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Coachella 2013: The Postal Service and the new indie classic rock

April 14, 2013|By August Brown
  • Musician Ben Gibbard of the Postal Service performs onstage during Day 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Musician Ben Gibbard of the Postal Service performs onstage during Day… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images…)

When did you first hear the Postal Service?

If that question has any particular resonance for you, then the answer is likely "10 years ago, in high school or college, on a CD-R mix comp from somebody I was awkwardly pursuing romantically."

And that, Coachellans, is the short version of why a band with one album that rarely toured upon its release 10 years ago can play one of the biggest slots at one of America's preeminent music fests. The electro-pop duo of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello got under your skin at a sensitive age, and stayed there.

The band's much-anticipated Saturday set on the main stage (with some extra assists from guests including Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley) was fizzy and demure, staying true to the bedroom-y nature of the songs on its decade-old album "Give Up." While there's been a revolution in American electronic music in the intervening years, these tunes were many young indie fans' first inoculations for it.

COACHELLA 2013: What to see and do | Day 2 photos

The polo grounds field was strewn with twentysomething lovebirds singing along to early-oughts staples of coupling like "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" and, of course, "Such Great Heights."  Even the band itself seemed to revel in this nostalgia streak, when Gibbard thanked everyone for staying loyal to his "imaginary band."

But just as importantly, the set signaled a kind of maturity for the festival as an indie-rock pacesetter. Coachella is now getting reunion sets from acts popular during its very first run. A generation who grew up coming to hear what's new is now able to hear what they loved in the beginning of their fandom.

It's way, way too soon to call bands like Postal Service "classic rock," exactly. But it's the same machines at play. Strike while the teenage irons are hot, and you'll make a fan for life.


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