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Monday, April 18, 2011

Coachella 2011 Review - Friday

Coachella, the ancient Indian word that translates roughly to "thousands of pilled-up teenagers," has come and gone another year.  We were there, as always, despite my rants about the evils of Goldenvoice and the suckiness of the lineup.  At the end of the day, Coachella provided us a path to stumble down.  This year, it  just took a lot more work to find our way.

After the first of the weekend's three barely-adequate Denny's breakfasts, we got into line for the parking lot on Monroe Street.  We were such eager little beavers that we sat on Monroe between Avenue 49 and 50 for over 30 minutes.  We couldn't figure out why the gates weren't open for parking at 10:34 AM when the posted "doors open" time was 11 AM, but oh well.  We were definitely not the only ones who anticipated that wrong.

Buttered ourselves up with SPF 50 and trudged from lot 16 all the way to the venue.  We anticipated lines for security, but again, the gates weren't open.  I think it was about 11:20 before they finally opened the fucking gates, and we started to wonder if the festy had its shit together at all this year.

Per tradition, we headed straight to the Sahara tent.  Alf Alpha was up first, that rare breed of DJ that actually plays a wide selection of stuff.  Some tracks better than others, but he spun some good beats, and Daft Punk's Around the World was a great choice at such an early stage in the festival.

Tokimonsta was up next, I guess she was having technical problems but I didn't hear them.  "Thanks for sticking with me, guys!" she called as the issues were worked out, I guess.  I really liked what she was doing, lots of bass, some melody, and you could tell she was really glad to be there.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears @ Coachella 2011
Next up, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears in Mojave.  All I can say is, thank god for Napster, because without that formerly-nefarious service, I never would have known to catch them.  The Honeybears are one TIGHT outfit, and Black Joe has a stage presence to rival any front person at Coachella, maybe in history (yes, including Prince).

Watching these guys was almost like being in a rock and roll church or something, straight-up ass shakin' dance around and get stupid music.  If they made The Blues Brothers today, Black Joe would be the reverend, and his music would be played in the chase scenes.  And the crowd TOTALLY got it.  Sorry for the spoiler so early, folks, but this set was the runaway highlight of Friday for us.  You couldn't understand a word Black Joe said, but you believed it, believed IN it, because he sold it, and the band closed the deal.  The horn section blew the place up, and every single musician was tight.

Except Black Joe Lewis, but that's the genius of it.  He's got this sloppy charm going on with his guitar playing that he reins in just at the millisecond he needs to get back in synch with the rest of the band.  Catch these guys before they get too big, you won't regret it.  They even did this cover of I Got A Right, an old punk song by Murphy's Law:

Headed over to Outdoor Theatre to catch the last few songs by !!! (say: chk chk chk).  It sucked that there was a conflict with these guys and BJL&TH but we're comfortable we made the right decision.  They closed out their set with one of my favorites, Heart of Hearts from the album Myth Takes.  After the set completed, Nic Offer yelled, "Thank you ladies and gentlemen!  Three-time reigning Coachella champions, chk chk chk!"

Headed over to Gobi to catch The Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and his solo show.  Not great.  It really didn't go anywhere, and the singer's voice was annoying.

Caught the last few songs from Ozomatli, who I'd seen at my third Coachella back in 2002 on Outdoor stage.  They were still great this year, but in 2002, when they climbed into the crowd with their instruments at the end of the set, it felt a lot more personal.  Partially because I was way, way closer to the stage, but also because the crowd at Outdoor isn't divided into four parts the way it is at the main stage.

Warpaint were another highlight from Friday.  An all-girl band (I'm just sayin') that rocks the way they do?  Yeah, gimmie more of that.  And their drummer was just beating those things mercilessly, she was one of the best drummers all weekend.  How often do you say that about a band?  Their original stuff was fantastic, but they did a really haunting cover of the old Motown classic My Guy that really stuck with me.

Warpaint @ Coachella 2011

Headed back to the main stage to catch what we could of the end of Cee Lo Green's set.  Let me tell you, he gave it all he had, and as far as I know the band did too, but you couldn't hear anything but his voice and the drums.  Occasionally you'd hear some bass, but the sound was totally, unforgivably FUCKED UP for that set.  I'm so sorry, Cee Lo, some asshole passed us screaming "Cee Lo is bullshit!"  but he obviously is a turd and doesn't get it.  When Cee Lo was about to leave the stage, he called out, "I know you're pissed!  I'm pissed too!!  Tell 'em!" he encouraged, which resulted in the crowd giving a loud BOO to the soundman.  Then the soundman cut his mic, and he walked off stage, and you could tell this man was about as mad as he gets.  SPOILER ALERT:  The sound was pretty awful on the main stage for several acts.

Tame Impala on the Outdoor stage was next, and they performed very well.  I like them live about as much as I like their album stuff.  OK.  But I'll give them props for playing well.

Next, we took advantage of a recent development at Coachella, INS AND OUTS!!  Man, let me tell you, walking to the car and back was better than some bands I've seen (think Sly Stone), and really provided a nice break in the day.  Highly recommended if you've got a hole in your schedule and know for sure the world won't end if you don't catch any band during that time.

We got back inside in time to catch a good chunk of Interpol, but we couldn't get anywhere near the stage.  We hung out behind the sound booth, and I remember saying out loud that I always forget how much I like them until I see them live.  Solid performance with lots of early material from Turn On the Bright Lights and Antics.

Cut Copy were another highlight of Friday's festival.  The Mojave tent was spilling over it was so full, and it was the loudest tent crowd for the whole weekend.  They did a great smattering of old and new stuff, and I personally like pretty much everything I've ever heard from them, so it was a very solid set from one of the festival's best dance-rock bands.

We caught about three songs from Crystal Castles on the Outdoor stage after that.  I'd heard they sucked in 2009, and figured they had something to prove.  Their new album is fantastic, so I figured it was worth a shot.  Well, it was interesting.  The singer threw herself into the crowd during the second song.  But as I was discussing with Trent from Dallas (whom I met at Leftfield on Sunday), she doesn't really fit the band very well sometimes.  Screaming over electronica is a thing, but it's just not usually a GOOD thing.  Plus the wind may have been messing up the sound as we were pretty far back, so I can't dis 'em too much.

Headed to Sahara to catch Sasha's set.  I'm really not sure what he's calling the stuff he's spinning these days, but I'd call it "progressive techno" or something similar.  Techno is categorized by lots of percussion and absolutely no soul whatsoever, so that's why I'm calling that spade a spade.  It was technically perfect, but hey, anyone with a laptop and Ableton or Traktor or whatever can make that happen these days.  I wish I could say I liked it, but it was a little disappointing.  Sorry Sasha, I love ya for your melodic, psychedelic progressive house (see: Shpongle review on Sunday).

Sasha @ Coachella 2011

Chemical Brothers were the final disappointment of the night.  After waiting at the main stage for over an hour, we decided that 40 minutes late was asking a little too much of the fans.  Plus, there were half a dozen choads with flashlights poking around stage left, going, "Duh, um, uh, duhhhhh," so we figured it was the Coachella Stage Curse and headed out.  Of course ten seconds after we got out of the area proper they started up, but by then I'd made my peace with saying "fuck it," and we headed back to the car.

It took us the longest to get out of the lot Friday, a full 20 minutes, only because Friday's the worst day for everything, pretty much.  Coachella really needs to have a little more long-term memory and own the fact that there have been a full MONTH of days' worth of this festival (plus Stagecoach and now this "Big 4" metal and pukefest they're having coming up), and they just need to remember what they did right on Saturday and Sunday that they didn't on Friday.

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