Indio, CA May 01 – 2004
Coachella Music & Arts Festival
A late start (we rolled into the spacious and ! air conditioned Thousand Palms Red Roof Inn at 4am that morning, so we slept in and rocked the IHOP for pancakes n’ eggz before heading over to the concert) got us stuck in traffic so we missed the early-early stuff, but we got there in plenty of time to feel the full effect of the desert sun on my watery, semi-translucent New England complexion. It was hot, GD hot and that’s really all that needs to be said. I drank seven bottles of water Saturday and went to the bathroom a grand total of zero times while I was there. Do not attend one of these things if you are averse to being dusty, sweaty and gross. But you care not about my hygeine, I can feel that, so onto le musique:
Kinky – First time listener and I was totally grooving to this stuff. Funky latin pop-rock-funk goodtimes. Music you can dance to with bigtime brassy latin flava. If you like funky, poppy, totally danceable stuff then buy their self-titled album, you won’t regret it. The first act I saw and probably would have been my favorite, oddly enough, if it were not for the presence of Belle & Sebastian.
Stellastarr* – I really, REALLY liked this band. The girl is cute. The 80s revival music is fine with me, I missed it the first time around listening to Billy, Bruce and the Beatles, so I might as well catch the remakes. Catchy pop. I picked up the (also self-titled) album in Hollywood afterwards and I have been LOVING it for the last 36 hours. If you dig 80s nights then this is the band for you. Although you will swear you heard Big Country do that one song, the one with the “BUM BUM BUM” backbeat and the durnp-durnp-durdurrrrn riff
Beck – Technically I saw three songs so he’s in here for completeness, but they made one of the few screw-ups of the weekend and put him on the SMALLEST stage at the festival, so there was no way to get anywhere near the place where the music was being made, which was okay because it was reported in the paper Monday that it was like 300 degrees in there or something ‘cause of all the people crammed in…I left to check out…
Danny Howells – Electronica. I dunno, I am not nearly indie-rock enough to keep up this music-critic pretense in the face of techno. If you like to dance when music is being played, you probably dig techno, if you don’t then you probably don’t. Whatever, I lahk it alawt, and this guy had me dancing til’ 7:30 in the morning one time in NYC, so I wanted to catch it. Fun, but dancing at 3pm in the desert is not dancing at 2am in an AC’d club in the East Village, a big chunk of the seven waterbottles came out of this gig.
Moving Units – Good indie rock. On my list to check out but nothing stood out so whether or not I end up following up, meh. I left early and walked over to the other rock tent to see…
LCD Soundsystem – Another band whom I will definitely be putting in rotation. The lead has a good voice, the bass lines are rock-solid, and there’s a cutie who looks like Lucy Liu inserting beeps, squeaks and various other fed-back, distorted, funk-freaky electronic noise into the mix to very smiley, shake-your-ass effect. She appeared to have an 18-key CASIO keyboard and some DAT machines…I dunno, it was rad and I dug it. It’s like happy Incubus with indie-rock cred, so this is what you listen to I guess if (like me) you desperately aspire to be a hipster.
The Rapture – These guys interest me. The album came out in 2003. I saw them live in Boston in April – 2004 and now again, and after the Boston show I was most impressed. Then I bought the album. Again, this is criticism by a guy who has barely more musical background than your everyday FYE mallrat….but the live show seems to highlight all the right stuff and smooths over the wrong, the album feels poorly produced, a lot of stuff that gives them a “unique sound” maybe, is turned up, while the baseline funky, danceable elements of a bunch of the songs seem to get lost on the studio album. Too bad, but even if you don’t like the album, you should check them out live because it seems like they’ve either learned or were never doing it wrong in the first place, and the album just didn’t work out the way it should have – I dunno, if you know anybody in The Rapture, ask them for me, I’d be interested to hear what they think about their album
Radiohead – I saw five amazing songs and then we left because we were sweaty, exhausted, sun-dried and gross. Of course I read that it was an amazing set and that the Kraftwerk show afterwards was a life-changing experience. Meh. I regret leaving now but I sure didn’t at the time – I have a sneaking suspicion I will have other chances to see both groups before I die….oh and I missed the Pixies for Rapture, so crucify me, I was about as indie-rock as Wonder Bread when the Pixies were in their prime, so they really have no meaning for me, sorry.
Indio, CA May 02 – 2004 (even hotter than saturday, but with a breeze, so it actually was more comfortable)
Pretty Girls Make Graves – Another late start and IHOP’s Steak Omelette Special kept us away until the tail end of their set, but I saw them in Boston last month so whatever. They were good. The replacement guitiarist they thanked in Boston (it was the last show of that tour) was still with them, so I don’t know if the original guy quit the band or is still in rehab or whatever, but this band is kind of ‘The Rapture’ inverted for me. I have their latest album and I generally like it more than anything I’ve seen them do live to date. JMHO
!!! – The lead singer pronounced this “Shük! Shük! Shük!”. These guys are fun and they have a lot of energy. The drummer and the lead vocals guy trade singing details and the secondary percussionist provides various electronic beeps and booooooooooWOPS. Lotsa political talk that makes the lead singer sound kind of dumb but a fun band. I’d try and describe the sound but it’s getting a little fuzzy at this point, poppy Rage Against The Machine lacking Tom Morello is what I thought at the start of their set, but they definitely had at least two songs I was bopping to, so I’d like to get my hands on the album.
