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20 Best Things at Coachella 2014’s Second Weekend

Surprising cameos, fun covers and the coolest recycling bin in town: the most memorable moments from Weekend Two


Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella; Koury Angelo

For two weekends every year, there is an oasis in the California desert, when the Empire Polo Club in Indio transforms into the Coachella music festival. From Skrillex, Arcade Fire and Pharrell Williams to the artisanal ice cream, our team found the 50 best parts of the festival's first week. Now, join us for 20 things we got to catch up on for weekend two. By Steve Appleford

Joseph Llanes

Most Likely to Succeed: The Bots

When Rolling Stone first witnessed the Bots on the 2011 Warped tour, they were a couple of teenage garage rockers on a small side stage making a lot of excited noise. Now the two brothers from Glendale, California are at work on a new album with the help of Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner and Justin Warfield. As the 11:30 a.m. opening act on Coachella's Outdoor Theatre, the Bots helped launch this weekend's desert gathering at maximum volume, with singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei plugged into a trio of growling vintage amps and brother Anaiah pounding an anxious beat. Facing a morning crowd of a couple thousand early risers, the Bots ripped through seven songs from their upcoming album, ending on a thrashing "Ubiquitous." Mikaiah had scrawled "HAIM" across his white T-shirt, suggesting how the Bots would spend the rest of the day — watching the rest of Coachella unfold, still fans at heart.

Koury Angelo

Best Blast from the Past: the Gabba Gabba Heys

The appearance of a Ramones tribute band at Coachella made a perverse kind of sense, recreating the sound of first-wave punk rock at its most joyful and weird, the sound that inspired so many of the punk and alternative bands at the fest — you could hear them in Ty Segall, AFI, and even the Replacements. It didn't hurt that the Gabba Gabba Heys have worked hard to resurrect not only the sound and black leather jackets of the Ramones, but the presence and posture — especially in the form of a long, skinny singer in shaggy wig as "Joey." Fans spun in a brotherly circle pit to "Rockaway Beach" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" and chanted the timeless battle cry: "Hey ho, let's go!'

Haim, Weekend 2, Coachella 2014

Koury Angelo

Most Unexpected Blues Explosion: HAIM

At the same time that Jon Spencer was delivering his wildman blues to Coachella on Friday afternoon, another blues explosion erupted from L.A.'s HAIM sisters in the form of a "jam" on the early Fleetwood Mac tune "Oh Well." Facing the first huge crowd of the day, each sister took turns soloing and wailing the immortal lyrics ("Can't sing, I ain't pretty and my legs are thin…"). As teenage rock fanatics, Alana, Danielle and Este Haim used to sneak into this SoCal desert music fest, but quickly proved this week that they could crank up the amps and rip open a stage as well as anyone.

Mogwai, Weekend 2, Coachella 2014

Koury Angelo

Best Instrumental: Mogwai

Mogwai is a band obsessed less with big hits than hitting hard, which the (mostly) instrumental did for for just under an hour on Saturday, making music that was staggeringly euphoric, loud, challenging and emotional. Mogwai unfurled its music in heavy doses at their own pace, offering an alternative brand of loudness from QOTSA on the main stage.

Broken Bells, Weekend 2, Coachella 2014

Koury Angelo

Most Sci-Fi Stage Set: Broken Bells

This project led by producer Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Shins is a generous helping of sophisticated pop and post-modern folk-rock, rooted in the traditional with one foot deep into the sounds of the future. The same went for their appearance at Coachella. Both musicians were stationed at white cockpits that could have been lifted from the Starship Enterprise as they performed dreamy tunes from the recently released After the Disco. Between them sat a silver dome-shaped device of uncertain purpose, but it looked spacey and cool as the big screen behind them flashed with scattered lights and shapes, bringing the crowd along for their own space odyssey.

Koury Angelo

Best Messiahs: The Cult

When the Cult stepped onstage Friday night, singer Ian Astbury immediately dedicated their set to Kimchi Truong, 24, a fan who died of a drug overdose while at the previous weekend's festival. "Take care of each other. Stay hydrated," Astbury insisted, wearing dark shades. "We're at the dawn of a new enlightenment."

At least since the band's hitmaking days in the Eighties, Astbury has been a believer in rock & roll as a messianic calling, and his warnings and proclamations on society and nature continue to fuel the band's music and attitude. It's the thread that connected the music of their second Coachella set, from "She Sells Sanctuary" to songs from 2012's Choice of Weapon. Guitarist and longtime musical partner Billy Duffy provided the grinding, swirling riffs, as they shared a stage blanketed in smoke and flashing lights.

Crosses, Weekend 2, Coachella

Koury Angelo

Loudest Band: †††

Combine the crushing volume of metal with the brutal beats of the darkest electronic music, and you might land at something of the overwhelming, almost hypnotic loudness of ††† at Coachella. The project of Deftones singer Chino Moreno performed with all dials cranked up, with the singer running across the stage and doubling over in joy or pain.

Sleigh Bells, Weekend 2, Coachella 2014

Koury Angelo

Most Dynamic: Sleigh Bells

From the dependably fierce vocals of singer Alexis Krauss to the flashing white panels of light behind the band, Sleigh Bells managed to be both experimental and human. "Minnie" from last year's Bitter Rivals was set to buzzing slashing guitar while "Tiger Kit" moved with sudden shifts in tempo and intensity, ending with an angry, dismissive shout of "Make like a banana and split!" The dancing never stopped.

Koury Angelo

Best Backstage Perk: Halloween Candy

While Coachella fans are in the trenches, pressing against the barricades and dancing past the midnight hour, things are a bit different backstage: air-conditioned trailers, icy tubs filled with water bottles and Heineken, motorized carts to putt you around. Most welcome and surprising has to be the small buckets filled with the same candy every kid brings home on Halloween night: lollipops, gummi bears, bubblegum, Smarties and peppermints. 

Superchunk, Weekend 2, Coachella 2014

Koury Angelo

Best Reason to Embrace the Nineties: Superchunk

Raging and infinitely tuneful, Superchunk rose from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in time for the Nineties alternative explosion, and spawned the Merge Records label, which continues to release exciting new music. The band got active again late in the last decade (they played Coachella in 2009), and today are still fully engaged with delivering buzzing riffs of straight ahead alt-rock in the form of the self-explanatory "Slack Motherfucker" beneath the chandeliers of the Gobi tent.  

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

Best Chill-Out Spot: Vertical Farming at the Caterpillar

In the past, large-scale sculptures at Coachella have involved a lot of fire and brimstone, from the Tesla coil's bolts of electricity in the early days to a metal flame-breathing dragon more recently. The furthest thing imaginable from that was this year's "Caterpillar" by Mike Grandaw, who built a huge insect-shaped sculpture using living plantlife – with palm trees for antennae and beds of flowers and other plants for its outter skin, much of it placed vertically. It was a living, breathing gathering spot for relaxing breaks away from the music stages.

Koury Angelo

Best Comeback One Weekend Later: Outkast

When a major act stumbles in the spotlight, it's a shock to everyone involved, and opening weekend at Coachella 2014 didn't go well for the reunited Outkast. Their headlining set suffered from scattered pacing, weird staging choices and a general disconnect from the fans already excited to see them. That all changed on weekend two, and the distinctive hip-hop superstars many of us remember from a decade before were back in full, free from the restrictive onstage cube of last week, opening again with an excited "B.O.B." and this time fitting in "The Whole World" with guest Killer Mike to close it out. No disappointments for miles around.

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