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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coachella 2010 Review - Saturday

Coachella 2010 Review - Friday

Coachella 2010 Review - Sunday

Yes, Coachella 2010 sold out this year. As far as I know, it's a first. They've had individual days sell out before (Rage Against the Machine, Prince, Pixies days' all sold out) but to my knowledge, the entire festival has never turned people away with such a bottom line. No ticket? Any other year it's "No problem," someone's always trying to get rid of a ticket.

Any other year.

Saturday started with our usual turf nap in the Sahara tent, alternately staring at the schedule and the ceiling. It's an easy life when you're in the shade, well-fed and -hydrated, and the day and the festival are both young. Still, we wondered, was it already a third over?

John Waters, the movie director, performed a monologue in Mojave at 1:00. I foolishly suggested we check it out, and in some ways I'm sorry I did. John Waters was hilarious, no question, but he is to hilarious what The Office is to comedy in a way, you're extremely uncomfortable, but you can't stop watching. At least The Office is safe for TV. I'm not even sure I can tell you what he was talking about here, and I'm fucking filthy.

OK, I'll tell you a few things (these aren't the worst by a long shot). He spoke of Divine, the transvestite actor in many of his movies. He talked about the infamous scene in Pink Flamingos (I won't describe it here, this is a family show, kids). Then he stated, "Even Divine had limits. When we met Richard Simmons, [Divine] told me he felt homophobic!" His greatest quote, "I used to teach in prisons, and most of my students were murders. I showed them Pink Flamingos, and they told me, 'You are fucked up!'" Some of the topics he covered (with all the modesty of a grandmother showing pictures of her offspring's spawn) were very specific gay subcultures ("Don't tell your parents you're a BEAR! That's just cruel!"), thoughts about celebrity necrophilia, and taboos that shouldn't be taboo. He was hilarious, but I felt like I was going to puke, so we moved on. WARNING: Do not watch this.

Next up, we checked out British band Porcupine Tree. I have a few good friends who really recommended their early stuff, but I checked out stuff from their latest, called The Incident. This is mostly what they played, and it's pretty hard stuff, folks. It sounds like Tool taken down a half a notch, with fantastic harmonies and keyboards like Pink Floyd. Apparently their new album is a double, and the first disc is one 50+ minute song. They put on a great show, and I overheard someone say, "If I see nothing else, at least I got to see Porcupine Tree and Fever Ray."

Of course, right after that we were told that yes, Frightened Rabbit didn't make it. Question to Goldenvoice: Did you explore the possibility of beaming these bands in from the other side of the volcano ash plume? There's this thing called The Innernets now, and if you've got more money than god (like you do, GV, come on), you can get it pretty much anywhere. Alls I'm sayin' is, if you didn't at least explore the possibility, that's strike two on you this year (see my review of Sunday's closing act for strike one with a bullet).

Buzzed over to catch the last song from Portugal. the Man. I think these guys are the first band to ever play Coachella from Alaska, but I could be wrong. They needed to take a break after they finished so they could mop up all the minds they melted in the Gobi tent, but it was well worth it. For only catching one song, this band is one that I'll definitely be checking out in the future.

We had some time on our hands, so we couldn't pass up a chance to see Jason Bentley live. Jason has hosted Metropolis on KCRW for years, but I'm not sure if it's still running or not. He spun some amazing housey stuff, including a remix of Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place, and Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. I'll check him out every chance I get, but I really wish I could figure out if he's still got a weekly electronic music radio show.

