“This music is meant to alienate all the right people,” said sometime-Stroke Julian Casablancas as a stream of people exited the tent midway through his semi-surprise set on Coachella’s Mojave stage. The comment wasn’t far off: though the early response to his band's 40-minute tour of garage blasts and surfy riffs was rapturous, his set must have confounded any Strokes fans hoping for familiar songs, as the entire set by Julian Casablancas + The Voidz was essentially composed of not-yet-released songs. It wasn't as if they lacked any similarity to hits like 'Last Nite' -- one only needed to hear his guitarist's high-neck arpeggios to be reminded of the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. -- but there were few melodies to hang onto amid hard-rock smashing and the ooze of attitude.
Elsewhere on the field, Scottish electro-pop band CHVRCHES drew a massive crowd on the Outdoor Stage in the mid-afternoon. The band’s warm electro-pop soundtracked a windy, dust-caked afternoon, with hits like 'The Mother We Share’ and ‘Gun’ from their debut disc ‘The Bnes of What You Believe’ inspiring a sea of waving hands across the field.
On the other end of the afternoon spectrum were The Head And The Heart, who have graduated not just from tent to outdoor theater, but from effective Americana to heartfelt, emotive dream rock. The band’s set following CHVRCHES provoked dust-whipped make-out sessions and gritty, beautiful sing-alongs.
Making one of the best first impressions on the Coachella grounds was Baltimore synthpop group Future Islands. The quartet drew a formidable crowd to the Gobi tent for their sunset performance, which was punctuated by the captivating showmanship of frontman Samuel Herring. With his menacing baritone vocals and melodramatic stage poses, Herring proved equal parts Morrissey and Glenn Danzig as he growled and grooved to the band’s new-wave-inspired tunes. If the heartfelt response the band’s received is any indication, the group should look forward to playing one of Coachella’s bigger stages in the future.