I have a bit more respect for Asher Roth after watching this.
After my hectic endeavors in the Sahara Tent the night before, I planned to start my Sunday off at a calm pace: laying down on the grass and soaking in some good music being played in the tents. Following Vivian Girls’ performance (which like their music, was good, but not great), I quickly changed my game plan. With a cool piñata on stage and there being a relatively easy push to the front, I decided to join the masses for No Age’s Mojave performance. Opening up with “Teen Creeps,” Dean Spunt and Randy Randall played a tour-de-force of music that perfectly illustrates a young Angelino’s urban anxiety. Mixing up popular singles, like “Eraser,” with some lesser-known tunes, the LA duo incited quite a mosh pit, despite the brutal heat outside. In true fashion of The Smell, Randy Randall even stood on top of the divider between the fans and stage, grazing his guitar across the sea of sweaty hands in appropriate communal fashion. For the local DIY poster boys, it really didn’t matter the size of the venue because they still connected with the audience.
Immediately following No Age, we rushed over to the Gobi Tent to catch the second half of English buzz-band, Friendly Fires. Despite the tight packing of the crowd in the small tent, the group still got the crowd going by playing dance-punk heavy tunes, like “Paris.” It was a shame that I was only able to catch half the set.
As the heat starting to reach the 100s, the music only got better. After resting under a tent in the food court area, we made our way over the main stage to catch Lupe Fiasco in order to add some more hip-hop to our weekend. Backed by a superb live band and Matthew Santos (for a few songs), Lupe rolled through an energetic set inciting a wave of hands being thrown in the air. Only familiar with a few singles before the set, I left a fan; convinced that he carries an artistic foray superior to many of his fellow hip-hop peers.
For the next couple of hours, my friends and I remained glued to the Main Stage Area (minus the occasional water or bathroom break). One of my biggest surprises of the festival came in the form of Peter Bjorn & John’s brilliant performance late in the afternoon. Only familiar with the group’s hit single from a few summers ago, “Young Folks,” I was originally tempted to go check out Antony & The Johnsons, but decided to just stick with my group of friends at the Main Stage and hope for the best. Good call. The Swedish trio focused primarily on songs from their latest release Living Things, but still found room for some older tracks. While the group did not quite win over the entire crowd, they still played with a sense of confidence and found ways to spice up their set; with the highlight being when fellow Swedes Lykke Li and Robyn joined the group on stage for “Nothing to Worry About” and “Young Folks.”
Next on the main stage was the highly-anticipated performance from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, hot off the release of their synth-dance rock album Its Blitz. After their triumphant set on the same stage in 2006, it came as no surprise that the band garnered one of the largest audiences of the day. Playing behind a giant inflatable eye-ball reflected by the setting sun, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s opened up with their new ballad “Runaway” with smiles all over the bands’ faces (I think I even saw Nick Zinner pop a little grin). With the two male members wearing all black, Karen O especially stood out in her dress of gold sequins and turquoise tights. If she wasn’t already considered an alt-rock goddess, Karen O definitely cemented herself with the status once she struck some epic poses and belted out classics, like “Gold Lion” and “Maps.” Though maybe most memorable from the performance was when the trio broke out into their latest single “Zero,” a tune that perfectly blends the groups recognizable sound with their current synth endeavors. As mini inflatable eye-balls floated throughout the crowd and Nick Zinner totally killed the break down, it seemed as if the YYY’s had reached the peak of rock stardom.
With the sun finally set and ear-plugs distributed throughout the festival grounds, it was clear that it was time for My Bloody Valentine’s debut performance in the desert. Pioneers of the shoegaze rock genre, MBV fit into the stereotypical mold of a Coachella sub-headliner: a late 80s/early 90s alt-rock band that recently reunited. Though that didn’t mean the group’s performance wasn’t one of a kind. With the amps turned up all the way and psychedelic lights bathing the group, Kevin Shields and co. rolled through tunes that find the beauty in distortion and reverb, such as “Soon” and “Only Shallow.” As Kevin Shields harmonized with Bilinda Butcher, the whole crowd seemed to be set still and mesmerized by what was occurring in front of them. However, once MBV transitioned into a 15 minute drowning pitfall of noise, I must admit I became quite uncomfortable and rather bored. Yes, there may be some beauty in the sound of distortion, I just don’t need 15 minutes to show me. That nearly killed their victorious set for me.
