This is probably the most stunning festival video I’ve laid eyes on. Sam O’Hare has pulled together incredible clips of the festival igniting and climaxing. By speeding up the film and using aerial shots, O’Hare turns ordinary movements into something quite spectacular. The end result is astonishing. Starting with attendees assembling their temporary homes and storming the gates to audiences roaming through the grounds, lazing in the grass, and cheering for the headliners, each scene is sweetly chosen. Throughout, the gorgeous structures that cover the property look utterly surreal. And for a moment, the enormous event that is Coachella looks miniature.
The music was oddly enough produced by a music and sound design initiative called Human. The company creates inventive pieces for commercials, film, and television. From their site, “We embrace technology as a means of expanding the boundaries of genre, location and culture.” This is exactly what O’Hare’s creation coupled with Human’s music adeptly achieves…
The Westword Music Showcase is Denver’s very own version of SXSW, albeit a smaller one. The yearly event, hosted by the free alternative weekly across 8 blocks of the Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood lasts just one day. But don’t let this take away from the fact that it is one of the best events in the area to take in the burgeoning Denver music scene and catch some amazing national acts as well. And it’s cheap. Just $15 in advance and $30 day of.
This year’s event has one of the best lineups to date for indie fans with headliners including Ghostland Observatory (Austin), Dirty Projectors, and Neon Indian. Other stand-out local acts include The Still City, Eleanor, Hello Kavita, Taun Taun, and Kill Paradise. See below for Lux’s picks for this year’s Westword Music Showcase.
At the end of a weekend of award-winning sets, blue skies, and hipper-than-hip crowds, an esteemed analyst of mine pronounced that Gorillaz had won Coachella. After falling for the title, I’m compelled to share who made the grade, offered stand-out sets, and made Coachella what it is: the picking ground for some of the best artists performing now.
Several acts were immediately taken out of the contest due to their inability to get to the festival. The Cribs, Gary Numan, Bad Lieutenant, and Delphic fell pray to flight cancellations as a result of the plume of volcanic ash from Iceland that descended on the UK and parts of Scandinavia during the week prior to the festival. Sly Stone has been disqualified as well due to the last minute postponement of his Sunday set until later that evening and the difficulty he had making it through his own songs.
While the remaining 130+ artists competed enthusiastically, the Lux votes are in and it’s a tie between Gorillaz and Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace. The remaining titles have been awarded respectively to Dirty Projectors, The Whitest Boy Alive, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, Phoenix, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, LCD Soundsystem, Jónsi, Pretty Lights, Vampire Weekend, La Roux, Jay-Z, Hot Chip, Pavement, MGMT, Gossip, The Avett Brothers and Little Dragon.
Owen Pallett’s geeky laugh, the longest bout of insanely loud distortion from Girls, and Mutemath’s Paul Meany performing flips on and over his keyboard made for other memorable Coachella moments.
Special thanks to Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives, Little Boots, Beach House, Sia, Miike Snow, Flying Lotus, Sleigh Bells, and Imogen Heap for playing. You have each been awarded an honorable mention.
Last place goes to Tiësto. You can’t win when you insist on being louder than every other artist to perform and drown out your competitors.
Congratulations to Coachella for their first sell out in the festival’s 12 years. Your decision to hold the fest on the meticulously manicured and palm-tree lined grounds of the Empire Polo Fields in California where the weather might be the finest in the nation might warrants you the prize of best indie festival around.
