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Sublime and No Doubt submerge Coachella in 1990s nostalgia

The son of Bradley Nowell, who died in 1996, sung with the original members of the group and Olivia Rodrigo performed a surprise song with Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani and No Doubt during their concert on the second day of Coachella 2024.
Gwen Stefani and No Doubt during their concert on the second day of Coachella 2024.Amy Harris (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Luis Pablo Beauregard

It was a win for Southern California music at Saturday night’s Coachella, with Sublime and No Doubt winning over the audience with sets that evoked the carefree and relaxed attitude of the West Coast musical style. Ska and rock sounded from the main stage of the music festival, which receives about 100,000 people every year, although this year it appeared much less crowded. It was a day full of nostalgia for the 1990s, when these groups released their most popular albums and were propelled by MTV to international fame. For Sublime, it was their first big concert since the band’s vocalist died 28 years ago. For No Doubt, it was their first concert in nine years. The festival was all about nostalgia until Tyler, the Creator brought it back to the present, closing the second night with a conceptual number that included appearances by Childish Gambino, ASAP Rocky and Kali Uchis.

There was an emotional component to Sublime’s performance. The group attracted thousands of followers thanks to its eponymous album in 1996, which is a cult record for music fans of that decade. In addition to being the best of the band’s short three-album discography, it was released two months after the death of the Sublime frontman, the charismatic Bradley Nowell.

Despite this, tens of thousands heard Nowell’s voice on Saturday night. It came from Jakob, his only son. He recently reunited with the original members of Sublime. Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson had been playing with another vocalist for several years under the name Sublime with Rome. They have returned to being just Sublime, since December, when they played with Jakob for the first time at a bar in Los Angeles. He had been a part of a couple of groups, but his biggest project today is following in the steps of his father, who died when he was 28 years old, the same age Jakob is now. More than imitating his father’s style, festival-goers were surprised by his physical resemblance and his similar tone of voice. “This is a family affair,” Jakob said at one point during the concert.

Sublime opened with April 29, 1992 a song from the band’s most famous album that took the audience back in time. The band did a 50-minute tour of their influences. A little rock, some rap, touches of ska and a large dose of reggae. They played a version of Jailhouse, a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, one of the main influences of the band from the coastal city of Long Beach.

Jakob Nowell has fought the same battles as his father, who died of an overdose in a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, when Jakob was 11 months old. Nowell has battled addiction and has been sober for seven years. On Saturday, he easily filled the shoes of the father he never knew. He showed off the tattoos on his chest and played the guitar with the band members he calls his “uncles.” It was one of the defining images of Saturday’s concert. Sublime played as the sun set behind the mountains, and the last moments of the bright, golden light fell on the polo field, where the festival takes place. The group closed the set with Santeria, their best-known and highest-charting song. People screamed and asked for more songs, a difficult request to grant given the complicated logistics of festivals. The band members hugged each other on stage and Jakob told the audience: “I love you, dad. And I love each of you.”

Jakob Nowell, 28, came out this Saturday to sing with his father's former band, Sublime.
Jakob Nowell, 28, came out this Saturday to sing with his father's former band, Sublime.Amy Harris (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

The festival was held this year with stricter security measures. Security filters were tightened, and there were canine teams and bomb squads from the local sheriff’s office. Messages on screens told the festival-goers to report any strange behavior. But this was not able to ruin the festive atmosphere. The presence of Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, American football player Travis Kelce, was commented on by several attendees. The star couple was seen in public during the Bleachers concert, the group of Jack Antonoff, Taylor’s producer and musical genius friend (who also played with Lana Del Rey).

No Doubt injected energy into the night with their first concert since 2015. Gwen Stefani wanted to make it clear that she is in great shape. During the set, she did push-ups and climbed the metal tower where the stage lights were installed. At 54 years old, she took charge of firing up the audience and did not stop for a second. She started with Hella Good, from the album Rock Steady, which got everyone dancing. It was a beginning that highlighted many of the hits the group brought to the radio, in the era before social media. The band performed a cover of Talk Talk, It’s My Life and Hey Baby, with Stefani proving that she is still a great pop star on stage.

The Anaheim-based group bridged the gap with the younger generation midway through their set, when Stefani invited 21-year-old star Olivia Rodrigo on stage. The Drivers License singer and Grammy winner has cited No Doubt as one of her main sources of inspiration. Although somewhat nervous, Rodrigo performed the 2000 single Bathwater with her idol. The band then they did a cover of One Step Beyond, Madness’s ska classic. In case there were any doubts about the band’s influences, bassist Tony Kanal played in a sleeveless T-shirt from The Police.

Throughout the concert, home videos taken from when No Doubt was rising to the top were projected on the screen. The band took off after the release of Tragic Kingdom in 1995, which became a classic of the decade. The last minutes of the set were dedicated to three classics on that album. In Just a Girl, Stefani had men and women sing separately. Afterward, the audience sung Don’t Speak together. The song even made the younger festival-goers, who had begun the long walk to see French producer and DJ Gesaffelstein at a different stage, stop and turn around.

Blur could have added to the 1990s nostalgia, but Damon Albarn chose a set that opted for the most recent songs of the London group, which has reunited and broken up several times since 2003. Seconds before singing Girls & Boys, the song from Parklife (1994) that became one of the best-known anthems of Britpop, the 56-year-old leader told the audience: “This is a song from the 1990s. We were there!”

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