San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coachella 2011 Review - Saturday

Each day things start a little later at Coachella.  The stages tend to have less good stuff until later, the parking lot is slower to fill up, and our brains idle at "I really should try to get out of this bed and scrub the filth off of me" for an abnormally long time.  It's almost a nice change from the very few hours of sleep we get before Friday 'cuz we're like little kids at Christmas, and every stage, every band, every set is a present waiting to be unwrapped.

Denny's, parking lot, sunblock, ut oh, where's my hat?  Rookie mistake.  Turned out to be OK though, even though Saturday was billed as the hottest day of the festival.  But as I followed the weather predictions and actuals pretty closely, I'm happy to report that weather forecasters have no fucking clue what they're doing.  (Note to non-goers, the only things worse to forget are: your ticket.wristband, wearing sunblock, sunglasses, and cash.)

Saturday started with EE in the Gobi tent.  These guys are just nuts, man, live drum 'n bass, and really good D&B too.  Plus, they had poplocking and breakdancing crazies on stage with them.  The band members all had painted these thick lines around their arms and legs, all the way up and down them.  They looked like some crazy-ass zebras on ketamine or something.  I'd see them again, if only for the girl with the Speak-N-Spell sampler type thing that she just kept pushing one key on:

E!  E!  E!  E!  E!  E!

'cuz, you know, that's the name of the band.

Next up, The Joy Formidable.  Hallelujah, we discovered a band we think we truly love at Coachella.  I did no research on them at all, but they sounded just amazing.  I guess they're originally from Wales, and you know how much I hate the Welsh (that's a joke, what true American knows anything about Wales?).  Nice, hard-driving guitars and a lead singer who's both beautiful (for a blonde) and powerful.  This band has more hooks than a Uzbekistani fishing boat.  Reminded me a little bit of My Bloody Valentine, but much poppier and radio-friendly.  You know it's good if I like it and it could be played on the radio.  Either that, or I have no idea what's on the radio.

Next, we headed to the main stage to catch bluegrass greats Trampled by Turtles.  As Conner pointed out, this is the kind of thing people from this part of the country do.  They sit around in their living rooms, playing instruments (read: very, very well) and sing.  I wish these guys were sitting in a circle, other than that, I can't think of anything I would have changed about this performance.  It took me halfway through the set to realize they didn't have a drummer.  The music is so rhythmic, so driving and percussive that it honestly doesn't need a drummer.  These guys may have been the most technically gifted group of musicians at the whole festival.  I assume they're playing Stagecoach, and if you're going, check them out.

We hung out in the shade of a palm tree for a while and just watched people come in from the parking lot.  We'd never done that before and it was actually a pretty cool perspective.  The shade kept moving, so we did as well, and when we finally cooled off, we headed back to the main stage for Gogol Bordello.

Gogol Bordello are one of those bands you just have to see to really appreciate or understand.  After about five songs I thought to myself, OK, I think I get it.  But we stayed for the whole thing and only then did I realize... it's a Gypsy band!  What a great concept.  Plus, our friend Insky has followed them around almost obsessively, check his site for some really outstanding pictures of these guys in New York.  They're totally high energy, you can see why these people are all so damn skinny.  Plus, none of them are Americans, so they probably eat less than 5,000 calories a day.  That helps keep ya not fat.

Gogol Bordello @ Coachella 2011
I really wanted to catch Two Door Cinema Club, but they were all the way across the polo field, so I didn't get a chance.  Instead, we decided to hang out and wait for Erykah Badu.  Man, this lady has so much class that it almost makes up for the fact that you're basically wearing sunblock and dirt for 72 hours straight.  You could only tell that she was restraining herself after hearing the last song in her set, which showed off her wonderful falsetto.  I'm still not all that familiar with her work, but I'm going to remedy that shortly.  She was flow personified, like warm milk and honey being poured.  And not just her, the band was off the hook.  I could listen to instrumentals from them, but then you add Erykah's voice, and, well?  Damn.

Erykah Badu and some dickhead with a gray baby on a stick @ Coachella 2011
Sadly, we had to miss Broken Social Scene to head back out to the parking lot.  Again, a nice break in the day, but this was the one day I could have skipped it.  Then again, a day this hot is made for your own personal cooler of water, beer, and ICE.  I took a cube in each hand and let them melt.

