PALM DESERT, California (Billboard) - Mellow singer/songwriter Jack Johnson brought the first day of the annual Coachella music festival in southern California to an underwhelming end.
His performance at Indio's Empire Polo Field on Friday was evidently not compulsory viewing for all of the approximately 60,000 or so attendees. The weekend highlight was expected to be Saturday's headliner Prince.
Coachella was just one of many large-scale festivals Johnson will be playing, including Tennessee's Bonnaroo, New Jersey's All Points West and San Francisco's Outside Lands.
Prior to Johnson, reunited UK rock outfit the Verve commanded the main stage with such '90s favorites as "Sonnet," "Space and Time" and "Life's an Ocean." The group, fronted by Richard Ashcroft, scheduled its first U.S. shows in nearly a decade in conjunction with Coachella. The group will play in New York on Monday and Tuesday.
Serj Tankian's politically fueled appearance at the Outdoor Theatre sent a jolt into the late evening audience. Wearing a white top hat and matching jacket, the System Of A Down frontman ridiculed George Bush, while performing most of the hard-hitting rock offerings from his debut solo album, "Elect the Dead."
Also starring on Day One were the Raconteurs, playing classic rock-inspired tracks from their most recent album, "Consolers of the Lonely"; indie rock acts the National and Vampire Weekend, who drew huge crowds to the Outdoor Theatre; the recently reactivated Breeders, who delighted the Main Stage crowd with their '90s hit "Cannonball"; and Goldfrapp, whose slinky electro-pop was an early evening highlight in the Mojave Tent.
During a mid-afternoon set, San Diego-based Slightly Stoopid provided concertgoers with such reggae-rock songs as "Cally-Man," "Closer to the Sun" and "Officer."
Without a doubt, Friday's most entertaining set came from indie rock act Les Savy Fav, which whizzed through cuts like "the Equestrian," "Patty Lee" and "What Would Wolves Do?" -- all from the New York-based band's 2007 album "Let's Stay Friends."
Bearded Les Savy Fav frontman Tim Harrington, who is known for his wild stage antics, entertained a bouncing crowd by dangerously climbing rafters, removing most of his clothing, moonwalking on speakers and planting a kiss on an unsuspecting male spectator who was watching from the side of the stage.
"Coachella in French means: 'A place where you have a party,"' declared Harrington.