The banks of LED screens along the stage blinked a silent countdown to Gartner’s set, with the distant thump of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs barely audible from the main stage.
With the drama and mystery of Coachella’s first weekend already revealed (any controversy regarding Blur swapping headlining slots with the Stone Roses already quelled), this Friday night felt slightly muted, bringing the eclectic extremes of the festival’s line-up into stark relief.
Canadian duo Purity Ring delivered their dreamy, bass-heavy electro-ballads to a packed Gobi tent, but the delicate sounds struggled to cut through the cool, night air. Suddenly, breakout Detroit rapper Danny Brown appeared onstage to perform his 2012 collaboration with the pair, “Belispeak II.” With his perm blowing in the breeze and flashing his trademark gap-toothed smile, Brown’s renegade spirit provided a crowd-stirring punch to the wistful melodies.
Next door in the Mojave tent, Grinderman lived up to their stage-crushing reputation with a blistering and brutal set that had frontman Nick Cave crawling atop the rabid crowd (which included electronic music legend Gary Numan and KROQ DJ Stryker) as much as he was prowling the stage. Riding the thunderous waves of sound like a bull, Cave went all in on numbers like “Kitchenette,” which found him shrieking “Tippy toes! Tippy toes!” right into the face of a startled crowd-surfer.
British band Modestep is an extreme mash-up of modern guitar rock with bass bin-rattling dubstep beats, recalling Linkin Park, 311 and Skrillex, often in the same song. Set up like a traditional band with a guitarist and drummer, their hybrid sound filled the Sahara tent with bodies, the crowd responding to the band’s wildly divergent tunes. While the rock-leaning outfit wasn’t for every Sahara-dwelling raver (the EDM crowd seemed a bit stunned to be faced with extended guitar and drum solos), the band’s high energy performance kept the massive space rocking. Modestep is also a clever lot, pulling out a well-timed cover of Zombie Nation’s global jock jam, “Kernkraft 400,” easily recognized as a popular chant at sporting events around the world.
Jurassic 5 lit up the Outdoor stage with their arena-sized West Coast hip-hop vibes. The finely-tuned and reunited outfit (they officially broke up in 2007) showed they haven’t missed a step. Led by the booming baritone of rapper Chali 2na, their feel-good songs and sharp lyrical skills were augmented by two of the finest DJs in the game, Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark. Their crowd-pleasing DJ routine included both jocks sporting mixers around their necks like “keytars,” and culminated with them scratching on a massive, 12-foot turntable in the middle of the stage.
Everything about Sahara tent headliner Bassnectar is extreme. From his crushing bass explosions to chunky samples from Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Black Sabbath to the DJ’s face-obscuring mane of hair, Bassnectar pushed the diehard crowd as hard as possible, and they soaked up every teeth-rattling moment of it.
Across the field, Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara closed out the Outdoor stage with their warm, finely crafted pop songs. Engaging the crowd with easy banter, the ladies thanked the crowd for allowing them to play a grip of tunes from their most recent album, Heartthrob, and launched into fan favorites like “Walking with a Ghost” and “Back in Your Head.” Light years away from Bassnectar’s bombast, Tegan and Sara’s exceedingly pleasant demeanor and catchy, comforting melodies felt like a warm blanket in the chilly evening air.
While there were no galvanizing moments like the Daft Punk video debut from the first Friday night, Coachella 2013′s second round kick-off showcased the incredibly diverse and crowd-pleasing range of music that’s become the festival’s trademark.