Swedish House Mafia and the Weeknd closed out the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with a co-headlining set that somehow managed to both attract the largest crowd of the festival and underwhelm at the same time.
Of course, you could say Coachella was lucky to have a Sunday night headliner at all after Kanye West, or Ye as he’s now known, abruptly pulled out two weeks before he was slated to perform.
And early Sunday, the festival featured its usual bounty of fun and interesting artists from across the musical spectrum.
Doja Cat packed the field in front of the Main stage before Swedish House Mafia and the Weeknd arrived. Earlier, such acts as English singer Yola and Swedish post-punk rockers Viagra Boys were among the best of the day.
Swedish House Mafia has always been scheduled to play the festival, but as a late-night electronic dance music set after Harry Styles headlined Friday night. The Weeknd was enlisted to fill the Ye-sized hole in the lineup.
Details of what was supposed to happen were scant, though we knew it was scheduled to start at 10:20 p.m. but didn’t actually begin until 10:55 p.m.
Swedish House Mafia, the Swedish supergroup of DJs Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello, played first, the trio standing in the shadows atop a platform behind a table and their gear.
EDM performers often aren’t the focus of their shows, the DJs letting the abstract videos on the screens around them carry the visual interest. And that’s not a problem for the tens of thousands of fans on the field who erupted in joy as each track built to a peak before the bass dropped and released all that musical tension.
I’ll admit I’m a minority view on how enjoyable their 40 minutes was — not particularly, in my opinion. To be fair, it went down swimmingly, or dancingly, with the vast majority.
The Weeknd’s arrival injected more personality into the show, though he’s also a bit of a remote figure as a performer. The Swedes also only left him with 25 minutes to perform before the midnight curfew thanks to the length of their set and the time spent getting things started.
For his first two songs, live debuts of “Sacrifice” and “How Do I Make You Love Me?” were both done with Swedish House Mafia. From there he shifted into better-known hits, such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Blinding Lights,” both of which sounded great.
By then, though, a stream of fans were headed for the exits, skipping out on songs such as “The Hills” and “Party Monster” that followed, the finale, “Moth to a Flame,” with Swedish House Mafia once more.
Yola is an English soul singer and Orville Peck’s a Canadian country crooner and they share something in common: They are this year’s desert music festival Triple Crown winners, booked for both weekends of Coachella and Stagecoach, too.
And on Sunday at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, they were both highlights of the afternoon musical performances.
Yola played first and was done no favors by early afternoon set time, which with the higher temperatures Sunday left her with barely 200 fans on hand to see her deliver a stellar set of original soul and R&B songs.
Songs such as “Dancing Away the Tears” and “Break the Bough” landed with a ton of emotion thanks to her powerful voice, as was her finale, “Stand for Myself,” the title track of her new album.
Orville Peck, by comparison, had a packed Gobi tent for his late afternoon set. He’s known for a gimmick — he always wears a black leather mask with long fringe to obscure his face. His deep country baritone, though, is all he really needs for songs that are crafted in an old-fashioned country roadhouse style that’s terrifically fun.
On songs such as “The Curse of Blackened Eye” and “Lafayette,” he carried listeners into the narrative of songs, backed by his ace band of cowboy hat-wearing musicians. Peck, we should note, was himself resplendent in a shiny gold outfit of a vest over his bare chest, pants and chaps.
Not in Kansas anymore
The garage rock band Surf Curse played early on the Main stage; coming out dressed as characters from “The Wizard of Oz” — the drummer the Cowardly Lion, the bassist Dorothy in pigtails and a blue checked dress and the guitarists as the Tin Man and the Scarecrow.
Drummer Nick Rattigan got the short end of the stick — in the 2 p.m. sun the Cowardly Lion costume looked brutally hot, prompting him to shed his head after one song.
A pit opened up as they played “Midnight Cowboy,” and voila, the moshers became a very rowdy meeting of the Lollipop Guild.
Rock across Europe
Even without counting the British artists on the bill on Sunday, Coachella continued its strong presentation of rock bands from across Europe.
Atlin Gün is a Turkish-Dutch band that plays songs inspired by Anatolian folk music, ‘60s psychedelia, and ‘70s Turkish funk. Their set in Sonora was another of the wonderful musical moments one can find here.
Vocalists Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız sing in Turkish, yet glancing around Sonora you could see pockets of fans singing along. Yildiz also plays the bağlama, a kind of long-necked lute, which added a Turkish feel
The Italian hard rock quartet Måneskin won Eurovision 2021, and that might make them the raunchiest band to win a contest that more typically goes pop. Singer Damiano David arrived on stage in a ruffled, lacy dressing gown over knee-high boots, fishnet stockings, and bondage gear. He mixed funny if rude comments with insults aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin in a set that included both the Eurovision-winning song, “Zitti e Buoni,” and a cover of Iggy and the Stooges’ “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
Viagra Boys are a Swedish post-punk band with a strong sense of black humor. Frontman Sebastian Murphy performed shirtless – props to his tattooed torso, not so much his beer belly – as the band roared behind him. Highlights included “Sports,” a putdown of hypermasculinity, and “Worms,” an ode to what’s gonna happen to all of us when we’re six feet under.
Beabadooboo is a 21-year-old Filipino-born British singer-songwriter with a deep love of ‘90s guitar rock. During her set in Gobi on Sunday, she was sweet fun, playing solo acoustic guitar on her first-ever song “Coffee,” but mostly with her band on indie guitar rock tunes such as “Talk,” the first single from her forthcoming album “Beatopia.”
Karol G is a Columbian pop star, and her set on the Main Stage before Doja Cat. A smiling, fun, energetic performer, she wore an outfit in the yellow, blue and red colors of the Colombian flag. A highlight of her set arrived during a long medley of No. 1 songs by Latin music stars who came before her from Selena and Ricky Martin to Shakira and Luis Fonsi.