Coachella 2013 did not disappoint. Coachella is like pizza or sex though, you can never get enough of it, and even when it's not great, it's still better than a sharp stick in the eye. This year, I was so busy with that little annoyance called "life" (everything that happens between Coachellas) that I didn't have time to really anticipate the festival. That's why Saturday came as such an amazing surprise.
I was hoping we'd get in early enough to hear some of Abjo on the Outdoor Theatre, but alas, we only made it in time to check out Mona in Mojave. Mona has one song I really love called Shooting the Moon. It sounds like cock rock or Billy Squier or some shit, but I love Billy Squier, and that song reminds me of him. The rest of their performance sounded ok but nothing I'd go out of my way for.
Next up, we checked out Wild Nothing, who were actually really, really good. Less chill than I'd remembered them from listening to their album Nocturne, but well-placed in the Mojave tent in the early afternoon.
The four of us then decided to head out to the car for a few beers. The day was hot, but not the Coachella-sweat-your-balls-off hot we sometimes get. It was more like hot-we're-in-the-desert-and-doesn't-a-beer-sound-great-right-now kind of hot. As not giving into our urges this weekend was a non-starter and we didn't want to pay $9 USD for a cup of beer, we opted for the half mile round trip to the car.
I usually don't drink at the festy, but those two Tecates with lime juice hit the spot. I'm not sure if it was worth the line we had to stand in getting back into the festival, though. Note to self: most douchebags start trying to enter the polo field around 3:30 in the afternoon.
It took about 40 minutes for us to get through the line, with too many morons yelling, "2 Chainz!" for us to even consider heading over to see them. I guess they're the group that does that song Popped A Molly (I'm Sweatin'). Noted.
We heard a little bit of Dropkick Murphys, who surprised us all by proclaiming that "If it weren't for a band called The Pogues there wouldn't be a band called Dropkick Murphys!" No shit? Anyway, they brought out the guitarist from The Pogues for a song but we didn't see it. Pogues minus herion equals Dropkick Murphys? Well...
We headed over to Mojave for Bat For Lashes. I reviewed them for this site a while back, as they were the first act confirmed for Coachella 2013. I picked up their latest album The Haunted Man, and while it's not the type of thing I normally listen to, I couldn't stop spinning this one. I wasn't sure how it was going to translate to a festival atmosphere, because I kind of put Natasha Khan's voice in the same category as Sarah McLachlan - beautiful, but a little precious.
Bat For Lashes (photo by Mike)
I was floored to hear how powerful this woman could sing. In person, she reminded me more of Bjork, with all her controlled force and a literally note-perfect performance. And despite having the entire crowd fawning over her, she exhibited the kind of grace and humility that is rare and refreshing to find in a musician as accomplished as she is.
Bat For Lashes
When she sang Lilies, the lead-off track from her latest album, and belted out the lyric, "Thank God I'm alive," she sang it with such conviction and strength that she could have been reading it from a tome of religious material. She engaged the crowd, made great use of the stage, and did some of her own percussion. Surprisingly, Bat For Lashes was the number one highlight of the weekend for me because my fairly high hopes were obliterated, exceeded, transcended.
Our next trek was over to the main stage to watch Violent Femmes. Mike sarcastically mentioned, "I hope they play some hits," to which I replied, "They don't have anything but hits!" And sure enough, they proceeded to play their entire first album, in its entirety, entirely. Front to back. They even quipped that they'd never done that before. I'm not 100% sure if that was the truth or if they were messing with us but in the end I didn't care. That debut album is one that will live on forever in the minds and hearts (and livers) of all of us who were in junior high, high school or college. And there were plenty of younger people there as well.
The thing that sucked about it was that they slowed down every song significantly. It didn't have the energy of the original band. I saw (well, heard) the Femmes back in the mid 90's in the Gaslamp Quarter here in San Diego. They were part of the superbowl festivities back when we hosted the big game. When they started, the sound was fucked, and they only got it fixed after four songs in. They decided they were going to start the entire set over, delighting the crowd.
But at Coachella this year, it was great, but not as fantastic as I was hoping. Some acts haven't lost a step (see: Dinosaur Jr.) but these guys admittedly have. "We haven't played a show together in six years," Gordon Gano quipped, "every six years or so they let us out." They performed the songs well, it just sounded like you had half a finger dragging on the record the whole time.
We really tried to make it over to check out part of Portugal, The Man for a bit, but we really only got to hear one song on our way to check out Grizzly Bear, who were my must-see of Saturday. These guys are just phenomenal, and I remember vividly fighting my way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of their set a few years back when they'd just released their third album, Veckatimest. While they were wonderful this year, I suspect they idle at wonderful. It wasn't the literally awesome, earth-shaking, faith-questioning show I caught half of three years ago, but it was still pretty great. This was to be a theme this year, but not the predominant theme (see: Phoenix).
