Best of the best at Coachella
A shout-out to Coachella’s hottest happenings
Pop music critic Randall Roberts touts fest’s top moments.
RANDALL ROBERTS >>> We laughed, we danced and we slogged through dust, coughing up muddy phlegm and glugging water. At the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which concluded on Sunday, 90,000 fans reveled in heat while artists revealed their pumping musical hearts onstage. ¶ But the truth is, not every act was equally great. Some, such as Belle & Sebastian, seemed merely to go through the motions. Others, like Kaskade, drew the masses but delivered one-dimensional music. But who cares what didn’t work? Suss that out among yourselves. Let’s celebrate the festival’s accomplishments with the highly biased Coachella Awards, which were determined by a poll of one.
Best wardrobe malfunction: Father John Misty, who split his suit pants during his Weekend 2 set.
Trouper award: Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, who broke her foot during the group’s first-week set but returned the following Sunday to perform anyway.
Best posing: FKA Twigs, whose sparse dance moves drove the Gobi Tent nuts.
Best reason to be disgruntled with Coachella 2015: During an era in which two destined-to-be classic albums by Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo were uniformly praised, neither gigged in the desert.
Best use of fog: The instrumental guitar-dance band Ratatat returned from an extended hiatus to fill the Sahara Tent on Saturday. As wind blew the fog, guitarist Mike Stroud took center stage and soloed like he’d just climbed Mt. Everest and was celebrating with a few tasty licks above the clouds.
Best public moment of closure :On the Outdoor Stage during Weekend 1, Jenny Lewis invited her former Rilo Kiley band mate Blake Sennett up for a version of that band’s “Portions for Foxes.” Kindred spirits Haim also joined Lewis for a take on her “Girl on Girl.”
Best guitarist: St. Vincent, who proved that she would devastate AC/DC’s Angus Young in a wail-off.
Best cover song: Florence + the Machine and Father John Misty, who came together during Florence’s set to perform Nazareth’s heartbreaking ballad, “Love Hurts,” during Weekend 2.
Best new feature: Actual bathrooms!
Best set: Caribou, the Canadian dance band whose performances were a memorable blend of house, techno, electronic dance music and rock.
Best affirmation: Abel Tesfaye of the Weeknd. Performing to close the main stage on the first of two Saturday nights, the smooth Toronto seducer looked at the teeming masses, dropped his cool demeanor for a second and said, “This is the greatest moment of my whole life.”
Best day-opening performance: Nortec Collective presents Bostich + Fussible, whose 1 p.m. Saturday set on the main stage christened both weekends with a miraculous mix of beat music, Mexican horns and a general exuberance.
Rising star award: Benjamin Booker, whose chunky, throwback-ish rock ’n’ roll songs were hard and confident.
Best stage design: Flying Lotus, who performed in a screened-in cube that hosted projections of tripped-out images.
Best band introduction: Festival elders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, who were introduced by Fagen as “Uncle Don and Uncle Wally.”
Best late-afternoon exercise routine: DJ Martin Solveig, who abandoned his mixer mid-set to lead himself, two dancers and the thousands of revelers in the Sahara Tent for a round of jumping jacks.
Best dedication: Ryan Adams, introducing “Dirty Rain” on the second Sunday: “This one goes out to Florence’s foot. Get well soon, foot.”
Best scream: Jesse Lacey of Brand New, whose roar cut across the pitch on both Sundays.
Best singing voice: Lykke Li. Her respite from performing has added even more textured nuance to her already-wondrous tone.
Best viral stunt gone wrong: Madonna’s big, wet kiss on Drake’s lips, and more telling: his none-too-pleased reaction.
Best pep talk: The Gaslamp Killer. At the end of his brave, boisterous set of beat-based fusion music, the Los Angeles artist pumped the crowd with a speech. In it, he urged fans in the crowded tent to believe in themselves and to follow their muse wherever it takes them.
Best chant: Jack White, leading fans at his Sunday farewell performance in a chant of “Music is sacred!”
Rising star award: George Ezra. His beguiling set highlighted his booming croon, especially during his breakout hit “Barcelona.”
Best German techno set: Ben Klock, whose bumping set in the Yuma Tent turned the room into a less exclusive offshoot of legendary Berlin club Berghain.
Best Detroit techno set: The legend Carl Craig delivered a typically dynamic mix of techno and house inspired by the city’s seminal sound.
Best rock performance: AC/DC, “You Shook Me All Night Long.” No explanation necessary.
Best reunion: Ride powered sheets of jangled distortion that not only replicated the British band’s seminal ’90s Britpop classics but updated the sound with even more density.
Best group hug: New York band Swans, who, before performing their blistering Weekend 1 Saturday rock set, were witnessed trading hugs with each other before taking the stage.
CANADIAN BAND Caribou danced off with this pop music critic’s pick for best set, for riveting performances that merged house, techno, EDM and rock. This was the beat group’s first Coachella outing.
JENNY LEWIS invites former Rilo Kiley band mate Blake Sennett to share the stage, taking the prize for best public moment of closure.