Coachella 2010 Saturday: Muse and the Dead Weather rock very differently, plus MGMT, Dirty Projectors, and more

Muse-CoachellaImage Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesSeveral ardent fans have already pre-emptively chastised me for underrating Coachella 2010’s night two headliners. As one commenter on yesterday’s Jay-Z post put it, “Muse will be by far the best act all weekend, learn about something before you talk about it.” Well, I’ve just come home from seeing Muse perform, and I can say I’ve learned that the British rockers might very well be the biggest, loudest, showiest act all weekend. But the best? That’s another question. Read why after the jump — plus my full report on seven other notable acts from Saturday afternoon and evening.

Arriving on the festival grounds shortly after 4 P.M., I headed straight for the second-biggest side tent to see Beach House. Like their pals Grizzly Bear the day before, the Baltimore duo had the misfortune of being placed directly next to a clangorous dance tent. Through no fault of the band’s own, background noise threatened to obscure the qualities that make Beach House’s music so special. Singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, joined by a drummer, fought through this distraction admirably. “Norway” came through crystal clear, its arrangement as sparkling as the diamond-shaped objects revolving over the band’s heads. So did “Used to Be” and “Master of None,” which turned out to be pretty danceable (or at least swayable) themselves. Somewhere in there, if my ears did not deceive me, Beach House covered Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade,” taking the Atlanta rapper’s chipper chorus slow and sultry. This combination, fairly random unless you noticed the band tweeting about “Lemonade” two weeks ago, worked better than I could have imagined. According to Scally, the cover is “a work in progress.” Beach House hereby must record and release their version as soon as possible.

I meandered over to the main stage, where Tokyo Police Club was playing an afternoon set. The Ontario quartet’s presence at that top venue was mostly aspirational for now — it was still well before sunset — but they looked right at home on those big screens. Some of the new tunes they played were earnest power-pop anthems, while others had a Sonic Youth/Broken Social Scene guitar squall thing going on. Nearly all made me want to hear more. After releasing two excellent EPs in 2006 and 2007, followed by a hit-or-miss full-length in 2008, this band seems to be growing nicely into its sound. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tokyo Police Club playing the main stage after dark in a year or two’s time.

Even among admirers, the whispery nothings on the xx‘s 2009 debut have a reputation for translating inconsistently to live settings. I’m sorry to say that the British trio’s second stage set did nothing to dispel this impression. In the studio, they build an often alluring atmosphere from repetitive guitar licks and low-key vocals. If a nightclub isn’t quite the right place for that sound, though, an open-air field full of jostling elbows is even less so.

Dirty-Projectors_320.jpg Image Credit: Noel Vasquez/Getty ImagesStriving to pass no judgment on the xx’s recorded output, I bowed out of their set a few minutes early to make sure I caught all of Dirty Projectors‘ back in the second side tent. I’m glad I did. Last year’s breakout Bitte Orca is a precisely composed album, too, no tangled guitar line, start-stop rhythm, or swooping vocal line out of place. The band reproduced that sound with remarkable fidelity on stage, bringing tunes like “Knotty Pine” (from the Dark Was the Night charity compilation),”Temecula Sunrise,” and the instant classic “Stillness is the Move” to vivid life. This is how it’s done. Best of all were the intertwining voices of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle. I’m a sucker for most any band that foregrounds multi-part harmonies, but the way those three sing — sharp and piercing one moment, clear and melodious the next, in and out of sync with one another — is something else.

In an unfortunate scheduling conflict, Corinne Bailey Rae was playing the first side tent exactly when I was spellbound next door at Dirty Projectors. On my way out, I stopped by for her final two songs, both well worth it: “Diving for Hearts,” from this year’s The Sea, and a soulful cover of Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera.” Speaking of voices, Bailey Rae’s is extraordinary, rising like a ribbon of smoke above her backing band’s jazzy notes. Hearing her masterful delivery on those tunes made me wish I’d been able to hear everything that preceded them.

MGMTImage Credit: Karl Walter/Getty ImagesHunger prevented me from seeing any more of the reunited Faith No More than scattered glimpses of a red-suited Mike Patton howling like a wild man and bounding around the main stage while I dined nearby. After that it was on to the second stage for MGMT, who had drawn a huge crowd. The band proceeded to tease the casual fans among them by playing a series of jittery psychedelic jaunts, drawn from their just-released left turn Congratulations and from the album tracks on 2007’s Oracular Spectacular. I happen to love this stuff, but a large portion of those present were clearly there to hear MGMT’s big electro-pop singles. When, halfway through their set, the band finally obliged with “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend,” the thinning audience perked up immediately. I can’t blame them — those songs are lots of fun. Still, something tells me the Congratulations cuts that so bewilder everyone the week of the album’s release are going to age even better.