To close out the night on the Main Stage, was none other than The Cure and their insistent need to play for at least 3 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Cure. I think Robert Smith is a genius front man and has quite a knack for crafting a tune. The band is also just as good live. My one problem is that if you are going to headline the final day of a major festival, shouldn’t you try to make your show more accessible to people other than the die-hard Cure fan? I mean, come on Robert! I go to the first half-hour of your set and leave only recognizing one of the songs I’ve heard (“Lovesong”). You have numerous hits from your “heyday” available to play, why do I have to wait 3 hours to hear all of them? Whatever…
My friends and I all opted to end our Coachella experience on a more upbeat note by heading across the polo grounds to the Sahara Tent and partying to Etienne de Crecy and his giant light cube. Even though many had already left the festival in hopes of making it back home at a decent hour, there still was enough of a crowd in the tent to provide the celebratory vibe that surrounded the tent all weekend long. Playing a rather cookie-cutter style of house music, Etienne de Crecy still delivered a triumphant performance thanks to his mind-blowing stage set-up. No Daft Punk, but still fun.
As I finally left the festival for the last time, feet killing and The Cure still playing, it was a bittersweet moment. While Sunday night did not live up to be the epic finale that I hoped for, Coachella was still a fulfilling weekend of music and partying that left a lasting impression on me and gave me more confidence in the current state of music. All other festivals now must stand the test of matching my experience at Coachella 2009: a weekend like none other.
With no acts high on my must-see list until around 6, I decided to start the day off fast by spending a couple hours at Coachella’s infamous party tent, the Sahara Tent. Smacked dab and front center, I quickly engaged in the mosh of fist pumps and crowd-surfing accustomed to this area of the festival. Accompanied by the heavy house tunes being spun by Drop the Lime, Para One, and Surkin, the crowd proved that the toll of the heat was no match for the dance party that was going down early in the afternoon. However, I must note my confusion with the mosh pit that ensued during Surkin’s DJ set: is it a dance act or a punk rock concert?
At about 5, I finally forced myself out of the Sahara Tent, in order to refuel (meaning I would spend some cash on an overpriced Greek sandwich and Gatorade) and get a prime spot for TV on the Radio’s anticipated performance on the Coachella Stage at 6:25. Of course, many other attendees seemed to have the same idea as me, since by the time I approached the periphery of the stage, fans were already lined up. After releasing one of the most highly acclaimed albums (Dear Science) last year, it should have come as no surprise that this applauded group would be on many people’s must-see radar. Thus, when the Brooklyn-based band promptly took the stage backed by an excellent horn section and some groovy quilts adorned across the stage, it was already a blockbuster sight to behold. Shredding through hits, such as “Wolf like Me” and “Dancing Choose,” TVOTR easily delivered one of the most epic performances of the day and whole festival. Between lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s high-pitched wails and guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone’s calm tenor, a formidable nucleus is built that sounds even stronger live. Additionally, I can’t go without noting guitarist Dave Siteck’s excellent job of creating a reverbed-post punk howl of distortion that added a definite edge to TVOTR’s riveting sound. Playing on the same stage as the animate Adebimpe and Malone, it can be hard to match up.
Following TV on the Radio’s enthralling set, it seemed as if the day had already reached its climax, yet that was before I made my way over to Fleet Foxes’ breath-taking set on the Outdoor Stage. With only one full-length album at their disposal, Robin Pecknold and company made full use of their sharp indie-folk songbook, unwinding the busy crowd into a state of calamity and peace. As magnificent as the group’s songs were, what made this performance near perfect had to be the brilliant desert sunset happening right before our eyes and the way in which it enhanced the splendor of the harmonized tunes. During songs, like “Sun It Rises,” I felt as if I had finally reached my cathartic Coachella moment; cleansing myself of all the stress and hustle of urban life and soaking in the purity of this musical episode.
