There's Music, Too: Coachella Weekend Two Set Reviews

AC/DC
AC/DC
Photo by Timothy Norris

Some say the music is better at Coachella on weekend two. Acts have had time work out technical kinks and refine their set lists, and a crowd less thick with scenesters and industry types responds with greater enthusiasm, upping the energy level all over the polo fields. That certainly seemed to be the case for Lil B, who rebounded from a meandering, freestyle-heavy first weekend with a hits-filled second showing.

How did other acts fare on Coachella's second, hotter (literally — temps hit 97) weekend? Here are reviews and recaps of some of the most noteworthy sets, from AC/DC, Azealia Banks, Axwell /\ Ingrosso and more.

See also: Coachella Weekend One Set Reviews

Lil B
Lil B
Photo by Timothy Norris

Friday, April 17

Lil B (Outdoor Stage, 3:05 p.m.)

Lil B may be magic. He cursed Kevin Durant and narrowly evaded death. He’s also practically impervious to criticism. Objectively a poor rapper, he somehow manages to be one of the most entertaining on any bill. Though he’s released 40-plus mixtapes and albums combined, the Based God knows his hits. His second Coachella set included the exuberant “I Own Swag,” the nonsensical “Wonton Soup,” and the ethereal “I’m God.” Various audience members shouted, “swag swag” in approval. However, the set occasionally dragged, due largely to some flat singing and a low mic level. Lil B also took several minutes to alternately spread love to his friends and admonish nameless parties that he claims are stealing his ideas. When he brought out his former group, The Pack, to perform their hit single “Vans,” many who’d left halfway through rushed back to the stage. As the dust-caked hordes swayed, hyphy temporarily resurrected, you wondered whether Durant would heal by next season. — Max Bell

Azealia Banks
Azealia Banks
Photo by Timothy Norris

Azealia Banks (Coachella Stage, 4:55 p.m.)

At the end of 2011, Azealia Banks could've been the answer. The question was this: Who is the next great female rapper? Banks’ second Coachella 2015 performance served as the unofficial coronation. Playing almost the entirety off her heralded, genre-blending 2014 debut, Broke With Expensive Taste, she once again proved to be Friday’s most dynamic performer. With synchronized dance moves and a thunderous backing band, she moved effortlessly from delivering snarling, multi-syllabic bars over searing electro-rap (“Heavy Metal and Reflective”) to singing strong, assured notes over dance (“Chasing Time”) and surf-pop (“Nude Beach A-Go-Go”). While her contemporaries struggle to straddle the ever-diminishing line between rap and pop, Banks blends them and adds even more flavor. After a fantastic encore performance of “212,” a new question seemed apt: Who is the best rapper working? Banks might not be your answer, but she could be. — Max Bell

The War on DrugsEXPAND
The War on Drugs
Photo by David Le

The War on Drugs (Coachella Stage, 6:05 p.m.)

In a kind of bizarre reversal, War on Drugs played the youthful welcome wagon to the dad and mom rockers who don’t want to feel like their musical legacy got tossed in a ditch like a shredded 8-track a few decades ago. Looking like an unpretentious set of dudes who just rolled out of a Philly garage in 1976, they cruised through a set of perfectly executed and perfectly updated heartland rock without that normal helping of cheese. Anchoring the middle of the festival’s first day, their Lost in the Dream-heavy set might have felt like a residency at a local bar, if it wasn’t for the sun’s perfect 20 degree angle and the growing rime of Coachella dust on the day-glo-accented crowd. Adam Granduciel’s extended riffs and Charlie Hall’s soft driving drums made you forget for 40-plus minutes that this kind of rock has been on and off life support since the Clinton administration. Closing with a teased-out “Under the Pressure” killed a lot of cynicism in a lot of graying heads. — Paul T. Bradley

DJ Snake (Sahara Tent, 8:30 p.m.)