I looked up from one of MGMT’s last songs to see that Muse had already taken the main stage. No delayed gratification here: Unless I missed something before dashing over, Muse opened right away with their hit “Uprising.” So began an hour and a half of trembling falsetto vocals, histrionic guitar solos, gnashing bass lines, and brutal drums. As if the music wasn’t bombastic enough, the band pulled out all the stops visually, too, barraging us with images of robot armies and colonizing the night sky with a Matrix-green laser show. Look, I understand the appeal of presenting songs like “Resistance” and “Time Is Running Out” with maximum melodrama. Many Coachella attendees seemed to be having a blast while Muse performed; I certainly don’t begrudge any of them their enjoyment. But Muse spent its entire set dialed to 11, and after a long day of listening to bands, that kind of relentless spectacle wasn’t what I needed.

Deadweather-CoachellaImage Credit: Karl Walter/Getty ImagesAt last I made my way back to the second stage for the Dead Weather, Jack White’s other other band. Sleep deprivation was starting to set in by now, but they kept me awake, all right. Lead guitarist Dean Fertita rained down mean electric licks as lead singer Alison Mosshart flailed about like she was demonically possessed and White…kept competent time behind a drum kit. I still don’t quite understand why White mostly drums in the Dead Weather when he could be singing or slinging his axe — no knock on Mosshart or Fertita, who fulfill those functions more than vigorously enough. But it undeniably upped some energy factor when White finally stepped out from his kit to sing B-side “You Just Can’t Win,” putting a vaguely gothic spin on his latter-day bluesman persona. I couldn’t help noting that the only accompaniment this band required for its performance was a pair of black-and-white video screens. Sometimes less really is more.

The night was still comparatively young, with sets from Dutch trance deity Tiesto and post-punk provocateurs Devo yet to come. I, however, was by now constitutionally incapable of rocking any further, so I cut my losses and went home to start anticipating Sunday. (Gorillaz! Thom Yorke!! Pavement!!!)

Were any of you at Coachella on day two? What were your favorite acts?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Coachella 2010 Friday: Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Grizzly Bear, LCD Soundsystem…
Saturday ACM Rehearsal Not-Quite-Live Blog: Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Sugarland, Tim & Faith & Brooks & Dunn
Friday ACM Rehearsal Not-Quite-Live Blog: Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Reba
Lady Antebellum’s advice to ‘American Idol’ castoff Katie Stevens: ‘Keep going!’

Comments (57 total) Add your comment
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  • SMS

    Can’t believe you didn’t like the Muse set and left the festival early.

    • LOL

      Holy crap. He skipped Faith No More and Devo? Why even bother going? Fail.

    • atavanhalen

      LOL @ covering MGMT and Dirty Projectors but ignoring Coheed and Faith No More. This is why everybody scrolls past EW music coverage and goes right to the comments…

      • Minutiae

        Exactly. Saw FNM play one of their warm up shows in SF last week, and this lame-o really missed out. I’ll be skipping all of his future entries.

  • Vanessa

    Haha! Your comment on Muse made me giggle. I think if you want to chill out at the end of a festival evening then Muse is not the band for you. Seriously, their fans are used to waiting all day for them to rock like gods for an hour and half late of an evening. If they didn’t we’d be devastated because that’s why we love them. They make us forget every little bit of ache or tiredness until they finish playing (and I’m in my forties, by the way). Maybe one day you can get to see them when you’re not tired – they’re amazingly invigorating I find.

  • Susan

    Ok, really? You got there at 4pm and were too tired to stay for the whole day? What kind of music reviewer leaves early? And Muse is supposed to be loud and showy, at least for this newest CD. It’s a story, and the robots and everything are part of it. I have seen them live with nothing more than their instuments on stage, and they are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. And I am 40, so I’ve seen a lot of bands. And I would have stayed through the whole thing, even at my age, without complaining about being tired. EW, you need a new reviewer. How about me?

    • Susan

      Oh, and another thing. I just read yesterday’s review and you fawned all over Jay-Z’s fireworks spectacular yet you begrudge Muse for using lasers and such? Wow, they can’t win with you. I hope for the sake of the bands tonight that you’ve had a good rest and will go to tonight’s festivities less grumpy and tired.

    • Dark Dot

      Susan, I don’t even want to read another POST of yours, much less a review. Shhhh.

    • Mark

      this guy is SO unprofessional. seriously, he gets there late and leaves early because he’s TIRED. he’s getting paid to do this, it’s not like he’s doing us a favour. And his comments just seem to be totally off-kilter anyways. EW- get a new reviewer.