#1 – Gorillaz
The Gorillaz set was all over the map in terms of music diversity. Quality beats and grooves drove audience members to produce their best dance moves yet. Who needs holographic bandmates when you’ve got a live band made up of the Hypnotic Brash Ensemble and a long list of guests including former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, Little Dragon, De La Soul, Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack. MySpace|Website
#1 – Atoms For Peace
Thom Yorke’s music is meant for large scale productions like Coachella. The incredible presence of Yorke live with Flea adding his electrifying bass lines truly brought The Eraser to life. Thick beats, resounding piano lines, psychedelic interludes and Yorke’s haunting vocals created an entirely cathartic experience built on inspired song-writing. MySpace|Website
#3 – Dirty Projectors
With chanteurs that sound like birds, Dirty Projectors dazzled listeners with their experimental sonic alchemy. The beauty of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Deckle’s voices shone radiantly alongside the intricate and unique musical stylings of their compatriots. The power of this group live is something to behold. MySpace|Website
#4 – The Whitest Boy Alive
Some of the best music I heard all weekend came from this band out of Berlin. I’ve had a lasting affection for Kings of Convenience, which made it even more exciting when I heard KoC lead singer Erlend Øye’s new project. Øye has dove headfirst into an entirely original form of electro-dance music. His unique vocals fraternize perfectly with the band’s funk guitar lines, smooth keyboard melodies and dance-heavy bass and drums grooves. After the set ended, Øye came out to slap hands with the remaining fans, sing a few lines with them, and proudly wave the German flag that was tossed to him. MySpace|Website
#5 – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear put other artists to shame with their voluptuous 4-part harmonies. The sounds created a thick atmosphere drenched in their deeply textured psychedelic pop. The audience was moved and accepted the invitation into their sonicly rich world. MySpace|Website
#6 – Passion Pit
One of the best synth-pop band out there electrified their audience as the sun dropped over the mountains in Indio on Friday. Offering their realm of highly danceable pop grooves, Passion Pit glimmered and soared. The blissed out crowd reciprocated with elation-filled singing and tumbling exuberance. MySpace|Website
#7 – Phoenix
Phoenix’s sparkling indie-pop has clearly taken the U.S. by storm. Their infectious set on Sunday was packed as Coachella-goers drank in the energetic performance by France’s new sensation. Crowds sang along, danced hard, and demonstrated unabashed love for Phoenix. The band’s lighting designer got caught up in flight delays in Europe but no need when you have an engaging Thomas Mars writhing on stage and getting down into the audience to sing the set’s closer. MySpace|Website
#8 – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ hippy, communal vibe and jubilant feel-good tunes created the perfect soundtrack for Coachella on Saturday. The band took their audience on a magical trip into their realm of love, hope, and happiness and for the trippers I saw, it couldn’t get any better. The female vocalists surfed the crowd in short dresses and the tangible intimacy between Alex and Jane could be felt no matter how far back one might have been. MySpace|Website
#9 – LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy’s disco-tinged, dance-punk, David Byrne-recalling set on the main stage of Coachella Friday night magnified the impact of his imaginative musical world. Murphy was egoless, at points even apologetic, inspiring the audience to equally let down their hair and let go of self-consciousness. The band consistently wowed those ready to dance with heavy synth and explosive drum fills, ridden by Murphy’s smart, lyrical meanderings. MySpace|Website
#10 – Jónsi
Jónsi’s uplifting sounds created the perfect daytime set at Coachella. The exclusion of the fantastical theatre set and projections that accompany the rest of his spring tour enabled fans to focus on Jónsi’s pure musical gift. Flawless falsetto, glistening crescendos, and orchestral embellishments washed over the crowd as the sun warmed them. MySpace|Website
#11 – Pretty Lights