In true “Turn Down for What?” fashion, DJ Snake threw the crowd headfirst into his set at 8:28 p.m., with no warning at all to prepare the Sahara tent for the onslaught of bass. He tossed a tribute to Diplo and Skrillex out there, remixing the two’s Jack Ü hit “Take Ü There” with a drop so heavy that the speakers struggled to transmit the varying pitches and instead delivered one, long, monstrous howl. Snake also brought several special guests onstage, including rap duo Rae Sremmurd, who performed a medley of their singles “No Type,” “No Flex Zone,” and “Throw Sum Mo,” and DMX, who did his classic, “Party Up.” For the most part, Snake did what he does best: the trappy, dancey, dirty drops that made him famous, the likes of “Turn Down” and “Get Low.” But he didn't seem to put enough thought into how best to incorporate all the exciting cameos, and the transitions between Snake’s own pounding basslines and the relative calm of his support tracks for his guests felt choppy at times. The audience was more than willing to let it slide, though, and adapt to whatever new sound was happening at the moment. — Sarah Purkrabek

AC/DC
AC/DC
Photo by Timothy Norris

AC/DC (Coachella Stage, 10:35 p.m.)

We knew it would happen this way. We knew they would come out and play big. We knew the setlist. We even knew what they’d be wearing. But none of that matters. You go see AC/DC because the only surprise you want is that they are still doing this shit at this volume after this many decades. Angus sounded crisp, crunchy and feisty. Brian’s voice sounded like he’d burned every other rock band on a pyre, gargled their still-sizzling embers and picked his teeth with their bones. Buttressed by Spinal Tap-ian stage props (an elephantine inflatable Rosie, shredded nylons and all), they killed. Fireworks. Risers. Whatever. Even the kids — who only know “Hell’s Bell’s” from video games or when mom gets control of the radio on road-trips — had their cheeky fun. Every minute of their hour-plus set was your uncle’s parting noogie: “Hey kid, chin up, I’m on my way out, but I still got it.” — Paul T. Bradley

Cashmere CatEXPAND
Cashmere Cat
Photo by David Le

Saturday, April 18

Cashmere Cat (Gobi Tent, 4:45 p.m.)

Cashmere Cat looked like a mad scientist at the DJ booth. His visuals were bright pink lights and black and white video of the show, adding to the ethereal quality of the music that prevailed for the first part of his set. He alternated between melodic piano riffs and bass-heavy chill trap, throwing in samples and remixes of unexpected old favorites, such as the Spice Girls' "Wannabe." Between tracks he mesmerized the crowd with a remarkably deep, oscillating razor bass, providing an ideal vibe before setting the crowd ablaze with a high BPM drop and hook. The last 20 minutes of the show were the highlight, kicking off with an extended version of Cat's "Do You..." remix and ending with his own bass-inspired spin on Ryn Weaver's "OctaHate." — Sarah Purkrabek

Jungle (Mojave Tent, 5:35 p.m.)

Jungle has the potential to be a great jam band. For now, the U.K. collective makes compact, tightly constructed slices of funk. Early Saturday evening, the Mojave tent swayed to the rhythm of the truncated grooves on their self-titled XL debut. Jungle’s sound translated markedly well throughout. Their collective falsetto never faltered and each song sounded louder, more expansive. Additionally, singles “Platoon” and “The Heat” felt looser, less rigidly syncopated. Near the end, you got the sense that Jungle actually wanted to extend their songs past the original recorded length. However, any shimmering synth solos or Afro-beat drum breakdowns were quickly reigned in. It was as though they either didn’t trust the audience or didn’t have the time. When they brought out Chicago rapper Vic Mensa to freestyle over “Busy Earnin,” it felt like the former. When they ended with “Time,” we knew why. — Max Bell

Drive Like JehuEXPAND
Drive Like Jehu
Photo by David Le

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Drive Like Jehu (Gobi Tent, 10:50 p.m.)

