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An oasis for dance

Special to The Times

If day one of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was a huge house party for dance fans, day two was an event. The highly anticipated Coachella debut of Deep Dish, the return of Underworld and Thievery Corporation (both veterans of year one of the festival), and multiple other live performances created a heavier sense of anticipation among the fans.

As Underworld’s 8:30 p.m. start time at the Sahara tent approached, the buzz began building all the way at the Outdoor theater, which is on the other side of the vast grassy 80-acre venue. Fans who had been checking out Thievery Corporation’s live show there started making their way en masse to the distant Sahara.

The presence of Underworld, one of the most revered acts on the dance scene, gave Sunday a focal point and event status lacking on Saturday. And adding to that was the presence of the group (an act that could’ve easily been on one of the two main stages) in a tent.

The intimacy gave the illusion of seeing the duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, who headlined and sold out the Wiltern last fall, in a club. As veteran performers, the pair utilized that illusion to their advantage. Hyde consistently danced his way to the front of the stage, within a few feet of the throng pressed against the barricade.

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And when some fans began body surfing (likely a first at a dance show) during “Born Slippy,” Hyde fed off the energy, adding even more vigor to his fevered dancing.

Realizing that Coachella might very well be the biggest dance stage in the country at this time (certainly it affords the opportunity for the greatest numbers of fans), Hyde and Smith also wisely varied the set from their recent U.S. tour.

Early on they were heavy on instrumentals, building up the drama to the triumphant “Born Slippy” about 45 minutes into their two-hour set. And once they got the requisite hit out of the way, the pair embraced the eclectic side they’ve displayed on recent albums.

Mixed in within the pulsating bass lines and expansive synthesizer grooves were elements of world music. With DJs Timo Maas and Deep Dish in the Sahara tent leading up to Underworld, world grooves were given a heavy showcase. Following a stellar hour set from DB, Maas elevated the tent with a heavily tribal mix.

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He kept the crowd challenged throughout his set, mixing his song selection up, and frequently switching moods and styles.

It was an excellent precursor to Deep Dish, the Washington, D.C.-based duo known for their remix and production work.

If Coachella is indeed the biggest U.S. dance stage, then one shouldn’t be able to do what the duo of Ali Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi accomplished so easily on Sunday. Whipping through a mix of house-y vocal tracks, Indian and percussion-rich instrumentals, and reworked hits from the likes of Coldplay and U2, Deep Dish turned the Sahara tent into their own personal playground.

Another highlight on Sunday came from Dirty Vegas. Playing as a live four-piece, the group added heavier and fuller layers to their techno beats.

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With the anticipation that accompanied Sunday’s dance lineup comes not only the possibility of greater rewards, but heavier pressure. Though one never would’ve known that watching Underworld and Deep Dish.


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