Colorado sent their best and brightest to Coachella to incite audiences with cutting-edge dance beats, heavy funk grooves, diverse hip-hop samples, and eletro psychedlia. It went off. Who cares if it’s daytime when you’re in the Sahara tent dancing to Derek Vincent Smith’s sonic intuition coming to life coupled with the venue’s over-the-top lights, lasers, projections, LED screens and surround sound speakers. MySpace|Website
#12 – Vampire Weekend
The band’s energetic, youthful enthusiasm and deft musicianship infused their performance, which drew on favorites from both of the group’s records. The highlight of the set came when Ezra Koenig shared his love of screaming by encouraging the audience to just let it all go and join in as he shrieked the chorus of “Blakes Got A New Face.” MySpace|Website
#13 – La Roux
La Roux’s set in the Gobi tent might have been the most packed performance of the weekend next to Florence And The Machine. The young crowd went wild for Eleanor Jackson’s synth-driven dance-pop and sugar-sweet vocals. MySpace|Website
#14 – Jay-Z
Classic beats, Jay-Z’s smooth stylings, his evident love for his fans, an unannounced cameo from Beyoncé, and spectacular visual backdrops made for stellar entertainment Friday eve. Just the kind of set you’d expect from the first hip-hop headliner ever at Coachella. MySpace|Website
#15 – Hot Chip
U.K’s electro-pop ambassadors created a massive dance party on Coachella’s Outdoor Stage on Saturday. “It’s our third time at Coachella,” Alexis Taylor told the crowd, “and this is the most fun we’ve ever had.” The high-energy set, based mostly on the group’s latest release, One Life Stand (2010), wove the band’s synth explorations within elegantly placed samples all topped by Taylor’s pastel-colored vocals. MySpace|Website
#16 – Pavement
The legendary indie rockers played one of their first sets in 11 years, proving both their legitimacy and renewed energy. The show was filled with self-effacing humor, dynamic favorites from their vast catalog, and plenty of moments that reminded the audience of what they’d been missing in the 00′s. The set was a redeeming one as many fans consider their performance at Coachella #1 in 1999 as one of the worst Pavement sets ever resulting from the band being burned out and annoyed with each. Plus Stephen Malkamus almost lost his voice from allegedly scorching his throat on a bad-bong hit. MySpace|Website
#17 – MGMT
MGMT have emerged in 2010 as one of the most eccentric band’s on the indie scene with their new release Congratulations (2010). While the audience wasn’t as familiar with the new material, the band didn’t care as they tore through a set of psychedelic wanderings, melodic detours, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies with unabashed ardor. While certainly bizarre, it was hard not to respect the band’s dedication to their evolving sound. MySpace|Website
#18 – Gossip
Beth Ditto might have been the ultimate diva at Coachella despite her stiff competition, namely from Little Boots’ Victoria Hesketh. Ditto controlled the crowd with her powerhouse vocals, enchanting self-assurance, and unabashed elation. The appropriate response? Grin ear-to-ear and dance along with her. MySpace|Website
#19 – The Avett Brothers
The Avett’s played a moving set of tunes to an enamored audience soon after the gates opened on Friday. Closing with “I and Love and You”, the band invited the crowd to sing along and sent the audience on their way wrapped in their heartfelt lyrics. MySpace|Website
#20 – Little Dragon
Sweden’s Little Dragon gave off their bizarre sounds topped by Yukimi Nagano’s sultry vocals to sweet response. Filled with synth, ambient noises, and multi-layered musical explorations all backed by a steady beat, the Gobi tent relented, entering their strange world and keeping in the groove. MySpace|Website
Pretty soon those of us in Indio will be submerged within some of the hottest sounds coming out now. Below are Lux’s picks for Coachella 2010. Sets of top priority include Thom Yorke, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Pretty Lights, Hot Chip, Fever Ray, Passion Pit, Ra Ra Riot, Beach House, Dirty Projectors, Delphic, Jonsi, Phoenix, MGMT and Rusko.
Ahh, SXSW. This 4-day conference and music festival has taken over as my favorite event of the year. Nowhere else can you experience the sheer quantity of quality artists, both high profile and emerging, back to back, all day and night long. Checking schedules for the day parties and evening showcases, running back and forth along the crowded streets between venues, wolfing down BBQ, and battling to see as much music humanly possible is the task. The reward is witnessing killer sets on intimate stages surrounded by audiences who care deeply about what is happening in music now.