Playing to a criminally small crowd for their first major show in 20 years, post-hardcore heroes Jehu cooked up a beast of a set (across the polo fields, some White guy was purportedly outdoing the Beatles at Shea Stadium or whatever). Frontman Rick Froberg shrieked with a mature ferment, fed by a different set of frustrations than his 20-years-younger self. An unflappable John Reis divined his guitar to the open cab pre-amps, crafting precise chirps and distorts. And the real hero — easily the best live drummer all weekend — Mark Trombino pounded out the vicious beats that make his band so hard to define. No matter, it was all throbbing gristle for drop-in vibe heads who had only tasted tender cuts the whole weekend. When a small but enthusiastic pit of 15 or so opened up, an old tie-dye hippie bravely twirled his way into it for a few seconds before recoiling in horror. In the perfect punk-rock move — a nod to all of their diehards — they continued the extended breakdown on "Luau" until they were practically dragged off stage. — Paul T. Bradley

Axwell /\ Ingrosso
Axwell /\ Ingrosso
Photo by Timothy Norris

Axwell /\ Ingrosso (Outdoor Stage, 11:55 p.m.)

Axwell /\ Ingrosso have been clear every step of the way: They are not going to be just a smaller iteration of their former supergroup, Swedish House Mafia. That didn't stop them from dropping famous Swedish House riffs into their set, or playing some old favorites like "Don't You Worry Child" and "Save the World." The new duo also played some unexpected remixes, including an adapted version of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name," as well as several Axwell /\ Ingrosso originals, like "Something New," and teased songs from their upcoming album featuring the likes of Pusha T., Pharrell, Vincent Pontare, and Salem Al Fakir. — Sarah Purkrabek

Sunday, April 19

Chicano Batman (Outdoor Stage, 12:45 p.m.)

Chicano Batman should have their own comic book. Instead, they have one of the best bands in L.A. The second act on the Outdoor Stage, they opened with a psychedelic organ solo from frontman/guitarist/organist Bardo Martinez. The band followed with a set that spanned their growing and inimitable catalogue, moving from their self-titled debut to last year’s Cycles of Existential Rhyme. As they effortlessly infused their rock with elements of cumbia and tropicalia, Martinez’s voice shuttled between dulcet croons and plaintive cries. By the end of their set, the enthusiastic crowd had quadrupled in size. We’d always thought Chicano Batman were too low on the bill. When everyone sang along to “Itotiani,” it was unmistakably clear. Chicano Batman saved the afternoon. Maybe Marvel or DC will give them a call. — Max Bell

Sturgill Simpson (Gobi Tent, 3:25 p.m.)

All the cowboy-hat-wearing kids got a chance to make their twangy bones Sunday afternoon with some rust-belt revivalism under the Gobi tent. With his psychedelia-tinged lyrics and his state-college-undergrad New Balance sneakers, Simpson is the perfect gateway drug to Waylon Jennings deep cuts for the Spotify set. His possessed fervor and extended jams brought raw foot-stomping and hand-clapping out of folks who had laser-hand-danced to beats-per-minute just hours before. Halfway through his set, he shouted (in his best Boomhauer twang), “Y'all want more? We gon’ speed it the fuck up, then!” before taking everyone to electric bluegrass school. Later on, when a rainbow-headband guy shrieked, “Yeah, burn it down!” he did just that, finger-picking through a blistering version of the Osborne Brothers’ "Listening to the Rain" to send us off. — Paul T. Bradley

Gesaffelstein (Mojave Tent, 9:15 p.m.)

When his Coachella performance was announced, French techno producer Gesaffelstein made a more somber announcement of his own along with it: Coachella would be his last live show (we're hoping that he only meant, "for now"). There was already a good crowd in the Mojave tent 20 minutes before his set was scheduled to start — and maybe he noticed too, because he was up on stage playing almost 10 minutes early. He seamlessly transitioned between ethereal melodies and industrial-inspired, bass-heavy arpeggios. Not one for too many visuals, Gesaffelstein played the majority of his set in darkness, with the occasional white light punctuating particularly important rhythmic moments. Despite not speaking once, he held total command of the stage and the crowd, bending over his mixing tables and head-banging like a mad man. The only time he raised his arms was to puff on the cigarette that dangled out of his mouth. At the end, he dared to step down from the booth and gesture the crowd for applause. A seemingly arrogant move maybe, but the entire audience obliged with cheers and shouts of admiration that were completely earned. — Sarah Purkrabek 


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