San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Monday, April 20, 2009

Coachella 2009 Review - Sunday

Coachella 2009 - Friday review
Coachella 2009 - Saturday review

Sunday was the day we were looking forward to more than anything else. This was probably due to the fact that My Bloody Valentine, who Coachellans have been screaming for for years, were scheduled to do a 70-minute set. But Sunday, more than any other, provided fewer tough choices and a clearer path from start to finish than any other day. Let's review.

We get through the gates later than ever this year, as usual for Sunday, at about 11:45 a.m. We camel up with water, sit in the shade and wait until about 12:40 to make our move.

12:45 - We join the gathering crowd at the Outdoor stage for Mexico City's Mexican Institute of Sound. These guys prove what my best friend (who grew up there) has been telling me all along: Mexico City fucking rocks.

"Does everyone have everything they need? Sunblock? Water? Girlfriend? Ecstasy?" the singer asked. These chilangos had a good-sized crowd for an early Sunday afternoon, and had them moving despite the punitive heat.

1:30 - We head over to the main stage to check out The Knux. Their DJ was spinning a lot of classic stuff and warming up the crowd before they went on. To be fair, I'm not a fan of hip-hop, so it didn't blow me away, but it wasn't bad.

2:10 - We enter the Gobi tent for Friendly Fires. I'd put them in the same category as White Lies, but maybe not quite as good. They do sound like a band from the '80s that got lost in the shuffle, and they've got a great sound and great energy.

3:25 - We're still in Gobi, watching Sebastien Tellier. He was doing some really cool stuff with a vocoder on his voice, and even though he looked like the missing Allman Brother, I liked what I heard. Until he announced, "This is a song about my bisexuality," and then proceeded to start the song with the lyrics, "I'm..... aaaaa bi....sexxxxx....u....allllllll." Hmm. Not too subtle.

"Typical Frenchman," Conner joked.

"Yeah, dick like a glass of milk," I retorted.

Sebastien Tellier was good, despite some stupid lyrics

But seriously folks, bisexuality is all well and good. Singing about it? Fine. But being so obvious about anything is pretty lame.

Speaking of alternative lifestyles, we wanted to make sure we had a good place to stand for Antony and the Johnsons, so we cut out early and caught the last few songs from Lykke Li. Another act that I liked more online than in person, but I still liked her (or them) and would be willing to check more out. She's got a great voice, and they did live electronic music very well, something I always appreciate (speaking of which, that MSTRKRFT set was almost definitely an Ableton Live thing, which is something I use for my own production as well).

A&TJ ran a little behind schedule due to technical issues with the computer (go figure). Normally, they don't do this type of music, and it's hard enough to categorize/describe this act, so I'll just let you take a look at the last song they did, which I captured in full. I will say Antony was spot-on vocally, trilling and nearly scatting like a great old jazz diva, and I'd compare him to a male version of Bjork as far as his vocal control. Maybe that's why they collaborated on Dull Flame of Desire on Bjork's last album, Volta.

We had just enough time to scarf down some food and almost enough time to refill our water bottles before catching seminal LA punk rockers X. We missed a couple of minutes of their set, but other than that, we were there for the whole thing, and between John Doe, Exene and Billy Zoom, these guys are just fantastic. I'm not sure why people call them punk, it's more like punkabilly. Regardless, they rocked, and the crowd knew it.

X kicked serious ass in the Mojave tent

As soon as X was done, we high-tailed it over to the main stage to get in line to watch the one, the only, My Bloody Valentine. As I've said before, Loveless is the absolute best album of all-time, and like my love affair with The Smiths, I discovered them *just* after they played in the U.S. for the last time. Last November, I got to see MBV, and they exceeded my expectations, which is pretty impressive considering I've been waiting since 1991 to see them live.

Once again, they didn't disappoint. They were loud, not nearly as loud as they would have been in a closed theater, but way louder than anything that's ever been on the main stage at Coachella, for sure. The crowd seemed to be there for them, and not waiting for The Cure, but I was curious to see how they'd handle that last song.

I took advantage to look around during their legendary / infamous set-closer, the 20+ minute You Made Me Realize. This song is about three or four minutes of great riffs followed by over 15 minutes of sheer sonic bliss / torture. Then the band kicks back into the riff and finishes the show.

The funny thing was, there was always someone, maybe only one person, but at least one person cheering, holding their hands above their head, during the mind-numbing psychedelic experience the band refers to as "the holocaust." I saw grimaces, confusion, smiles, and anger, all on the same faces. I laughed at them. I knew how long this storm was going to last, and that's how I managed to get this video.

After the set was over, people staggered out like swatted flies who didn't quite die. I hated to leave and miss The Cure, but I had an agenda, and I had to keep to the schedule. I immediately hit the water station near the big stage where I'd just seen MBV, and heard two girls working at the water booth having this conversation:

Cool Water Chick: "Well, if they SUCK then why have they been around forever and why do they have millions of fans?"

Uncool Water Chick: "I like MUSIC! That's just NOISE!"

I walked up, handed her my bottle to refill and stated with a smile, "They're the BEST!!"

UWC: "No they're not!"

Me: "You either get it or you don't."

UWC: "No, I get it! That's BULLSHIT! Why would they have that much noise during an INTERMISSION?!?"

Me: "That wasn't an intermission, that was part of the SONG!"

UWC: "What?! That's STUPID!!"

Me: "Hey MOM, you must be really smart and all, since you're filling my empty water bottles for a living, so maybe you're right."

She proceeded to hand me my water bottle back and spew a series of obscenities that I think must have been in her employee manual or something, because I think she recited it from memory. I honestly believe in live and let live, but when you're being disrespectful and catch me in one of my moods, well, you should know better.

