INDIO, California — There’s an old saying ringing through the Southern California desert air this weekend: All good things come in threes.
For the first time in the music festival’s eight-year history, Coachella expanded to a three-day event, and the inaugural Friday went down like … well, the same old wildly eclectic time as usual.
With the somewhat forgotten Björk as the headliner and the buzzing Amy Winehouse poorly scheduled at 6 p.m. on the smallest of the festival’s five stages, Friday lacked the set that everyone was talking about, but at least that same everyone could find something perfectly suited for their tastes at pretty much all times.
Between Björk’s horn-heavy, experimental pop orchestra (and yes, those new Timbaland-produced tracks are as weird as you would expect), Interpol’s crisp dance rock and the Arctic Monkey’s expertly-crafted Brit-punk, the main Coachella Stage alone offered a smorgasboard of trendy entertainment. (Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore and, um, Danny DeVito — for the second year in a row — were among those catching the action.)
The surprise there was the Jesus and Mary Chain, whose reunion has been rightfully overshadowed by Rage Against the Machine (clearly the most anticipated band this go-around). Coachella organizers love nothing more than bringing influential late ’80s/ early ’90s bands back together, even if the results don’t always live up to their good intentions. In this case, though, the show was mesmerizing from start to finish and clearly showcased the droning guitar sound (newcomers can reference “Just Like Honey” from “Lost in Translation”) that countless acts have ripped off over the years.
Another unexpected mainstage moment straight out of “120 Minutes” circa 1992 came during Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party set — Farrell is the only artist to play every Coachella, by the way — when the band launched into a pitch-perfect rendition of Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop.”
Farrell and his latest band were followed on the Coachella Stage by Los Angeles upstarts the Silversun Pickups, who — despite self-deprecatingly joking about their prime slot — proved why their melodic rock is causing quite an underground stir.
Earlier in the afternoon, as temperatures soared into triple digits, styles ranged from the disco-fied rock of Of Montreal (who unfortunately struggled with sound issues throughout their set) to the banjo-tastic bluegrass of Nickel Creek (“All the other bands are louder than us,” one of bandmember joked) to the straight stand-up of Comedians of Comedy (a Coachella first).
By the time Winehouse hit the Gobi Tent, the crowds were spilling so far out of the space it was nearly impossible to just get a look at the Motown revivalist, whose band dressed entirely in white for the occasion.
Stage fashion at Coachella is always amusing, and Of Montreal, in their angel wings, got things started on high note. The grand prize, however, had to go to Brazilian Girls singer Sabina Sciubba, who wore a giant circular mirror attached to the back of her white bodysuit.
Months ago, before the lineup was announced, rumors swirled of a Police reunion, but while that never happened (the band instead choose Bonnaroo), rising star DJ Benny Benassi paid a spectacular tribute to the trio midway through his set, turning “King of Pain” into a trance smash.
The Sahara Tent is always its own beast at Coachella, but the buzz on Benassi helped pack the area to the max by the time the British hip-hop/electronic hybrid Faithless took the stage. (Their reworked “Mass Destruction” is a must-bootleg.)
Although Friday was the only Coachella date not sold out, the Empire Polo Field was still packed from early afternoon on. And even if it felt a bit like a warm-up date for the big shows to come Saturday and Sunday (Rage shirts were spotted all around), the same music-appreciating energy lived in the air as usual. Only threefold.
Check back all weekend for continuing reports from Coachella.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.