INDIO, California — Despite finding message-board haters among some festival vets for snagging a headlining spot at the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Kings of Leon won over the first-day crowd on Friday night, as the masses in attendance couldn't help but sing and sway to the band's radio-friendly rock.
Saying they were "tired of playing the new stuff," the Kings dug out "Molly's Chambers" from their pre-big-time 2003 debut EP, Holy Roller Novocaine, which joined more-recent hits "On Call," "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody."
The rockers' Who-reminiscent "Black Thumbnail" finale of feedback and drum pummeling ended not with smashed guitars, but with good-ol'-boy singer Caleb Followill knotting up his handkerchief to toss into the adoring crowd.
Check out photos from the Coachella Festival.
The Kings' bouncy, Southern-tinged, feel-good rock offered just a hint of the variety on which the the festival prides itself. More than 100 bands are slated to hit the stage during the three-day event, which was named by Pollstar as North America's best outdoor music festival for seven of the past eight years. Now in its 12th year, Coachella set attendance records in 2010, packing 75,000 people per day onto the Empire Polo Club fields.
This year's extravaganza sold out six days after tickets went on sale in January. The resulting slew of ticket resellers and scams prompted organizers Goldenvoice to post a message on the Coachella homepage warning desperate seekers: "Do not purchase tickets from a third party" and "Anyone trying to sell a paper ticket is not legitimate." In a change that began last year, single-day tickets were not available. Those lucky enough to place their orders legitimately received wristbands delivered to their door in elaborate packaging that included a calendar and photos.
Interpol — whose set included fan favorites "Slow Hands," "Say Hello to the Angels" and "Obstacle 1" — ended with a much-hyped collaboration with director David Lynch and the Creators Project that took trippy to a new level. That performance pushed an intensity of lights and sounds up, up, up until there was nothing to do but fade out and leave people walking away saying — like so many do after experiencing a Lynch creation — "Well, that was something," while not being sure whether they liked or understood it.
After announcing, "They are always leaving us for last call," Flogging Molly closed the Outdoor Stage with their riotous Irish punk. For those who still had the energy, the Chemical Brothers enticed the crowd to make one more swing by the main stage by turning up every light and bringing it home with "Galvanize," "Do It Again" and "Don't Think" in front of an eye-candy backdrop of psychedelic spinning heads, bouncing balls and splattering paint.
Earlier on the main stage, former Fugees leading lady Lauryn Hill delivered a soulful set while accompanied by a brass section of tubas, saxophones and trumpets. After promising, "I'm gonna play some classics, some songs you know," Hill pleased fans with "Everything Is Everything" and "The Sweetest Thing."
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, up against the late-afternoon heat of the day, succeeded at getting heads nodding as they let the beats remain in the background and their tight, old-school rhymes shine through.
Ozomatli surprised any metal lovers who caught their set by playing the first minute of Metallica's "Master of Puppets," from the metal icons' landmark album of the same name, which celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier in the week. Metallica themselves will rock the polo fields next weekend, along with Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth, when they bring their only scheduled Stateside Big 4 concert to the site.
In other unexpected nods to '80s rock, Cee Lo Green managed to sneak some bars of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " into his disappointingly short set. Those who stuck around for his late start heard "Lady Killer," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and "F--- You."
Elsewhere, Nosaj Thing found new fans with his flavor of jungle in the Gobi tent, Cut Copy had the Mojave grooving and Robyn had girlfriends boosted on shoulders to wave their arms to her girlie jams. And while Crystal Castles suffered some unfortunate issues with their vocals, their glitch still managed to entrance. The Sahara tent boasted Erick Morillo, Sasha and Boys Noize, backed by the most impressive light shows in Coachella memory.
In the midst of the dance-heavy day, Cold War Kids and the Black Keys offered welcome bluesy, soulful breaks.
Still to come this weekend: Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Paul van Dyk, Wiz Khalifa, the Strokes, Duck Sauce and Kanye West.
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