Coachella day two: kidult silliness and Billie Eilish's freaky vibes – The Guardian


The morning of the second day of a music festival usually makes for good people-watching, because everyone tends to get overexcited and take all their drugs on the first night, leaving them as sweetly fragile as a Kinder Egg the next morning. Except at Coachella, in the heart of bourgeois California, where everyone is either so sober or so permanently hale and hearty that the only hair of the dog needed is a matcha smoothie or organic kombucha.

All this means that Ty Segall and White Fence’s noisy psych guitar pop is met with joy rather than whimpering consternation, as jocks form a slow, jolly circle pit – a kind of Ring a Ring o’ Broses. A long-form freakout from the supergroup is like a warm sirocco blowing in from the desert, with beautifully impulsive soloing from Tim Presley.

More blokes with guitars ensue. Shame are the antithesis of Coachella’s poké-bowl cleanliness, a vitamin D-deprived gang of south London herberts who, led by impresario frontman Charlie Steen, tear around the stage playing Fall-style post-punk and Britpop rippers, including the brilliantly focused new song Human For a Minute. By the end Steen is being held aloft by a gang of corn-fed superfans. Mac DeMarco’s Deadhead-bozo schtick hasn’t quite got old, and while his set is so slack as to almost fall apart, his rollicking Steely Dan soft rock and ruminative balladry is perfect for a late-afternoon snooze. Closing out the main stage later are the Aussie psych rockers Tame Impala: their new songs are unremarkable disco shimmies, and there is something pedestrian about their plodding basslines even if their epic visuals invite shroom-induced psychic meltdown. But Kevin Parker’s dopey croon is nonetheless soothing, like a stoned head massage.

J Balvin



J Balvin had twerking clouds and a giant duck on wheels. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

What with South Korea’s Blackpink on Friday and the likes of Japan’s Perfume and Puerto Rico’s Bad Bunny to come on Sunday, Coachella is as cosmopolitan as its crowd, and books its first ever main-stage reggaeton act in Colombia’s J Balvin. There’s no escaping the fact that reggaeton’s rolling beat is relentlessly unchanging, but Balvin gets more out of it than most, from hectic EDM to midtempo sensuality. The stage production is massive, with twerking clouds, a giant duck on wheels and other kidult silliness; the Spanish neo-flamenco singer Rosalía rotates her hips into the duet Con Altura. It ends up being a technicolour celebration of how far reggaeton has come, including a cover of Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina that broke the style to global ears back in 2005.

There are big slots for the British dance stars Four Tet and Aphex Twin, the latter on masterful form. With sassy Detroit basslines and squirrelly effects, his style is unmistakable and he enhances it by folding in tracks from other producers. This hybrid format has recently caused online consternation among the sizeable portion of witless pedants who make up dance culture, but it is a generous and big-hearted gesture that situates him in a broader rave lineage.

Maggie Rogers



Music to Gen Z ears: Maggie Rogers. Photograph: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Coachella

It’s a performance only a veteran could deliver, but ultimately it’s the kids who rule the Saturday. Twenty-one-year-old Bazzi commands a big main-stage crowd but it is unclear why: his pop-rap tracks are like Drake without the alpha magnetism or Post Malone without the grotbag charisma. His voice is so featureless, it’s like a mic technician has been given a shot at the big time. Equally fresh-faced Maggie Rogers gets one of the weekend’s warmest receptions. “I clearly have a lot of feelings,” she admits – hers are the inarticulate, inchoate feels of teenagerhood, and her gift is to wrap them in melodies as beautiful as that on Alaska. She puts the earnest and emotionally scattershot Gen Z’rs into raptures.

But the star of the day is 17-year-old Billie Eilish, whose debut album is currently No 1 in the UK and US. Dressed in a floppy white hoodie and cargo pants, she bounces through her opener Bad Guy as if having a particularly invigorating tantrum (weirdly recalling the nu-metaller Fred Durst as she does so). This and her other masterpieces You Should See Me In a Crown and Bury a Friend cleave to her strongest suit: tracks that use the melodic strength and latent creepiness of nursery rhymes. The freaky vibes are intensified with the arrival of a troupe of twitching, bed-ridden dancers; later, Eilish takes to the bed as it levitates, Exorcist-style. These are brilliant miniature American horror stories, the likes of which only Eilish is even attempting, but there is also a profound, plangent beauty to more straightforward ballads such as When the Party’s Over and Ocean Eyes. As the permanently bushy-tailed partygoers of Coachella also prove, America’s youth is clearly in rude health.



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