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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Pop Music Review

The Little Guys Make the Biggest Impact

Lesser-known acts such as Plaid turn in some of the day's best performances; Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers thrill fans.

April 30, 2001|STEVE BALTIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

INDIO — While the reunited Jane's Addiction was considered the headliner of Saturday's Coachella Festival, electronic music provided most of the other big names, with such superstar acts as the Chemical Brothers (doing a DJ set), Fatboy Slim, Tricky, Roni Size/Reprazent, the Orb and Paul Oakenfold appearing. But following the time-tested thesis that the headliners will invariably be upstaged by unknown acts at music festivals, the highlights came while the sun still shone.

Techno duo Plaid turned in an impressive 45-minute stint in the Mojave tent. Using computers and keyboards to re-create a full band sound, Ed Handley and Andy Turner often dazzled the crowd with a mix of gentle, ambient strains and sped-up techno grooves.

Meanwhile, a few feet away at the main electronic stage, called the Insomniac tent, Uberzone left an indelible impression on the festival with a scintillating set. Featuring live percussion, keyboards and turntablism, the two-man act--the brainchild of a Fullerton man who goes by the name of Q--used superb showmanship to enhance its rich, dense breakbeats, which were made fuller with world music undertones.

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That's not to say that the big names didn't deliver. Fatboy Slim turned in a strong, upbeat DJ set that featured a lot of playing to the crowd and well-known songs given new mixes, including Madonna's "Music." And just the opportunity to see the Chemical Brothers DJ was an obvious thrill for the fans.

The festival organizers at Goldenvoice deserve many kudos, not just for the impressive name acts, but also for the diversity of the electronic roster, ranging from such DJs as Doc Martin and Swedish Egil to the drum-and-bass-meets-hip-hop style of Planet of the Drums and the jazzy grooves of French act St. Germain.

The one disappointment was Oakenfold's 90-minute set, though it wasn't his fault. Though most of the tents were divided by genre, Oakenfold was questionably placed on the festival's main stage, between rock bands Weezer and Jane's Addiction.

Though his dramatic trance mix is grand enough to handle the large setting, any sense of intimacy with the crowd was lost. If you're going to sacrifice a DJ to keep the rock stage going, you don't make it the biggest DJ in the world.

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