San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Monday, April 20, 2015

Coachella 2015 Review (Weekend 2)

This year went faster than ever before. I'm never sure how we let it slip away so quickly, but somehow making it through Coachella number 15 without the usual nightly cramps and other assorted sore muscles made the time speed by even more quickly.  It's almost anticlimactic, usually I feel like I left it all out there, but this year I'm not so sure.  I've decided to put my public service announcement warning about the evils of Holiday Motel Indio in another post to keep this review relatively positive (for this site at least), but please, DO NOT BOOK THE HOLIDAY MOTEL IN INDIO!  You'll thank me later.


On the bright side, Friday and Saturday were chock full of fantastic music.  We stuck pretty much to the original plan on day one, Checking out The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger on the Outdoor Theatre first thing. This is Sean Lennon's band, and man does the kid look like dad.  Turns out they almost didn't make their set time and started the set pretty jittery, explaining that they had a hard time convincing the security guard that they actually were legit.  They drew a good sized crowd for as early as they were on, and sounded sort of like an early 60's psychedelic throwback band.

Haerts were up next in Mojave, and that's the way they spell their name.  A decent poppy band led by a female singer with a decent voice.  Not sure what else to say about them but I figured we were pretty much two for two so far at that point.

Stayed in Mojave for The Reverend Horton Heat, where we witnessed the first of the earmarked of this year's festival, the mosh pit.  Yes kids, it's back. Get all that sexual frustration. You feel out by shoving and knocking around a gaggle of your fellow repressed knuckleheads.  Rev even commented, "you know, sometimes I feel like the ritual of the mosh pit is a bit passé... That is, until I see a crowd like you."  The Rev hasn't lost a thing, and between his rockabilly prowess and his snarky wit, put on a hell of a good show.

We walked around for a bit after that and found ourselves in the unfortunate position of being between Action Bronson and Allah-Las.  By that I mean we could hear them both, and there were no winners.  "Let's get the hell away from this," Mike suggested, and we found somewhere to be where we weren't forced to ear-smell this musical sewage.

Yuma Tent in the Afternoon

Well, sort of. We actually ended up sitting before Ab-Soul, a hip hop act. So when he started up, we bailed, preferring to sit in the hot sun and wait for Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires.  Bradley might have been the second oldest performer of the weekend (other than Micharl Gira from Swans), but if I look and move as well as he does when I'm 67, sign me up.  This guy brought the house down with his gospely, anmes Brownesque voice and commanding stage presence.  His band, The Extrordinaires, were killing it as well. A two piece horn section that sounds like four is enough to sell these guys, and speaks to the talent of the ensemble overall.

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Headed over to Gobi next and caught the last couple of songs by Kimbra of Gotye / Somebody I Used To Know fame.  A great performer and the music didn't offend.  Ride was our destination though, and as predicted, there were virtually no hangers-out from her show to Ride.  While this wasn't one of the better-attended performances of the weekend, it was definitely one of those core choices of lineup that keep people like me coming back every year.  Ride were a seminal shoegaze band back in the early 1990's, and one of those bands I never thought I'd see live.  It's been a great six years or so of the revival of the genre, with My Bloody Valentine's reunion, album MBV and tour, and finally their Coachella debut kicking off the whole thing.  Since then we've seen Swervedriver come out of hiding and even Slowdive do a reunion tour last fall.  Ride sounds pretty much exactly like they did back when they recorded tracks like Vapour Trail and Leave Them All Behind (both played in their Friday set as well), so if you get the chance, for god's sake check them out.


We managed to catch the tail end of The War On Drugs on the Coachella stage, which was great since we weren't going to miss Ride for anything.  As I learned last weekend watching the stream, TWOD is a fantastic live rock band, just don't try to listen to them at the gym.  Alabama Shakes on the Outdoor Theatre was what we were heading to, another find from the weekend 1 stream.  This lady is one of the greatest gospelesque voices to come out of popular music in the last ten years, so pay attention.  Songs like Don't Wanna Fight remind one of the greats of soul (think Aretha), and Be Mine reaches a state of almost Baptist church revival-like intensity.  Awesome backup singers as well, not to mention the musicians.

The last part of Friday for me was a little schizophrenic.  Headed to Gorgon City, yet another find from the YouTube stream from seven days prior.  Lesson learned for next year:  Keep doing the research!  These guys are billed as UK Garage (rhymes with "carriage") but it's still house music to me.  One male and one female singer for the most part, and each did their part to create an irresistible atmosphere for dancing.  Although they didn't bring out Jennifer Hudson for the closer, Keep On Dancin', the female singer did come out in a pretty revealing get up and melted the hearts and ears of the crowd, so that was pretty cool too.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you're into live dance music with a serious hit of soul, this is your new favorite band.