      • ikop

        well actually, I wouldn’t be so sure they get paid haha – one of the film reviewers wrote ages ago that it was for free :)

  • Sara

    “DINING” during Faith No More? Grab a hot dog and go to one of the most anticipated reunions in North America this decade. Has this guy ever been to a festival before? I’m with Susan, EW needs a new reviewer… let’s pray that he’s not on duty at Bonnaroo, an even more taxing festival than Coachella.

  • film4future

    Completely agree with your assessment of Muse. That was my experience last time they played Coachella (though without the showy videos) and every time I’ve seen them. Just too much to the point of me tuning them out. And I like that you were honest about the fatigue. Festivals wear you out! Hope you’re able to stick in there to the end tomorrow though. Such great bands on the bill. Reading your reviews makes me very excited for my annual trip to Lollapalooza (in my opinion, a better fest than Coachella).

    • Simon Vozick-Levinson must be a Nickelback fan

      Sounds like Muse is too epic for some people. I don’t know how old you or Simon are, but in case you guys were old enough to attend concerts in the 70s and 80s, weren’t bands back then even MORE bombastic and energetic? Muse is the only contemporary band out there (that I know of, so please correct me if I’m wrong, cause I love big, over-the-top epic bands) that puts on a show at such a magnitude. Shouldn’t we be applauding them for not being like all the lame, minimalistic, indie bands out there? Like for example, I love MGMT’s music, but unfortunately they bore me to tears live. I see very little energy and passion in their performances, which is the exact opposite of their music. There aren’t many bands out there that match what they do in the studio in live performances. And Muse won’t be here forever, so I hope we do have more bands of their type.

      • alex

        AMEN

  • Harley

    Sorry you missed Edward Sharpe at the outdoor stage. Best set of the festival, IMO. And for those who can’t make it, selected performances are streaming live via Facebook. Pro camerawork, great sound. No annoying vegans. Dead Weather were broadcast in black and white. Hah!

  • Chris Bailey

    Ha this reviewer is an amateur…When I go to Bonnaroo, I’m there for the first band at noon until the last band stops playing at like 4 in the morning! Then I get a little sleep and start all over the next day.

  • Arnel Pineda

    Muse is the next Journey! Don’t Stop Believing my Filipino brothers!!!

    • JW

      No Way! They are closer to Queen. Rush and Pink Floyd. Muse is always dialed to 11, that’s the way we love them.

      • Gale

        Yes, Muse is definitely a descendant of Queen – they are much heavier than Journey was.

      • 4rocket

        The closest thing to Queen I have seen in recent years without being a blatant ripoff. My Chemical Romance and The Darkness, take notes.

      • S.O.

        We already have the next Journey, they’re called Nickelback.

  • Jeff

    First off, Dirty Projectors are amazingly awesome. Second, you criticize Muse cuz you were too tired to enjoy them? Are you kidding? Next year EW, send someone who isn’t ready to collect SS and retire in Boca Raton.

  • Alex

    …you’re really complaining about a band being TOO energetic, showy, and bombastic? That’s what a band like Muse is all about!!

    • Anna

      Amen, Alex!

    • mari

      i second that.

  • Slant

    Muse isn’t “bombastic”. They are tiring and try to cover the empty music with spectacle. Excess does not mean good. The reviewer is right.

    • JW

      you’re opinion, but you are wrong! Amazing musicians and Matt Bellamy is a rock God

    • leytpr4

      It’s totally fine for the reviewer to have an opinion, HOWEVER his main point that “after a long day of listening to bands, that kind of relentless spectacle wasn’t what I needed.” Really? People go to the festivals for exactly that sort of spectacle; a long day of music that all culminates with a kick ass show from a headlining band. His review just makes him sound unprofessional; he gets paid to do this and he needs to suck it up or find someone who can dedicate the energy to reviewing the festival legitimately.

  • ER

    Wow, this reviewer is weak.

  • Larry

    This review is terrible! He is actually dogging Muse because he was too tired and wasnt’ in the mood! Maybe they should have booked Celine Dion for you. Muse ROCKED!!!

  • Grace

    I wasn’t at Coachella, but I was 10ft away from the sex gods of music that are MUSE (Wednesday night at the Oracle Arena). It was a religious, mind-blowing experience that I cannot put into words. Live is where they shine. Seriously, hands down, the greatest live band in the world.

    • Eileen

      I was there too! It was a mind blowing experience. My husband’s much younger cousin was there, and it was her first concert – what a way to do it!

  • Jason

    Seems to me you could not handle the overwhelming power that is, Muse.

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