Photos + Recap: Coachella 2014 - Day Three

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Photos + Recap: Coachella 2014 - Day Three

You could look at Sunday of the 2014 Coachella, weekend one, and see it as a story of Merge Records. The label’s two most iconic acts gave performances that might have been the best and worst of the weekend respectively, while the label’s founder led his own band, Superchunk, to a late afternoon run to a mostly empty Gobi tent. The four-piece, newly all-male group may have 25 years of recordings behind them, but they couldn’t compete with a virtual unknown, Blood Orange, that appealed to the young crowd by simply being fun, danceable, sexy, and having the promise of guests.

Guests. Nothing at Coachella mattered more than guests. Beyonce came out with her sister Solange, hubby Jay Z with Nas, Bieber with Chance the Rapper, and on and on and on. Calvin Harris, playing easily the most attended set of the festival, went light on the guests and his set was viewed as a letdown because of it. Give us guests or give us death, they screamed. Hell, even some of the festival’s slotted performers were unannounced guests this year, like the Pixies and Nicolas Jaar.

Arcade Fire, one of the aforementioned Merge Records acts, didn’t need Debbie Harry to come out for a cover of “Heart of Glass,” that blended into “Sprawl II.” It was neat seeing Regine Chassagne getting to perform with one of her heroes, but it really was just gravy on what was the best set of the weekend. Arcade Fire won the festival by being themselves, and then taking it to a new level of focus, determination, poise, and ambition. The tricks were not that overwhelming. Win just performed like a maniac and the band followed suit. The setlist was impeccable. And when the frontman did have something to say, it was the most apt comment of the weekend.

“We’ve been coming here for a lot of years,” Butler stated before “The Suburbs. ”And there is a lot of this fake VIP bullshit happening now. People are dreaming to get in there, but it super sucks in there, so don’t worry about it.”

Coachella’s VIP tiering makes for several inconvenient aspects. Lana Del Rey’s half-assed trip into the crowd really just meant that half of the photographers couldn’t shoot that portion of her set, and the flood of entitled attendees that storm the front of the stage for every big artist was absurd.

This is the reality behind Neutral Milk Hotel’s decision to shun all photography and press. That may be understandable, but Neutral Milk Hotel seemed like they spent more time protecting their legacy than they did respecting it. Their sunset performance, outdoors, with ravers even knowing the words to their best songs, fell flat due to sloppy musicianship, possible nerves from Mangum, and a seeming lack of reverence for their own material.

Coachella 2014 brought some tremendous performances out of some unexpected (and some expected) sources. It seems successful in what it was trying to do. The question we are left with, as music fans, is whether the festival’s vision is the same as our own.