Coachella pays its respects to Prince; five things on Weekend 2

Coachella’s Weekend 2 got off to a hot and windy start Friday, with the same lineups but some new twists. Here are five takeaways from Friday’s doings in the desert.

--Prince, who was found dead Thursday at age 57, was memorialized in a range of ways. Near the entrance, flowers and a purple “Prince RIP” sign were arranged below the banner showing the lineup for 2008, when Prince gave an incendiary, guitar-driven set on the Saturday night card.

Mavis Staples gave a moving speech about Prince’s “beautiful spirit” during her afternoon set and then sang a few bars of “Purple Rain.” As night fell, the lights casting beams on palm trees and landscaping were covered with purple filters, rendering a silent but effective tribute.

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But the artist who inspired the world to “party like it’s 1999” may not have wanted everything to be so somber. To that end, Friday night headliner LCD Soundsystem delivered a tight, infectious rendition of Prince’s dance-pop song “Controversy.” It’s likely to be one of the musical highlights of the weekend.

--Speaking of highlights, have you seen Ayse Hassan of Savages play bass? In a band this good it’s hard to single out one woman (our Todd Martens says Savages may be “the best guitar-driven band in the world right now”), but Hassan plays bass with a rare power and ferocity. She makes the classic choice in gear -- Fender bass yoked to an Ampeg amplifier -- and she turns the volume up to 11. Hassan and drummer Fay Milton lock in like two hinges of a crocodile’s jaw. There was a big audience for the band’s 9:35 p.m. show in the Mojave tent, and much of its attention was focused on the stage-diving of singer Jehnny Beth (her real name is Camille Berthomier) and the surreal psychedelic guitar riffs of Gemma Thompson. But the woman setting the groove and driving this London-based quartet was wielding a bass.

--The 6:40 p.m. slot on the main stage went to “Of Monsters and Men,” the band from Iceland powered by twin lead vocalists Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Porhallsson (yes, if anyone should be taking on stage names it should be these two, right?). The band, perhaps best known for its tunes “Mountain Sound” and “King and Lionheart” has six official members but tours with a larger group. On Friday, there were always nine or 10 people on stage, rounding out the band’s big sound with accordian and trumpet. The crowd was enthusiastic, and here’s guessing that many found a new appreciation for the accordian.


--Which is better, Weekend 1 or Weekend 2? Both sides have their partisans. Weekend 1 is fresher, no doubt, and the guest appearance and celebrity quotient is higher. But for bands that haven’t played in awhile (we’re talking about you, Guns N’ Roses) there’s often a chance to tighten up over the week in between. Stone Roses was infamously shaky the first weekend of its 2013 performance, leading the promoters to move them down the lineup for the second weekend. But many who saw the Stone Roses Weekend 2 wondered what all the carping was about.

--LCD Soundsystem set the bar pretty high for a Prince tribute song, so what will Saturday night’s headliner -- Guns N’ Roses -- do? Perhaps they will take on “Purple Rain,” the most Princely of his many, many songs and one that also offers Slash a chance to showcase his guitar virtuosity. But the song is so iconic that a poor rendition might do the band more harm than good, so there’s risk. Guns N’ Roses is certainly no stranger to covering other artists’ work; they once put out an album of covers and scored big with their renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” We’ll know soon enough.  

Follow me on Twitter: @jtcorrigan


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