Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes, performs at the second weekend of the 2013 Coachella. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Las Vegas enjoyed two weeks of indie/alt-rock concert spoils, thanks to the bounty that is Coachella. But there were plenty of must-see acts on the Southern California festival’s roster that didn’t come to our neon burg — mostly because they’re jerks, or we’re jerks, or a more logistical impediment prevented it.
Here are the highlights you were denied during the event’s second weekend, which benefitted from less stormy conditions than its week-previous predecessor, as well as participants who got to hone their sets the first time around.
Nick Cave: Maybe it was having never seen the Australian singer-songwriter perform in person before. Or the dearth of storytellers and showmen at this particular festival. Or because Nick Cave, whether playing with his usual band, The Bad Seeds, or his extracurricular Grinderman outfit, is an all-or-nothing force of nature onstage. No matter the reasoning, Cave will remain the face of my Coachella 2013 experience, thanks to his epic main-stage set Sunday night with the Bad Seeds, and the spirited (and rumored to be final) Grinderman outing on Friday.
While the latter display was a full-tilt vampy blues revue that somehow combined camp and evangelism, the former merged drama, narrative, musicianship and rock ’n’ roll in a way that ought to have humbled every other Coachella performer. And lest you thought Cave’s pervy pen made it hard to take him seriously, he and the Seeds’ stirring, transcendent renditions of new songs “Jubilee Street” and “Push the Sky Away” — rounded out with a string section and the Silverlake Conservatory youth choir (endearingly decked out in “Bad Seed” tees) — ensured you came into and left the set with goose pimples.
Bat For Lashes: Natasha Khan likely has a few thousand more fans than she did two weeks ago. She is Bat For Lashes, but with a trio behind her on instrumental duties, she’s allowed to do what she does best: Cast a spell over her audience. Her voice — oh, that voice — suggests years of maturity. If her impressive range, note-perfect singing and soothing vocal tones didn’t pull you in, her undeniable charm did the trick. She sold her songs even when the compositions themselves felt light and distant; just as your attention started to drift, she was right there to lure you back in, with sometimes as little as a sustained note and a beautiful smile afterward.
Dog Blood: The Sahara dance tent — which now boasts steroidal visual accoutrements likely influenced by our own Electric Daisy Carnival — has become far too reliant on trendy, templated EDM and bass music. But there was little familiar about Dog Blood, the new project by Boys Noise and Skrillex. One couldn’t begin to account for all its remarkably transitioned tempo changes and genre flirtations (acid house! metal! breakbeats! reggae!), even within a single song. This wasn’t music for settling into a groove. But it was nonetheless a breath of fresh air, an attempt to breach the comfort zone established by the current paycheck panderers of dance music — and a rare exhibition of unpredictable and progressive big-room music at the increasingly play-it-safe festival. Skrill needs to parlay his soon-to-open Light Nightclub residency into a Dog Blood one-off Vegas gig.
Tame Impala: It’s rare that an overhyped band lives up to the blogorrhea, but the Australian quintet laid down 50 minutes of glorious, superbly crafted acid rock that improved upon its studio incarnation. Taking it up a notch were short instrumentals, mini-jams and adjoining vignettes, sometimes nearly as interesting as the actual songs, revealing a well-oiled performing band. And there was no better example of this than during their most beloved song, “Elephant,” which you thought was over by the start of a new, wah-wah-drenched hallucination … until the band easily went right back into the single’s signature chord progression.
Also: Youth Lagoon translated its headphone masterpieces astonishingly to its Friday festival audience, each of its songs an indie-prog journey combining elements of Sigur Ros (which triumphed with its own cerebral majesty over the weekend), M83, Mercury Rev and Explosions in the Sky. Father John Misty’s Sunday set introduced flippant and flamboyant folkie Joshua Tillman, a rare entertainer in the indie music world. And Franz Ferdinand, of all bands, might’ve had the sleeper set of the weekend with an exhilarating mix of reworked favorites and new tracks, one specifically incorporating the bassline and chorus from Donna Summer’s iconic “I Feel Love.”