San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coachella 2010 Review - Sunday

picture stolen from the Coachella message boards, if you're the genius behind it, let me buy you a cold one

Coachella 2010 Review - Friday
Coachella 2010 Review - Saturday

Usually, Sunday at Coachella is the day we wait for, the day we look forward to the most. Since the festival went from two to three days back in 2007, Friday has always been the weakest day, Saturday kicks it in, and Sunday is amazing. This has been the formula Goldenvoice has made work for the last three years.

This year, they flipped the script. And not in a good way. Sure, there were several acts I was looking forward to on Sunday, but when held up against Friday and Saturday, it paled in comparison. You could see it just looking at the lineup - there were huge spans of time near the end where there was only one pony in the race (the headliners, Gorillaz).

Sure, some of this was because of the volcano and the disrupted travel from Europe and the UK. Delphic and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, both of whom I wish I could have seen, both had to cancel. Neither Yann Tiersen nor Gary Numan could make the trip, either. We prepared ourselves for Sunday being an absolute loss, hoping for some minor miracle.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't a total wash. We started off watching The Middle East on the Outdoor Theatre, a band I'd researched before the festival. They're make extremely mellow, subtle music, reminicent of Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine. Usually this is a recipe for disaster at an ADHD-fest like Coachella, but it worked because they were the first band on of the day. I know I'm going to make some enemies when I say this, but that goddamn Do Lab has got to go. I'm not saying get rid of it, because it's a really good idea. However, during the band's more poetic moments, you could clearly hear the THUMP THUMP THUMP from the Do Lab. Castrate that motherfucker or at least move it far enough away that it won't mess up any of the acts WE PAID TO SEE.

Perhaps they could put it between the first and second security checkpoints, another stupid addition this year. I mean, it was great that they allowed ins and outs (how could they refuse when they're branding us with wristbands for the whole weekend?), but come on, people, two security checkpoints? At least the search wasn't too personal this year, as I could walk just fine after we got past them.

Next up was the dreaded downtime we had due to the aforementioned Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. If you know me, you know I've spent some time over there, and speak quite a bit of Icelandic. As an educational service, I'll now show you phoenetically how to prononce "Eyjafjallajokull":

fuh-KING vol-KAY-no

We headed off to Babasónicos on the main stage. As you might have guessed, they're a Spanish-speaking band, specifically from Argentina. While they weren't quite as engaging as last year's entry from that part of the world that also starts with a "B" (Bajofondo), they were quite good, and extremely diverse. Some of their stuff sounded really dark, some of it more traditional, but none of it sucked, which was refreshing. It's actually really cool to see a show where you don't understand a single word. Well, one word. "Pendejo." I like songs I can sing along to, too.

Next, we headed back to the Outdoor to get ready for Deerhunter. We caught about the last two songs from Owen Pallet. Again, very hard to define, but easy to describe. There were two guys on stage, a violinist (who I assume is O.P.) and a percussionist / pianist. The guy with the piano got something looped and then went back to the drums, while Owen proceeded to bow-beat the hell out of the strings of his violin. He also used it as a percussion instrument.

Next up, Deerhunter. There were some real award-winning assholes behind me for this show, but I did learn from them that the one guy in Deerhunter was Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound. If you've never seen the cover the Atlas Sound album Logos, you won't know what I'm talking about, but if you have, I can tell you, his midsection isn't photoshopped. He was wearing a jacket and said, "My doctor says I have to keep this jacket on so I don't go to the hospital." If you looked closely, you could see that there was almost nothing inside of his jacket, almost not even him. Cox apparently has Marfan syndrome, which is probably partially what drove him to be the creative tour-de-force he is today. I can't say I was blown away by Deerhunter, but as a band on the Kranky label, I bet I'll like them more on repeated listens.

Back to the main stage for Yo La Tengo we went. We got a pretty good spot, I don't think a lot of people knew who they are, they're sort of indie darlings, always the bridesmaid type of a band. And yet, they're usually really highly critically-acclaimed. I don't know if they just don't get no college radio airplay or if they just don't get no respect, but the crowd that did see them was treated to a pretty fantastic show, complete with psychedelic noise-guitar solos, all three band members singing, and even dancing at one point to You Can Have It All.

"We met Sly Stone backstage," Ira began, "and he asked us if we wouldn't mind dancing to the music. Normally, we never would, but..." All three members sang along to a prerecorded track, and Ira and James danced a little synchronized dance.

Next up was Jonsi on the Outdoor Theatre. Jonsi is the lead singer for Icelandic band Sigur Rós. I'm a big fan of SR, but for some reason, I didn't have high hopes for Jonsi. I actually kinda thought he wasn't going to show up, as the massive cloud of buzzkilling volcanic ash originated from his homeland.

I have no idea why I ever underestimated this man. I can tell you right now, this was the tear-up moment of the day for me. His voice is so pure, so clean and so controlled, you could practically hear a pin drop as he exulted this last song, which some angel captured and posted to YouTube:

Blissed out, we floated through the crowd over to the Gobi tent, where Sly Stone was supposed to be performing at 7:00. If you don't know anything about Sly Stone, you only need to know three things:

1. He's a funk legend.
2. He's infamous for blowing off gigs
3. To say he's a drug addict is like saying the antichrist is mean.

