The (highly biased) Coachella 2015 Awards: The best of the best

Florence + the Machine performs during Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 12.
Florence + the Machine performs during Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 12.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

We laughed, we danced and we slogged through dust, coughing up muddy phlegm and glugging water. At the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which concluded on Sunday, 90,000 fans reveled in heat while artists revealed their pumping musical hearts onstage.

But the truth is, not every set was equally great. Some, such as Belle & Sebastian, seemed to merely go through the motions. Others, like Kaskade, drew the masses but delivered one-dimensional music. Despite the buzz, British band Jungle’s sound seemed fleeting, already dated.

But who cares what didn’t work? Suss that out among yourselves online. Let’s celebrate the festival’s accomplishments with the highly biased Coachella Awards, which were determined by a poll of one.


FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2015

Best wardrobe malfunction: Father John Misty, who split his suit pants during his Weekend 2 set.

Trouper award: Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, who broke her foot during the group’s first-week set, but returned the following Sunday to perform anyway.

Best drummer: Hands down, Daru Jones, whose tight, snappy stop-and-start interactions with Jack White were a wonder of timing and energy.

Best posing: FKA Twigs, whose sparse dance moves drove the Gobi Tent nuts.

Best reason to be disgruntled with Coachella 2015: During an era in which two destined-to-be classic albums by Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo were uniformly praised, neither gigged in the desert.

Best airplane banner: (Tie). Tyler, the Creator and the Rolling Stones. Tyler’s camp hired a twin-engine plane to fly overhead to remind fans of his new album, “Cherry Bomb.” The Stones, who weren’t even performing, pushed the re-release of “Sticky Fingers” with a banner reprinting the cover’s crotch photo.

Best new British music trend: Twangy throwback country pop as practiced by both the young Ruen Brothers and by the charismatic singer George Ezra.

Best use of fog: The instrumental guitar-dance band Ratatat returned from an extended hiatus to fill the Sahara Tent on Saturday. As wind blew the fog, guitarist Mike Stroud took center stage and soloed like he’d just climbed Mt. Everest and was celebrating with a few tasty licks above the clouds.


Best public moment of closure: On the Outdoor Stage during Weekend 1, Jenny Lewis invited her former Rilo Kiley band mate Blake Sennett up for a version of that band’s “Portions for Foxes.” Kindred spirits Haim also joined Lewis for a take on her “Girl on Girl.”

Best guitarist: St. Vincent, who proved that she would devastate AC/DC’s Angus Young in a wail-off.

Best cover song: Florence + the Machine and Father John Misty, who came together during Florence’s set to perform Nazareth’s heartbreaking ballad, “Love Hurts,” during Weekend 2.

Best new feature: Actual bathrooms! One male, as he was exiting the facilities, was overheard speaking of the new structure as though he’d just left the Sistine Chapel. “Amazing,” he said. “God, that was amazing.”

Best mass migration: The Sunday night convergences on the Coachella stage for Kaskade. His tribe is vast and devoted, and as the DJ was getting ready to perform, tens of thousands of fans flocked toward the stage.

L.A. SOUND: Full coverage of the local music scene

Best set: Caribou, the Canadian dance band whose performances were a memorable blend of house, techno, electronic dance music and rock.

Best affirmation: Abel Tesfaye of the Weeknd. Performing to close the main stage on the first of two Saturday nights, the smooth Toronto seducer looked at the teeming masses, dropped his cool demeanor for a second and said, “This is the greatest moment of my whole life.”

Best evidence that Kanye West’s new album will soon drop: Two consecutive surprise appearances during the second weekend. He showed up on Saturday with the Weeknd, and on Sunday with Stromae.

Best new camping activity: Human foosball

Versatility award: Rising country singer Sturgill Simpson, the only Coachella performer also slated to play the upcoming Stagecoach country music festival.

Best day-opening performance: Nortec Collective presents Bostich + Fussible, whose 1 p.m. Saturday set on the main stage christened both weekends with a miraculous mix of beat music, Mexican horns and a general exuberance.

