San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Monday, April 18, 2016

Coachella 2016 Review (Weekend 1)

I say this every year and I write this every year:  I can't believe it's over.  Again.

Like sand falling through the hourglass, Coachella has expired for another year.

No, it's not like that.  It's more like sand blowing at you from every direction, constantly, for three days... slowly but surely filling up every orifice, scar, pock mark and divot in your formerly-clean body.

In reality, it's only disappeared until next weekend, where festivalgoers will be treated to a moderately soiled polo field, and of course some great entertainment.

So overall, Friday was the strongest day, Saturday was decent, and Sunday turned out to be way above expectations.

In the interest of actually posting something this year (I haven't made the time to do a thorough review in years), I thought I'd go back to a format I did once before.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Coachella 2016 Awards!

Biggest Disappointment (No Show): Lush
Lush are one of the best, most overlooked and underrated bands from the shoegaze era.  I had the luck / pleasure to see them once as the first band on the bill for Lollapalooza 2 in Chicago at The World theater.  Few people seemed to care that they were on, but I was mesmerized by the jangly Rickenbacker guitars and Miki and Emma's amazing harmonies had me hooked from the start.  If they'd shown, this would probably a love letter to the band rather than starting of with a sincere "How could you???"  They're playing weekend 2, so I hope you lucky bastards make it to check them out.

Biggest Disappointment (Did Show): Guns N' Roses
I had high hopes for G&R's reunion, but I was wary at the same time.  I decided not to get pinned in trying to get a good place to see them, so I just sort of cruised by every half hour or so.  I got to see Sweet Child O' Mine, Paradise City and the AC/DC cover of Let There Be Rock with Angus Young, so I feel like I made a decent choice.  In a word, they just didn't have the intensity that they did when they were literally starving heroin addicts in LA (Axl is no longer starving, he's actually very well-fed).

One of the worst pictures of one of the best bands - Parov Stelar

The "I Knew They Were Going To Fucking Rock That Set!" Award: Parov Stelar
Parov Stelar was booked a few years back, and was scheduled to perform during the great dust bowl of Sunday night that year.  They actually had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.  Probably just as well - Coachella looked like a ghost town, hardly anyone was left to check them out.  So it's doubly amazing that they got a decent time slot, showed up, and blew minds for a respectably-sized crowd.  Think of a fantastic jazz combo performing swing tunes with a sexy, old soul kind of singer, with drums and electronic kick in the background.  You can't even think about standing still when this band is ripping it up.

Most Heartbreaking Choice:  M83 vs. St. Germain vs. Underworld
This was the closest thing to a tragedy schedule-wise, and it's a wonder it was only this.  Friday had so many amazing acts I was certain I'd be crying tears of sand and mud over missing more bands.  We ended up doing St. Germain, and from the beginning it was clear that we were there until the bitter end.  I can't say enough good things about St. Germain, but I'll say a few other things about them later.  We actually only missed maybe five minutes of Underworld because I think they started late, so it all worked out.  It was just really sad that we had to miss M83, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Reunion That Most Lived Up To the Hype:  LCD Soundsystem
While the LA Times wrote that Jack U "won," a reference to the ridiculousness of the crowd and the large attendance), LCD Soundsystem came out and did exactly what everyone expected them to do.  A fantastic set, with songs spanning all three albums, opening with the so-appropriate "Us V Them" (The time has come / The time has come / The time has come today), and closing with the festival-defining "moment" - All My Friends.  They even did true fan test song Yeah (Pretentious Version) and other deep cuts including Someone Great, also from Sound of Silver.  They played pretty much right up until just before they would have cut the power, so it was a pretty epic set.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise: Miami Horror (Friday), Cloves (Saturday), Meg Myers (Sunday)
Three bands I found on Spotify literally hours before we hit the road, and all very different.  Miami Horror is a dance band that smacks of Cut Copy, and had the crowd into it the whole time.  The singer actually climbed up the scaffolding in the Mojave tent and danced on one of the speakers.  Then he dangled, legs free, from the scaffolding on the way down for a few breathtaking seconds.  He made it back down, safe and sound, and they kept blowing us away with disco-inspired beats and hooks that could catch any dance-loving listeners within earshot of the tent.

Cloves at Coachella 2016

Cloves probably also got the Least Attended award, but undeservingly.  She's got an absolutely angelic voice, a fantastic register and is absolutely gorgeous.  If you haven't heard of her, you probably will soon, so go out and buy some of her stuff.  If you like the sound of female vocalists who can make you swoon, you'll love Cloves.

Meg Myers was one, I'll admit, that I wanted to see even before I heard her music.  Another gorgeous female vocalist, but with a much different approach.  While Cloves is more subdued and sad, Meg Myers is just batshit crazy.  She can go from a sultry whisper to a melodic scream without taking a breath, and she has the most emotive face of any other singer I saw this weekend.  Pick up something from her while you're at it, chick needs therapy and it ain't cheap.  Amazon Prime members take note: Her album Sorry is available to stream on Prime Music right now.