Caught about half of Elbow's set in Mojave.  I never realized how much his voice sounds like Peter Gabriel.  I haven't kept up with the band since I first saw them in 2002.  I actually met them at the record store signing and got them to sign my copy of Asleep In the Back.  That's the great thing about having a record store on-site.  You can buy a band's album and they'll sign it.  I really like where they are now, would be willing to get another album of theirs.  They're pretty mellow for Coachella, but live they sort of deliver this driving mellow music that no one else I know does.

By this point, the sun was full-on gone for the rest of the day.  Good thing, because we were off to catch Shpongle in Sahara.  Shpongle was originally billed as "Shpongle Presents the Shpongletron Experience," which I thought sounded pretty cool, but it changed to a DJ set at some point on the poster.  When we got there, the stage was all setup, it's one guy DJing in a gigantic Indian-inspired crazy-ass looking thing... oh hell, just watch the video here.  I can't even explain how crazy this thing looked.  I will say that it had all these videos playing on it, different videos in different sections.  And then, all of a sudden, I notice these two shapes sort of going outside the lines of the structure.  I don't know where they came from, but these two beautiful angels appeared and started dancing seductively, psychedelically.  It took me a minute or two to verify that they were flesh and blood and not just projections.  Trippy as hell.  The music was phenomenal, started a little downtempo and ended up as a great progressive house / progressive trance set that had the tent rocking.  I'm seriously buying all their shit.

We buzzed through the Gobi tent long enough to catch a few songs by Wire.  I was never a huge fan of them back in the day, but I know they're pretty well-respected for something, I guess it's their music, I don't know. They were OK.  They played well but it's nothing I'm into.  I can't say either they nor Big Audio Dynamite were disappointments, because I didn't expect much from either of them.  So we'll call that a wash.  We only stuck around for 3-4 songs of B.A.D.  Let me tell you, I know they were known for pushing boundaries back when they came out, but that shit didn't age well.  Neither did Mick Jones.

For our final trick, we went to the main stage to catch Animal Collective and then Arcade Fire.  I just don't get Animal Collective.  I was talking to Troy from Dallas just before Leftfield Sunday, and he put it that way, and I agreed.  I really wish I did, or I wish some other experimental electronic band had made it into the big time, but Animal Collective is blessed for some reason by Pitchfork, and so that's who the kids have been told to love.  The best thing about them is the quote I heard from someone the next day, "Man, I don't know what those fucking fans are on, I saw a couple of them at that show... their eyes were rolling back in their heads!"  My guess?  It's just good old-fashioned stupidity.

Arcade Fire are one of those bands that never fail to deliver for me.  This was the fourth time I'd seen them (twice at Coachella, once opening for David Byrne at The Hollywood Bowl), and they still brought me to tears.  This year, they had a marquee up in the center of the stage, with the words "Coming Soon - Arcade Fire!" written on it.  The show started with some old school previews of coming attractions related to children in the suburbs going apeshit for whatever reason, and some other trailers from like the 1950s for tract housing.  Then, the screen announced that it was time for the feature presentation, and Arcade Fire took the stage.  They did a great mix of old and new stuff, and the songs on The Suburbs finally worked for me.  I'd only listened to the first half of the album, but I definitely recognized several songs from that album in their set. Woven in with classic songs from Funeral and Neon Bible, they seemed to fit better than inside the context of their latest album.

To finish the main set, Win Butler announced, "Why don't you sing this one for us?" as the band launched into Wake Up, with its anthemic wordless chorus.  As the song changed tempo, about a hundred three-foot diameter beach balls fell, all white, all with LEDs in them.  They were all lit up in a single color at first, but as the crowd batted them around, they changed colors... purple, blue, red... all in time to the music, and all simultaneously.  We batted those suckers around gleefully for the rest of that song, and as they walked off stage, everyone grabbed them and held them over their heads during the encore, which included Tunnels (Neighborhood 1) from Funeral.

I tell you, I didn't think they'd move me as much as they had in previous performances, but when everyone started singing along during Wake Up, I couldn't help myself.  I don't know why it's such an emotional performance, and on some level I don't care.  I'm just happy I haven't become too jaded by all their (well-deserved) publicity and fame.

We passed a long, LONG line of cars on our way back to ours, and made it out of the lot in five minutes.  From where we were standing at Arcade fire (pretty damn close to the front) to our hotel room in an hour flat.  I took the liberty to gloat about it on Twitter as I read all the tweets about poor souls who were in the lot for more than two hours trying to get out.  I regret nothing.  Those beers at the hotel tasted pretty damn good.

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