Coachella 2009, Saturday: The Killers, M.I.A., Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Bob Mould, Jenny Lewis and more

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Come along with Paste as we look back on some of the more notable sets from Day Two of Coachella 2009...

Ida Maria (1:30 p.m., Gobi Stage)
Bob Mould Band (2:30 p.m., Gobi Stage)

So bubblegum that the capacity crowd could've broken off whole chunks of her set and chewed them into flavorless oblivion (the same place the tunes risked veering, anyway), the monolithically buzzed-about Norwegian singer Ida Maria helped inaugurate Coachella 2009's second day with a handful of speedy ear-candy from her debut, Fortress Round My Heart.  Often sounding like an A&R man's concept of what a punk popstress should be, Maria felt more and more like this year's Kate Nash, or a copy Lily Allen with punchy guitar effects and no faux-Cockney drawl. Nevertheless, Maria fired off a concise—her set barely nicked the 30-minute mark—salvo of the admittedly irresistible pummel of single "Oh My God," the stutter-chorus ripcords of "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," and the clever seduction of a deity in "Stella." Despite that fact, and Maria's disarming demeanor and obvious passion, there's something plasticine and false in her songs, all EQ'd guitars and interchangable choruses, that serves to illustrate the thin line between the schlocky buzzing of the prefab rock of a Katy Perry and the sharp, winking metapop of Allen’s witty narratives; it's a line that Maria repeatedly stumbled over on Saturday afternoon, and found herself, more often than not, landing on the wrong side.

Conversely, former Hüsker Dü guitarist Bob Mould followed with a set that did everything Maria's could not (though, granted, he's had a bit more time to practice), marrying ear-candy melodies to noisy and snarling punk-kissed sonics and creating a muscular, nerve-flayed detonation of classic punk and rock that felt like rhythmic slabs of concrete being shockwaved from the stage and into the crowd. Skipping from the slam-bang kinetics of minute-and-a-half Dü-styled speed-punk to the melodic slow-burn edge of a track like "Life and Times" (from his 2009 album of same name), the Bob Mould Band illustrated the possibilities of melody and songcraft within a serrated guitar thunderstorm, and did so without compromise or sacrifice of vision. And while Sunday performers No Age may be the current gatekeepers of the noise-rock genre, Mould noisily reminded everyone within bloody earshot that he was still in charge.

Drive By Truckers (3:40 p.m., Outdoor Stage)
Blitzen Trapper (3:45 p.m., Gobi Stage)
Dr. Dog (4:05 p.m., Mojave Stage)

Alt-country, country-rock and folk music staged a mid-afternoon invasion of Coachella on Saturday, beginning with the Drive-By Truckers' golden-hued rockers, continuing with the lovely experi-folk of Blitzen Trapper and climaxing with the Music From Big Pink-stylings of Dr. Dog. Under an unforgiving sun, DBTs frontman Patterson Hood  growled, giggled and spoke his way through a series of exuberant, three-guitar country and rock tunes, as the band melded the high and lonesome sound of everything from skipping bluegrass to talking blues to dirty rock, drawing in a sizable crowd with their down-home guitar crunch, clever lyricism and bottomless headbobbing grooves, most especially during the howling, barnburning wail of "The Righteous Path."  Anthemic without trying, authentic without mimicry, the Truckers played a rousing set of three-guitar rock and down-and-out Western blues.

Blitzen Trapper's lovely strum-and-hum folk drew an over-capacity crowd that trickled and spilled from every available exit of the Gobi tent on Saturday afternoon, as the Portland, Ore. band laid down a set of airy ditties which, while the band probably needs to a pay a few more dues first, would have been a pitch-perfect soundtrack to a main-stage dusk. Acting as a weary, often gorgeous flipside to the DBT's twangy ruckus, Blitzen Trapper spent their afternoon set basking in the shadow-flit breeze of Americana Gothic that informed such classics as The Basement Tapes and The Gilded Palace of Sin. and, at the time, nothing could have felt more refreshing.

Dr. Dog's country & western psych sound may have stripped back some of the wilder elements of the “old, weird” Americana that Greil Marcus loves go on about, and thus lost some of the strange and ominous musical freakery that imbues the best of American roots music, but their set on Coachella's second day was nothing less than an ear-pleasing respite from a brutal sun and overpriced water bottles. Yes, their brand of music may lack some of the genre's trickier elements, and lids may have grown a little heavy during the back end of their set, but in an era when tame is equated with Americana, the knotty kinetics of a song like “The Old Days” are enough to remind us that, while the sun may seem to be slowly setting on the genre, it only serves to cast the influential shadow of Big Pink just a little further.

