Here's Exactly What Happened at Radiohead's Coachella Set
INDIO, CALIFORNIA—There is no other live band like Radiohead. These are musicians who relentlessly seek perfection and get closer to it more often than any other band alive. That seems like hyperbole, but anyone who has seen them perform can attest to the stunning accuracy with which they recreate their meticulously complex music and the purity of Thom Yorke's voice. This is what they're known for. They'll do this in arenas. They'll do this in basements. They'll do this at any music festival in any country. Time stops during a Radiohead concert, if only because the work they put into every moment is worth savoring. In other words, if Radiohead doesn't fuck up Radiohead, no other outside factor should either. And that should explain the outrage among fans when the sound cut out a few times during the opening songs of Radiohead's headlining set at Coachella on Friday, causing the band to walk off stage twice.
Three songs into the show, during "Ful Stop," the sound glitched and cut out completely. The band kept playing through the glitches—partially because they likely could still hear themselves because of their in-ear monitors, and partially because they're professional as hell. After a brief pause to figure it out, Yorke apologized to the audience. "Fucking aliens again," he said. But two songs later, during "15 Step," the sound cut out again. While the band was calm, the crowd was not. Radiohead finished the song like nothing happened and walked off stage to sort things out. That's when people started screaming:
"Are you fucking kidding me? This is Radiohead. How can they let this happen?"
But they returned, got through "The National Anthem" with some audio blips, and the sound again cut out during—fittingly—during "Let Down." The band walked off stage again to deal with it, and by this point the crowd was demanding their money back or just heading for the exits—possibly something that never has happened after a handful of songs into a Radiohead show. After a few minutes, the band came back. Thom Yorke walked to the mic and did another thing that never happens at a Radiohead show: He made a joke.
"I'd love to tell a joke to lighten the mood, but this is Radiohead, so fuck it," he said. Given the band's scientifically depressing material—and their attentive, skillful demeanor on stage—the light-hearted mood seemed out of character for Yorke (the aliens comment seemed like more of a statement of fact than joke). From there, Radiohead returned unfazed, playing a stunning set that included "Everything in Its Right Place," "There There," "Idioteque," "Nude," "Karma Police," and, yes, "Creep."
But despite the stunning set with which they ended the night, these blights on Radiohead's music (whether caused by malfunctioning equipment or staff error) will remain an unforgettable screw-up in Coachella history. There is a silver-lining to this, though. It was a moment that got the crowd of Coachella's most obvious stereotypes—women wearing flower crowns and bros in Pooh Bear onesies holding blow up dolls—to proclaim the sanctity of Radiohead's sound. We got to see Thom Yorke be uncharacteristically funny and self-aware. Most importantly, though, we got to see proof why Radiohead remains the quintessential festival band—able to take even the worst situations and turn it into a stunning night of music.