Considering the intimate, night-owl nature of London band the xx's languid rock ("Infinity," off their self-titled debut, has been compared to Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," of all things), last night's early evening set at the often problematic Outdoor Stage seemed a vague and impersonal compromise. These guys need to play Coachella late at night in a tiny, far-flung corner that enables them to flaunt their tremmed guitars and almost whispered vocals. The Brooklyn mafia spins odysseys of gauzy nights at small xx shows brimming brood and ketamine, but the band had to turn themselves up so much for this venue, they might as well have set their show to tape hiss. This is Exhibit 482 that an essentially small sounding band is not at its best in the great wide open.
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Competing (and winning) against the Main Stage's Coheed and Cambria, the xx did draw one of the biggest crowds of any non-headliner. That was the story today, with Pixies-and-Radiohead Coachella vets--many bristling at the proposition of Tiesto--setting up shop for Outdoor Theatre shows with Hot Chip, MGMT, and the xx. Problem is, newcomer xx doesn't tidily fit into the mold cast by its similarly zeitgeisty but harder charging peers. Most obviously, there's no pumping beat to drive the crowds in a band that only hints at live drums. Most grooves that guide their tunes reek synthetic in both production and imagination. And that's not a bad thing: considering the circumstance of the event and the pressure of what will certainly be their most populated performance, the xx fed on the situation to deliver the thought and worry that's currently bringing them semi-fame. But the greatest affront to an introspective band killing a mid-afternoon set was the scene from the crowd rife with spectators turned away from the stage, rather than toward it, brandishing cameras and desperately seeking photos bathed in the glow of dying sun: a shallow eulogy to the death of exposition. The verdict on the xx is still a resounding affirmative, but, thank you, I'll take my chances navigating K-holes in the dark quarters of the club. --Mike Orme