Our mighty convoy of 13 cars idled in line on the Empire Polo Field last Thursday, the sun just beginning its all-out assault. Even though some of us had given in to the sultry temptress that was the Coachella livestream—even though we already knew the ghost of Tupac had risen again—it was 4/20 weekend and we had come to party, goddamn it. We pitched our tents, cracked beers, got naked (gotta love partying with those burners), and spent the night shuffling shit-faced to some crappy DJ set until 3 a.m. Aside from that, here are some highlights from last weekend:
Grouplove, Mojave Tent, 5:05 p.m. Friday: I was still slightly sore and hung-over from the whiskey-soaked debauchery of the night before—likely due to an incredibly lax car search, because why would a ’92 Ford Explorer with a giant purple moustache and a top hat have anything hidden in it?—when I stumbled into the Mojave Tent just in time to catch the young L.A. indie-pop band Grouplove. The crowd jumped along with keyboardist/hype-woman Hannah Hooper as she thrashed around. During “Itching On a Photograph,” everyone tried their damnedest to belt out the dizzying high notes that frontman Christian Zucconi managed to hit between his multiple jumps off the raised drum stage. When Hooper drew a huge grinning mouth on a big, white canvas with “Coachella Love” written on the teeth, it looked just like all the kids around me.
M83, Mojave Tent, 10:15 p.m. Friday: With three-fingered outstretched hands, a grotesque Alf-type alien stood alone onstage, backlit by shimmering star-like blue lights amid the sound of a slowly building drone. Then came M83’s pulse-pounding “Intro” from last year’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, drawing a deafening roar from frat-bros and tripped-out hippies alike. Like a dance-party on Mars, the entire crowd turned into a sea of sweating, roiling bodies, everyone singing wistfully for that forgotten cityscape of “Midnight City” that they'd left back home. Meanwhile, couples swayed to the French band’s synth-driven odes to teenage heartbreak, like “We Own the Sky” and “Graveyard Girl.” When the bass drum finally stopped its thunderous beating, it took a while for me to come back down to Earth.
Black Lips, Mojave Tent, 2:15 p.m. Saturday: As much hype as there was around the Refused show on Friday, Georgia’s Black Lips turned what they referred to as their “custom-made Fender Amps that are now really, really loud” all the way up to 11. Barefoot and shirtless, I danced around in a massive, skanking mosh pit that stretched the entire length of the stage, leaving my feet and back bloody. But what else was I supposed to do during the massive circle pit for “Bad Kids”? Guitarist Cole Alexander shot-gunned a beer with the sound guy. Front-man Ian St. Pe smashed his guitar into pieces after the closer “I Saw A Ghost (Lean).” Then, the two of them made out with each other. Awesome.
Jeff Mangum, Outdoor Theatre, 7:25 p.m. Saturday: This was the kind of incredible, intimate performance that's difficult to describe. With simple blue and purple lights glowing above his head, the long-dormant former Neutral Milk Hotel frontman sat alone at center stage, strumming acoustic guitars and making sun-burnt festival-goers weep hysterically. I ended up with my arms around complete strangers as we slowly swayed back and forth to “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea.” Mangum’s jarring vocal style, along with refrains like “I love you Jesus Christ,” made the show difficult to get into for people who weren’t diehard fans. He played a moving cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” and a small horn section came out for the closer, “The Fool.” But for the tightly-packed group in the front, it was a revelation. “Thank you so much Jeff!” someone yelled. “Your music changed my life!”
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Outdoor Theatre, 3:10 p.m. Sunday: Although the Outdoor Theatre was the last place I wanted to be in the scorching 100-degree heat, Seun Kuti’s driving Afrobeat jams revived my heat-stroked body and got my feet moving. Somehow able to perform in a long-sleeve shirt and long pants, the saxophonist and bandleader took command of the stage, leading his father’s famous backing band through extended jams like “Zombie.” With booty-popping back-up dancers to his right, a full brass section to his left and all kinds of percussion behind him, Kuti made it impossible not get pulled into the feeling of celebration. It sucked literally all the remaining energy out of me and I spent the better part of that day napping in between sets, but it was so worth it.