San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Coachella 2013 Review - Friday

PK-107 Mantis by Poetic Kinetics, Los Angeles

We had our hopes up pretty high for Coachella this year.  Even for someone like me who had been to 11 previous Coachella festivals, this lineup looked like it had the potential to really deliver.  And outside of an unfortunate cancellation and a few growing pains, this was near the very top of my list as best-of Coachellas of all time.

We started off the weekend as we normally do, with a trip to the Indio Denny's and Food 4 Less to replenish the beer supply we'd decimated the night before.  We had a couple of festy virgins with us, and it was our pleasure to indoctrinate them into the family of Coachella.

We gave them the opinion that we were pros at this, that we knew what to expect.  We knew the ins and outs of the festival, having almost 20 years of Coachella experience between us.  We were the kings of Indio.

A lack of parking signs made us look like we had our heads waaaay far up our keesters.

I have no idea what happened that first day, but we asked three different people (a security guard, a parking attendant, and a cop) where we were supposed to go to park.  Every other year we've just driven down Monroe and pulled straight into a parking lot.  This year, the lots were on Avenue 52, and for whatever reason, no one seemed to know where to go.

As we realized we were driving into the next town over, we flipped a bitch, and headed back toward the parking lot.  Finally, the map and a particularly alert (read: NOT FUCKING BRAIN DEAD) parking lot attendant waved us in.  Goldenvoice take note:  You need to up your parking lot sign budget.

Parking lot 14E all three days, baby.  Half a mile's walk and we're in, no lines, no muss, no fuss.

Headed over to Gobi for the annual lie on the grass in the shade and chill fest to the sweet sounds of Santiago Chile's Moustache.  I saw so many people with some sort of Moustache tribute wear, from velvety, felty fake facial hair on the upper lips of young girls, to hats with the iconic shape on them.  It was delicious, melty beats in the Indio desert sun, and I was happily amazed to see so many people paying tribute.  Not just on Friday, but throughout the weekend.  A pretty amazing testament to the first act in Gobi on a Friday.

Between sets, we met this guy who does what I'd call "ethnic-themed humorous rap music."  Seemed like a nice guy, but said he was playing The Casbah in May and I'm not seeing him anywhere on the schedule.  I told him I'd plug him, and the offer still stands if he can send me a link to his upcoming San Diego show, until then, no soup for you.

We stuck around for IO Echo, who were actually pretty good.  I can't tell you exactly what they sounded like, but I liked it.  I guess I wasn't into the paying attention phase of the weekend just yet.

We had some free time, so we headed over to check out the new Yuma stage.  We walked right into the new venue, and the first thing that hit me was the sound.  It was absolutely amazing, like the WHUMP! soundsystem I used to listen to at Insomnia in Los Angeles back in 2001.  Hardwood floors, near total darkness, disco balls and an elevated DJ booth rounded out the amazing potential of this new area.  Sece was doing it up right, spinning great bumping minimal house.  Sadly, this would be the last time we were able to get into Yuma without standing in a very long line (200+ people).

 Beardyman (photo by Mike)

We finally got to check out my first anticipated act of the day, Beardyman.  I really shouldn't judge a book by its cover, because Beardyman is not a fantastic name for an artist.  However, after checking out his Edinburgh show on YouTube when I was in Italy last summer, I knew I needed to see this phenomenon in person.  Beardyman seems to have the ability to both beatbox and make notes at the same time, as if his larynx can split into two dual, but complimentary personalities.

Some in our group of four had had enough of his tomfoolery after only ten minutes, but I enjoyed every bit of it, from his wub-wub-wub of deep bass and DnB music at the beginning, to his politically incorrect rendition of an Elton John song ("Give me a plate of cocaine / And a tube of lube / And I'm gonna buttfuck you") to his finale, where he performed some gabba music, "the worst music in the world."  Not just a beatboxer, not just a comedian, not just a wonder of aural freakiness, but all of the above.  Throw in a drum machine, a keyboard and his ability to create seamless loops, and you've got Beardyman, take him or leave him.

 Stars (photo by Mike)

Next up, Montreal's Stars.  We discovered them at Coachella several years ago, and promptly bought up the two albums they'd made up to that point.  Until recently when we learned they were touring again, we didn't keep up with their output, but a quick listen on Spotify reminded us what a great act they truly were.  They may be a Belle & Sebastien spin-off band, or they may not.  Whatever they are, they're well-balanced, expertly crafted pop music, perfect for a Friday afternoon in the desert.  The first few songs felt a little rough, but that could have been because the material was less familiar to me.  The rest of the set was what I'd expected from them, upbeat, danceable, and genuine


Next was one of the biggest decisions of the weekend for me.  I decided to eschew Johnny Marr, the legendary guitarist for one of my all-time favorite bands The Smiths in order to watch the whole set from Metric.  Mike saw Johnny, so here's one of his pictures.  He said he was excellent, and even ended the set with How Soon Is Now?, a Smiths cover that he himself sang (and fairly well, at that).

Johnny Marr (photo by Mike)

I don't regret missing Johnny, because Metric's latest album Synthetica is truly fantastic.  And I'm a big fan of their older stuff as well.  In fact, they're one of the few bands I've followed with every album since they first came out.  The only gripe I have is that Emily Haines, their lead singer, is so full of herself it makes me want to vomit. 

 Emily Haines of Metric - A talented Beeyotch

 At one point she asked, "Do you want to hear me play some more songs?"  I thought, uh, isn't there a band up there with you?  And it's not like everyone's a rotating cast in that band. She started it with the guy playing bass.  She really lacks the class and grace of some other artists I saw this year, and every other year to be frank.