Next, we headed off to the Outdoor Theatre to dig ourselves in for quite some time. The Temper Trap took the stage at 4:00 and just owned the crowd. Apparently they're from Melbourne, Australia, which makes sense because someone was flying a gigantic Australian flag. But then again, someone was also flying a big Canadian flag and a big UK flag as well, so we had no idea where they were from. I guess the tip-off would have been when the singer, Dougie Mandagi, grabbed a hat and yelled, "You know what this says? It says Australia! This one's for Australia!!" I'm not sure how to describe them, other than sweet falsetto vocals and airy, ethereal guitars. A very interesting, unique and overall catchy combination, and they're fantastic live.

photo by M. Conner

Next up, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I really liked what I heard from them before the festival, and they didn't disappoint me. They reminded me a tiny bit of Arcade Fire, with their many members and family-like feel to performance. But E.S's major chords are as plentiful as Arcade Fire's minor chords. ES&TMZ make extremely upbeat music that's a lot of fun to listen to, and you get the sense that they get at least as much pleasure out of performing it. Four members of the group, including Edward Sharpe, crowdsurfed during their performance. I wondered if this was them saying, We don't know when we'll be able to do this again, and we have the chance, so let's just go for it! They've got a bit of a doo-wop feel to them, despite the fact that Conner stated, "I didn't like it. I just don't like high school drama club music."

photo by M. Conner

Next up were The XX. I wasn't sure about them the first time I heard them, because I was led to believe that they were electronic, which isn't at all true. Well, it's a little bit true. They do have a percussionist who uses pretty much all samples to do the percussion, but he plays it live, with his fingers. The rest of the instrumentation is pretty standard rock band, and they did what they did well. I actually liked their live version of Crystallized better than the one on the album. It will be interesting to see what they do next.

photo by M. Conner

We jockeyed for even better position for the next act up on the Outdoor Theater, Hot Chip. I'm not sure why my expectations were so low. Maybe it's because when we last saw them in the Sahara tent, it was great, but we were pretty far back. This time around, they were on the second-largest stage, and we were right in front of the soundboard. I'm not going to over-analyze it too much, because they were mindblowing. These guys had the entire crowd moving almost involuntarily, their stuff is just so infectious, and they deliver it live with a punch that doesn't come through on their studio stuff. "It's great to see some of these electronic bands we used to see in Sahara (e.g., LCD Soundsystem) out on the main stages," Conner opined. I agreed. Hot Chip didn't ask if you wanted to dance, didn't care. In the end, you moved.

MGMT were up next, but we had needs to fulfill, so we did. Sadly, this had to happen as we were in line to get a killer spot. Even more sadly, those needs we filled didn't include eating food. Anyway, we got back into a spot where we could make a quick exit when it was time to get into position for Muse on the main stage. We caught the first five or six songs, which focused more on material from their new album, Congratulations. They did play 4th Dimensional Transition from Oracular Spectacular, and the last song we caught was Electric Feel, also from that album. I've heard their new record is much different than OS, and I'm willing to give it a try, but I wasn't totally blown away by the new stuff. Then again, I think it's hard for a band you know to bowl you over with new material live, even if it is, um, spectacular.

We broke away and weaved through the crowd to witness Muse. Muse is one of those bands that's absolutely bigger than Christ in most countries, but the US of A has yet to really embrace them. I really wondered if Muse could headline a festival like Coachella, despite the fact they have sold out a stadium as gigantic as Wembley (capacity? like 70,000) across the pond.

Again, low expectations weren't just shattered, they were DISINTEGRATED. These three guys are just exceptionally tight, talented, and they look like they're having a blast. Plus, their stage show was worthy of a Coachella headliner. They were playful, too, breaking into instrumental teasers from AC/DC, and even ripping the familiar intro to Bleach-era Nirvana track, School. Despite the fact that their video effects (which were fuh-nom-uh-null) cut out about 2/3 of the way into their set, they proved that they were the type of band that plays to that size of a crowd, all over the world, every night. I'm estimating about 15,000 of my fellow Coachellans were jumping up and down when they opened with Uprising, when they closed with Knights of Cydonia, and when a gigantic shower of sparks fell in the middle of the stage, between singer Matthew Bellamy at the front of the stage, and Christopher Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) at the back.

After Muse (which sure as hell didn't seem like it could have POSSIBLY been 90 minutes long), we headed over to Devo. I was really hoping we'd get a chance to check out at least a few tracks from Flying Lotus, but time moves in one direction, and it sucks more at Coachella than anywhere else in the universe. And yet, a choice had to be made. We stand by it.

