Posted by: martinworster | April 26, 2012

137. COACHELLA 2012

Dance music is hot, hot, hot. Anglo heavy line up. Radiohead…Coachella 2012 brief review

Back from a very hot (106 degrees on the Saturday) yet enjoyable Coachella. We camped, which in the extreme heat can regularly make it a bit of an endurance test. By 9 AM the sun had been up for a few hours and the temperatures would be more than a 100 degrees – not good for being hungover in a sweaty sauna tent. Plus, portaloos don’t look, feel or smell to great in the extreme heat.

The main thing I took back from this Coachella was how dance music is really blowing up in the US. I know this has been talked about for quite a while in the media but this was the first time I really experienced it for myself. Headliners on the main stage on Friday were Swedish House Mafia. Also in attendance were David Guetta, Paris Hilton’s boyfriend Afrojack, Kaskade, Justice, Calvin Harris and AVICII – these are of course more on the commercial side of the dance explosion and are basically rehashing 90s Euro house and trance for an American audience. I am not really a fan of what they do. Fuck me, I wish David Guetta wasn’t famous. Of course, if you wanted to see hipper more ‘underground’ acts at the festival you could check out Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, Modeselektor, DJ Shadow, Nero and SBTRKT.

Any time I went in the Sahara dance tent it was more crowded and with a better – more ‘aving it’ – atmosphere than the other stages. There’s nothing like dance music for proper punter participation and full immersion in the music. I checked out Nero and he played some slightly cartoonish Skrillex style dub step – I admit I only stayed for a few songs. That’s often the problem with Coachella – there’s so many acts to check out there’s bound to be schedule clashes. Sometimes it seems a disservice to a band if you only check out one or two songs. But then this has to be counterbalanced with crossing off the ‘must sees’ on your check list.

Maybe it’s the creeping cynicism of getting older but I didn’t really see any blow away performances. The previous two Coachella’s I’d attended there’s always been some moment, either stumbling across a new act or really connecting with an established act. In the past I’d include Linton Kwesi Johson, Cinematic Orchestra, SIA, Prince and The Good The Bad and The Queen in this list.

Also a product of jaded late thirtysomethingness, it seems like the post-internet music industry is so fast paced I don’t really have the energy and will to invest in bands who probably won’t be around in a few years. And, more trenchantly, are singing about things that I don’t really connect with. Indie schmindie landfill doesn’t stand the test of time. 

Even more than previous years there’s a heavy Anglo-centric bent to the line up. Particularly older bands. This year I saw Pulp, Madness, Squeeze and Noel Gallagher who were all great. Not so great were James or The Buzzcocks.

Stand outs for me were – of course Radiohead – plus Metronomy, The Gaslamp Killer, St Vincent, Arctic Monkeys, Laura Marling, Gary Clark Jr, The Black Keys. Only ‘so so’ were Wildbeasts, The Vaccines, Gotye and Azealia Banks. Bands I would like to have seen but missed include Flying Lotus, Bon Iver, SBTRKT, Kasabian, The Shins, Calvin Harris, Kaiser Chiefs, Jacques Lu Cont, Thundercat, DJ Shadow, Florence and the Machine. Plus Dr Dre & Snoop Dog, as we had to leave early on the Sunday night. You can’t have it all.

One thing I think the festival misses is a Good Times type sound system playing an older mix of soul, funk, house, reggae, dub and garage to the more discerning – dare I say it, older – clubber. I know the core demographic is early twenty somethings, but there’s definitely quite a few punters who would enjoy this. All the new dance acts seem to cater to the short attention span generation by playing snippets of songs. These young ‘uns need to be educated in the history of dance music. For this I volunteer my DJ services for next year.

A Bit About Radiohead…

For me, Radiohead were the main draw of the festival. I was interested to see how their new King Of Limbs material would translate to a live crowd and with the addition of their new drummer Clive Deamer. Live the songs sounded very different, almost like a live mutated remix, chopped up rhythmic excursions with Thom’s voice as an extra musical instrument. Some of the minor keys and sombre wailings of Thom translate as a tad downbeat to a large festival crowd, but it being Radiohead everyone sticks around. 

No one sounds like Radiohead. Creatively, they continually forge new aural pathways, reinventing themselves without alienating older fans plus gaining a younger audience. With Thom’s indecipherable lyrics, it’s more about textures and emotional sonics – which worked really well with the ravey light show. Thom’s always centre stage and it does seem like he’s taken over a bit of late with his glitch laptop electronica bent. Secretly I’d like to see a return to a more guitar driven sound and to let the rest of the band get a hand in. You could also sense the audience wanting some of the classic Radiohead – which they got with Karma Police and a dramatic show stopping Paranoid Android.


  1. I went to college with DJ Nero and went to my first underground rave in Leicester where he was playing it was ‘awesome’.

  2. Hey Milly, didn’t think anyone read this blog. Did you find it for my FB? Nero’s quite a big name now. I remember Haley talking about him. Yeaaah!

  3. do you have a blog?

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