Band That Stuck With Me Even Though I Wish They Hadn't: The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms sound like a cross between Violent Femmes and a stool softener.  In a good way, if that's possible.  They didn't make me go, they just made it easier to go.  I figured from the name they might be kind of a joke band, and I think I'd have to say I was right to think that.  Still, if you're not doing anything else, check them out.  They might be just quirky enough to love.

Moment Where I thought I Actually Might Lose My Fucking Mind:  Grimes
I got to Grimes early enough to get about 15 rows back, and it was pretty chill until the music started, when she decided to try to destroy her fans' bodies with the loudest, thickest kick drums and the shrillest screeches of entire weekend when she performed SCREAM (yes, that's the title, all caps) with Aristophanes.  The two of them together let out this shriek that would have made a ghost shit its pants.  They say she's a cross between EDM and punk music, but she's better than that comparison.  Despite the poppiness of her new album, her caffeinated performance proved he to be capable of running at 150% for the full 45-minute set.  I didn't even take pictures I was so stunned.

Best Old Punk Reunion: The Damned
In other years, they might have been the only punk band reunited for the festival, but I didn't see Rancid so The Damned get this one by default.  Great energy and I liked the music, probably wouldn't buy anything though.

Most Pitch-Perfect Vocalist: Bat For Lashes
We'd gone out to the car to have a few beers and grab our night wear (hoodies) and from the length of the line, I thought I might have to miss her set in favor of Courtney Barnett (who was also excellent, from what I saw, and a highlight for some others in the crew), I made it in just enough time to get about ten rows from the stage.  I always forget how much I absolutely ADORE this band until I hear or see them.  Her haunting voice had me at the edge of tears for the entire set.  Although the reaction from others in the group wasn't as positive.  Rick's interpretation was, "Can you imagine how many times someone's played that song just before shooting their lover between the eyes while they're sleeping?"

Best Old-School DJ: John Digweed
Dude's still got it.  But then again, was he spinning records?  Does anyone anymore?  Whatever he was doing, he was projecting some deep, thumpy progressive house, and had the crowd moving.  Mostly an older crowd, but some musically enlightened millennials in there as well.  They've also nearly doubled the size of the Yuma tent, and have added a chill room and giant chill mattresses along some of the walls.

Best Show By Something Other Than the Artist: Sia
I don't know what I was expecting with Sia, I hadn't seen her since I saw her (two nights in a row, once at Coachella and then the next night at the now-defunct 'Cane's in San Diego), and I hadn't really followed her music much.  I liked her, but just never took the time.  She never moved during the entire set, and her bisected bangs (one half black, the other bleach blonde) hid her eyes for the entire performance.  She had several different dancers on stage with her, doing contemporary dances while Sia belted it out.  Her voice was narrowly edged out for the next award though...

Best Music For the Sunshine: Kamasi Washington
As I didn't see any of the reggae offerings (there were at least three by my count), Kamasi Washington had the music that best seemed to fit the sunshine.  He and his band recorded eight other albums while they were recording his three-CD epic, The Epic, one of which comes out soon.  Acoustic Bassist Miles Mosley led the group singing Abraham from this one, which really got the crowd stirred up.

Most Guest Stars: Disclosure
I didn't know it was Lorde who came out to sing with them, and I didn't know Lion Babe.  I didn't stick around for Kwebs (who I don't know either) or Sam Smith (who I do), but Lorde did a great job with her song, and Disclosure was solid.  I couldn't get too close, but where I was it was a nonstop party the entire time, including a circle people cleared so one guy could do ballet moves to the music.

No More Awards To Give But Wanted to Mention:  Autolux, Bob Moses, CHVRCHES, Dubfire, HÆLOS, Silversun Pickups, Wolf Alice
Autolux are sort of a cross between shoegaze and noise, and they're good.  I liked their set, didn't love it but wasn't disappointed.  Bob Moses is someone I want to check out more, they sound a lot like Trent Reznor singing over a house / progressive house kick drum.  I only caught three songs from CHVRCHES, two from the new album and the closer, The Mother We Share.  The two from the new album were really good.  I wasn't immediately struck with their latest album, Every Open Eye, but I'm going to listen with new ears and an open mind.  I only saw bits and pieces of Dubfire (Live), but I think it's got potential.  Super, super minimal techno, but it had a warmth to it somehow.   HÆLOS could have won the First Big Nice Surprise award, as they were the second full act we saw Friday, and rocked. Silversun Pickups were pretty good, they didn't do a lot I knew but I liked most of their songs.  Wolf Alice sounded great, especially their first song (which reminded me of Star Sail from the first Verve album, you know, the one when they were fucking phenomenal) and their last song, Moaning Lisa Smile, kicked ass more than most bands' entire sets.  Listening to them now on Spotify makes me like them even more.

So that's pretty much it for this year.  I finally got another review up, hooray!  I think I've earned myself a cookie.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, Mbongwa Star.  They're really good as well, go check them out.

Now go get ready, presale for Coachella 2017 should be in about a month.