Rising star award: Benjamin Booker, whose chunky, throwback-ish rock ‘n’ roll songs were hard and confident.

Best pants: Lil B’s blue jeans, which, he bragged, hadn’t been washed in 10 years. They had a huge hole in the crotch. (Runner-up: Father John Misty’s aforementioned split-seamed slacks.)

Best (or worst) new fashion trend: Gold temporary tattoos, designed to resemble gold leaf, dotted countless arms, legs, torsos and necks of both men and women alike.

Best stage design: Flying Lotus, who performed in a screened-in cube that hosted projections of tripped-out images.

Best band introduction: Festival elders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, who were introduced by Fagen as “Uncle Don and Uncle Wally.”

Best solution to the Heineken sponsorship: The Craft Beer area, which offered phenomenal ales, lagers and stouts from across the country. Bonus: Unlike last year’s bar scrums, the setup was efficient.

Best late-afternoon exercise routine: DJ Martin Solveig, who abandoned his mixer mid-set to lead himself, two dancers and the thousands of revelers in the Sahara Tent for a round of jumping jacks.

Best dedication: Ryan Adams, introducing “Dirty Rain” on the second Sunday: “This one goes out to Florence’s foot. Get well soon, foot.”

Best scream: Jesse Lacey of Brand New, whose roar cut across the pitch on both Sundays.

PHOTOS: All of Coachella’s headliners, past and present

Best singing voice: Lykke Li. Her respite from performing has added even more textured nuance to her already wondrous tone.

Best doughnut-making drummer: Mark Trombino, banger for the reunited San Diego post-hard-core band Drive Like Jehu. When not driving the skronk, punk and proto-screamo band, Trombino owns and operates popular Highland Park sweet spot Donut Friend.

Best Saturday night seduction: The Weeknd’s solid set of R&B. Babies were made.

Best viral stunt gone wrong: Madonna’s big, wet kiss on Drake’s lips, and more telling, his none-too-pleased reaction to it.

Best pep talk: The Gaslamp Killer. At the end of his brave, boisterous set of beat-based Turkish fusion music (or whatever you want to call it), the Los Angeles artist pumped the crowd with a speech. In it, he wondered on the path that led him onto the stage, and urged fans in the crowded tent to believe in themselves and to follow their muse whereever it takes them.

Best chant: Jack White, leading fans at his Sunday farewell performance in a chant of “Music is sacred!”

Rising star award: George Ezra. His beguiling set highlighted his booming croon, especially during his breakout hit “Budapest.”

For the Record, 8:39 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said George Ezra’s breakout hit was “Barcelona.” The name of the song is Budapest. Additionally, the song “Love Hurts” performed by Father John Misty and Florence & The Machine was recorded by Nazareth in 1975 but originally written by Boudleaux Bryant.

Best German techno set: Ben Klock, whose bumping set in the Yuma Tent turned the room into a less exclusive offshoot of legendary Berlin club Berghain. Klock, a resident of the club since its opening in 2004, delivered spacious electronic tones to a weary-but-resilient dance floor.

Best Detroit techno set: The legend Carl Craig delivered a typically dynamic mix of techno and house inspired by the city’s seminal sound.

Best rock performance: AC/DC, “You Shook Me All Night Long.” No explanation necessary.

Best dance-floor moment: Loco Dice in the Yuma Tent, Saturday night. While the ravers were packed into the Sahara Tent moving to DJ Deorro, a few hundred yards away in a strobe-and-mirror-ball-lighted tent the Dusseldorf, Germany, DJ Loco Dice was slicing and dicing strange techno tones to a few thousand dancers lost in music.

Best reunion: Ride powered sheets of jangled distortion that not only replicated the British band’s seminal ‘90s Britpop classics, but updated the sound with even more density.

Best group hug: New York band Swans, who, before performing their blistering Weekend 1 Saturday rock set, were witnessed trading hugs with each other before taking the stage.

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit