Yesterday I saw Steely Dan and AC/DC perform live. After likely re-reading that sentence, you might be thinking to yourself one or all of the following options 1) Sick lede, bro; 2) Did I unwittingly trip into the devil’s butt crack and enter a time warp all the way back to 1980 when both of these great bands were at their prime; or 3) I have no business listening to the dulcet tones of yacht rock and the brutish assault of hard rock back-to-back; that’s a water-and-oil situation (to further this point, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen admitted he had no idea what AC/DC sounded like in a recent piece for Rolling Stone.) But that is the insanity and magic of Coachella, because you get to go see three days of genre-spanning new and old music that singer from Steely Dan has never heard of before. What a beautiful, beautiful thing.
At the bottom of this post you can peep an entire gallery full of day one gems from photographer Beau Garrett. Be sure to check back tomorrow for images of all the day two performances, George Lopez updates, and other Coachella shenanigans.
The first and most important guest appearance of the day was Bronson-appointed “Motherf-cking Legend” George Lopez, who apparently is a giant Bronson fan. Cool! I didn’t know that I would ever think about George Lopez ever again in my life (sure he is a nice guy though!), but there he was, stage-side and head bobbing to Bronson’s biggest hits, including the horn-driven “Baby Blue” and older cuts from Blue Chips 2. Sure hanging out with Lopez is tight, but I was mostly jealous of Action Bronson’s Carhart safari baseball cap. Want it.
“It’s a beautiful day to aliiiive. Yesssssss!” were the first words I heard come out of the Based God’s mouth as I approached the Outdoor Stage from the Coachella Stage, where Action Bronson had been performing. Lil B has always been an enigma of a human being. As genuine as I believe he is, he just so genuinely strange and unabashedly optimistic about life, that playing a live set at Coachella in overwhelming sunlight is the ultimate stage for the rapper’s existence. I also forgot to mention that he has recorded over a thousand songs and thus was only able to play an astonishing one percent of his catalog. It all sounded incredible, and he was very happy about it.
I am extremely happy for Azealia Banks. She was supposed to be the next big thing back in 2010 when her last/only hit single dropped, but since then she has only had trouble. She had a serious falling out with Interscope over the release of her forever-delayed debut album, and she got into twitter beefs with many prominent artists (Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar among them). Though I am completely convinced that her fractious behavior ultimately helped her stay relevant–all past pettiness was completely irrelevant when she took the main stage Friday afternoon. She looked confident, and sounded polished as she ran through crowd pleasers like “1991” and “212”. After seeing this performance, I am convinced that Banks is not going to be left by the wayside like many likely thought she would be. She is loud, and she will be heard.
Raekwon and Ghostface Killah
What is there to really say about these two legendary Wu-Tang Clan members taking the stage together. Raekwon and Ghostface delivered bars as deftly and aggressively as they always have, complementing one another perfectly. Honestly the best part of this set was seeing that, despite all the Wu-Tang drama from this last year, that these two are still tight and able to galvanize a crowd of young people just like it was 1993.
Every song that the Alabama Shakes have ever made sound like they were sitting on lead singer Brittany Howard’s front porch in Athens, Alabama, drinking moonshine and riffing on Muddy Waters and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They have been trickling out new tracks from their forthcoming album, Sound & Color, and had the crowd swooning when they tried out their newest single, “Future People”, which reminds me of the guitar arpeggiation that introduces Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle”. I couldn’t think of a better way to enter mellowly into the evening.
The median age was 35, and the reefer was in the air. This was the place to be during the dusk hours, just after the sun had retired from a day of dehydrating scantily clad people. When Donald Fagen and Walter Becker took to the stage to play the first track from 1973’s Countdown to Ecstasy, the entire audience warmly welcomed these ambassadors of ’70s soft rock that inspired the excellent web series, Yacht Rock. From that initial moment, the whole crowd knew they were in good hands and that “Uncle Don and Uncle Wally” would take us on a soothing journey of jazz-inflected rock. Becker semi-jokingly admitted that they decided to play Coachella for financial reasons, but for some reason that admission felt like a cool grandpa making a faux-pas, and just made everyone even happier to be there.
This was easily my favorite performance of the day, and I am now convinced that Tame Impala are the best young rock band in the world. A few songs into their performance, frontman Kevin Parker looked out into the crowd and noticed, “Shit, there are a lot of you out there!” To which band member Jay Watson said “I haven’t felt this nervous in a long time. But it’s a good thing!” And then they launched flawlessly into their set, which included new material (“Let It Happen; Cause I’m A Man”) and old favorites (“Elephant”, “Apocalypse Dreams”, “Why Won’t They Talk To Me. I would say they did a good job hitting crowd favorites, but virtually every song Parker has ever written translates effortlessly into stadium-ready psych rock (which is funny considering that all his music focuses on the insular life and contrived social efforts of an introvert). They sounded huge, confident, skilled, and primed to be the biggest rock band of the foreseeable future.
If you weren’t ready to f*#king rock and roll, then you had no business being at AC/DC’s first live performance in six years. Sure, Angus Young is 60, but that didn’t prevent him from wearing his red school uniform (complete with newsboy cap), and nailing every note of “Thunderstruck” without breaking a goddamn sweat. AC/DC have been through a lot recently, with the departure of Malcolm Young and the legal trouble of drummer Phil Rudd, so this concert was a statement. The legendary Australian rockers ripped through all their hits and reminded us that they are still making blistering rock music when they shredded and squealed their way through new material. Sidenote: definitely saw some people playing the “Thunderstruck” drinking game during the song. I hope they are still alive, so they can see Jack White perform tonight.
Action Bronson/Lopez Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Stay tuned to Nerdist.com for more Coachella coverage all weekend long, and treat your fine self to live updates