Coachella 2013: Phoenix's R. Kelly Surprise, Postal Service's Special Delivery and More Saturday Highlights

Getty Images for Coachella

R. Kelly performs with musician Thomas Mars of Phoenix onstage during day 2 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2013 in Indio, California.

The xx serenades with Solange, New Order parties like it's 1984, Major Lazer reveals album news and more onstage and backstage bits

Additional reporting by Nicole Pajer

The second day of Coachella 2013 turned up the desert heat with a jam-packed lineup of 65 bands that covered a staggering spectrum of sounds. French indie-rock, British post-punk, Atlanta hip-hop, Icelandic dream-pop and everything in between found a home on the festival’s six stages, treating attendees to a series of standout performances and a host of special-guest surprises (though not the one everyone was expecting). Here’s our look at some of most memorable highlights from Saturday (April 13).

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• The main takeaway from Phoenix's headlining performance: It did not involve a pair of French robots, as heavily rumored. Instead of Daft Punk, Phoenix’s special guest came in the form of an R&B genius named Robert Kelly, who stopped by to mash up "Ignition (Remix)" with "1901." But long before R. Kelly brought his mighty presence to the stage, the French foursome had already torn it up with their precise indie-rock moves. While new songs like "The Real Thing" and "Entertainment" were shaded into the picture, the night belonged to their 2009 breakout LP "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," which had been played in full by the night's end. After frontman Thomas Mars spent most of the performance pacing the stage and humbly leading a barrage of handclaps, the singer concluded the evening by running to the soundboard tower in the middle of the crowd, climbing the scaffolding and waving to the thousands in attendance. Phoenix may appear to be a mild-mannered rock quartet, but like their leader, the group is not afraid to tackle new heights.

• At the beginning of the Postal Service's main stage performance, Ben Gibbard referred to the long-defunct group as an "imaginary" band. It sure seemed that way for nearly a decade: after releasing 2003 debut "Give Up," a piece of synth-pop heaven that has since gone platinum, the duo of Death Cab For Cutie's Gibbard and Dntel mastermind Jimmy Tamborello went their separate ways and never made a follow-up. However, their 10th anniversary reunion tour revived the project, and their first major performance was filled with subtle yet endearing details. Gibbard and Rilo Kiley leader Jenny Lewis exchanged longing vocal declarations on "Brand New Colony," and new song "A Tattered Line of String" received an understated yet effective light display. The highlight, however, was "Such Great Heights," which inspired the single biggest sing-along of the entire day. "Thank you for watching us play," Gibbard told the crowd near the group's conclusion. "We might see you again, we might not." The Postal Service might forever disband after this tour, so find a way into one of the group's upcoming shows before it's too late.

• Right before Phoenix burned up the main stage, U.K. trio The xx kept things cool with their set of sexy atmospheric rock tunes. The vocal tug-of-war between singers Oliver Sim and Romy Croft provided the perfect soundtrack for the throngs of groping lovers spread out across the field. As a special treat, the band made way for surprise guest Solange Knowles, who joined to band to perform a cover of Aaliyah's "Hot Like Fire.” Before the gig, Sim revealed that the band recently completed some work on the soundtrack of the upcoming Baz Luhrmann film, “The Great Gatsby.” “It was so fun,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for ages. Baz’s 'Romeo & Juliet' is one of mine and Romy’s favorite films, so we’ve been holding out and this was completely perfect.” The band worked with a 70-piece orchestra and composer Craig Armstrong on the track. Sim also alluded to the idea that some new XX music may be in the works. “We’re writing when we find the time,” he says.

• From the moody post-punk vibes of all-girl London group Savages, to the jangly dance-rock of Scottish troupe Franz Ferdinand to the pristine electro-pop tunes of London’s Hot Chip, the influence of Manchester new-wave godfathers New Order was heard across the Coachella field all day long. At 11:35pm, the innovators themselves took the Mojave stage to give Coachella a dose of the original thing. Not even Phoenix’s main stage revelry could distract the die-hards from swarming the tent and losing themselves in New Order’s set of genre-defining hits. The show didn’t quite begin on sure footing – frontman Bernad Sumner was visibly irate after a slippery stage caused him to fall on his ass during the opening moments of “Regret.” But after a few heated words with the stage crew, Sumner shrugged off the literal misstep and led the group through a hand-waving set of anthems plucked from their early catalog, including classics like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Temptation” and “Blue Monday," and an encore focused on Joy Division materila like "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart."