I headed off to Public Enemy, who rocked. It sounded like it was the original trifecta of Chuck D, Terminator X, and Flavor Flav. FF kept jumping into the audience. "OK, left side? I jump in you gonna catch me? OK, here I come!" Repeat this with the right and middle and you get my drift. Chuck D asked the crowd to hand him back, "He's 50 years old y'all!"

Chuck D also said, "Now that we've got President Obama, it's more important than ever to PAY ATTENTION. We're living in the age of misinformation, people, so any information you get, QUESTION IT! Attention is the cheapest price you can pay in this country, America."

After that, I headed over to check out the last half of The Orb. I'm not sure what it is with me and The Orb, and I know some of my friends won't love me as much for saying it, but I'm not sure I get it anymore. I need to try to listen to some of their newer stuff. I didn't recognize a thing, and it didn't sound that appealing to me, honestly.

10:10 - I'm in the Sahara tent, waiting for the fathers of industrial music, Throbbing Gristle. I figured there would be a huge, weird crowd of people, and I was wrong on both counts. Despite the band starting late after a prolonged soundcheck, the number and freak factor of the crowd were both low. These were very normal-looking people in here. I didn't see a single tattoo nor giant earlobe plug amongst the onlookers. What I did see that freaked me out were a lot of younger people DANCING to TG. I did not expect that.

I also didn't expect to actually find beauty in their music. Sure, some of it is noisy, banging, clanging aggression, but some of it is actually very melancholy and wonderful. The song Hamburger Lady used to freak me out until I heard the lyrics for the first time last night.

I saw a good bit of TG and then headed over to the Sahara tent to catch part of Etienne de Crecy. This guy is like a precursor to Daft Punk and Justice, and I loved what I heard online of him. When I made it inside, he was doing one of the tracks I knew, so I was stoked. His light show was pretty cool, but it was pretty mellow for a Sunday night. I didn't mind, and neither did the thousands packed into the tent, but it didn't seem like he got the crowd going to the level that Justice did last year, for instance. But that's just what I saw.

After a few songs, I realized I'd probably rather check out some more Throbbing Gristle, so I headed back to Mojave. It was getting pretty weird, with Genesys pulling out one of his fake breasts and showing it to the crowd, but he also played to the VIP area on the stage. This was interesting because every other performer had ignored the VIP area to this point.

At this point, I decided to head back to the main stage to see if I could find Conner. It turned out to be pretty easy, and I was happy to catch the last part of The Cure's set. I managed to catch the last two songs of the last encore, If Only Tonight We Could Sleep and probably my favorite Cure song of all time, The Kiss. Both songs from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Notable.

Next, second encore. At Night, M, Play For Today and A Forest. I thought that was it, but then they came back on. Robert Smith said, "We're only allowed to play one song. Fuck!" Then they proceeded to play Three Imaginary Boys. We thought it was over. It wasn't.

They played Boys Don't Cry. The small crowd of dedicated fans started to sing along. The festival organizers cut the power to the PA. The band kept playing. The entire crowd sang at the top of their lungs to compensate for the fact that we couldn't hear Robert's voice anymore. We thought they'd stop after that.

They didn't.

Conner turned to me at this point and said, "They said something at the beginning like they'd play until we left."

They started playing Jumping Someone Else's Train. The crowd tried to sing along, but fewer people knew the words. They tried anyway. The organizers cut the power to the amps onstage. The drummer kept playing audibly, and the rest of the band kept playing silently. The crowd cheered. They screamed. They clapped. They sang LOUDER. It was no use.

Coachella was over.

It didn't matter in the end. This crowd was the type of dedicated fans I love to be around. There's nothing quite like having like-minded people around you. When you've got thousands of them around you, all the better. It sucked that we didn't get to hear everything that Smith and the guys had in store for us, but it didn't matter. What really mattered was that we were surrounded by all these people, these men, women, girls and boys, who came for the same reason we did. To experience Coachella to its fullest. To stay until the very end, no matter what that means. This year, it meant something truly special and unique.

Conner may have put it best: "As I reflect more on that final moment with the lights on, sound off and crowd singing... I realize there are maybe a handful of concert moments for me that rank with it in such profound significance. It was so perfect it almost seemed staged. If we were duped, I don't want to know."

Just before Leonard Cohen I met a character who was all over the map with music. A lot like we are. This guy talked about how he schedules his whole life around this thing. I tell him, it's like a holiday.

Just as the band started, he turned to me. He knew as I knew that you don't talk during sets. He looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, "Happy Coachella."

And this is why we do what we do.

Until next year,



Jesse said...

I have to say, you were a pretty big dick to the uncool water chick. Some people have to work for a living, you know.

Maashu said...

Thanks for your comment, Jesse.

I don't think you understand the significance of the situation. Let me see if i can explain what this was like. Picture this: It's your twenty-first birthday. All your friends are there. Your favorite food in the world has been set before you, and the whole restaurant is singing to you. You're on an unparalleled, once-in-a-lifetime high.

And then the goddamn clown you rented farts.

Uncool water chick was not hired to fart at my birthday party.

Jesse said...

Everyone has to fart once in a while.

bereweber said...

hey i finally made to the Antony and the Johnsons video, it's great! so sad I missed them at Coachella... his voice is stuck in my heart/head rather irrelevant but I think he's wearing the same dress than when we saw him in L.A.

great job with your reviews!! so sad I missed it, after reading, I must do something to be there next year

bereweber said...

& yes indeed!
Mexico city fucking rocks!!
(swine virus or not) ;)