Coachella 2014: Empire of the Sun, Pet Shop Boys Bring Art Pop to the Desert

Empire of the Sun, Coachella 2014

Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2014 in Indio, California

The wild diversity of Saturday’s Coachella lineup – bombastic EDM, muscular alt-rock, chart-topping R&B – meant there was something happening on the Empire Polo Field for just about everyone. And festivals goers who like their pop injected with a bit more art got their fill as well.

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U.K. Australian electro-troupe Empire of the Sun hit the Sahara Tent at 9:50pm and brought a bit of theater to a stage built more for blinding strobe lights. The band’s on-stage setup entourage of costumed musicians, contorting dancers and glow-in-the-dark instruments added a surreal visual punch to the sleek tech-pop of live ringleader Luke Steele.

Flashy costumes, synchronized dance routines and cascading lasers dazzled the eyes, while well-known hits like “Walking on a Dream” and “Alive” kept feet of the giant crowd -- which included a very enthusiastic Paris Hilton -- shuffling all the way back to the port-a-potties.

Ninety minutes later, British new wave icons Pet Shop Boys took the Mojave stage in front of a much smaller but undeniably devoted crowd. Keeping in step with the band’s current Electric tour, PSB’s set was an over-the-top visual feast imagined by reknowned costume and set designer Es Devlin. Dancers in animal skulls and other obtrusive headgear flanked singer Neil Tennant and ever-stoic keyboardist Chris Lowe, who treated the fans to a series of flamboyant, futuristic costumes.
Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys, Coachella 2014

The duo may have fulfilled the role of elder statesmen for the day (no band on Saturday’s lineup has been around longer than the ‘80s innovators), but PSB’s recent material packed an energetic punch that could have stood next to any of the younger acts on the bill. Tracks like “Fluorescent” packed a dancefloor punch that could hold its own with anything the kids dropped in the Sahara. But of course, it was the classics like “West End Girls,” “Opportunities” and “Always on My Mind” that made the band worth skipping Muse.