Devo were great. I know they opened a lot of doors, and I know the guy who originally signed them probably got fired and deserves a lot of credit for bringing Devo to the world. They put on a great show with a fun video backdrop, and never took themselves too seriously. In short, they stayed true to form that night as they have throughout their careers. They did what they did, as no one else can do it, and did it well. The crowd lost their minds when they played Whip It (of course), and it sounded like the vast majority of the crowd knew the answer to

Q: Are We Not Men?

(for those of you who are curious, A: We Are DEVO!)

Overall, it was a blast, but I couldn't call it a highlight. Sorry to all the DEVOtees out there, and sorry to all of you who hate puns ;)

One thing I didn't mention about Friday before was the fact that getting out of the parking lot was like pulling shark teeth. Painful, time-consuming and stupid (much like Sunday closer, read on if the link is live). While it took us 20 minutes to get out of the lot Saturday night (thanks to Conner's redneck-in-the-Indy-500-like driving skills) and then 40 minutes to get fully free of the clusterfuck of traffic, Saturday night took only half of that. People in the lot were even generally good, letting in one car at every inlet. Luckily, we were able to bypass many inlets because of our fanatical devotion to get to the lot shortly after it opened, and therefore, get out shortly after returning to the car.

Coachella 2010 Review - Friday

Coachella 2010 Review - Sunday

Coachella 2010 Review - Friday

Coachella 2010 Review - Saturday
Coachella 2010 Review - Sunday

Coachella. It's a festival of sights, sounds, colors, and unfortunately, smells. But just the sound of the name of the nation's biggest and best-loved three-day music festival makes a true music addict pause. It evokes images of the lush green of the polo field and the powder blue sky. It makes one remember the black dust inhaled for three solid days, which then blows from the nose for three more. But of course, Coachella is much more than the sum of its parts, it is what stops me from going completely psycho all the time. In short, it is my raison d'être. Well, that and beer.

This year was a strange one in many different ways. The most obvious from the start was the fact that everything seemed to flow backwards, temporally, as far as the talent. Friday was the best day as far as we were concerned, from top to bottom. We arrived in our usual geeked-out way, early as we could possibly stand it, after a hangover helper breakfast from the Indio Denny’s. I’d listened to literally EVERY band on the roster for Friday, so I felt pretty informed. Sadly, I knew that we’d be missing some great bands, but part of Coachella is about choices, and some of them are pretty tough.

We opted to skip Kate Miller-Heidke in Gobi, because she sounded too much like last year’s highlight Amanda Palmer. We took our usual siesta in the back of the Sahara tent, enjoying the freshest grass we knew we’d be laying on all weekend. After verifying that early Outdoor Theatre participant Alana Grace was “totally uninspired,” as my accomplice Conner state, we hung around for Deer Tick. Deer Tick have this punk alt-country thing going for them that reminds me a bit of Uncle Tupelo. If you don’t know UT, check them out, they’re a precursor to Wilco but more shit-kickin’). Singer John McCauley came out in a dress for some reason, probably more because of the heat than the shock value. I don’t think it affected his performance one way or the other.

Next up, we headed to the Mojave to check out As Tall As Lions. ATAL had a fantastic crowd of supporters, cheering and screaming for every song. The singer started a little shaky, but somehow the melody/harmony vocals were fantastic even at the outset. They pulled things together very quickly, and very nicely, treating us to about 45 mintutes of what I’d classify as shoegazey love songs.

We stuck around for the next act in Mojave, Yeasayer, and so did pretty much everybody else. It’s always great to see true crossover in this way. Too often, you’ll be in a packed situation, watching a band and you can tell that 80% of the crowd are just killing time waiting to jockey for position when the next band comes on, but this wasn’t the case. Yeasayer are really hard to define. Their first song had some messed up, pitch-shifted vocals that made the singer sound like his voice was being played back in slow motion. If you can picture it, it sounded something like Butthole Surfers meets Dead Can Dance (Dead Butthole Dance, anyone?) and I was kind of wondering if I’d researched the right band. However, the rest of the set was what I’d expected: Music with an almost-too positive vibe, bouncy, danceable, poppy and fun.

