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In the middle of his band’s set during the second weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke pontificated on why the gargantuan band — infamously publicly adverse to gargantuan gestures — would play such a gargantuan festival, not once, but on two subsequent weekends. For them, it all came down to communal simplicity: “It’s a collective thing,” he said. “You… and us.”
The official reason for throwing the festival over two weekends in 2012, with the same bands booked for each, follows a similar ethos: after selling out in recent years, concert promoters Goldenvoice wanted to ensure that anyone who wanted to buy a ticket, would be able to without discomfort or crazy-high scalper prices. It’s the latest in a series of changes and improvements the festival has made over its 12 years of existence — — from expanding the grounds, to adding a third day, to a futuristic chip-embedded wristband entrance system.
And though there was something of a to-be-expected “been there, done that” vibe to the second weekend, it was of no matter to the throng of music fans — slightly thinner, but still 60,000 strong — who shelled out upwards of $285 for the repeat. They got their own Coachella moments, including a surprise sit-in by John Fogerty with The Black Keys, who performed “The Weight” in honor of the late Levon Helm, and , of course, the now notorious Tupac Shakur hologram, a rendering of the slain rapper that appeared both weekends during a high-energy set from hip-hop royalty Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
On weekend 1, the audience seemed a bit taken aback by the virtual figure; on the second, the minute Tupac’s visage appeared on the giant screens to the sides of the stage, everyone knew what was coming. Surprisingly, this didn’t detract from the excitement. Rather, nearly everyone on the field held their phone aloft and hit “record,” to prove that they, too, were there to see it (point of order: some intrepid YouTube editor should put the whole performance together from these different angles — the official version makes Tupac appear both more real, and more ghastly, than the kind of video game-ish vibe he had from the side).
Breakout acts also got a second chance to make their first big impression. Gotye, the rising star behind the huge hit “Somebody That I Used To Know,” played percussion extatically through a set that grew and grew. With his sometimes Sting-esque grooves, the overflowing tent responded enthusiastically to every song (though the singalong on the aforementioned hit was definitely the epic high point), signaling that the Aussie is likely not going to be resigned to one-hit-wonderdom.
From elsewhere across the pond, England’s Florence and the Machine are clearly poised for future headliner status as singer Florence Welch demonstrated masterfully, commanding the stage in flowing robes a la her forbear Stevie Nicks. Bluesman Gary Clark, Jr. rode buzz from the first week into a must-see performance on the second, displaying an air of impassible cool as he plucked Hendrix-referencing solos to a ravenous crowd. Swedish band The Hives, who haven’t had a hit in nearly a decade, are as rapturously high-energy as ever; even if they’re not on the radio anymore, their blast of a show here should parlay into a major tour. And rapper Azealia Banks, whose bouncy “212” is bound to be inescapable this summer, proved herself something of a fashion icon as well, wearing an over-the-top getup that would make Nicki Minaj take note — not to mention an air of confidence reminiscent of the “Super Bass” singer herself.
It was an experiment that mostly worked, although with temperatures soaring well over 100, it wasn’t always comfortable — and, given their successful history of unusual moves, perhaps Goldenvoice can figure out a fix for that issue, as well.
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