INDIO — The
The latest edition, which ran Friday through Sunday at the Empire Polo Club before repeating this weekend, had a bit of the bro about it, with performances by dub step king
Its name: Pro-chella.
Widely considered America's most glamorous festival (thanks to its scenic locale and its appeal to young Hollywood), the event in its 15th year rolled out some remarkable creature-comfort upgrades, including a reservation-only four-course dinner and a so-called beauty studio sponsored by the cosmetics maker Sephora.
The sophisticated vibe stretched to the festival's musical programming, which for the most part emphasized polish and professionalism over the scrappier spirit of rebellion that defined Coachella in its early years. Often it seemed the only grit in the Indio air was the dust that blew up Saturday as a result of high desert winds.
Some of this derived from a lineup heavy with established mainstream acts. While the festival's estimated crowd of 90,000 each weekend means it can book superstars — Prince,
There were also unannounced appearances by a smattering of A-list names: Jay Z, who rapped with his former rival
Yet even lesser-known artists brought high-end spectacle to Coachella in the form of elaborate stage productions. On Friday night, the Swedish electro-pop group the Knife performed a kind of avant-garde musical, complete with choreography, based on its album "Shaking the Habitual."
And in the Sahara tent, Coachella's hangar-sized home for electronic dance music, Martin Garrix and
For Coachella, the display was a means of ensuring its destination status in an increasingly crowded festival scene. This summer many of the acts playing in Indio — including the reunited Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast, which performed Friday night for the first time in seven years — are scheduled to hit
What better way to preserve a competitive advantage than to promise man-made extravagance amid the desert's raw beauty?
Coachella's upscale quality also reflected pop's fixation on refining old sounds. All weekend long, artists were reaching back for source material to slicken or clarify using modern technology, as Solange and Blood Orange did with the textures of 1980s-era R&B and Laura Mvula did with Nina Simone's orchestral soul.
Aloe Blacc, another Top 40 hit maker at Coachella, channeled Motown-style energy in his zippy Friday-afternoon set, for which he was backed by an airtight band in color-coordinated shirts and ties.
Not youngsters going retro but real-deal old-timers, the members of New Orleans'
Given Coachella's sprawl, there were, of course, exceptions to this finesse. New York's ASAP Ferg was rowdy and proud of it in a no-frills rap show full of macho posturing. Singer Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands sang and danced with an endearing awkwardness as his band churned out lumpy synth-rock grooves.
And for all the excitement about their return to performing,
But only Julian Casablancas used the tools of sophistication to critique lavishness itself. Playing Saturday with a new group he's calling the Voidz,
It wasn't a repudiation of the Strokes' streamlined garage pop so much as a kind of sour extension of it. Which didn't make it an easy sell: After only a few songs, a steady stream of people, evidently disappointed with the singer's harsh new sound, began filing away from the stage.
But Casablancas was OK with that. "This music was meant to alienate the right people," he said, a welcome (and thrillingly unexplained) flashback to Coachella's unruly past.