Here’s where the first pangs of regret come in for missing a band. Ra Ra Riot were up next on the same stage, but we decided to be responsible and eat. We found a truck hosted by Cowboys and Turbans from Silverlake in LA, and ordered two chicken tikka masala burritos. After about 15 minutes and screaming at the idiotic food runner who had no clue what “first in, first out” meant (check his credit score, it’s lower than his IQ, which is saying a lot), we dove into a delicious meal. I have to say, it’s fusion done right, and it was the perfect food for that place and time.

It was time for our first trip to the main (Coachella) stage to see ska legends The Specials. I’d like to say these guys haven’t lost a thing over the years, but I’m not familiar enough with them to make that call. One of them called to the crowd, “You people are beautiful! (cheers from the crowd) Well, most of you. Some of you are fookin’ ugly!” While we both agreed we would have liked to have seen their entire set, we had to leave early to see the artist I was most looking forward to for the entire event, Gil Scott-Heron.

We arrived at the Gobi tent for GSH in just enough time to get nice and close to the stage. The man who some call the godfather of rap music (this is the man who wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) walked out on stage with a microphone and addressed the crowd, “For those of you who bet I wouldn’t show up, you lose!” This prompted a huge cheer from the crowd. He made small talk with the audience for another few minutes before sitting down at a Rhodes piano and mixing his smooth-as-honey vocals with the sweet, sweet sound of that electric piano. You could tell the man had aged from the way he looked, but his music is, to me, timeless in only the way that something that speaks directly to your soul can be.

The last solo song he did before he brought out a sax and flute player, a pianist and a bongo player, was We Almost Lost Detroit, a song that’s very close to my heart and always brings tears to my eyes about a near nuclear disaster about 30 miles from downtown. The four of them jammed for another 20 minutes or so, finishing up with The Bottle, one of his best-known songs. It was a great chorus he repeated, “Gotta celebrate life!” And we all sang along with our bodies if not with our voices.

We scrambled over to Sahara to check out as much as we could of Pretty Lights. I discovered them just before the festival, and I’m so glad I did, because I’ve never seen anyone rock the Sahara tent with straight downtempo before. This music takes all the things I love about hip-hop (the beat, the deep bass, the groove) and minimizes the stuff I hate about it (all vocal samples are short, catchy and usually chopped up or scratched in). Pretty Lights just absolutely killed it in my book, with a fantastic light show as a wiling partner.

I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing, but we knew we had to catch the last half of Grizzly Bear’s set. I had my reservations about whether their music would translate well to a festival situation. I’ve only heard their album Yellow House, which is mostly extremely mellow but always very articulate and precise. I think I only recognized two songs in their set that night, but I’ll be seeing Grizzly Bear every chance I get from now on. How stupid we were to let the tickets sell out for their recent show at The Belly Up in Solana Beach without getting ours. GB are famous for performing different versions of their songs live than in the studio, and with the closer, On A Neck, On A Spit, I could really appreciate how they’d taken a great recorded song and really brought it to life on stage. Their three- (four?-) part harmonies were chilling.

Next, we headed over to catch the rest of Echo & the Bunnymen’s set. I’d heard Ian’s voice was shot, and yeah, it’s pretty shot. Add that to the fact that the sound was at a hush, and it made for a very disappointing set. They did finish up with The Killing Moon and Lips Like Sugar, each of which Ian McCulloch said was one of the two best songs ever written. While it doesn’t sound like he’s phoning it in, his voice sounds like he’s calling from a cell phone that’s been through a goddamn washing machine.

