While most attendees were still smuggling their stashes past security at the front gates on Coachella’s Day One, math-rock outfit Battles had a large, vocal crowd enraptured at the Gobi tent with their pounding single “Atlas.” Battles are more concerned with complex rhythms than melody, and with a pumped festival crowd feeding off their energy, the band effortlessly locked into curious, mind-blowing grooves, turning what can come off on record as slightly joyless exercises in syncopated songwriting into something spectacular and energetic, like a dancey, mutant Rage Against the Machine.
A tent away, the Black Kids were proving that they’re rapidly growing into the band their early buzz promised they would become. The Jacksonville, Florida five-piece’s Motown-garage jangle came off as robust and charming in the mid-afternoon heat. The band got the crowd moving to single “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” a bit of poppy disco-rock that brings out the Robert Smith in frontman Reggie Young’s yelpy voice, and hit their peak on “Look at Me When I Rock With You” as Youngblood took a break from ripping out smooth-toned guitar flourishes to sling his instrument off his shoulder and boogie. Back at the Gobi tent, Dan Deacon took the stage — or rather, the floor just in front of it — and smashed away at his keyboard as walls of synth noise kept the kids jumping around to no particular rhythm, while at the Outdoor Theatre, Les Savy Fav frontman Tim Harrington scaled the scaffolding and threatened to jump, to the delight of his fans and dismay of security (he didn’t make the leap).
Meanwhile a modest (and slightly older) crowd gathered at the main stage to watch the Breeders play “some songs from Pod, some songs from Last Splash, Title TK and Mountain Battles,” as Kelley Deal put it. “I can feel it,”Kim Deal intoned as the band kicked into “Overglazed,” the triumphantly droning opening track on their latest LP, Mountain Battles, before she swiftly stopped the band, announcing, “We couldn’t feel it, let’s start it again.” The band was in perfect frazzled harmony, and Kim Deal sang with a lackadaisical ease on everything from the Amps’ “Tipp City” to Last Splash‘s bouncy “Divine Hammer,” letting her vocals slip behind the beat on choruses. In a black T-shirt and jeans despite the blazing temperatures, the Pixies bassist traded barbs with her sister (outfitted in a bright yellow tee) as though setting the scene for the next pair of bickering siblings that would take that stage, Tegan and Sara. “Am I too loud? Are you looking at me because I’m too loud?” asked Kelley. “What part of you — your mouth or your guitar,” Kim replied. A new song, “Bang On,”had Kim musing, “I love no one/and no one loves me,” and not sounding too bothered by the concept, and the sisters later traded verses on the Beatlesâ’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” delivering the song deliberately flatly, like a fried Lennon and McCartney. After picking up an acoustic guitar for an impressively explosive “New Year,” Kim grabbed the distortion mike and launched into “Cannonball,” a song so infectious it even coaxed a cadre of immobile potheads lounging on a blanket to their feet. The moment could have convinced you it was 1994, until Kim gestured at the red-haired guitarist on her right and announced, “That’s Cheryl. She’s from Florida. We found her on Craig’s List.”
The crowd at the main stage swelled considerably before Canadian twins Tegan and Sara began their fifty-minute set. Tegan vamped during a slow moment by telling the story of her whooping cough, though the pair did more singing than chatting, working through older tracks like “So Jealous” and “Speak Slow” alongside newer tunes like the piano-pop “Back in Your Head” and “Floorplan,” as well as “Fix You Up,” which blossomed into a lush, heartfelt ballad that cut through the giant desert field. Sara Quin also expressed some sympathy for whoever would be performing on the next night: “I wouldn’t want to be playing when Prince plays. I’d be watching Prince, too.”
Back at the Gobi tent, British hip-hop duo Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip were rhyming in strong English accents to the Radiohead-sampling “Letter From God to Man.” “Does anyone listen to any other U.K. hip-hop other than Dizzee Rascal,” bearded MC Scroobius Pip asked the crowd. When they cheered in the affirmative, he replied, “You really shouldn’t, it’s fucking rubbish,”before kicking into “Fixed,”with the refrain “hip-hop is art.”
Two tents away, Diplo was holding court in the Sahara dance tent with a pair of giant air-propelled waving figures most commonly found at the entrances of car dealerships. After spinning M.I.A.’s “Invasion” with the repeated chant “Hands up, guns out” until it became a mesmerizing mantra, he dropped the riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the crowd erupted in a flurry of hand-waving and moving bodies (Diplo responded by yelling “California, what the fuck!” into the mike and adding Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” to the mix). A bunch of giant balloons appeared out of nowhere, and Diplo somehow found time to bat them away from his decks as his ever-moving hands fluttered across his tables.