Broken Social Scene (with Emily Hayes) – Played an amazing set. They had a trombone and trumpet, one of the guys from the Stills (or the Thrills? I can’t remember, I think they both played…gah the Thrills did play! dang I wish I had seen their set, okay so now I have three regrets, oh well) on keyboards. They are older and the experience shows, they are totally relaxed up on stage and just put on a great show with lots of fans who obviously agreed, huge audience participation for their dorky crowd-work moments. And whoever Emily Hayes is she has an amazing voice – to be looked into…
Muse – Three guys putting out some good hi-speed rock. Lead vocalist/guitarist did the last song crouched atop his overturned amplifier practically putting his ear on the speaker-screen…dunno why but it looked cool.
Thursday – Ugh. I soldiered through this because B&S was up next and I wanted to be close. He called himself hardcore. I guess it was, I was definitely glad I had earplugz. Not my scene but the only moshing of the festival that I saw was during their set, they definitely had energy. Lead singer was sick and after the third song he had screamed himself into a state where he caused himself to collapse on the stage and lay there coughing for five minutes. I was NOT looking forward to 45 minutes packed like a sardine under the broiling sun with nothing to distract me while I waited for B&S, so I was glad to see him get up and finish out their set, even if I thought the music sucked Also, I just hate their name, it irks me.
Belle & Sebastian – I lurrv them. Stuart is dreamy (sigh). Didn’t need earplugs but by the same token I was glad I was close, their music is not really designed for outdoor performance at venues with absolutely NO acoustical elements. Learned that snapping is called ‘finger-clicking’ in Scotland…sigh.
Bright Eyes – Very very good. This Conor guy writes really emotional autobiographical songs. The newer stuff is a lot darker apparently, so I hope he doesn’t burnout or wake up dead or anything, but for the time being his show packs a wallop. If you like emotive acoustical indie-rock then you probably already listen to this stuff, so you need me telling you anything about it like you need a third buttock, but if it’s a new name to you, then check it out.
Sleepy Jackson – Meh. The bassist looked like a strung-out Robert Plant, although he carried them through some rough patches because….the lead guitar/vocalist changed guitars between every song and was constantly tweaking his effects during the lead-ins, leaving the bassist to riff for a bit; the drummer kept knocking over one of his symbols; the rythym-guitarist, sporting an awesome 80s mohawk and sleeveless-vest-thingy ensemble, alternated between yelling at the roadie, the soundboard guy, and the crowd, presumably to fix things he didn’t like, with the exception of the crowd, who couldn’t fix anything, however desperately they might have wanted to. These guys were great entertainment for their ‘Spinal Tap’-esque stage antics, but the music didn’t do it for me. The rythym-guitarist looked exactly like the British Actor Vinnie Jones (‘Bullet Tooth Tony’ in Snatch, other notable characters include ‘Sharky’, ‘Tenderloin Tony’, ‘The Extractor’, and ‘Mad Maynard’) with a mohawk, which is not really a stretch at all, and gave the show cool Mad Max flavor to balance the bassists Robert Plant strung-out-on-Hollywood-and-Vine look.
Flaming Lips – Fun band, has fun playing, puts lots of people in furry costumes with big flashlight lanterns on the stage. Uses fake blood for no apparent reason. Rolled out onto the crowd’s heads in a giant (~25 ft. diameter I’d say) clear plastic “gerbil ball” with a wireless mike. Funny and fun. Played Yoshimi…yay!
The Cure – Probably heard four songs all they way through. Meh. Not my thing.
Paul van Dyck – SO my thing. Had a total blast. Glad I saw Flaming Lips but so bummed I missed the first half of his set. I was a freaked-out dancing fool for 45 minutes in the rave tent. Really really GOOD. Über-danceable and lots of lasers and prettie colored lights (yay!). The videos he used had the Motorola logo all over them, which I thought was interesting. If there was a common theme for all the bands at the festival it was that none of them “sold out”, at least not yet. If you let your music appear in a car commercial you can pretty much forget about ever being invited to play Coachella…unless you’re a DJ I guess. I just thought it was funny how the unwritten rules seem to be different for the DJs. They obviously view it as a legitimate form of creative/musical expression, so I wonder why they get a pass on the artistic purity thing, and if you think about it, there is no hangup in the electronica scene with “selling out”, maybe it’s because the economics are so different and DJs get a larger percentage of their income from “selling their music” (albums, deals to use their stuff in movies/tv/commercials) than from “selling themselves” (touring)…dunno, but that’s my theory.
Okay that’s it. 48 hours, 18 bands. Go me!!! I am still sore but it was definitely worth it and I would definitely do it again. Nite.