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COACHELLA FESTIVAL | POP MUSIC REVIEW

It's got a beat you can dance to

April 30, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

So many acts. So little time. Well, you actually had all day Saturday at Coachella to sample a tantalizingly wild variety of music. Yet it could be frustrating to decide between Kings of Leon and the Decemberists, Travis and MSTRKRFT, or the Good, the Bad & the Queen and the Black Keys, to name just a few of the dilemmas.

On the other hand, the fest was a channel changer's dream. With careful calculation (and hardy feet), you could sample almost everything, as though spinning the dial on the coolest, most contemporary fantasy radio station. Tune in to L.A.'s Ozomatli in the Mojave Tent, where its funk-rap-Latin songs energized fans, and then backtrack to the Outdoor Theater for the atmospheric Blonde Redhead's blending of wispy vocals, noisy guitars and fetching melodies. Take in MSTRKRFT's popular, pulsating dance music, and then amble off to hear Travis' gently epic arena pop.

Earlier on the main stage, anti-folk artist Regina Spektor proved surprisingly hard to walk away from, playing keyboards and percussion and inadvertently engaging in a piano duel with Jack's Mannequin, next door at the Outdoor Theater.

In the relatively intimate Gobi Tent, New York sister act CocoRosie fused trip-hop, rap, Bjorkishness and nigh-on-terminal cutesiness.

Even at the end Saturday, the choices were tough. But trance DJ Tiesto dominated from his main-stage position. All hands were in the air as he put his own stamp on Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" and Moby's "We Are All Made of Stars."

On Friday, in the completely overwhelmed Gobi Tent, British soul singer Amy Winehouse and her band did a remarkable job of rendering her intimate and raw blend of R&B, Motown and reggae as though playing in a medium-sized nightclub.

In the same tent earlier, folk duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, in their matching sequined red and white Nudie-style cowboy suits, harmonized high-lonesome sweetly, momentarily transporting the ardent crowd away from the palm-tree-ringed fields with Johnny Cash and June Carter's "Jackson" and the pensive "Elvis Presley Blues."

If you didn't want to think about the night Elvis died, you could go bounce with the members of Dance Nation in the Sahara Tent, where French DJ Dave Guetta gleefully demonstrated the tribal effect of the beat on your feet.

Later on, with the U.K. hip-hop-dance fusion of double-drummer-fueled Faithless, the beat even gained political depth.

Everyone into the tent, indeed.

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