction. Fans of Pink Floyd were surely down, but Coachella's crowd wanted to dance. "Play a song we know," yelled a fan at one point, and when MGMT left the stage without performing "Kids," much of the crowd stood in disbelief. But it said plenty: MGMT is leaving its past CHARLOTTE_GAISBOURG_LAT_3_ behind, and if you're coming along, prepare to be challenged.

Best Debut: Let's face it, Charlotte Gainsbourg is royalty. The daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, her art-rock lineage runs deep, and Coachella would be the first date of her first full U.S. tour. Yet her set was downright exquisite. Vocally, yes, Gainsbourg is a bit plain, but songs such as "Heaven Can Wait" are about a mood, not perfect vocal execution. The song's rhythmic stomp and old-fashioned keyboard brings a sophisticated sort of scruff, and that made it the perfect backdrop to Gainsbourg's matter-of-fact approach. With Gainsbourg herself attacking a stand-alone drum, it resulted in a Coachella mix that heightened the song's claustrophobia and paranoia.

Worst Song Exclusion: Wait, what? MGMT didn't play "Kids"? That's lame.

Best New Headgear: Some merch booth was selling Native American-style headdresses, replete with feathers and fringe, and it caught on with a few bold souls. When it's hot outside, there's nothing like a bunch of feathers and pleather piled on top of your head to keep you cool.

Worst New Headgear: Some merch booth was selling Native American-style headdresses, replete with feathers and fringe, and it caught on with a few bold souls. When it's hot outside, there's nothing like a bunch of feathers and pleather piled on top of your head to keep you cool.

Best Benediction: Stephen Malkmus of Pavement. “Thanks for coming to see us,” he said as the band wrapped up its main stage Sunday night set. “Well, whatever, you’re here anyway.”

-- August Brown, Jessica Gelt, Chris Lee, Todd Martens, Randall Roberts and Margaret Wappler

Photos, from top to bottom: James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles; Die Antwood performs at Coachella. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times;  Zooey Deschanel at Coachella. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times; Charlotte Gainsbourg at Coachella. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times