 After Gorgon City I headed over to catch what was left of Caribou.  Dan Snaith's electronic dancey project has changed a lot since I saw them at The Casbah on The Milk Of Human Kindness tour back in 2005/'06, and I have to say I love what he's done with the place.  Apparently, so did the crowd.  It was a huge, pulsating one (that's what she said) that moved in time with the music like it was its shadow.

Next up was Flying Lotus (or as we call him FlyLo), but as soon as I realized this set was going to give a serious nod to the rap genre, I knew it was time to look for another tent.  I really wish I'd checked him out on Until the Quiet Comes, but this isn't the tour (or possibly the album) for me to get more into him.  So I headed over to see Todd Terje and the Olsens, who were doing a pretty phenomenal job in Gobi.  Not a huge crowd, but great music, and the dedicated fans and lucky curious folk like me were treated to a pretty original experience.  I also caught a little bit of Porter Robinson from the very very back of the Sahara tent, but they're reconfigured Sahara so there are no speakers in the back anymore, which really sucked.  However, I think the reason they did that was because they moved The Do Lab over by Sahara, which I think was high time they did.  Why the fuck would you put The Do Lab smack-dab in the middle of everything for so many years?  It's cool to look at, the music is usually good, and it's an institution, admittedly, but it should never be in danger of drowning out one of the other stages.  Anyway, as a result of this, I couldn't hear Porter Robinson and that was too bad.

For my final planned show of the night, I checked out Squarepusher, who seemed to dare people to stick around to listen to him.  Coming out in something that looked like a beekeeper's outfit (if there were bees on other planets) and working a mixer and two laptops, the techno legend treated us to a bevvy of what I can only describe as drum and bass and tech.  Maybe a little backwash from the dubstep era was in there, but I'd say he influenced that genre, definitely not the other way around.

After about 30 minutes of Squarepusher I felt like my insides had been rearranged, so I stepped out of the tent to try to squish them back into place.  Texting Mike revealed what I'd figured / feared, he and Dave were packed in at AC/DC and were loving it.  They got lucky enough to get pairs of the flashing, glowing horns they'd passed out at the start of the show and were wearing them proudly when I finally caught up with them around 12:30 AM.  While they were thoroughly impressed by the whole thing, I would have preferred leaving my experiences with the band back in 1989 when I saw them.  Angus was great, but Brian Jones' voice sounds like shaggy ass singing through static.  Not in a good way.  Points for trying, but between the vocals and the flaccid cannon fires during For Those About To Rock, I gotta say their best days are long behind them.  Sorry, true fans, but you know it's the truth.  Bon Scott era is greater than Brian Jones Era, and early BJ is greater than late BJ.  It's simple math.


I felt a lot more human waking up for day 2 of the festy, and after the usual breakfast at Denny's with the unusually long wait, we were back on the polo field by 12:30.  The funny thing about Denny's is that the manager that's always there is so zen about everything.  He and our waitress did their best to keep our coffee cups filled while we waited 30 minutes for our food (after waiting almost 20 to order), and when we mentioned it seemed to be taking a really long time for the food to come out, he only replied, "Yeah, well..." and walked away.

I checked out Bixel Boys long enough to realize that they probably should have been murdered at birth.  Acapella sample from Don't Look Back In Anger by Oaisis?  Guy yelling, "Yeah!  Yeah!" up on stage to pump up the crowd?  Annoying EDM quirky repetative samples?  Check all three boxes.  The perfect shitstorm in Sahara.

I checked out Tourist as well, caught the tail end of their set and thought they had promise, but once again, the lack of real singers left something to be desired.  Still, they're good, so check 'em out if you like the dancey-dancey.

Mike's first pick of the day was Parquet Courts.  He said they sounded nothing like their album, but these guys were one of the most creative, original bands I heard/saw all weekend.  The best way to describe them is to say they sound like Talking Heads, if Talking Heads had been dropped as a baby.  On its head.  They also had this great range, everything from spoken word to New York City pit-inspiring punk.  I'd see them live again but I'm scared to listen to their album.

After this, we had the amazingly good fortune to hear another live house music act ripping it up on the main stage, but we didn't head over just yet.  I'd previously said I wanted to see Lights because the singer was hot.  I will now make the first retraction ever on San Diego Radio Sucks : The chick from Lights is not hot.  About two minutes into the first song, I turned to Mike and said, "OK, so this music's kinda crap.  Let's go somewhere else."  Dave asked Mike, "Where are we going?"  To which Mike replied, "Anywhere but here."  Well said, Mike.

It was because of this excellent choice in a weekend of excellently poor choices that led us to Clean Bandit, yet another live house music band.  This one's a bit twisted though.  In addition to live musicians and singers, they've got live strings.  At one point, they broke into something fit for a French king's dinner service, and Mike's jaw dropped.  "That's HAYDN."  Pretty impressive, to say the least, and the singers hold their end of the bargain as well.  I hope one of these days we get a stage with nothing but bands like Clean Bandit and Gorgon City.

