In case you hadn’t noticed, the last fortnight played host to Coachella 2012.

One of America’s biggest festivals, 2012’s edition not only featured the first US show by The Weeknd and a re-united At the Drive-in, but the resurrection of 2pac (via hologram). FACT were in attendance at the second weekend of the West Coast festival – here are our highlights and lowlights.

: Arctic Monkeys. The records have arguably become less interesting since Whatever People Say I Am, but a festival of this size has a habit of separating the wheat from the chaff, and Turner and co really came alive under the desert sun. Sounding more and more like a UK Queens of the Stone Age by the day, and doing so with considerable ease.

Bad: The gurner in the Arctic Monkeys crowd who shouted – no, not sung, shouted – every single lyric in his meek, uninterested seeming girlfriend’s face before performing drum solos on her arse for the last two tunes. You’ve never seen boredom turn into disgust quicker on one face.

Good: The opportunity to see some of hip-hop and r’n’b’s most exciting prospects at such an early stage in their live career. It’s easy to forget that Frank Ocean’s not even played ten live shows yet, and this was the Weeknd’s first in the US. Throw in Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and Childish Gambino (plus appearances by Danny Brown, Earl and Tyler) and it really felt like there was something special in the air here. Ocean was arguably the best of the bunch, with a shy, patient live show that perfectly suited its 7pm slot. A$AP Rocky (plus the entire A$AP Mob) was a total riot, as brilliantly shambolic as you’d hope for, while The Weeknd clearly isn’t a natural live performer, but found a groove in the second half of his set.

Good: The kid right at the front of the packed A$AP Rocky tent, losing his mind and singing every single word – on his own. He was 13 at the absolute oldest.

Bad: The girl who went topless after about three songs of said Rocky show, about five metres from said kid.

Bad: The tats. If parents want to stop their children getting tattoos, then send them to the dance tent at a big American festival, because you’ll see some shockers. Personal favourite: the guy with his entire left forearm tattooed in stars, his entire right in stripes, and “stars” and “stripes” written at the base of each – presumably in case he forgot which was which.

Good: araabMUZIK. You’d think that come the last day of a festival filled with tear-out dubstep you’d be bored of hearing Doctor P tracks, and you’d be right, but when araabMUZIK’s machine-gunning hi-hats over the top of this stuff it suddenly becomes a lot more rhythmically interesting and feels a thousand times more alive.

Bad: Flying Lotus. I generally like Flying Lotus’s records, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing him live in the past, but this was arrogant, pointless student dross. First half of the set was – mostly – nothing hip-hop instrumentals punctuated by FlyLo and his hype-man telling you to buy Cosmogramma or whatever. Then, in case things didn’t seem vacuous enough, Thundercat and a live drummer came on for quarter of an hour of noodling, before FlyLo closed on some fidget house and a dubstep remix of Waka Flocka Flame’s ‘Hard in the Paint’. Yup.

The Weeknd

The on-site toilets. There were loads of them, with clean sinks, and they were chemically flushed out every night. Puts English festivals to shame.

Good: Spector. A London band with good dress sense, good songs and a refreshing amount of self-awareness. Viva Brother et al, take note.

Bad: The lack of surprise appearances on Weekend 2 compared to Weekend 1. Dre and Snoop brought back the entire Weekend 1 headline cast (Dre, Snoop, Warren G, Kurupt, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, 50 Cent and the hologram 2pac) for Weekend 2, but that aside, guests for Coachella’s second weekend (its first featured unannounced spots from Usher, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, Rihanna, Katy Perry and more) were thin on the ground. No one got excited for Lykke Li, unfortunately.

Good: The festival’s general organisation. Sets started on time, it took no time at all to access camping spots (and crucially, no time to leave them), and no sound problems that we witnessed. Queuing for water refills in a non-shaded area left a little to be desired, but it’s a minor gripe.

Bad: A lack of ambition in the undercard of the dance music tents. No, Coachella’s not a dance music festival, but with two tents basically dedicated to dance music, there could’ve been a lot more variety on that side of things. You’ll never hear us complain about David Guetta, Kaskade and the like headlining the tents, because they bring people in, but you could’ve easily dropped a Borgore or Mt. Eden (both playing ear-bleed dubstep in early afternoon slots) for a Joy Orbison or Pearson Sound to balance things a little.

Good: The guy rocking a “Things Can Only Get Guetta” t-shirt and matching cap.

Bad: His mate in the “Dirty& Filthy& Grimey& Dubstep” t-shirt.

Good: Everyone knows it, but it bears repeating: 2pac performed via fucking hologram. Though where was Nate Dogg?

Bad: The fact that said 2pac hologram is clearly a gateway for an unwelcome stack of knock-of resurrections, inevitably climaxing on a billion-dollar legal debate over a Beatles live reunion. And some shit involving Slipknot.

Good: Overheard in the camping site: “bro, when I’m doing the worm, you know a party’s popping”. We couldn’t salute this man more.

Tom Lea



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