Top 10 Coachella Artists Tweeted About on Saturday (4/13)
Source: MusicMetric

The most mentioned artist on Saturday was Phoenix, who garnered 5.21% of the total volume of artists mentioned in Twitter activity pertaining to Coachella. Since Blur and How To Destroy Angels occupied two of the latest timeslots on Friday, Twitter activity about them carried over into Saturday's data.
Rank Artist % of Tweets
1 Phoenix 5.21%
2 Blur 4.95%
3 Major Lazer 4.82%
4 The xx 4.45%
5 Cafe Tacuba 3.63%
6 Tegan and Sara 3.44%
7 Two Door Cinema Club 3.27%
8 Nicki Romero 3.21%
9 2 Chainz 3.13%
10 How To Destroy Angels 2.63%

Major Lazer’s set was the place to be on Saturday afternoon, and it seemed like most Coachella attendees got the memo. Thousands more bodies than the Mojave tent could house turned up for the group’s 6:25pm set, but the fans stuck on the outskirts reacted to the team’s bass-heavy beats with the same off-the-charts energy as those crammed against the barricade inside. Before the show, we caught up with the trio, who discussed the release of their long-awaited, much-delayed sophomore album “Free the Universe,” which drops Tuesday (April 16). Producer Diplo said that he was fine with the delay, as it will likely work out in the band’s favor in the long run. “It only took a year to make, but it took about six months to get everything good on the label end,” he said. “But it’s ready to go now. It’s actually better that it took a little while now, because I think the album is for the summer anyway. If it came out in November, it would have been on the way down by now. I think it’s more an album to start at Coachella and go through the summer.”

• Although 2 Chainz's tardiness cut his planned 45-minute set to a scant 25 minutes, the Atlanta rapper was at least wise enough to cram almost all of his solo hits and notable guest verses into that brief timeframe. Quick hits from "Mercy," "Beez In The Trap" and "R.I.P." got their due from the overwhelming audience, but 2 Chainz's "Based On A T.R.U. Story" material, like "I'm Different" and "Crack," turned the Mojave Tent into an explosion of energy. Somehow scheduled between Savages and Bat For Lashes, 2 Chainz proved that a tent couldn't handle his raucous following.

• Even the DJ’s in the Sahara tent had some surprises in store for their fans. Italian DJ/producer Benny Benassi was joined on stage during his Coachella set by R&B crooner John Legend. The pair premiered their brand-new collaboration, “Dance the Pain Away,” which proved to be a big hit with the crowd. The single is set for a spring release (Benassi told us that he recently shot a video for the song with Legend), and will be followed by a full-length album out sometime in the fall.

• After playing a blistering, soul-soaked set on Coachella’s main stage at high noon, California foursome Vintage Trouble reminisced with us about life on the tour with U.K. rock royals, The Who. “One of the most exciting things was when we were backstage and Roger [Daltrey] … pulled us over and said, ‘If I wasn’t in The Who and I heard your band, I would leave my life and follow you guys on the road,’” recounts frontman Ty Taylor. “On some days, you cry because you’re so happy and on other days, you just want to live up the respect that they are giving you and surpass what they want you to do.” After Coachella, Vintage Trouble will perform more gigs with The Who and wrap the tour on July 8 – one week before sharing a bill with The Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park.

• Famous faces once again flooded Coachella’s VIP area, as the festival remains the place to be seen (and snapped by roaming paparazzi) whenever the carnival comes to town. Spotted today mingling around the grounds: Comedian Aziz Ansari, R&B babe Kelly Rowland (who was tagged talking shop to Solange) and festival fanatic Danny DeVito, who tweeted his excitement for Sigur Ros (who would have thought?). Earl Sweatshirt and his pals were spotted enjoying the Violent Femmes on the VIP lawn just before sundown.



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