We had a little time between sets, so we were able to catch a little bit of Spiritualized. We only caught Electricity and the very beginning of my all-time favorite Spiritualized track, Shine A Light.
Coachella 2013 - Nighttime
We wanted to stay 'cuz Jason and crew sounded amazing, but we knew we needed to get into position for The Postal Service. "This is an imaginary band called The Postal Service," Ben Gibbard proclaimed, and while the band may have only recently materialized in the physical sense, they sounded like a fairly well-practiced group on their virgin tour. As far as I know, Give Up is their only album, which was released about ten years ago. Listening to them play, I never realized how much I loved them, or how many of their songs were part of the atmosphere I've lived in for the past decade. I did have to move around a bit to get away from some fuckwits who just decided to talk and hang out because it was cool to be at the main stage. Note to anyone who thinks this is cool: STOP READING THIS AND CARVE OUT YOUR VOCAL CORDS AND REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS NOW. You don't need to breed. Yuck. Your children would be like the most annoying people ever.
I wish I'd had time to catch some of Moby's DJ set, because our friends watching online said it was really mindblowing, as did the girls we met before the too-good-to-be-true Parov Stelar set (read: Parov Stelar band cancelled). Apparently Moby prepared for this set by remembering his days DJing in New York. If more than 30 people were dancing, he got paid. If less than 30 people were dancing, he didn't get paid. "He was spinning actual records!" Our correspondent Bere reported. It's a little sad that this was such a revelation, but that's the way it is these days, and by all accounts, he destroyed Sahara with a combination of techno, breaks, and probably a lot more than that. Supposedly, this is his entire DJ set from SoundCloud:
However, getting close enough to be in the best part of the crowd for Two Door Cinema Club was totally worth it. I discovered this band's debut album, Tourist History, when preparing for Coachella a few years ago. However, there was a heartbreaking choice to make, and I didn't get to see them. That album is one of three I can think of in my life that I've been able to play on repeat for weeks.
Their set was a nonstop parade of hits. Even the songs I wasn't familiar with compelled me to dance like a loon. Luckily, I wasn't alone. I couldn't stop moving with the crowd, singing along to all the songs I knew, and listening to the rest of the crowd sing the songs I didn't. I could tell their follow-up record was worth getting (it's on its way here now) and I regretted not doing even more homework on this excellent band from Northern Ireland before the show.
As they ripped through the songs, the crowd began to take on a family-like atmosphere, exchanging glances while jumping around, smiling, laughing and really feeling what Coachella is supposed to be like. I knew there was one song they hadn't played before their finale, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The singer proclaimed, "Coachella, we've been a band since 2007, and we've been looking forward to tonight more than any other show in our lives. But tonight, you've made this not just the best show of our careers, but a night we'll never forget."
"I can tell it's what you want," he sang over a sparse chord,
"You don't want to be alone, you don't want to be alone," the crowd responded.
"And I can't say it's what you know," he continued,
"But you've known it the whole time, Yeah you've known it the whole time," we answered.
One of the best moments of the festival followed, with everyone dancing as a single entity, singing, trying to hold it together, because we knew the set was about to end.
Even though I'd considered leaving after this set, I was so invigorated, I demanded we try to squeeze just a little more life out of Saturday night.
Oh, and here's their full set in high quality:
We headed through the dense crowd for Phoenix, as Rick kinda wanted to see them, I'd already seen New Order, and Mike and Dave were outvoted (Mike voted for New Order, Dave for bourbon - the drink, not the band). The sea of legs, arms and torsos got thick enough that eventually we had to just stop moving and wait. None of us wanted to stay for their entire set, and it was a good thing we didn't because I would have been epically pissed off if I had.
The rumor mill had been churning out hints that the reason Phoenix landed the coveted Saturday headliner slot was because they'd bring out Daft Punk. I guess the old Innernets don't realize that France is a pretty big place, and even though Phoenix had done it recently in New York, I was skeptical that lightening would strike twice.
While I like Phoenix, and had an amazing time experiencing their set a few years back on the Outdoor stage, this time around just never seemed to reach that fever pitch; it didn't even come close. Part of it must have been that expectations were unrealistically high. I also think some portion of it had to do with the fact that their new album wasn't slated to release until well after Coachella, which can be a bad omen. Finally, while their performance in 2010 felt like an intimate, communal experience, this one felt cold, distant, and corporate, with little sense of the crowd coming together.
After an hour or so, we started working our way back through the crowd through the legions of swaying fans, even one numbskull dressed in a Daft Punk suit. Oh man, this guy must have been disappointed when the big "moment" was not the French electronic duo, but R. Kelly? And why when you type R Kelly into Google Suggest does it come up with "R Kelly piss" as the SECOND SUGGESTION?! DOUBLE WTF?!?!
We made it back to the '6 in record time, indulging enough to not only celebrate the two days behind us, but to absolutely destroy any chances of feeling good until well into Sunday.
But hey, it's Coachella, right?