Who was Sunday's
If the answer is the former, it's indisputably
Or it might have been the English neo-house duo Disclosure, whose sprawling Outdoor Stage set absolutely beat Arcade Fire's in numbers during the few songs the two overlapped (and more to come on their set, which featured a cameo from Mary J. Blige, later).
The true headliner Sunday was dance music in general, which should be cause for reflection about how Coachella organizes its top billings in the future.
Arcade's Fire's set was absolutely fine for a headliner. They opened with an appropriately doom-disco take on "Reflektor" with a bevy of Haitian drummers. It was a nice reminder that dance music almost always sounds better onstage when it's coming from a big band, immaculately mixed. Older cuts like "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and "Rebellion (Lies)" benefited from the new interest in floor-filling -- also seen in a Debbie Harry cameo on the band's cover of
Win Butler induced a few groans when he lamented Coachella's turn to "VIP tent [rubbish]. Don't worry, it super sucks back there." (Tell that to the patrons of the midfield bathrooms around 8 p.m. any given night after triple-digit heat.) But Arcade Fire's second Coachella headlining set did underline its status as maybe the most significant live rock band to emerge from North America in the 2000s.
But by any other metric, Harris and Disclosure and dance music in general had the day's momentum. As soon as the last strains of Neutral Milk Hotel faded from the Outdoor Stage, fans threw themselves at the open field to the first chords of Harris' "Feel So Close." They kept coming, waves after waved of glow-sticked-bodies filling out the lawn until it was an ocean of raised hands. The tents nearby may as well have been claims-adjustor offices for all the action they saw.
Harris' set didn't deliver any huge surprises -- a half-run of "We Found Love," a big chunk of "Sweet Nothings," some odds and ends from around the EDM card here. But the sensation of rave action seemed to dog-whistle to the crowd here. So many fans obviously had some pent-up, big-field raving instincts that had gone unmet until then, and at the first opportunity they dived right in.
What does this mean for how future Coachellas should organize? Should they behave more like 2012's
Taken in part with this year's pop inclinations (in one lap around the field, I heard Lorde's "Royals,"
True ravers can always go to Electric Daisy or HARD, but it's obvious that mainstream dance music fans have essentially colonized Coachella as well. Now it's a question of what to do about that -- beat them or join them?