Dancing Astronaut Does The Desert: Best of Coachella 2014
Dancing Astronaut Does The Desert: Best of Coachella 2014
With Coachella Weekend One officially a wrap, the dust will barely have time to settle before the second round delivers its own brand of insanity. After braving the heat, battling the wind and making the miles-long circuit of the grounds to see the name brand acts and homegrown heroes that briefly called Indio home, we present the Best of Coachella 2014. You might want to pick up Weekend Two tickets.
Photo Credits: Jake Lifschultz
Best Coachella Debut: Galantis
This year saw a huge number of Coachella first-timers, from Martin Garrix to Art Department, Flosstradamus to Headhunterz. While each brought their A-game to the desert, one debut stood out above the rest. Galantis made not only their first trip to Indio, but their first-ever performance as a duo. With their debut EP released just weeks ago, Linus Eklow and Christian Karlsson had only six originals to augment their set with, but managed a fully fleshed hour that can only be described as smile-inducing. Placed in the Gobi Tent, the pair may not have had the visuals or crowd of the Sahara, but with a Seafox-shaped setup and pure adrenaline at the ready they delivered one of the most memorable sets of the weekend with barely a non-vocoded word. Proving worthy of the buzz around them both in the studio and behind the decks, this is one side project with full potential to take center stage.
Best Coachella Return: Disclosure
Few artists make an immediate return to the desert, but expectations are certainly high for the ones that are asked so quickly back. Billed last year in small print, Disclosure’s success in 2013 can be measured by the size of their leap in 2014. Headlining the Outdoor Stage, the UK act drew nearly 40,000 people to their Settle-heavy hour-long set, and brought some friends along for the ride. The duo enlisted the help of AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis, Mary J Blige, and Sam Smith to put their own live touch on “White Noise,” “F For You” and “Latch.” Each appearance added a dose of energy to the lazily swaying crowd and provided a living foil to the minimal graphics the pair used to back up their beats. Already a live experience, the extra boost of raw talent proved the Outdoor Stage a fitting setting for the brothers – until the Coachella Stage is ready for them, that is.
Best Surprise Guest: Guy Gerber
With Beyoncé, Jay Z, Snoop, Nelly, Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, Diplo, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, Debbie Harry and more popping up as surprise guests all around the festival, limiting this award to electronic acts may have cut down on the star power, but the winner in fact did not make his scheduled appearance. A rescheduling of Guy Gerber’s set prevented Diddy from heading to the Yuma Tent to play out tracks from the unlikely duo’s forthcoming 11 11 album, but the fact he was slated to join both Gerber and Nas onstage indicates a more positive shift for electronic music than the allowing of one DJ on the Coachella Stage: the artistic marriage of a worldwide household hip-hop name and an Israeli tech house producer with a cult following shows a depth of possibility that will continue to be tapped long after the confetti from the Sahara Tent is swept away.
Best Stage Setup: Skrillex
The Glitch Mob brought their Blade, Duck Sauce had their inflatable, Dillon Francis had cartoon skyscrapers and Dancing Astronaut provided the gold-faced moon man (just kidding), but the one to win them all was none other than Skrillex. The new and improved Mothership truly landed at the Sahara Tent on Saturday night, and though it battled harsh winds it drew enough aliens to form a rapt colony. Though more futuristic jet than spaceship, Skrillex’s over-the-top setup went beyond just the stage and into the tent itself, with LED panels shifting about as the genreless tracks of Recess and a choice selection of hip-hop, trap and bass music rattled teeth and brains and Dillon Francis and A$AP Rocky stopped by to add a semi-successful sit down and live vocals, respectively.
Best New Track: Flume
Other than the IDs that still drive us crazy, there was a host of new music played out at the fest from artists of every persuasion. With Coachella landing just two weeks after Ultra, electronic favoring festival-goers often get the second play of a track instead of its premiere, but the winner of this category saved his debut for the desert. Australia’s Flume brought his much-speculated about but finally confirmed remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court” to the slam packed Gobi Stage on Friday, sending the already hyped crowd into a yelping frenzy. The bass-heavy indie glitch of a rework now exists only in memories and a 50-second video on YouTube, but after months of rumors about a collab between the Aussie and the Brit (who took the Outdoor Theater just one day later), we can all rest easy that it is in fact coming.
Coachella Stage Crossover Award: Calvin Harris
Officially too big for the Sahara Tent, Calvin Harris graduated to the Coachella Stage on Sunday, warming up the crowd that would later see Beck and Arcade Fire make their return to the familiar setting. The only DJ to grace the stage (barring Chromeo, who someone transcend the title of “DJs”), Harris’ set delivered track after crowd-pleasing track all while throwing in the occasional unfamiliar-to-the-main-stage-crowd tune. Opened with the expected “Feel So Close,” Harris’ set was punctuated with such commercial pop hits as Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care,” Capital Cities’ “Safe And Sound” and his own “We Found Love” and new hit “Summer.” The Forbes list DJ did share the love with his electronic peers, giving Showtek, Sander van Doorn, Hardwell and MAKJ some play time and nodding to the broader scope of festival electro.
Coachella Veteran Award: A-Trak
Fatboy Slim dominated the Sahara Tent for the third time this year, yet though the dance music icon helped pioneer the sounds of the setting, the veteran award in fact goes to A-Trak. Playing at the very first Coachella in 1999, the Canadian turntablist returned in 2008 and again in 2011, where he played both as himself and as Duck Sauce. Though not a solo act this year the Quack was back, making 2014 the fifth time that A-Trak took the decks. His 2014 performance likely looked a little different than the scratchy hip-hop that was his first calling: A-Trak and Armand van Helden found themselves conducting the Quack Opera from under the watchful gaze of an inflatable duck while sheeted dancers spun around the stage to odes to Barbra Streisand, vibe-infused retro slices, bouncing disco cuts and howling EDM fans. Their first live performance since Quack hit the digital shelves, the audience took the pre-show hype and dished it right back in the form of undying adoration.
Most Improved Stage: Yuma
While 2013 saw the most dramatic changes to the electronic-focused stages, this year saw a further expansion of the already impressive Yuma tent. An underground oasis in the desert, the disco-ball lit, western-themed nightclub or sorts saw the addition of a curve that made the tent feel twice as large. Though undeniably bigger it proved to be not quite big enough: the tent’s capacity was tested early on Friday when Duke Dumont drew such a crowd that people were turned away at the better organized (and thus more annoying to get to) door. Though occasionally excluding the less dedicated, the more spacious setup played host to essentially every tech or deep house act an enthusiast would want to see, all spinning to the light of the new, shark-shaped disco ball made by NYC’s Kevin McHugh that seemed a fitting way to prove the Yuma went one deeper in 2014.