It was Coachella's best-kept secret.
At the end of a day filled with speculation that Phoenix would share its headlining set on the main stage with Daft Punk, the French band instead brought out R. Kelly, the one-of-a-kind R&B star, for a supremely unlikely mash-up of its song "1901" and Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)." The surprise shocked the festival crowd, which responded -- after the inevitable surge of camera-phone flashes -- in the only way possible: by turning the grounds of the Empire Polo Club into a vast dance floor.
Yet if Phoenix's guest of honor was an outlier Saturday, the band's overall dependence on groove (which Kelly certainly bolstered) felt like part of an established pattern. Earlier in the evening the wry English group Hot Chip spun out shimmering electro-disco grooves on the main stage, followed a few hours later by Glasgow's Franz Ferdinand in the Mojave Tent. Each was offering Coachella a way to stay connected to its indie-rock roots while catering to an audience with an increasing appetite for the pulsating rhythms of electronic dance music.
Beyond its left-field duet with Kelly, Phoenix -- which broke out in the U.S. with 2009's "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" and will release an anticipated follow-up next week -- layered fuzzy guitars over crisp beats in new songs such as "Entertainment" and "The Real Thing," the latter of which openly echoed Prince's "Little Red Corvette." And it went deeply spacey in a long rendition of "Love Like a Sunset," pushing its meticulously crafted pop-rock to trippy extremes.