If there's one thing that can cut through all the noise at Coachella, it's this: a huge hit.
That's not news to anyone, but it is clarifying for acts who think that the fest is a bastion of discovery and new exposure. Two acts - Chet Faker and Milky Chance - ruled the afternoon on the strength of just a few songs. But that's all you need to send the crowds tumbling over themselves to your stage.
Milky Chance is a German folk-electronica duo with a demure sound that doesn't, on the face of it, suggest a sensational appeal. But somehow, their single "Stolen Dance" struck a chord online, with its mix of throbbing electronic samples and clean electric guitar strums racking up millions upon millions of views and making insta-stars of two scruffy guys from Kassel.
FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2015
They've built out their band a bit since their U.S. breakthrough last year, but they're still not the most obvious main-stage headliner. And yet as soon as the percussive blip of "Stolen Dance" lit up the lawn, throngs of fans perked to attention and flooded the field. Singer Clemens Rehbein was clearly nursing some kind of cold, because he sounded like Tom Waits gargling roofing nails (and apologized for his condition at the end of the set).
But it wasn't a bad look. It added some authenticity and humanity to a band that succeeded in the most ephemeral online spheres. Are they built to last? Maybe. Who knows? But for Saturday afternoon, they were among the biggest stars onstage.
Chet Faker was a slightly more likely candidate for superstardom. His balmy trip-hop and electro-funk is engineered for product placement -- his single "Gold" soundtracks the new Apple MacBook ad. That's an appearance that can make a career (ask Chairlift). But Faker, born Nicholas Murphy, had much more to give than pure familiarity.
He sampled himself playing Stevie Wonder-style organ licks and patrolled the stage with the panache of a born frontman. He proved that a well-timed mood and melody is enough to vault to the biggest stages, and with tracks like "Talk Is Cheap" at the ready, he proved that electronic music doesn't need a big, dumb thump to attract massive audiences.
It's no revelation to learn that a smash single works just as well at Coachella as it does on the radio. But it's maybe something for young bands to chew on: You always need a calling card of a song to be a star here.