Shortly after the xx wrapped its set on Saturday, hundreds of tiny speckles of light filled the sky.
Like lightening bugs, they floated higher in the sky. And then they took focus, forming themselves into a myriad of shapes and objects -- a ribbon, a cube and the famous carousel that frames the Empire Polo Field.
That's when it became clear this wasn't your father's light show but a dazzling display of programmed drones.
Not many acts can use Coachella's gigantic platform to make their debut in the U.S.
But that's just what the Avalanches did Friday evening when the reclusive Australian outfit — which reunited last year to release "Wildflower," its first album in more than 15 years — brought its jubilant disco-pop to a tightly packed Mojave tent.
"First U.S.A. show ever!" one of the band's vocalists crowed, and he may have been more pumped than the audience.
On record, the Avalanches are known for stitching together hundreds of tiny samples to create lush new tracks — basically a shinier, happier version of what DJ Shadow (who's also on this year's Coachella bill) perfected on his landmark 1996 album "Endtroducing....."
Here, though, the Australian group bulked up its careful studio productions with two vocalists, two guitarists and a live drummer.
There's a new, secret tiki bar at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, you just have to find it.
Goldenvoice food and beverage director Nic Adler teamed with the bartenders at PDT (Please Don't Tell) in Manhattan, New York, to open a 35-person bar in the general admission area. Its name: PDTiki.
Drinks run about $15 and are the type of libations you'll want to sip in 85-degree weather. The Indian Summer is made with Jameson whiskey, rum, Giffard creme de banana, lemon, lustau palo cortado sherry, pineapple gum syrup and nocino.
On Friday afternoon, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee enthusiastically took in a performance by Francis and the Lights, the mysterious pop eccentric known for his collaborations with Kanye West and Bon Iver. (A short version of Francis' very appealing act: The herky-jerk dance moves of David Byrne combined with Steve Winwood's white-soul vocals.)
Next to Lee in the Gobi tent: Benny Blanco, the in-demand producer and songwriter who's worked with Maroon 5 and Ed Sheeran.
One great thing about getting to Coachella early: You can be lazy as heck or as lit as you like, and there will be music to accompany it.
On the Outdoor Stage, Mac DeMarco was genial and goofy as he played a suave set of hipster-Steve-Miller-lite rock. But don't be fooled by his banter — there's plenty of rock-solid songwriting underneath, as his big, devoted crowd would certainly attest to.
His new album "This Old Dog" finds him growing up a bit — or at least, getting wizened and laughing about it with his longtime fans.
When Sampha walked on stage for his set in the Mojave tent, he wore a green quilted jacket with "Peacemaker" written on the back. One could question the wisdom of wearing a coat in the Coachella afternoon heat, but the message was welcome — these are divisive times, and we could all use a little peacemaking.
For the packed house in the tent, however, it was already a love-in. Sampha's new LP, "Process," is the culmination of years of work, as he has slowly built a reputation as one of the most inventive yet emotionally meaningful singer-songwriter-arrangers working today. The Drake co-signs certainly helped, but by now his voice clearly stands alone.
Songs like "Timmy's Prayer" and "Under" have a heartfelt sincerity, but Sampha never lets it rest at that. He dices up electronics, live percussion and his fleet piano playing into a sound that's completely modern but would be recognizable to '60s soul heroes as a kindred spirit. With hard-kicking drums and smooth synths from Chicago house, slow-swaying balladry from Marvin Gaye and a quintessentially British loneliness, he pulled from everywhere and sounded like nothing else going today.
Guitars aren't as visible at Coachella as they once were, but the instrument plays a central role in the music of Seattle's Tacocat, which brought its fuzzy-jangly pop-punk to the festival's new (and gloriously air-conditioned) Sonora tent on Friday.
If the sound was old-fashioned, though, the songs weren't, as singer Emily Nokes demonstrated when she introduced Tacocat's song "The Internet" as one about "really sad dudes" who post creepy things about women online.