We jetted over to the main stage again to catch the last half of LCD Soundsystem’s set. While I heard somebody on Sunday saying “I just don’t think they’re a very good live band,” I was one of the 10,000+ Coachellans who would disagree. This was a HUGE crowd for a band that plays essentially dance music, and I was amazed not only that everyone in front of me was dancing, but that everyone BEHIND me was dancing as well. For being in the center of a mammoth crowd, that’s saying something.

We first heard the end of Losing My Edge, where James Murphy adlibbed a bit, asking the crowd, “What is so hard about DJing that you can’t use RECORDS!?” alluding to the trend towards an all-digital environment in the booth. Again, to my surprise, the crowd absolutely went apeshit over this question, screaming and screaming for more. They did a few new ones (which were decent), All My Friends and then Yeah (Pretentious Version), which really got the crowd bouncing around, as they said it would be their last song. Somehow, they bargained for “just another six minutes, please,” as Murphy asked over and over, and finished off with New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, the last track on Sound of Silver. At one point, James told the crowd, “We’re happy to be the, well not the steak in the meal of Coachella, Jay-Z’s the steak. Not even the chicken,” he continued, saying that supergroup Them Crooked Vultures were like “the chicken” in “the Coachella meal. We’ve been over there before,” he said, pointing to the Sahara tent, where all the dance and DJ acts are normally sequestered, “we’ve been the side dish, but we’re happy to be the fish in the meal this time.”

Next, we headed back to Gobi to catch what we could of Brazilian singer Céu. She sounds a little like if Bebel Gilberto listened to people like me and started doing more stuff with a DJ. I had a great conversation with a guy from Fresno, who was there for his first Coachella. He showed me some pictures he’d taken of her at her CD signing earlier that day. “She’s hot,” he said. From the pictures, I couldn’t tell, but when she took that stage, oh man. The guy from Fresno turned to me after the first song and shouted, “Dude, I’m like in LOVE right now!” To which I replied, “You and everyone else in this tent!”

We decided that our last act of the night would be John Lydon’s Public Image Limited. I never saw (or even really truly loved) The Sex Pistols, but the man’s a legend, and we agreed that we’d go ahead and check them out. Lydon made no bones about the fact he wasn’t happy with the volume level of the stage, and he wasn’t at all concerned about being louder than Jay-Z. “Turn it up! Turn it up!” he shouted at the Outdoor Theatre’s soundman, and turn it up he did. It was a blistering set, filled largely with stuff I didn’t recognize. He did play Warrior from their album 9, as well as Bags from the album named either Compact Disk, Cassette or Album, depending on which medium you bought. The band actually went past their appointed stop time, and played pretty much right up until the 1:00 a.m. curfew, which was new for the year.

Again, regrets. PiL was great, don’t get me wrong, but I would have loved to have seen Fever Ray. I overheard a lot of conversation about how great it was going to be, and even more about how amazing it was. Also, I would have loved to have checked out DEADMAU5’s set. I hear he’d been planning it for like a year, and had a stage built by the same people who built Daft Punk’s set (this latter tidbit was in the LA Times, so I assume it’s true). Little Dragon were on my must-see list as well, but we couldn’t make it. I would have liked to have seen La Roux as well, until I encountered her fans pushing their way up to the front as we were leaving Gil Scott-Heron, heading for the back. Hell, I would have seen Jay-Z if there had been nothing else going on, but as I said earlier, Coachella is about choices, some harder than others.

Coachella 2010 Review - Saturday
Coachella 2010 Review - Sunday

Monday, April 12, 2010

4 Days 'til Coachella - Friday preview

First, let me say that it's pissing me off that they've got a link up to the set times, but when you try to click it, it gives you a "forbidden" error. Here's where the set times will be when they're finally posted:

EDIT: Link is LIVE!!!!!!!!!

