Indio, United States. Hozier is a songwriter of melancholy and intimacy but the rising star embraced louder and even frivolous fun as he enjoyed a rapturous welcome at the Coachella festival.
The Irish singer-guitarist was one of the most keenly awaited performers on the second day of the influential music festival in the California desert, whose headliner Saturday was the retro-infused garage rocker Jack White.
Hozier released “Take Me to Church,” recorded in his parents’ attic, less than two years ago and the song — a metaphorical indictment of religious intolerance — quickly became a viral hit online.
For his Coachella debut, he sported a California chic look of sunglasses and free-flowing hair and invited Este Haim, of the Los Angeles-based pop outfit of three Haim sisters, to the stage.
Showing an unmistakable connection with Hozier, a beaming Haim danced and helped sing a cover of The Time’s 1984 hit “Jungle Love” whose funky refrain — “Owee/Owee/Oh” — is a far cry from Hozier’s usual austerity.
But, performing to thousands amassed under the setting sun, Hozier was well beyond his days as a solitary songwriter. His back-up band featuring a cello offered a larger, more theatrical presence to his intimate songs such as “Someone New” and “From Eden.”
By the time he closed with “Take Me To Church,” the crowd turned into a sea of smartphones taping his every note — a world away from his days recording in his parents’ attic.
Father John Misty
On the surface, Father John Misty on the surface shares similarities with Hozier — singer-songwriters who prize intimacy, hold strong views on religion and sport tidy facial hair.
But while Hozier left to a sea of cameras, Misty entered on a stage that resembled a Las Vegas-style lounge with smoke, neon lights — and a heart-shaped sign that said, “No Photography.”
While his no-photo orders were immediately defied, Misty has voiced misgivings about how to perform live from his new album, “I Love You, Honeybear,” a work of poignant personal vignettes, largely about his marriage.
His solution was to perform in an intensely confessional style, often clutching the microphone, but also to cast his show as ironic.
Misty —a former member of folk rockers Fleet Foxes and harder-edged Saxon Shore — questioned the crowd for staying to hear him sing “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me,” in which he relates a dream about kissing his brother.
Misty also described as a “sarcastic ballad” his “Bored in the USA,” a song of social commentary whose tone is less the earnestness of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and more a meh.
”They gave me a useless education and a subprime loan on a craftsman home,” Misty sings.
”Keep my prescriptions filled / And now I can’t get off / But I can kind of deal, oh, with being bored in the USA.”
Misty’s show came to an eerie climax as he asked for a volunteer from the crowd, saying with no elaboration that he wanted to “make a very weird dream come true.”
The volunteer — a visibly anxious woman named Amy — came on stage to sit in a thatch chair festooned by balloons.
Misty knelt and sang Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” — with the lines “If you want another kind of love / I’ll wear a mask for you” — as a semi-nude woman whose head was covered by an extraterrestrial-like headpiece serenaded Amy on key-tar.
”I’m sorry about the nightmares you’re going to have tonight,” Misty said.
Other key performers Saturday included chillwave star Toro y Moi, veteran Scottish storytellers Belle and Sebastian and indie rockers Alt-J, who produced a giant light show.
One eagerly anticipated act was FKA twigs, the trip-hop artist whose career has taken off in her native Britain since the release of her debut album “LP1” last year.
For her Coachella set, FKA twigs recreated her airy vocals but emphasized her longstanding vocation as a dancer, striking graceful body poses as she sported a white-and-golden gown and short top.
The packed audience included “Twilight” actor Robert Pattinson, reported by tabloids to be engaged to FKA twigs, as well as his friend, pop superstar Katy Perry.
Even without the celebrity connection, the performance marked a massive rise for FKA twigs who last year played at a Coachella side party.
”I tried to come here and they said I wasn’t allowed in,” she said.