Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coachella 2010 Day Three: Sunday

Sunday started out in a bit of a panic for me. After two days of lots of standing and walking, I awoke to my right foot being the size of my head. I could barely walk on it and I was terrified I wouldn't be able to make it to the festival for what looked to be my busiest day. I took lots of advil and propped my foot up and within an hour the swelling had gone down and my foot seemed ok. I planned to curtail my busy festival schedule as much as possible so that I wouldn't be standing as much in the hopes it wouldn't hurt too much. Unfortunately, due to the volcanic disruption of the UK airspace, British buzz band Delphic, who we were to see early on in the afternoon, were unable to make it to the US, so that left a gaping hole in the schedule and we were able to go to the festival late and I could rest my foot.

It was a gorgeous day for the final day of the festival. I was bit depressed on that last walk to the polo fields, but I knew it had already been a fun weekend so I quickly got back into a good mood. First up for me was Deerhunter who performed on the Outdoor theater. It was a brilliantly sunny day with a light breeze. Deerhunter, who in the past put on some really bad shows, were completely on form, playing a majority of songs from one of my favorite albums Microcastle, and peppering the set with older tracks as well.

After Deerhunter, Kurt was kind enough to grab me some food and water and we quickly ate before joining our housemates for Florence + The Machine, which was another act all of us were thrilled to see. We got there late, and she was in the tiny Gobi tent that was packed to capacity and overflowing like La Roux's show. We made our way to the back of the tent to watch, but it was so crowded it was hard to enjoy. It didn't help she was 15 minutes late performing (which for the tight set times was very unforgiving) and when she did come on the sound was so murky we couldn't hear anything. We only stayed for two songs and then had to leave. I was so so so disappointed. Hopefully she will make it to Atlanta so I can see her in a better venue.

But when Coachella gives you lemons you make lemonade. Kurt and wandered over to see Club 75 at the Sahara tent. Club 75 is a super DJ group made up of Justice and Cassius and they were a blast. really enjoyed their set and was a good alternative to the bad sound plagued Florence + The Machine. Nothing prepares you for the size of the Sahara tent, which holds about 5000 people. It is massive and so much fun. Many thanks to Kurt for introducing me to lots of great DJs.

Sunday was a rough day because I had bands back to back to back with little to no break. After catching most of Club 75 Kurt and I went to see Jonsi, the solo set from the singer for Sigur Ros. His album is a completely brilliant find. Unlike the somber and droning Sigur Ros, Jonsi's solo material is upbeat and amazing. His show had wonderful energy and was the show that MGMT should have put on.

Next up was Miike Snow, who are the production duo Bloodshy and Avant. This is their alternative pop persona. It was another show I was really looking forward to, however, it was marred by very murky audio. The show was still wonderful though and they basically played every song off the cd.

By this time the sun had set and I took Kurt over to see one of favorite bands of all time that have recently reunited, Pavement. The show was nice because it was on the main stage and wasn't too crowded. Phoenix was playing on the outdoor theater and seemed to have pulled the majority of the crowd. We were able to take a load off my hurt foot and sit for the whole show. It was a good, but not great set. They played a good mix of tracks but stuck more to the "hits" which I was rather surprised about.

Next up was a huge draw for me, Thom Yorke's solo set under the moniker Atoms for Peace, featuring Flea on bass, Nigel Godrich, and Jerry Wonaker. They played the entire Yorke solo cd The Eraser in order, then had 5 encores. The cd is very minimal electronic music, but they fleshed out the songs into something bordering on sublime. The show had an amazing flow, sounded great, and had a wonderful light show. Definite highlight of Sunday.

The final show of the night was the main headliner Gorillaz. And they did not fail to impress. The band led by Damon Albarn and featuring Mick Jones, Tim Simenon, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, and De La Soul, put on a killer set that was musically tight (if a little leaning towards the somber tracks) and with an amazing light and visual show. Every song had a backing animation that added to the experience. It was a beautiful cool night, and Gorillaz complemented the mood perfectly and made for an ideal finish to a wonderful weekend.

It was my first music festival experience and it was amazing. I can't thank Kurt, Dan, Mikey, Don and Mark enough for showing me the ropes and making my experience everything it could be and more. I am already looking forward to next year's festival.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coachella 2010 Day Two: Saturday

We got home Friday night around 1am. It was a long and exhausting day, but I had a lot of fun getting the lay of the land and figuring out how the festival works and how to get to the various stages quickly and efficiently and how to jockey for prime real estate. Saturday was my light day owing to the fact that the majority of acts I wanted to see were on Friday and Sunday. There was still a lot to see though, and I was willing to try new things that my housemates were wanting to see.

First off was a spoken word/standup performance from cult director John Waters of Hairspray and Female Trouble fame. Or infamy if you were partial to that description. Honestly, he was charming and extremely funny. Not to mention filthy, vulgar, and completely non-politically correct. So he was brilliant.

After John Waters there was a long period of time between acts I wanted to see, so we hung out under the shade tents in the beer garden. It was a very hot day and the only day that really had no breeze to speak of. Luckily the majority of acts I wanted to see were in the tents so you weren't out in the blazing sun all day. The tents were fun and had tons of great people watching. Most of my housemates joined us, and some even took a nap.