I reviewed a show I saw in Detroit when Metric opened up for The Stills back when they released their debut album, and I won't get into the details of that here. I'll just say she was a bit of a bitch both on stage and off when my friend and I met her.  I thought she might have grown out of that when I saw them play a few years back, right after M83 blew us all away.  However, she still thinks she's a lot better than she is, and while they sounded great, she wasn't perfect.


I do like the music, though.  And I got some decent shots so go ahead and hate on me if you want, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em.


I had a little time before the next act, Lee Scratch Perry, to scarf down dinner and get right up front for the dub legend who produced such masters as Bob Marley and a bunch of other weedhead geniuses that I'd be familiar with if I was still in college.  Fans of the genre who watched his webcast live on YouTube called his set "serious dub."  I was partial to watching the two hot backup singers he had who were stage right, and wondering how hard it would be to just put some old senile Jamacian dude up in front of us claiming it was ol' Scratch.

Lee "Scratch" Perry

Lee "Scratch" Perry

Stuck around in the Gobi tent to catch another legend, on the other side of the ganja and love spectrum, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.  Jello was the singer for such seminal punk bands as Dead Kennedys and Lard.  He's probably had a dozen other ones that I'm not familiar with, but over the years, he hasn't lost a beat.  Still full of piss and vinegar, and overall, conspiracy theories.  

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine  (photo by Mike)

About halfway through the set, they performed California Uber Alles with a lot of references to Schwarzenegger, which felt a bit dated since he's been out of office for over a year.  Also, he kept referring to Obama as "The Rock Star," so I guess he's just got to be critical of everyone in government.  An equal opportunity critic, he said that as long as the infamous prison was still open, his band would share its name.

Next up was Beach House.  I wasn't sure about them, but I decided to check them out, and I'm glad I did.  Their music is fairly mellow on their records, but as the first real set of Friday after dark, they filled up the area surrounding the Outdoor Theatre with washes of reverbed euphoria.  Looking at the singer, I felt like that Frye meem from Futurama, "Can't tell if... Ugly man, or handsome woman."  I came to the conclusion that she was a fantastic, if androgynous fit for the band.  However, after the set she seemed to leave a little miffed about something.  We were about halfway between the board and the stage, not close enough to figure out what was going on. 

We split up again after that set, Mike to go check out Grinderman, me to get in position for Purity Ring.  However, on the way over, we were forced to endure the musical root canal that is TNGHT.  I reviewed them for this blog, thinking they could be good.  I'm big enough to admit that I was wrong.  While the crowd was VERY large and they seemed to be totally into it, I'm convinced that this is the music they play in hell's waiting room.  And in hell.  All pits.

 Mike said Grinderman was awesome.  Nick Cave's other project playing the festival this weekend (other than The Bad Seeds on Sunday) delivered, with Nick getting into the crowd during several songs in the set.  Here are some of his pictures.

Grinderman (photo by Mike)
Grinderman (photo by Mike)
Grinderman (photo by Mike)

I was tempted to see Blur, but in the end, opted for the album I couldn't get out of my head.  Shrines by Purity Ring has been on frequent rotation on my turntable since the day I bought it back in March.  I'm not saying their live set was the most visually stunning one of the weekend, or that there was really all that much to their set.  It sounded great, and there were some cool effects both musically and visually.  The music was what really brought it home though, and the entire crowd was definitely there to see Purity Ring, cheering ecstatically as each song started and finished.  Megan James' vocals were spot-on, rocking us like babies in a giant crib, while Corin Roddick's digital manipulations rocked us in the other sense of the word, jarring us around as if this cradle were on a rollercoaster in an earthquake.

Purity Ring

For the last show of the night, we managed to get up close and personal with Trent Reznor's latest project How To Destroy Angels.  I've been following this act since it started about three years ago, when they released their debut EP.  Made up of Reznor, producer superstar Flood and Reznor's bride Mariqueen (formerly of West Indian Girl), HTDA sounds like a more devious version of NIN's The Fragile album.  With Mariqueen singing, it almost sounds like it could be another act altogether, were it not for Trent's trademark grindings and buzzings throughout.

We figured that the stage show was going to be something special, and indeed it was.  Simple yet elegant, apparently complex and yet so elegant, the band had a series of six sets of three rows of string hanging from the ceiling in rows and columns.  When they first took the stage, it looked like the band was behind some sort of shower door glass; because the strings were so close together, you could just barely make out the shadows of the band members in the light.

How To Destroy Angels (photo by Mike)

While the stage show was stunning and the music was fantastic, I could tell that they need some polish as a live act.  Mariqueen was flat at times, and over the top at other times.  My sources tell me that these criticisms of her aren't unique or new.  One moment that comes to mind was on the nearly seven-minute track Ice Age from their latest, Welcome Oblivion.  During this performance, we got to hear perfection, pitchiness, and overdone vocals all in one song.  I do think that with more practice as a live band, they're only going to get better and better.

 How To Destroy Angels (photo by Mike)

While her performance wasn't perfect, it had some memorable moments, and was the correct way, we felt, to end our first day at the festival.

How To Destroy Angels (photo by Mike)


bereweber said...

yaaay, Friday review is up!!
so this was your 12th Coachella, wow! I've know you for so long... I am still reading through it...

have the "Djs" seen this?

Where are Saturday and Sunday reviews? Please post!

Jay said...

Always look forward to your review buddy.

I remember that Metric show we saw in Detroit. Too bad Emily Haines is still a bitch.

Have to admit, it kills me inside a little that you skipped Blur. Really?


Jay said...

Oh yeah....Grinderman!! You skipped Grinderman?! I hate you.