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Coachella 2012: Waking up with Sleeper Agent, Fanfarlo

April 15, 2012 |  1:47 pm

The sun was shining on the Empire Polo Club early Sunday, the final day of the first of two identical Coachella Valley Music and Arts festivals in 2012. With temperatures targeted for the 80s, it was the first purely pristine day on the Indio grounds, yet only a couple hundred early risers made it out for the rambunctious rock 'n' roll of the heartland’s Sleeper Agent.

Maybe they were the few who wanted to enjoy the weather, or maybe, as singer Alex Kandel said, “You guys must not have had a great night if you can get up this early.”

The band delivered a highly potent mix of vocal interplay and intersecting guitars, the type of big riffs honed in Kentucky garages. Kandel has a voice that can carry, but she’s more interested in yelling and snarling. Sleeper Agent struck with Ramones-like efficiency, but when the band pulled back from a more finessed bass line, it was clear that Sleeper Agent has the potential for a raucous, rhythm & blues shamble in its future.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

If Sleeper Agent was a wake-up call, a more brunch-like atmosphere could be had at a nearby tent with British quintet Fanfarlo. The act may win the award for bringing the first new-agey sax to this year’s Coachella grounds. Yet stick with the band a moment and the hammock-swaying vibe will soon give way to sharp little indie-pop confectionaries.

The band also revealed that they came out of Coachella winners, at least in the financial sense. With temperatures dipping into the '50s the prior two nights, Fanfarlo’s hoodies were a hot commodity. Member Cathy Lucas noted that the band sold $6,000 worth of hoodies year. “That’s kind of remarkable,” she said.

Over in the next tent, Santa Barbara’s Gardens & Villa used its keyboards for a smattering of psychedelic effects, twisting notes so they sounded as if they were coming from a bowed guitar. With horns and wind instruments, songs suddenly faded into echo-filled bridges, where falsettos led into synth-heavy grand finales as the band blasted off into '70s prog territory. 


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Photo: Suzanne Kite hula-hoops on the second day of the Coachella Music Festival. Attending school as a violinist, Kite hopes to one day hula-hoop full time. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times