Review

Coachella 2015: Day 2 thrills via Ratatat, Weeknd and more

Father John Misty asked for in-person connection and, every now and then, Coachella complied

Twelve hours later, the memories from a whirlwind Day 2 at Coachella are hard to contain. Below, five moments from Saturday that are still buzzing the brain.

The Weeknd on the Coachella Stage. During R&B romanticist the Weeknd's dramatic, Twitter-busting set on the Coachella stage on Saturday night, a strange sense of déjà vu floated across the pitch. As the artist born Abel Tesfaye, his thick dreadlocks piled high on his head, opened his song "Belong to the World," those who'd seen Portishead on the same stage in 2008 had a flashback.

Featuring a nearly identical drum pattern to Portishead's "Machine Gun," which pierced the air with its intense synthetic snare snaps seven years back, "Belong to the World" presented an updated, and similarly memorable, experience. 

Too similar? Yes, according to Portishead's Geoff Barrow, who last year criticized the Weeknd for not offering proper credit. Saturday the evidence seemed obvious: the Weeknd track burned with a nearly identical intensity to Portishead's work from years back. Amid so much relentless sound, the snare-snap rhythm reveled in the spaces between the beats, embracing the silence that makes the noise bursts so resonant. 

Like FKA Twigs had just illustrated in the nearby Gobi stage, such beat and noise punctuations can do a lot. Whether stolen or borrowed, "Belong to the World" shot through the air with urgency and illustrated the creative bridges that connect past and present.

Run the Jewels in the Mojave Tent. Tension and volume ran thick as the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels busted into its hard, cuss-laden protest song "Close Your Eyes and Count to ...." As rappers Killer Mike and El-P moved through one of 2014's greatest tracks, all eyes were on the side stage. Would the guest who murdered the track-closing verse on the recorded version show up? Killer Mike rapped about prison life and the drama rose: "My solitary condition's preventing conjugal visits/ Though mainly missing my missus they keeping me from my children/ Conditions create a villain, the villain is given vision."

And then, the answer. After the explosive chorus — "Run them jewels fast!" — the team introduced Zack de La Rocha, the Rage Against the Machine vocalist whose cameo on "Close Your Eyes ..." was one of 2014's great verses. There is justice.

All that pent-up tension erupted as De la Rocha rapped of being "a fellow with melanin, suspect of a felony," moving through syllables with bullet-like pops and pauses before hitting the last line, screamed at full volume by the thousands: "The only thing that close quicker than our caskets be the factories!"

Ratatat in the Sahara Tent. Two men called Ratatat, one space packed with thousands of sparkly eyed partiers, volumes of fog and much ironic posturing. That combination proved memorable when the long-silent New York duo arrived to perform live for the first time in four years. Since its last album, "LP4," became a left-field dance-rock classic, their approach has evolved, but not drastically. 

Those smart enough to endure the ocean of people moving like panicked ants were rewarded with memorable metal-esque guitar lines, pre-programmed synthetic beats and bottom-end bass tones driving the tent to move. During the set, the New York band introduced its first new song since 2010, "Cream on Chrome."

The song is unmistakably a Ratatat track, filled with a combo of synthetics and distorted electric guitar lines that progress to create extended melodies, all punctuated by catchy rhythms designed for emotionally charged release. The heaving masses complied.

Purveyors of a logical yet still emotional mix of computer chip and electric riff, the group offered an artfully executed blend of aesthetic exploration and wink-wink arena-rock posturing courtesy of guitarist Mike Stroud. As the long-haired performer stood center stage, wind blew his hair and he posed with his ax like he was Yngwie Malmstein conquering Mt. Everest. Fog glowed red, palm trees in the distance seemed to sway with the rhythm. This is what victory looks like, people.

Joe Kay at the DoLab. Unlike years past, the annual party-within-a-party known as the DoLab isn't set in the middle of the grounds for this year's festival. Gone are the days when the masses had to pass the DJ-driven open-air dance stage to get misted on the way to  other stages. This year it's tucked away in a corner near the craft beer tent, in what could be considered the Coachella suburbs. 

Judging by DJ Joe Kay's Saturday night set, the relocation didn't hurt one bit.  Performing to a jammed dance floor of fans more drawn to intimate gatherings than the masses at the nearby Sahara Tent, Kay played deep, downtempo groove tracks, the kind that's propelled the thriving Los Angeles beat collective of which he is a key member, Soulection, to increasing worldwide attention.

While bombast reigned on the big stages, Kay went for the heart with a sure thing: Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," with a touch of bass-boost to further relax the minds. A newly lubricated fluidity rippled through the bodies as MJ sang of "a magic that must be love," and all was right in the DoLab's little corner of the world.

Father John Misty on the Outdoor Stage. While playing in front of a heart-shaped neon sign that read "No Photography," the charismatic singer offered an explanation when he sang "True Affection." A work about electronic devices and the distances they create, the artist born Josh Tillman conjured the spirit of grand entertainers like Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Diana Ross as he wandered, danced and protested frustrating smartphone interactions:

When can we talk

With the face

Instead of using all these strange devices?

Seems like

You and I

Need to have a crazy conversation

Wouldn't be that hard

Get along so well

Sentence by sentence

It's a trial run

Let me show you how

Figure I can give you true affection

As he did so, dozens in the crowd ignored the neon directive and missed the message while shooting video and texting, alternating between staring at the stage and their smartphones. In cynical moments this weekend, this typified the struggle — and view — that most artists faced: a mass of faces, many aglow in smartphone light, looking up, then down, then up again, dancing for a second, then looking down, then up, then down again. 

Still, Coachella was musky with raw affection. First (and second and third) kisses were everywhere and cuddle-puddles overflowed. Reunion hugs burst from pockets of partiers. It's just that most interludes were lighted not by strobes or mirror balls but by the glow of smartphone screens.  

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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