Here are the 60 artists I caught this year: Band of Horses, Best Coast, Big Light, BRAHMS, Broken Bells, Broken Social Scene, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Dam-Funk, Dawes, Delorean, Dengue Fever, Diplo, Estelle, Fat Mike, First Aid Kit, Free Energy, Freelance Whales, Frightened Rabbit, Hey Champ, Hole, Holy Fuck, Japandroids, jj, Lissie, Lord T & Eloise, Macy Gray, Major Lazer, Maluca, Mayer Hawthorne & The Country, Memory Tapes, Miike Snow, Muse, Nas & Damian Marley, Neon Indian, Nick Catchdubs, Pase Rock, Phantogram, Real Estate, Rival Schools, Rogue Wave, Salem, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Sleigh Bells, Solid Gold, Stardeath & White Dwarves, Stars of Track and Field, Street Sweeper Social Club, Surfer Blood, The Antlers, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, The Black Keys, The Glitch Mob, The Low Anthem, The Walkmen, The xx, Titus Andronicus, Tobacco, and Uffie, and Yourself and The Air.
Now for the highlights…
Broken Bells Hometown: New York, NY
The band’s first performance at SXSW was in a parking garage across from Stubb’s as part of AOL Spinner’s pop-up show series. It was completely epic to see the band perform in such an obscure spot. Bizarrely enough, the sound was sonically blissful. James Mercer and Dangermouse along with their explicitly skilled band played some of the best music I’ll hear all year. Their woozy, psychedelic pop sounds even better live than on record. MySpace | Website
Nas & Damian Marley Hometown: New York, NY / Kingston, Jamaica
The smoky haze and resulting vibe in Emo’s Main Room was the perfect environment for skilled hip-hop lyricist Nas to ride atop the all-for-love energy of Damian Marley’s and his band. The gorgeous sounds of resounding djembe, female back up vocalists, and the Marley legacy contrasted with the Nas’ rhapsodic power felt legendary. Look out for their upcoming album, Distant Relatives. MySpace | MySpace
Band of Horses Hometown: Seattle, WA
The magic of Band of Horses dense musical glory was surely felt in Stubb’s on Thursday evening. The band seems to be at the height of their live performance and I recommend catching them now. MySpace | Website
Broken Social Scene Hometown: Toronto, Canada
I caught two sets by BSS, one at Stubb’s and the second at The Parish as part of the Arts & Crafts Showcase. The gorgeous complexity of their music was awing at Stubb’s and they played a large array of tracks off their forthcoming album Forgiveness Rock Record. The Parish proved to be an entirely intimate experience as I suspected. The energy inside the 425 cap room as the band announced their plan to play a 2.5-hour set was infinitely special. Kevin Drew asked the crowd to put down their cell phones and cameras and to exist with him and the band in the moment. “Just enjoy the music,” encouraged Drew. They played songs live for the first time, created suspense regarding “unknown” guests (The Beauties from Toronto), and strummed through an array of classic BSS songs in a wholly raw fashion. By the end of the night, there were only 150 left in the room, making it feel as though we were catching an early career performance. MySpace | Website
The Black Keys Hometown: Akron, OH
I had yet to be converted into a Black Keys fan until I ended up on Mohawk Patio for the band’s MOG party performance. Halfway through the 75 minute set, I was a true believer. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s impeccable musicianship and moving bluesy rock imbued with tangible metal influences produced one of the most exciting moments of my 2010 SXSW experience. MySpace | Website
Hometown: Devon, England
The British prog-pop stars played MySpace’s “Secret” SXSW Show at Stubb’s on Saturday night. Big energy from a big band that I never thought I’d see live, especially in a 3000 capacity outdoor setting. Epic. MySpace | Website
First Aid Kit Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
This Swedish female folk duo was more special than I could have imagined live. Sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg accompanying their impassioned vocal harmonies with guitar and synth as they played through woodsy song from their recent album, The Big Black & The Blue (2010), was an epic treat. Sweden is currently producing incredibly innovative and relevant music. MySpace
Neon Indian Hometown: Austin, TX
I hadn’t yet joined the swarms exclaiming about Neon Indian, but after their psychedelic indoor set as part of the Pitchfork/Windish party at Emo’s JR, my opinion shifted. The band’s dance electro wanderings are more poignant than I had imagined. MySpace