So, I've actually taken the time to listen to some tracks from every single band on the schedule on Friday. Here's the skinny:

Must See

  • Céu - She sounds like Bebel Gilberto, and I love that. Great voice, I can't wait to hear it filling up the field.
  • Fever Ray - The singer from The Knife. 'Nuff said.
  • Gil Scott-Heron - My hero. This man is a god. When his soulful pipes open up, they're going to fill the hole in your life.
  • Grizzly Bear - Honestly, I have my doubts about a live show at Coachella. I'm concerned that their nuances will be lost on the hordes of people, but I'm willing to take the chance.
  • LCD Soundsystem - They're just fucking awesome. I hope they're on the main stage this time so the posers will get to see them too.
  • Little Dragon - Damn, smooth as liquid chocolate, darker than sweet. And the lead singer's nothing to shake a stick at (unless you think that'll work).
  • Passion Pit - One of the several acts this year I've noted as "weird-good!" Fans of Animal Collective and Mercury Rev, line up.
  • Public Image Limited - I missed the epic triple-bill they were part of back in 1986 or 1987, the other two bands? Sugarcubes and New Order.
  • The Cribs - They sound like The Cure but with a little more screaming.
  • The Specials - These guys are ska legends. I'm not big on ska, but I'll happily watch legends perform if they don't suck.
  • Yeasayer - Quirky, cool, crazy and worth your attention.

Don't Cross the Field to Piss On 'Em If They're On Fire (ESPECIALLY If They're On Fire!)

  • Baroness - Dump metal with math. I don't like either of those things.

  • She & Him - Not only are they on a fucking iPod commercial, they sucked even before they got there.

  • Alana Grace - Oh, no...

  • Street Sweeper Social Club - A bunch of swears and that rock/funk/rap/crap bullshit do not an entertaining act make (see also: 311 sucks balls)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

9 Days 'til Coachella - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

A coworker mentioned that her daughter (who is a high school junior) was really wanting to go to Coachella to see this band, so I was a little reluctant to check them out. However, this girl has given me hope for the youth of this country, as what I've heard is rather good. Also, Saturday's not looking fantastic at this point, so every little bit helps.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros sound like, as far as I can tell ya, a cross between Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes. But they're neither derivative nor imitative of either. There are little elements of originality here and there, maybe nodding to the aforementioned groups, maybe just coincidence.

A little bit Sergeant Peppers-era Beatles, a little bit sing-a-long campfire shit. Bottom line: I'll be there. I like what I'm hearing, and I like that I'm hearing what suburban high school kids like, and I like that I like what they hear.

Monday, April 5, 2010

11 Days 'til Coachella - Frightened Rabbit

When I saw the name of this band, I thought to myself, yup. Band names are all used up.

But when I heard these guys for the first time, I realized that the comparisons on their Napster page were apt: Acid-tongued lyrics in the style of Arab Strap, sing-along harmonies similar to Iron & Wine, tied together with the driving guitar rhythms that evoke the memory of Doves.

And yet there's a bit of pop appeal to this act, I can almost imagine Damien Rice and Sufjan Stevens fans slowly gravitating to wherever they'll be playing on Saturday.

Note, the video is NSFW, but if you know what Arab Strap sounds like and you played it anyway, you're probably too stupid to have a job.

11 Days 'til Coachella - Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Somewhere buried in that you-could-fit-it-on-a-grain-of-rice sized writing, Goldenvoice snuck in a real gem. As soon as I saw the group's name I was intrigued. These three words were probably never uttered in the same breath before these guys came along, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of those acts everybody's talking about.

These guys make music that's somewhere between instrumental James Bond film music, bossanova and trip-hop. I'm really not sure how else to describe them, they sound like maybe Matthew Herbert Big Band(who opened for Bjork at The Hollywood Bowl back on the Vespertine tour) as scored by Kruder & Dorfmeister.

This ain't your grampa's oom pa pa band, folks. I'm not sure when they stashed this excellent act into the lineup, but I'll be there Sunday watching, swaying and getting down with the rest of the groovy people.

Oh, and I found this on the Coachella message boards. This has nothing to do with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but it's funnier than shit.