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SOAKING UP THE COACHELLA SCENE.

Byline: Evan Pondel Staff Writer

INDIO - Perhaps it was the desert air.

Or maybe the sound technicians finally got it right. Day two of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival finally proved why this Cirque du rock show reigns supreme in Southern California.

The crowd had thinned some since the first day. The temperature maintained its mid-80s appeal. And then everyone donned bunny ears in anticipation of Gram Rabbit leading off on the main stage.

They played loud and clear for nearly an hour, incorporating some gritty rock notes with one thumper of a bass drum. Some waddled. Some bobbled. And most jumped when lead singer Jesika von Rabbit sauntered on stage in a white Lycra suit.

Glamorous. Next.

That's what's great about Coachella: The lineup is so good that as soon as you tire of one act, you can walk about 50 yards and hear a completely different sound.

And that's what Donavon Frankenreiter cooked up. The pro-surfer- turned-bluegrass-frontman is reminiscent of Jack Johnson. But his full- bodied band adds more flavor to a formula that never gets old.

And then there was Jem. Cute and English, Jem goes well with just about everything, including biscuits. She dazzled the audience with Stevie Wonder's ``Master Blaster,'' and then played several songs from her latest album, ``Finally Woken.''

Jem showed up to last year's festival bandless. ``So it feels wicked to be here with such talented bandmates this time around,'' she said during a backstage interview. Now living in Los Angeles, she's working on a new album with an unannounced release date. Jem ended her set just shy of 4 p.m. A mass migration of Coachellans then sought comfort in the Gobi tent for a taste of M.I.A.

If hip-hop and techno ever mated, you'd have hip-techno. M.I.A is hip- techno, melding catchy rhymes and bloody good bounce on the ones and twos. The group's leader, Maya, is Sri Lankan, and I wouldn't mess with her daddy. Politically known as Arular, Maya's father garnered infamy as the founding member of a militant Tamil group. Sit down, 50 Cent.

The Chemical Brothers played here the night before, and many of the spinners (or dancers akin to Whirling Dervishes) were still in fine form.

Junkie XL was now on stage, and wide-eyed fans looked to the Amsterdam-based remixer as comrades ready to take orders.

But Evan Tracy, 21, from Oakland was clearly a nonconformist. He had a cocktail umbrella placed in his braided ponytail that now dangled over his forehead (an inverted ponytail, if you will). Sleep deprived and sweaty, Tracy stood in front of a metal art exhibit he called the ``Sublime of Da'ath.''

Evan Pondel, (818) 713-3662

evan.pondel(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 3, 2005
Words:457
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