Festival-goers find kinship in desert

Special to The Times

"Did everyone see a show today you're going to remember the rest of your lives?"

That wasn't an unfair question from indie-rapper Aesop Rock, addressing a Sunday night crowd at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He wasn't performing on the main stage, but the New Yorker clearly understood it's not headliners alone that make the annual festival in the desert a worthwhile destination for connoisseurs of rock, hip-hop and dance music.

Fans also have come to trust Coachella as a place to sample a sometimes overwhelming range of rising new acts. And just like the opening day's lineup (with the Raveonettes, the Kills, etc.), Sunday offered a memorable series of sounds passionate and quirky, from the perfect pop of Tegan & Sara and Aesop's riveting beats to an unexpected cabaret-punk rendition of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" by the Dresden Dolls.

Not every performance Sunday will be remembered for the rest of anyone's life. But there is a reason fans make plans to attend Coachella even before a lineup has been announced: the confidence that they'll get searing new sounds by cutting-edge artists and face time with this season's buzz bands and aspiring next big things.

Kasabian stepped up from its recent underwhelming Los Angeles show with a performance that was explosive and a much more convincing sales pitch for its retro Manchester psychedelia. The songwriting hooks need some refining within its otherwise fully realized sound, but the band delivered an hour set that at least explained some of the hype back in England.

One Sunday highlight was Tegan & Sara, twin sisters from Canada who have mastered a stirring blend of indie rock, folk and pop, with slashing acoustic guitars and words of deep emotion and searching.

Another good sign: As Tegan & Sara's set rolled on, their crowd grew larger and larger.

The Fiery Furnaces greeted the midafternoon sun with eccentric pop experimentation, even if it didn't always translate for the uninitiated in the open space at Coachella. But songs unfolded quickly, like a jagged, playful kaleidoscope of early punk, both minimal and strange, as singer Eleanor Friedberger stamped her foot and barely paused between lyrics.

The Bravery played to a packed audience in the Mojave tent, performing songs from its namesake debut album, including the radio hit "Honest Mistake." They were led by singer Sam Endicott, resplendent in spiky pompadour and a black motorcycle jacket he kept on for most of the sweltering set, even as the band's laptop wilted in the heat, causing some delays in the performance early on.

It was more rehash from the '80s (think the Smiths and the Cure), but the sometimes-gloomy pop was always energetic and eager to connect, if not quite something for the ages.

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