I caught enough of Cashmere Cat to wish I was deaf before heading over to Carl Craig.  The legendary Detroit techno icon opened his set with Fly Like An Eagle by Steve Miller Band, which sounds weird.  However, if you listen to that song in this type of context, you realize just how soulful that song is.  After that, it was a relentless four by four booty shakin' good time.  While I was bummed to have to miss Jungle, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of the guys who started an entire genre of music, and from my hometown, no less.

Carl Craig

I saw enough of Belle and Sebastian to confirm my belief that they haven't put out anything good since Fold Your Hands Child... and headed over to alt-J on the main stage.  Sadly, I couldn't get very close, and I was around enough assholes who just wanted to talk loudly over the music that I split after half the set was over.  This was just after Father John Misty took the stage at Outdoor, and I was pleasantly surprised to be a part of that crowd.

The next act we had to see was FKA Twigs in Gobi, and I got a text from Mike that he was already there.  "Help," it read, "I'm being violated by The Gaslamp Killer."  What I saw of this dude was actually pretty inspiring and original.  When I first got there, he was introducing the band and ranting in the most energizing way I've ever heard.  "Every single one of you motherfuckers was born for a reason!  Don't ever let any other person define your destiny!  When I was in school, my teachers told me that I was a waste.  They told me I'd never amount to anything.  Well look at me now, motherfuckers!"  The 15-piece band played one more quick song, sounding a lot like something out of a John Zorn project with TGK scribbling at the turntables the whole time and looking like an escaped mental patient.  The Gaslamp Killer Experience delivered what it promised, I'll say.  An experience.
FKA Twigs

I have to say FKA Twigs is about the best new music I've heard in as long as I can remember, and she didn't disappoint live.  My expectations were about as unrealistically high for her as they were for Portishead, and they were exceeded in a similar manner.  An apt comparison, as their music isn't so different in many ways, but the performance was night and day.  She contorts herself in the sexiest way while she's hitting Every.  Single.  Note.  Perfectly.  Her voice is an instrument, and to compare her to Beth Gibbons or Bjork isn't out of the question.  It was literally so good I had tears streaming down my face.  If you haven't checked out the new empress of trip-hop, please do yourself a favor and buy everything she's ever done.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

FKA Twigs (photo by Mike)

Mike stayed for Drive Like Jehu, who he said were one of his favorites on the day, while I bopped over to Mojave to see SBTRKT.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was more of this semi-live dance music that's permeated the festival this year in the most wonderful way.  SBTRKT was really, really good, great even, but the one thing I'd like to see from him would be live singers.  You add live singers to that act, and SBTRKT is going to be a real contender for the highlight of the day in the future.

Drive Like Jehu (photo by Mike)

Drive Like Jehu (photo by Mike)

After that, headed back to Gobi for Swans.  Michael Gira is like 70 years old, and most of the people in Swans look like they're gnarled up like a beef jerky dog toy, but these guys are not your father's or grandfather's 70.  If you like drone music, these guys pretty much invented it.  Or at least they're the oldest still-performing pioneers of the genre.  Although they seemed to mostly play a single chord the entire performance, I can't make the joke that the show was a little "one-note." ;)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)

Swans (photo by Mike)


Sadly, all good things must end, and this year I felt that the greatest things ended on Saturday.  Sorry, Sunday lovers, there just wasn't much for me.  tINI was throwing down some great minimal house vinyl in Yuma, and that was pretty much exactly what I expected in the best possible way.  M∅ was really, really good, possibly even great.  I didn't see that being the highlight until the day was over though, and I'd seen the second half of Panda Bear (which was actually really cool and trippy), and parts of Built To Spill (not my style) Marina and the Diamonds (really good but not quite great), Madeon (who actually was amazing but I couldn't get out of the entryway to Sahara, and it was a big pain in the ass to have people passing by me the whole time), Philip Selway (drummer for Radiohead, who played very quiet music while very loud music spewed in from every direction) Florence and the Machine (a predictably subdued set given her broken foot and scant 30-minute time slot, even though it ended with a duet with Father John Misty) and ODESZA (sounded great but couldn't get close enough to even get into the back of the tent).


Panda Bear
Philip Selway

The only act I'm conflicted about from Sunday is St. Vincent.  There were  a couple of songs I really, really liked, and when I heard her back at the motel, I liked what I heard, but overall her show just didn't click with me.  I watched the whole thing, so there's something there for sure, but I'll have to return to that at another time.  She's a great performer, but not being familiar with her music I've been told is to not really get it.  She's a grower, not a shower, as an artist.

And that's pretty much everything.  We got back to the motel in record time, and were even allowed to turn up streets we couldn't on Friday and Saturday because the traffic was so light.  Sunday's crowd seemed like about half the size of Friday and Saturday, so that was too bad as well.  However, it sort of confirms my statement that the great acts were spread very thinly, if at all, on Sunday this year.

1 comment:

bereweber said...

wow the reviews are up, need a strong big cup of coffee, thank you!