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark
Potentially one of my favorite finds at SXSW, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour from Denmark, provided an entirely captivating experience on the Billboard outdoor stage. Not only is Mette Lindberg likely the hottest performer in her Nordic country, but her rich and boisterous voice triumphantly meets her alluring stage appeal. As my brother aptly stated, it’s Parliament Funkadelic in blonde waif form. MySpace
Hey Champ Hometown: Chicago, IL
Another lucky find came in the form of Hey Champ. I was immediately lifted by the electro-synth-dance-rock trio’s boundless energy. The set was filled with impeccable drumming and dramatic interplay onstage and with their aggressively exuberant audience. MySpace | Website
Free Energy Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
I only caught a couple songs from Free Energy, but I got it right away. Love their form of hook-laden rock that’s both glammy and classic. The explosiveness of the entire band yelling of “Bang Bang Pop Pop!” and lead singer Paul Sprangers shaping the curves of a female figure in the air while singing “cherry lips and long hair” is a lasting memory. I’m craving more. MySpace
Freelance Whales Hometown: Queens, NY
While I like the tracks I’ve heard from the band’s studio album, Weathervanes (April 2010), significantly more than what I experienced live inside the Paste party at the Galaxy Room, it was certainly a treat to catch a band that we’ll be hearing a lot from over the next year. Their pop-driven folk rock with its precarious arrangements has lasting appeal. Together the fivesome created interlocking rhythmic patterns beneath lush textural layering and group vocals. The band used whatever musical gadgets they could get their hands on during the set including harmonium, banjo, glockenspiel and water phone on top of synthesizers, guitars, bass and drums. Did anyone else hear the lead singer say that it’s not such a good idea to roll in Austin as sweat was pouring down his face? MySpace | Website
Big Light Hometown: San Francisco, CA
I managed to see around 45 bands by the time I caught Big Light’s set on the Galaxy Room’s patio. Their raging set of thoughtful indie-driven rock outshone many of the hyped artists performing over the weekend. It won’t be long before this incredible group gets its just due. MySpace | Website
Estelle Hometown: London, England
It was high on my list to see this Brit soul-rapper live and the set was worth the effort. Estelle was super high energy as she went off about cheating boyfriends and made sure the audience was enjoying themselves, including playfully threatening to come down into the crowd if it appeared anyone wasn’t having fun. She raged her hit song “American Boy” and deftly covered Coldplay’s “God Put A Smile On Your Face”. MySpace | Website
Hole Hometown: Los Angeles/London
Courtney Love is another artist I never thought I’d see live. I managed to catch Hole’s first live show in over a decade as part of the SPIN party at Stubb’s. Love’s girl garage rock unexpectedly seemed rather relevant despite the hiatus and he looked more attractive and alive that I could have imagined. Her stage banter was raucous as usual. She introduced her 2nd to last song as being the kind of song you write when you’re getting off dope and got righteously pissed off when she found out they only had time for one more. At the closing of the set she apologized to the audience for not stage-diving, saying she was too elderly!! Hilarious. MySpace | Website
Miike Snow Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Miike Snow’s performance on the Galaxy Room Patio was truly the most out of this world show I experienced at SXSW. It’s difficult to know what to make of the combination of potent, layered synth-heavy electro topped with highly emotive, hippy-folk vocals, but the experience is one to be had. MySpace | Website
Tobacco Hometown: Parts Unknown
I stumbled in on Black Moth Super Rainbow’s frontman Tom Fec (aka Tobacco) performing a gem performance at Emo’s Annex as part of IODA’s day party. Ironically, a highly talented girl on synth contributed more than half of what was so compelling about Tobacco’s set. The duo is a must see for those moved by glitchy, synth heavy electronica. MySpace
Stars of Track and Field Hometown: Portland, OR
