For Los Angeles bands, Coachella is almost a hometown gig, despite its distance in miles and mind-set from the city. During the Silversun Pickups' performance on the main stage Friday afternoon, singer Brian Aubert told the crowd that the band has been on the road for a long time, but now it was back home.
The Brits, on the other hand, can seem like an exotic species dropped into the desert hothouse, where they mock ("'Ow can you not be in a good mood?" the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner asked the crowd, daring them not to enjoy the setting) or marvel (their Sheffield homeboy Jarvis Cocker was fascinated by the trucks that spray water on the ground to prevent dust, noting during his set at the Outdoor Theatre that it's the inverse of the problems they face at rain-plagued British festivals).
In one five-hour stretch on Friday, two L.A. groups and two from Britain alternated on the festival's main stage, a centerpiece sequence that summarized Coachella's knack for presenting bands at a point of notable emergence, transition or rebirth.
Even the least dramatic of these, the Arctic Monkeys' return to action in support of their second album, is a much-watched enterprise, since the young band was accorded such acclaim with its debut last year.
The quartet's show was a resounding affirmation that it's a band to be taken seriously for the long haul. The new collection, "Favourite Worst Nightmare," isn't as emotionally embracing as the debut, but performing tunes from both, Turner sang vivid accounts of youthful longing and confusion with a voice packed with character.
The Los Angeles band that preceded them, the Silversun Pickups, is writing a success story of its own, riding a surge that's taken it from indie recordings and shows in Silver Lake bars to rock radio airplay for its song "Lazy Eye" and a rapidly rising profile.
Its Coachella set will be logged as a major momentum-accelerator, as the foursome won the crowd with a humble but confident manner and music that conjures majesty from a simple, guitar-focused foundation. This might be its biggest show ever, but Aubert acted like a festival pro, taking his guitar to the far ends of the stage, and singing with a Fogerty-like intensity.
The return of Coachella perennial Perry Farrell (he's played all but one) came with the restless performer's new outfit Satellite Party. He remains an impish, Dionysian figure in this edition of his quest to mix the exotic, erotic and ecstatic, but he's come back to a rock format, allowing a crowd-pleasing run through of "Stop," a favorite from his old band Jane's Addiction.
Finally, Friday's first set to enjoy the cover of darkness came from the influential Jesus and Mary Chain, whose highly anticipated reunion did everything it should have. Feisty brothers Jim and William Reid were back together but never visibly acknowledged one another, and when William attacked his guitar it sounded as if he were exposing the grinding bowels of the earth. He also summoned some of that famous feedback.
Jim, looking tense but determined, sang their dark, soaring songs with deadpan concentration.and conviction, and their one new song contained an image-shattering couplet: "I don't want to fry/I don't want to die."
A Coachella moment to remember.
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