TV on the Radio (6:25 p.m., Coachella Stage)
TV on the Radio's funk-punk, weird-world majesty offered the first set of the day to contest the validity of the Killers' headlining slot. So good were Tunde Adebimpe and Co. that it was nearly inexplicable why the band's hyperactive echo chamber of falsetto come-ons, throbbing beats, and rushing waves of rhythm were relegated to an early-evening spot. From the shockingly excellent subterranean funk ‘n' croons of a breathlessly accelerated “Golden Age” to the blistering skitter of "Red Dress," TVOTR simultaneously scaled back the densely grandiose and lavishly monstrous sound of their albums' productions while beefing up their band with powerhouse horn lines that added a reckless edge and staggering amount of war to the band's cerebral, dance-blistered rock. Moreover, of all the bands to take a stage on Saturday, TVOTR acted as a perfect summation of the festival as a whole, in that they drew from and collapsed together so many disparate threads of music into a massive knot of epic, hip-swaying and leg-blurring proportions. There may be performances that garner more hype over the weekend, but it's hard to imagine a better one.

Fleet Foxes (7:25 p.m., Outdoor Theatre)
It's almost guaranteed that the Fleet Foxes' lovely brand of vocally-charged Appalachian folk would have been a staggering success on Saturday night. Indeed, it may well have been, but when a song like the austere "White Winter Hymnal" is drowned out by the lunkheaded world beats of Thievery Corporation (who were, for some reason, scheduled to play at the same time, across the field at the Coachella Stage), it just sounded like the worst remix ever. Add to that the fact that Perry Farrell's voice eventually drifted into the mix (he joined the Thievery Corp. on one song), and you have an absolute trainwreck of sound. The Foxes, and the audience, deserved better.

M.I.A. (8:55 p.m., Coachella Stage)
Despite several technical hiccups and her repeated on-stage assertions that she did not want to play the main stage, M.I.A.'s set was one of pure, dazzling spectacle. Indeed, the semi-exhausted audience was almost instantaneously re-energized as the undeniably alluring tribal pulse of the music, and the sheer energy of the hyperactive live show, drew them to their feet and nearly forced their bodies to move in a sinuous and rippling unison. "They gave me six songs last time I was here," M.I.A. mentioned at one point. "This year, I'm takin' seven."  It was in that boast that M.I.A. essentially hijacked the second day of Coachella, making it hers and hearing absolutely no complaints about it whatsoever.

Jenny Lewis (9:50 p.m., Outdoor Theatre)
Her crystalline voice bridging the gap between the '60s-styled country-pop musings of Rabbit Fur Coat and the harder-edged, coke-spoon reflections of '70s Laurel Canyon rock that make up Acid Tongue, Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis made a solid case for the continuance of her engaging solo career, joyously leading her audience through such crowd-pleasing fare as the steamrolling rock 'n' folk of "The Charging Sky," the heartbreaking, heartbroken "Acid Tongue" and the sweatily driving and sensual blues rave-up “Jack Killed Mom." ("This is a song about patricide!" Lewis cheerfully announced on the latter.) Leading her band through a set that excavated Dusty Springfield soul, young Rolling Stones R&B, and Linda Ronstadt country as she whirled, danced and leapt along the lip of the stage in a consistently engaged performance, Lewis provided a light, fun and occasionally exciting set that blurred the lines of four decades of music with style and class.

The Killers (10:25 p.m., Coachella Stage)
You couldn't help but feel a little sorry for The Killers on Saturday night. Not only were they bookended by a Beatle and The Cure as headliners for the weekend, but nearly a third of the Coachella Stage crowd seemed to disappear when M.I.A. did, exhausted as they were from her stellar and draining exhibition. Add to that the fact that there's just something a little too cold and detached about the robo-lockstep of The Killers' dancefloor anthems, and you have a band that, hard as they tried (and, to their admirable credit, they really tried; no one worked harder on that stage on Saturday than Brandon Flowers), should have been the opener for either TV on the Radio or M.I.A.  No matter how toe-tappingly catchy openers "Human" and "Somebody Told Me" were, or how rousing the icy chop of "Mr. Brightside" turned out to be, The Killers simply lack the emotional heft and compelling discography to close out a day of such spectacular music, no matter how hard they try. The quickly dwindling audience seemed to concur.

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