However, this sense of peace and tranquility would soon fade away, once we made our hustle to the Coachella Stage to check out M.I.A’s first live-performance since giving birth. Entering the stage on a makeshift press-conference podium and backed up by neon-clad dancers, M.I.A made sure to make here 50-minute performance a spectacle to remember. Rolling through hits, like “Galang” and “Paper Planes,” M.I.A attempted to bring the intimate vibe of the Sahara Tent to the Coachella Stage by letting fans jump the fence and join the party that ensued onstage. Furthermore, the starlet frequently shouted out comments (i.e. “They try to make me play the Oscars, and I said, ‘No, no, no!;”) just waiting to make their way on to Perez Hilton’s website. While her remarks became a bit tedious after a while, M.I.A still delivered a solid set for the masses.
After seeing the large gathering of young folks partying during M.I.A’s performance, I decided to forgo seeing the beginning of the Killers’ headlining set and scout out a decent spot for MSTRKRFT in the Sahara. Catching the second half of The Chemical Brother’s DJ set, which consisted primarily of other artists’ tunes, I felt quite disappointed in the fact that Goldenvoice had hired the legendary electronic group for a DJ set, as opposed to one of their acclaimed live performances. Regardless, I had squeezed my way into the middle of the sweat-filled Sahara to check out the highly-anticipated set from Jesse F. Keeler and AL-P of MSTRKRFT.
Having heard that large sums of money had been spent on the Canadian duo’s stage set-up and that there were some surprises in store for their Coachella performance, I was quite anxious to see if MSTRKRFT’s visuals could possibly be on par with Daft Punk’s elaborate pyramid they debuted at Coachella in 2006. When the DJs finally took the stage a little after 11, I realized that I’d set my hopes up a bit too high.
While the show did not feature any of the breath-taking 3-D visuals as I had been told there would be, the stage did feature some striking 3-D lasers and four wide-screen TV screens that showed a live feed of the duo at work. Spinning a fresh mix of cuts from their two albums and a few edgy remixes, MSTRKRFT gave the ecstatic crowd at the Sahara a thrilling finish to yet another enjoyable day at the Empire Polo Grounds. To top things off, MSTRKRFT and Goldenvoice kept true to their promise by bringing John Legend on stage as a surprise guest, to sing the final two songs (“Green Light” & “Heartbreaker”) of the night. A proper ending that kept fans cheering even after the house lights were turned on.
It was hot, the porto-potties were already out of toilet paper, and the smell of sweat could not go unnoticed. Though that didn’t stop my excitement from entering the Empire Polo Grounds: site of the 10th annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Being it my first time at the prolific festival, I was immediately captivated by the eclectic array of three-dimensional artwork, such as the 90+ foot bamboo skyscraper and colossal steel hand that frequently threw up the international sign of rock and roll: the devil horns. Yet as appealing and noteworthy as the pieces were, music was calling.
First up on my must-see list was Britain’s Noah and the Whale, whom play a charming style of baroque indie pop. Listening to their hit single “5 Years Time” on the drive down to Palm Springs, I imagined the upbeat tune; which contains the lyrics “Sun, sun, sun, all over our bodies;” as the most appropriate welcome to a weekend of good music under the ever-present sun. Unfortunately, I set my expectations too high. Due to a combination of both the exhausting heat and the lead singer losing his voice mid-way through the set, Noah and the Whale left many in the crowd unsatisfied and more than ready to embark on other ventures.
Hence, my friends and I decided to cool off by heading over to the smallest of the three tents, the Gobi Tent. One of the greatest things about attending an event, like Coachella, is how any individual can create their own unique experience. Thus, with the wide array of acts offered on the five stages and in the Dome, there are endless possibilities to the kind of musical experience you can choose to partake in. With me and my friends, it was all about irrational juxtapositions with no dominating genre for the day. Thus, after partaking in some indie pop, we decided to take in some good old stoner hip hop by catching the second half of LA’s own People Under the Stairs. Playing for a full tent of devotees and newcomers, PUTS seemed to frequently find ways to engage the diverse crowd, whether it be through giving the crowd a phrase to repeat throughout the course of a tune or just flaunting the LA hand gesture. While the performance would later fail in stacking up with some of the weekend’s other offerings, PUTS provided a nice change of pace and reversal from the pessimistic attitude initially set about by Noah and the Whale.
