A Review of Atoms for Peace’s Coachella Performance (Better Late Than Never)

photo courtesy greenplastic.com

At Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio this past April, I got to feed my Radiohead and Thom Yorke addiction, along with tens of thousands of other addicts. This is no addiction you can try to wean yourself off of with other bands. Sure, I can go to various stages during the Friday and Saturday lineups, but when Sunday morning came around I was still dreaming of that lustful, soft and electronic Thom Yorke style. Playing with his band labeled as “????” when the lineup came out in January, gossipers came to know this band included bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with drummer Joey Waronker, percussionist Mauro Refosco, and guitarist/keyboardist Nigel Godrich.

The group came together as Thom Yorke’s side project and have not had any official releases of albums or singles to date. Yorke announced in February that the band was called Atoms for Peace, referring to the track of the same name from Yorke’s 2006 solo album, “The Eraser.” “Atoms for Peace” was included in the Coachella setlist, and was dedicated to Pavement by Yorke for an unexplained reason.

The stage was set for Phoenix to play as I finished my $10(ish) french fries, and as the music came on my co-pilot and fellow Virgo Kristina and I noticed the crowd growing considerably quickly and got up to join. Dancing along with the other head-boppers, my mind was still set on Yorke’s approaching set. Fans rushed to other stages as Phoenix ended, and Kristina and I used our energy to move to a perfect spot near the middle of the crowd. With a fence to lean against to lessen the grief of waiting, Kristina and I held our ground.

The masses of people caused one man setting up the stage to demand them to simultaneously take a few steps back – in his English accent, of course.

The music floating from the speakers repeated itself in an eerie, electronic tone as fans stood anxiously. When the lights dimmed, Thom Yorke arrived and headed to the piano. He started off with “The Eraser,” and the band joined him to play every song from the album of the same name – and that was only before the encore.

Dancing in a total trance near the fence for the first half, I made my way into the open, grassy space I found myself getting lost in. With the thousands of fans there, it was like this spot mystically opened for Kristina and I, and we enjoyed it to the fullest. Yorke returned alone for “Give Up the Ghost,” an entrancing performance in which he sang and played acoustic guitar while his own vocals looped. Playing Radiohead favorites “Airbag” and “Everything in its Right Place,” this encore started the crowd moving until the end.

The following two songs were “Paperbag Writer” and “Judge, Jury & Executioner,” respectively. “Paperbag Writer” is a Radiohead b-side that is mysterious, while “Judge, Jury & Executioner” is blatant in its reference to an earlier Radiohead song. This song, titled “Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner)” is the 12th track from Radhiohead’s sixth studio album, Hail to the Thief.

Before the band completed their Coachella debut, Yorke told the crowd they had had a long weekend, and needed to freak out. He introduced the song “The Hollow Earth” as “one to freak out to.” This freak out continued as Atoms for Peace played the final song, “Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses,” as everyone danced with the wild Coachella energy Yorke gave them.

Thom Yorke