This band has been one of my favorites since 2007 and I catch them as often as I can, which unfortunately is quite infrequent due to their spurts of inactivity. The band played their best version of highly layered indie rock within The Parish on Saturday night. I’m consistently amazing at the vastness of sound that comes from this trio. I get completely lost inside. MySpace
Frightened Rabbit Hometown: Selkirk, Scotland
I’m as taken as most by this folk rock band from Scotland and their urgent songs dealing with emotional turmoil. The effect of Scott Hutchinson’s plaintive and passionate vocals is devastating The quality of sound in the Galaxy Room during their appearance at the Paste party left much to be desired, but the band’s raw spirit came through. MySpace | Website
Titus Andronicus Hometown: Glen Rock, NJ
A more raw, ruthless, energetic, and punk form of Bright Eyes is how I might best describe Titus Andronicus. Kept trying to leave their set to check out the next show, but Titus kept drawing me back in with their defiant vocals, heavily distorted guitars, and rambunctious, I don’t give a f**k attitude. MySpace | Website
Phantogram Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Within the gorgeous IFC studio with its vibe-inducing blue-lighted backdrop (designed by Niki Eways of Nikipedia), the girl/boy, synth/guitar duo created another reality with their downtempo trip-hop for the intimate 50-person crowd. MySpace
Street Sweeper Social Club Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
SSSC’s is Tom Morello’s best project to date since his days with Rage Against The Machine. The band had all the energy and attitude of Rage with Boots Riley from The Coup turning it hip-hop style. The crowd was rowdy, just as they should have been, and Morello’s guitar skills were jaw-dropping as always. MySpace | Website
Major Lazer Hometown: Jamaica (hmm…)
I knew Major Lazer was a nationwide sensation, but give it to SXSW to enable me on a whim to experience that up close and personal. Honestly it was the spectacle of hypeman Skerrit Bwoy jumping around and his hot bikini clad counterpart Mimi doing things such as bouncing her butt in a tri-pod headstand that took the set to its ultra-high level. Unfortunately, no Switch. MySpace | Website
Diplo Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
After the Major Lazer set, I caught Diplo at the Mad Decent/I HEART COMIX/Jelly NYC After Party. The affair was dying by the time I’d arrived, but Diplo had it going on. Packing his back to get on a 7am flight while intermittently joining the DJ on hand and shooting his finger in the air and at the crowd to pick the energy back up was insane. Yep, Diplo’s ultra cool. MySpace
And here are the artists I’m bummed to have missed, but you can’t see everything at SXSW, though you might try: Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives, Oh No Ono, Fanfarlo, Bachlorette, Wye Oak, Ortolan, Rafter, The Very Best, Javelin, Jookabox, Anais Mitchell, Joshua James, The Black Angels, Pretty Lights, Passion Pit DJs, Diamond Rings, Washed Out, Twin Sister, Matt Morris, Beats Antique, The Cool Kids, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Lights, Evan Dando, Chiddy Bang, Snoop Dogg, Stone Temple Pilots, Chamillionaire.
Made it out to both days of the Monolith Festival. Crushing acts were Phoenix, Passion Pit, and Chromeo. Sets were packed and dance heavy. Phoenix’s electrifying Sunday performance on the main stage set them up to be huge in Colorado and beyond. Chance had it that MSTRKRFT cancelled, leaving the 2nd to last main stage slot open. Certainly feels fated that Phoenix played for the most sizeable audience of the weekend. Their lightning speed rise has been incredible to follow. Passion Pit’s surging set confirmed that the eletro pop craze is on. And Chromeo’s sex-saturated synth funk throw down triggered a dance freak-out from the crowd and had everyone smiling hard.
New favorites included OK Go (finally saw them live after all that YouTube hype), Health, The Walkmen, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Woodhands, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and The Royal Bangs. Great to see Stars of Track and Field again after they took most of 2008 off. Other sweet catches included Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Grates, Tigercity, and Danielle Ate The Sandwich. The eletronica was also pumping with choice acts The Glitch Mob, Savoy, and Beats Antique.
The setting of Red Rocks couldn’t have been more beautiful and the bands knew and recognized it.