At about four, as the sun began to hit its peak for the day, we made our way to the Coachella Stage (otherwise known as the “Main Stage”) to check out Silver Lake’s buzz-band, The Airborne Toxic Event. With the single “Sometime Around Midnight” making its rounds around many of the popular rock stations, The Airborne Toxic Event brought a relatively decent sized crowd to the Coachella Stage. Playing tunes destined to be performed at sold-out arenas, the local buzz band could not consistently play up to the grandeur they present on their recordings. Yet, thanks to the appearance of an adequate string section on selected songs, The Airborne Toxic Event showed some promise for the future and the striking capabilities they possess. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the group return to the same stage a few years down the line.
Following The Airborne Toxic Event, as the heat began to finally cool, the acts only seemed to execute the opposite. As many festival-goers went to observe more accomplished artists, like The Black Keys and The Ting Tings, I decided to take a risk and watch the Portuguese newcomers Buraka Som Sistema. Best risk I took that weekend! Featuring two drummers, two rappers, a DJ, and dancer that reminded me of a mix between M.I.A and Beyonce, BSS got the crowd going from the get-go. Playing kudoro music, which can best be described as a fusion of reggaeton, hip hop, and house, I found myself quickly busting out the first of many dance moves during the festival. Though the set was cut short due to technical difficulties, the group still figured out ways to appease the crowd, whether it be throwing down a cover of Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” or leading the audience in a uniform leap from the ground to the air.
Around 6:00 seems to be the ideal slot for a performance. With the heat nearly faded away and a beautiful sunset in the background, the true beauty of Coachella can be absorbed and enjoyed to its fullest. Thus, it seemed awkward to watch Franz Ferdinand, who’s edgy riffs and lyrics about wild nights and debauchery seem to fit more suitably once the sun is down, play this imposing slot. Whether it was my exhaustion from the madness that ensued in the Gobi during BSS or the hot dog I devoured minutes before the band took the stage, I just couldn’t draw myself in as closely to Franz Ferdinand as I had when I saw their quaint set at Amoeba Music in January. Songs, such as “Take Me Out” and “Turn It On,” sounded rushed and unparallel to their recorded counterparts. While the band finally found their groove later on during the hour set, nothing could make up for the mediocrity that was initially brought on stage.
Like a flock of seagulls heading south, a large portion of the crowd at the Coachella Stage during Franz Ferdinand immediately jolted to the nearby Outdoor Stage, to find a prime spot to bask in the soothing tunes of the aging folk legend, Leonard Cohen. Looking back upon the performance, my initial disappointment in Cohen’s decision to ignore classic tracks, like “Suzanne” and “So Long Marianne,” seems to have subsided. Rather, I’ve decided to focus upon more of the stronger points, such as the unity of the crowd as they sang the simple, yet delightful chorus of “Hallelujah.” Knowing that I was fortunate enough to witness a classic, like Cohen, perform on stage was satisfactory enough for me.
Now what I loved about Coachella this year, was that with a simple 2-3 minute walk across the field, you could easily transport yourself back and forth through pop music history. Such was the case with my half-hour of Girl Talk in the wild Sahara Tent in between the elderly Leonard Cohen and Paul McCartney. Entering from a giant blow-up grim reaper and with a posse of attractive hipsters following, Greg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) triumphantly took the stage dawning an all white outfit. Playing his signature mix of classic rock gems and KISS FM rap staples, Gillis kept the predominantly young crowd at the tips of their feet (literally) non-stop, playing everything from AC/DC to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” As fun as Girl Talk’s stage antics can be, 30 minutes was more than enough. It was time to see Macca.
Since Coachella over the years has been known for booking popular indie rock acts from the 80s and 90s, it seemed kind of odd when I first saw Paul McCartney’s name at the top of this year’s bill. One of the most mainstream acts there is, McCartney represents a previous era of rock and roll, in which musician’s relied more on Ed Sullivan and record store sales than YouTube and MySpace hits. Yet after spending the day observing the likes of Buraka Som Sistema and Leonard Cohen, I began to come to the conclusion that Coachella is not solely devoted to the next big thing (South by Southwest in Austin, Texas has already got that down), but rather, just a celebration of good music. Alas, Sir McCartney has a couple songs that could fall under that category.
