INDIO, California — After two days of 100-degree temperatures and enormous crowds, it was hard to blame concertgoers who left before the Cure’s Coachella-closing performance Sunday, especially since it seemed the band had already taken the stage a good dozen times during the weekend.
Call it Curechella, as several of the 100 acts who gathered at the picturesque palm-tree-lined Empire Polo Fields for the fifth Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival clearly wore their Cure influences on their black dress shirt sleeves. Not that there were pure imitators, but the festival certainly showcased heavier versions (Thursday), dancier versions (the Rapture) and garagier versions (Elefant) of the second night’s headliners.
Paying homage seemed to be the theme of Coachella. Saturday featured two significantly influential bands in the Pixies and Kraftwerk, while Radiohead certainly had other bands on the bill out of their trailers and into the sun-drenched fields.
Beck even asked to join the bill because he wanted to come check out the lineup, and Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers were among the first fans through the gates Sunday to catch (and join onstage) the weekend’s other reunion, Los Angeles indie-rock legends Thelonious Monster.
|Photos: Beck, Radiohead and more perform at the 2004 Coachella Valley Music Festival|
Coachella’s promoters also credited the influential headliners with the festival’s first sold-out weekend. Attendance estimates ranged from 50,000 to 60,000, far more than last year’s previous high of 33,000.
While the crowds made navigating the five stages more difficult than in previous years, and the heat was taxing, MTV News’ reporters managed to catch most of the performances. Here are some highlights:
- If the Cure were the sound of Coachella, then the Pixies were the talk of the festival. Before their early-evening performance on Saturday, it was all about debating where the best place to take in the show would be, and after, it was echoes of the same compliment: “They sounded so good!” The only people not talking about the Pixies were the Pixies themselves, who kept the chitchat to a minimum and instead tore through an hour-long set of fan favorites.
- In what was billed as Radiohead’s only North American gig of 2004, the band treated fans to a rare performance of “Creep” during the encore. Forced to cancel a show in Australia a week earlier because of a throat problem, Thom Yorke strained on the opening notes of “There There,” but the band found its footing fast and played a typically sturdy set.
- Coachella ran like clockwork until the final main-stage act, the Cure, who took the stage about 25 minutes late. Few seemed to mind, however, as Robert Smith (in his signature all-black clothes and white makeup) led his band through a mix of favorites, like “Love Song” and “Fascination Street,” and tracks from the Cure’s upcoming self-titled release, including first single “End of the World.”
- Both the Pixies’ Kim Deal and Death Cab for Cutie told their respective crowds, “We’ll see you later at the Kraftwerk set,” at the end of their shows. The visually striking electronic-music pioneers, dressed in matching black suits and crimson red shirts, created a robotic utopia with laptops and vintage synthesizers inside one of the festival’s three massive tents.
- Beck, who headlined the first Coachella, caused a mob scene at the smallest stage of the festival with his 11th-hour addition, with thousands of fans relegated to the outskirts of the tent trying to snag a glimpse of the singer. After opening with the Mutations tune “Cold Brains,” Beck said he had no plans for the performance and began to take requests. The singer’s improvisational set included a new song — which he forgot the lyrics to — and a bluesy Kinks cover.
- As Beck strummed slow jams in a neighboring tent, Junior Senior wooed stragglers with a set that could not have been more different. While throwing the biggest party of Coachella, the Danish band busted through one new-wave-inspired dance tune after another with the help of guest vocalist Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. A shirtless Har Mar Superstar also joined the band for their cover of Salt-N-Pepa’s version of “Twist and Shout,” showing off the same dance moves he used against Ben Stiller in “Starsky & Hutch.”
- In perhaps the festival’s oddest and most jubilant moment, the Flaming Lips commenced their set with graying singer Wayne Coyne entering a gigantic bubble and attempting to walk overtop the crowd. Afterward, Coyne said, “I had a dream a few weeks ago that I would descend on Coachella from a bubble in outer space.” For their encore, the Lips coerced the crowd into singing “Happy Birthday” to Beck and the child he is expecting.
- “It’s good to be home again,” Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme said during the first live appearance by his Desert Sessions, a collective that meets near Coachella for sporadic improvisational recording sessions. Homme sang several of the psychedelic jams, while the Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and the Distillers’ Brody Dalle also joined in.
- Perry Farrell, the only artist to perform at every Coachella, kept his streak alive with DJ sets both afternoons, mixing a range of electronic styles with his own singing.
- With swarms of fans (including Adam Brody of “The O.C.”) reverently singing along with every word, Death Cab for Cutie’s copiously attended set felt more like a Dashboard Confessional show.
- Toronto collective Broken Social Scene’s set culminated in one of the festival’s most moving moments when guitarist John Crossingham proposed to his stunned girlfriend in front of an elated audience.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.