By Minna Xiao
Set against the picturesque backdrop of watercolor paint-thin mountain silhouettes, requisite palm trees and massive art installations, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s second weekend was an elaborate, well-produced affair. Featuring less hype and celebrity appearances than the first weekend, the final three-day leg of the annual extravaganza nevertheless had well-rehearsed acts and a relaxed atmosphere.
In a festival abounding with breakout artists and established legends, acts such as Haim, Capital Cities, Lorde, Pharrell and Daughter gave some of the standout performances.
“We’ve been to every one for the past 10 years,” the Haim sisters informed the crowd about their past Coachella attendance, adding that it was crazy for them to be actually playing it for the first time this April. Their unadulterated enthusiasm was immediately palpable when the three Los Angeles natives — Danielle, Este and Alana Haim — took to the Outdoor Theatre Friday and opened with “Falling,” the first track off their pitch-perfect debut album “Days Are Gone.”
Haim performed with ferocious intensity, giving a delicious new edge to “Days Are Gone” tracks such as “Honey & I,” “My Song 5,” “If I Could Change Your Mind,” as well as larger pop-rock hits “Forever” and “The Wire.” In recorded form, these come off as almost a little too slickly produced. As the sister trio showcased their formidable guitar skills and indulged in a fiery percussion jam session to close out their act, however, there was little doubt in the audience that these girls could really rock out.
The Los Angeles duo best known for their 2013 hit single “Safe and Sound” pulled off a remarkably polished and addictive set for a high-energy crowd Saturday evening. Dressed in matching, garish flower-patterned suits, the indie-pop rockers and their live band opened with an animated, dance-happy rendition of “Kangaroo Court,” led by the smooth vocals of singer Ryan Merchant.
Capital Cities’ infectiously breezy synth-pop sound proved an excellent fit for the outdoor arena, inspiring an impressive and consistent level of audience engagement throughout its 50-minute act. The band performed a slew of glimmering electro jams from its debut album “In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery,” including “Farrah Fawcett Hair,” “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,” “Chartreuse” and “One Minute More” while masterfully blending in covers of the Bees Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Seventeen-year-old songstress Lorde cemented her rise to pop stardom with a sweeping 45-minute performance of her chart-topping “Pure Heroine” debut, opening with “Glory and Gore” before launching into “Ribs,” proclaiming her reluctance towards growing up to an audience that was largely older than she.
Abetted by her characteristically exuberant dance moves and hypnotic vocals, Lorde worked the euphoric and ever-expanding crowd into a frenzy with superb performances of her popular tracks including “Tennis Court,” “Buzzcut Season,” “Team,” and of course, her smash hit “Royals.”
On Saturday night, Pharrell drew massive crowds to the Outdoor Theatre. The producer-singer-rapper was in all his chart-topping, hit-churning glory before headliner Muse took to the Coachella Stage later that night.
After a star-studded Weekend One guest roster that included Nelly, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani, Pharrell managed to up the ante with his second appearance, bringing out T.I. to perform the mammoth summer hit “Blurred Lines,” Pusha T for Clipse’s “Grindin,” Busta Rhymes for “Pass the Courvoisier Part II” and Usher for “U Don’t Have to Call.”
The biggest surprise of the night, however, was an extended appearance by Jay-Z, who joined Pharrell—and his fedora—on stage, for performances of “Frontin’,” “Excuse Me Miss,” “La La La (Excuse Me Miss Again)” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).”
In his 60-minute set, Pharrell performed major crowd-pleasers like “Get Lucky,” slipped in N.E.R.D hits, and selected tracks from his latest solo album effort, G I R L.
“I don’t know what you’re on, but I hope it’s happy,” he crooned to the audience, before closing out his performance with a jubilant rendition of his Billboard-topping “Happy” amid a torrent of confetti.
The European indie rock band Daughter, comprised of vocalist Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella, possesses a brooding, ambient sound heightened by Elena’s diaphanous vocals and bleak, stripped-down lyrics.
On the festival’s closing night, Daughter’s emotional, translucent style could seem to some almost out of place as they graced the stage of the Mojave Tent: The ground-shaking, bass-thumping strains of EDM were bleeding in from the neighboring Sahara Tent, and most festivalgoers were still anticipating the night’s two largest final acts – electronic dance superstars Disclosure and anthem-rock headliner Arcade Fire.
The evening set time, however, paired with the stage’s smoke and subtle lighting, created the perfect atmosphere for the band’s bone-chilling, intimate melodies. Though Daughter’s audience did not quite fill up the Mojave – after all, Lana Del Rey had assumed the stage of the Outdoor Theatre in almost overlapping set times – it was a dedicated, zealous crowd.
As the band worked its way through mesmerizing executions of its 2013 album “If You Leave” tracks “Still,” “Smother,” “Human” and “Amsterdam,” elated fans pierced the air with screams of Elena’s name. And when Daughter began playing their most popular hit, “Youth,” the entire crowd chimed in on the song’s melancholy lyrics.
Contact Minna Xiao at mxiao26 “at” stanford.edu.