Playing a more-than-two-hour set spawning his nearly 50 year career, McCartney never lost momentum, whether it be during faster numbers, like “Only Mama Knows,” or slower pieces, such as “The Long and Winding Road.” While taking a break from rocking out on guitar and bass, McCartney got a little teary-eyed once he noted that it was the 11 year anniversary of his wife Linda’s death. Yet keeping with the upkeep tempo of the whole weekend, McCartney mentioned how Linda always loved the desert and music. At that moment, the man of the weekend broke into “My Love;” a song originally written for Linda. At that moment, whether you were 7 or 70, you could not escape the comforting grasp of Macca’s set. Later on, as McCartney’s rolled through a thrilling rendition of “Live and Let Die;” backed by a fitting exhibit of fireworks; and led the near 50,000 crowd in a mass sing-a-long of “Hey Jude,” it seemed as if the show had hit its peak. Such was the case, until McCartney and his band returned back on stage for two encores consisting entirely of tracks from The Beatles catalogue! Performing everything from “Yesterday” to “Helter Skleter,” the group finally (and predictably) ended with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” thus concluding a grand performance befitting of the biggest name in the industry.
My apologies, but I need to get my rest for this long weekend. Hence, no intense schedule analysis, as I had previously planned. For all those unable to make the trip, I may be Twittering, so check out:
Expect a full review and pictures from the festival sometime in the coming week.
Sure, Sunday is the last day of the festival, but that doesn’t mean a damper needs to put on the situation. From the moment the gates open to the time they close, there won’t be a dim moment. Whether it be buzz-worthy or historically-worthy, Sunday should have it.
Get there early:
Vivian Girls: A little bit of punk, a portion of shoegaze, and a tad of surf rock add up to Vivian Girls. This trio, hailing from Brooklyn, are still up-and-coming, but sound like a great way to start off the long day.
No Age: At this point, I’d say No Age are past the buzz phase! The poster boys for The Smell out in Downtown, No Age plays post-punk for the 21st century. Should represent the proud venue well.
May be the best performance of the whole fest:
Etienne de Crecy: Think Daft Punk. This is going to blow my mind and be the succulent cherry on top.
With Friday being a hodge-podge of the past and the present, Saturday seems to be more of a celebration of what is “current.” Bands and artists, such as The Killers, M.I.A, TV on the Radio, and Mastodon, have emerged as the norms of this particular music scene, with groups, like Glasvegas and Blitzen Trapper, ready to follow. Say what you will about the placement of The Killers in the headlining slot, but don’t bring down the rest of the day’s offerings.
Here we go:
TV on the Radio: Hot off of last year’s brilliant work, Dear Science, TV on the Radio is the band to beat (man, this is starting to sound like a sports blog…). With Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone sharing the majority of the vocals in this post-rock outfit, a triumphant live performance amidst the cooling desert climate only seems appropriate. Supposedly, Tunde goes all out during the performance. Can’t wait!
Fleet Foxes: What could possibly match the beauty of a sunset performance by Leonard Cohen? Well, maybe that of a Fleet Foxes’ appearance on the Outdoor Stage at the most beautiful time of day. Blending 60s folk rock with a modern touch, these Seattle hippies provide some of the most soothing tunes one could fathom. Hence, this will be the perfect chance to refuel yourself for the rest of the night’s wild antics and endeavors.
MSTRKRFT: This is for sure my wild card (again with the sports lingo…) pick. Fist of God may not match the force and creativity of some of the duo’s earlier works, but I’m still keeping the faith in these DJs. However, the reason why MSTRKRFT is on this list is because of a certain rumor that has been floating around, which claims that they will provide a 3D performance. Does that mean we all get 3D glasses or is there just going to be a shit-load of holograms? Who knows? It sounds quite bad-ass though and definately worth checking out.
* Side Note: Turns out the set-times were released a day earlier than I thought they would be. My rant on the schedule will be posted most likely on Thursday in a final preview.