The second afternoon of Coachella is always the moment the fest feels the most comfortable: the initial wave of excitement has died a bit, audience members are pacing themselves, and bands can let themselves get a little loose.
This year’s edition was no exception, as the much-larger field slowly filled in for buzz artists hoping to make an impact, many of whom also proved that the death of guitar rock has been mildly exaggerated. The Arkells‘ outdoor-theater set was full of joy in the spirit of Jack Antonoff, with singer Max Kerman leading a singalong from the audience of the band’s single, “Leather Jacket.” Downtown Boys, the punk band riding hype after a strong SXSW, played to a small but enthusiastic crowd in the new, cartoonish Sonora Stage tent, with band members yelling lyrics at circle-pit fans.
Meanwhile, Banks & Steelz — the collab between Interpol‘s Paul Banks and Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA — proved that rap-rock can have a second life, albeit one dressed in black, with moody guitar lines to boot.
Car Seat Headrest — aka wunderkind Will Toledo- – made its Coachella debut with a set of confident classic-sounding indie rock, opening with the rager “Vincent” and continuing through feedback-drenched catalog selections. And Local Natives and Chicano Batman — both fest vets — explored island sounds during back to back sets, the former featuring a guest appearance from Phantogram singer Sarah Barthel on “Dark Days” and the latter an acoustic-tinged singalong runthrough of “This Land Is Your Land.”
On a night headlined by the most pop-forward artist in Coachella history, the afternoon was proof that though the field may change vibes year to year, there’s always room to plug a guitar in — even if it’s early in the day.