As a dusty wind whipped behind her in hazy stage light, Solange and her ultra-slick backing band brought serious chops and swagger to the polo fields as nighttime fell over Coachella. And then Beyonce showed up on stage, dancing to "Losing You." It was the first Coachella big celebrity surprise -- before Pharrell brought out everyone and their mother -- during a festival characterized by strong sets by women.
The musical pretext for the Solange set was laid out by two prominent bands on the L.A. scene, unwashed afternoon sets by Haim and Warpaint Friday and Saturday.
Haim performed a charged-up, decidedly homegrown vibe, including banter about how they've been sneaking into Coachella since 2004. The Fleetwood Mac comparisons fade in the live setting; the sisters Haim (Este, 28, Danielle, 25, and Alana, 22) bring a more playful, sassy attitude and way more shred.
More guitar-face, too. Someone remarked that all the ladies at Coachella Friday were dressed like Haim, and there may be truth in that, but really, it was all about the attitude.
Warpaint's set offered a shot of noise-pop, climaxing guitars and huge three-part harmonies -- pure '90s alt shimmering through their classic stage gear. Their jams were stylishly packaged, yet monsterous. Warpaint are Coachella veterans having played in 2011, but this time their sound was bigger and louder. And like Haim, Warpaint felt at home making Joshua Tree references.
Both sets felt like high watermarks in the the respective bands' career arc. Haim showed they're ready for bigger stages across the country. Warpaint are prime for after-dark festival sets.
Also winning notice were UK's Kate Nash and Brooklyn's Dum Dum Girls, and Lorde has gotten good reviews as well. Perhaps more importantly, their sets felt spot-on - a refined blend of power and polish that epitomizes Coachella this year.
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