The first weekend of Coachella 2012 closed out last night with a staggering resurrection of gangsta rap in the hands of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who delivered a 90-minute set that recreated that classic era of West Coast hip-hop.
“We’ve been boogying together for 20 years,” Dre declared, though for too many of the last several years, the hip-hop icon and producer has been away from the stage. Back in action on Sunday, Dre looked like a new man, buffed out and in charge, while Snoop wore a medallion for Bob Marley and smoked one spliff after another. There were cameos from Eminem, 50 Cent and many others, and before the night was over, even the late Tupac Shakur was looking good, appearing as an Obi-Wan-style hologram to duet with Snoop on “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.”
The set opened with the duo rising slowly from the stage, very much like Jay-Z’s dramatic entrance as a Coachella headliner in 2010. But the model for Snoop and Dre’s set seemed much closer to Prince’s in 2008, when he brought out a big supporting cast that included Sheila E and members of the Time to the desert festival. A smiling 50 Cent pounded through “P.I.M.P.,” and Eminem joined in for “Forgot About Dre.” Snoop was in top form on a tight “Gin and Juice” and a Wiz Khalifa-assisted “Young, Wild & Free,” and he even ripped through several lines from House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” sounding like the song was his all along. Following a vintage clip of Frank Sinatra crooning “L.A. Is My Lady,” the duo dove into a thundering “California Love,” still the apex of a period when Dre was both king and kingmaker.
At the Drive-In returned to action with their chaotic hard-rock sound, layered guitars and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s explosive vocals intact. Playing in front of the image of a vintage boom box, the El Paso quintet looked and sounded just as they did before imploding nearly a dozen years earlier, from the intense “Enfilade” to the radio hit “One Armed Scissor,” which closed the hour-long set. “OK, take a shower,” Bixler-Zavala instructed fans at the end.
Before Aviici closed out the Sahara tent for the weekend, fellow DJ-producer Calvin Harris instigated a pulsating dance-pop melee. The Scottish star broke out last fall with his production work on Rihanna’s latest album, Talk That Talk, so it was only fitting when the singer joined Harris onstage to perform their smash hit single, “We Found Love,” and follow-up “Where Have You Been?” Harris ended the set by playing his soulful new track, “Feel So Close,” to rapturous mayhem.
The DJ known as Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) played an ecstatic set that was more like a party, stapling together only the best bits and pieces of pop, rock and rap from the last three decades – a Springsteen vocal, a Tone Loc beat, a Ramones chant and an Adele performance stretched and chopped into a weird electronic beat. The stage was packed with a crowd of volunteer dancers, and as Girl Talk bounced in a hoodie and white headband, while streams of toilet paper, confetti and balloons tumbled over a dancing crowd.
In their first appearance at Coachella in seven years, the Hives returned with excited garage-rock and hilarious self-regard from singer Pete Almqvist, who shouted, “I love you people! Do you love me?” The band arrived in black-and-white top hat and tails, mixing charged riff-rock with cheeky melody on new songs like “Wait a Minute” and decade-old standards like “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Almqvist hopped around the stage, repeatedly leaned into the crowd and introducing “Tick Tick Boom” by explaining, “The words are about blowing things up. Don’t worry, the music is still about fucking!”
One of the day’s most thrilling rock sets erupted beneath a cloudless sky from Wild Flag on the Outdoor stage, as singer-guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony ripped up songs from the band’s 2011 self-titled debut. From the intense frazzle of “Boom” to the anxious keyboard bounce of “Future Crimes,” Brownstein was a punk rock dynamo, swinging her guitar across the stage while keyboardist Rebecca Cole and drummer Janet Weiss added warm, scratchy harmony vocals.
In the Gobi tent, former Black Flag leader Greg Ginn stood alone onstage with an electric guitar, Theramin and other electronic gadgets to deliver a blast of uncompromising instrumental skronk and melody. Next door in the Mojave tent, Wild Beasts were bold and shimmering, with quietly chiming guitars and falsetto vocal on “Loop the Loop” and a mocking “All the King’s Men.”
Florence and the Machine were all warmth and affection, sending waves of sultry sound and pop hooks to a huge crowd spread far across the festival’s polo fields. “Never Let Me Go” was a wounded torch song set to piano and harp, while the set-closing “Shake It Out” was introduced by singer Florence Welch with a joyous dedication: “This is for everyone who had an amazing time this weekend and doesn’t regret a thing.”
Additional reporting by Dan Hyman