By Adam Lovinus
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 celebrity big surprise (before Pharrell's start-studded performance) of a festival characterized by strong sets turned in by female artists.
The musical pretext for the Solange set was laid out by two prominent bands on the LA scene, which now more than ever, in terms of bands, food, beer, style and attitude, dominates Coachella. This was illustrated by sunwashed afternoon sets by HAIM and Warpaint Friday and Saturday.
Taking the Outdoor Stage in the wake of Dum Dum Girls' Kristen Dungren's nipples, HAIM countered with a charged-up, decidedly homegrown vibe, with 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 girls at Coachella Friday were dressed like HAIM, and there's a lot of truth in that.
Like a basketball team answering a three-pointer with a three of their own in transition, 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. Stylishly packaged and monsterous with their jams, Warpaint are Coachella veterans having played in 2011, taking their sound bigger, higher 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. They outperformed their contemporaries showing more instrumental proficiency than UK's Kate Nash and Brooklyn's Dum Dum Girls, and a more mature stage command than Lorde. Perhaps more importantly, their sets felt most like Coachella 2014--a refined blend of power, pretty and polish that makes LA girl rock the baddest in the world.