We're in a packed tent, chanting, "We want Sly! We want Sly!" as they ran through a meticulous soundcheck. At 7:05, we were informed that the show had been pushed to "a little later." The crowd booed, and I think everyone had a short "I knew it" conversation with a total stranger.

Being no stranger to workarounds and second choices, we headed straight back to the Outdo' to catch Phoenix. This was actually pretty cool, because we were both wishing we could have seen Phoenix. This band has several albums, and I'd never heard of them before they had a song in a car commercial recently. Once I heard that, I couldn't get them out of my head.

Apparently they're pretty popular, because we couldn't get anywhere near them. When they played their hit song 1901, I bet you could hear it over the thumping kick drum in the Sahara tent, nearly all the way across the field.

We waded through the crowd and the darkness to catch Orbital, a pioneering electronic act from the 1990's. I've always been taught to respect Orbital, and I even have some of their stuff, but I really didn't know what we were in store for. In a word, Orbital reminded me that I love good breakbeat music. They turned in a great set of chunky, shake-your-ass dance music, right up until the very end. Well, almost the very end. The last song they played was a remix of Belinda Carlile's Heaven Is A Place On Earth?! WTF!?!? They lost the ENTIRE CROWD! The only other thing I've ever seen similar to that is when Satoshi Tomiie trainwrecked three separate times at the Mayan.

We got into position for Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace, a band featuring former Simpsons guest star Flea and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Thom announced that they'd be playing every song from his solo album, The Eraser, and some other songs. While there were some great moments, and some of the songs sounded fantastic, the whole thing felt like a workaround. Like Thom Yorke said, OK, I've got this great STUDIO album, how can I translate that to a live environment?

Let me tell you, Flea detracted from it more than added to it. There were so many people who showed up expecting to see Flea as he usually is, jumping around like a goddamn jackrabbit, mugging and bugging out his eyes. There were some definite highlights, Black Swan sounded great live, and Harrowdown Hill was phenomenal. After the main set, Thom came out and did Airbag, just Thom and an acoustic guitar. After the most appreciative cheers of the night, he walked straight over to the piano and did Everything In Its Right Place, again just him and the instrument.

He brought back the rest of the band to play a few more songs, mostly songs they'd written to perform live. It was quite a difference, as these songs were specifically written with an eye to live performance, and Thom wasn't the only one in the room when they were written. Don't get me wrong, I love Thom Yorke, but his one flaw is he can't play every instrument live simultaneously.

After they finished, an announcement was made, "Ladies and gentlemen, completely unaffected by travel restrictions, Sly Stone will be performing at 10:45 in the Mojave tent."

We had written Sly off. We were all set to see Gorillaz on the main stage. We figured he just blew off Coachella, but something inside of us had to know. We made a decision, and while I stick by it, it was the worst decision I've made at any Coachella in nine years.

We arrived at the tent. It was pretty empty. We looked around, there were maybe a tenth of the people who waited for him at 7:00, when he didn't show up the first time. The soundcheck was epic, a bad sign, we knew. We waited. 10:45 came and went, then 11:00 and then 11:10. Finally, at 11:15, after the backup singers warmed up the crowd, Sly finally made it onto the stage. He was wearing some sort of wig and top hat that made him look like something out of Alice In Wonderland.

He dropped into a chair, told the band to stop playing, and began to inform us of all his legal problems, in a diatribe that lasted easily five minutes. The band kept trying to steer him to start playing, but he wanted to give us a preview of his "new material." He had the keyboard player dial through a series of patterns, stopping him after about 15 seconds of each one. "No, stop!! STOP!! Play the next one!!" he'd shout.

After about five minutes of berating the band, they finally got him to sing part of a verse of Stand. I thought it was ironic because the bastard couldn't. After a few more failed attempts, I turned to a guy in front of me and said, "Well, at least we all shared a moment." This was going nowhere.

Conner turned to me and said, "You realize this isn't going to get any better, right?" In our hearts, I think we all wanted it to get better, wanted Sly to get better, to snap out of the funk (no pun intended) he was in and just tear it up. But much closer to the surface, we knew that it just wasn't going to happen.

At 11:30 PM on Sunday, April 18, 2010, we called it. Coachella 2010 was dead.

Between the two of us, Conner and I have seen easily over 1,000 shows. We agreed that not only was this a gross oversight on Goldenvoice's part, but this was the worst moment in our concertgoing careers. Nothing else even came close. This was a shit-landslide victory. Congrats, Sly. You single-handedly took that wonderful feeling we get when leaving Coachella and wiped your junkie ass with it.

All we could do was drive home, anything but speechless on how we'd essentially been screwed out of our afterglow feeling. Thank god we had a cooler full of beer to help take our minds off of the travesty to which we'd just been subjected.

And so, rather than a pop, Coachella 2010 ended like the air being slowly, painfully and tortuously squeezed out of a balloon.

We're not beat. We're down, but in the end, we refused to let this deter us from looking forward to next year.

And yes, we already heave our hotel reservations.

Until next year,


Coachella 2010 Review - Friday
Coachella 2010 Review - Saturday

1 comment:

Jay said...

Great review as always my friend. Sounds like Coachella - the highs are high and the lows are low.

But really, no Gorillaz? Shame on you.