Next up I took Kurt over to the small Gobi tent to see Pitchfork idolized band Girls. I happen to love the cd and think it is melodically adventurous and witty, while being a complete mess. But the sloppiness is what gives it its charm. I was expecting a show full of train wreck moments and what we got instead was a highly professional show. I enjoyed the show while Kurt found them boring. I think if we had more of the sloppiness it would have been more memorable.

Afterwards I went to see Beach House by myself because no one else wanted to see them and Kurt thinks they are boring as well. We saw them last year open for Grizzly Bear and while then I thought their songs sounded too similar, since then I had bought their new cd and fell in love with it. The lyrics are haunting and beautiful and I just fell in love with the singer's voice. the show was attended by an audience of appreciative fans and I had no trouble seeing them or struggle to hear them over annoying groups of people chatting. The setlist was pitch perfect and told an almost singular story. The finished with my favorite song from them, "10 Mile Stereo," and I was so moved I was actually brought to tears. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a video of that performance, which is a crime, but here is a clip of my second favorite song "Walk In The Park."

We had another break and walked around the festival before going to see The Gossip. We tried to all get together for that show because it was one we all wanted to see, but the Mojave tent was packed to the rafters and we couldn't find everyone, so we just ended up seeing the show from different vantage points. The Gossip, led by the fabulously zaftig Beth Ditto, were a lot of fun and put on an amazing show. Lots of incredible energy.

The best part of the show is when James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem came out to join the band in a cover of Grace Jones' "Pull Up To The Bumper." It was wild.

The Gossip unfortunately started late so we were late running over to catch the end of The xx's set. We only got to see about three songs. Kurt and I had already seen them twice in small clubs so we weren't too disappointed but we were sad our friends missed out on a great show. What we did hear was good, and actually in a very large outdoor environment they actually sounded very muscular.

Kurt and I hung out some more and then he took me to see Bassnectar so we could grab something to eat. Funny, we ended up eating the same thing for lunch and dinner every day we were there. We studiously avoided the nasty festival food such as nachos, corn dogs, and garlic cheese fries, and discovered a small booth selling the most delicious and freshly made chicken fajitas. It was just simple ingredients: chicken, tortilla, and fresh pico de gallo. Delicioso! But back to Bassnectar. He packed the Sahara tent and the overflow crowd stretched about 50 yards beyond the tent. We sat in a small grassy patch and listened and crowd watched. Bassnectar's music was completely punishing and sick. The crowd was going mad. The bass was so deep and rumbling my stomach started hurting.

After Bassnectar we caught a few songs from festival buzz band MGMT. We got so tired of seeing all their fans around the grounds dressed in Native American getups. It was frankly silly. And MGMT were not really that good live. I was expecting an upbeat and fun set and it was pedestrian and boring. I actually ended up running into two Facebook friends from LA I had never met in person before. John and Keith were really awesome and fun.

Kurt convinced me to go with him to see Major Lazer, who I hadn't really been impressed with on album. John and Keith were going and were meeting friends, so we joined them. The show was a complete blast. It was essentially a DJ set, but they had a wonderful light and laser show and had the crowd jumping, dancing, and generally having an amazing time. Honestly, it was probably my favorite of the festival. When they played "Pon Da Floor" the tent went ballistic.

It was difficult if not impossible to trump the Major Lazer set, and we didn't try to find something to top it. There were several other acts I wanted to catch sets by (Muse, Public Image Ltd.) but we decided the final act of the night would be Flying Lotus. It was a very dense and challenging electronica set, but was a good way to end the evening on a good note. The visuals were incredible and slightly disturbing.

Saturday was an odd day owing to the fact that there were only a few acts I wanted to see, however, I ended up seeing two acts I had no intention of seeing and finding them to be highlights of the festival. I think I overdid the day too much though and had many foot related issues the following day. But that is all for the next post.

Coachella 2010 Day One: Friday

Been a crazy month for me so far. Got a new job starting in May, quit my contract job, and went to the Coachella Music Festival for the first time with my friends Kurt, Dan, and Mikey, and their friends Mark and Don.

I will try to complete these posts before I head off to London tomorrow, so let's get to it.

I had never been to Palm Springs before and was pleased to find it is really a lovely city with one of the most striking mountain backdrops I have ever seen. The weather for the whole festival was nearly perfect, not too hot and had a nice breeze almost every day. I have heard that just a few weeks from now Palm Springs gets ridiculously hot, so my experience is a little clouded by the nicer climate.

We had a nice, but not great, house in a resort across the street from the festival grounds. Even though we were that close, it was still quite a haul to the venue. For one, we were at the very opposite side of the resort from the main gate so it would have been a 40 minute walk from there. Luckily we drove and parked up near the gate and then walked to the polo fields. Even after driving, we had another 30-40 minute walk. In the morning it was hot, but we were so excited about the shows that we overcame it. Coming back, the walk would seem much much longer, however, at night the temp fell into the 60s and was lovely.

It is a bit of a nightmare getting onto the festival grounds. You have to stop at a security station and get your three-day band, which you then have to wear for three days straight. Got to be a little irritating by the final day, but I suppose was necessary. Here is a pic of me and my housemates powering up for the day:

It is difficult to explain Coachella to most people. There are a lot of bands. Too many to ever see. There are two huge outdoor stages: the Main Stage and the Outdoor Theater. Then there are three tents. The smallest is the Gobi, followed by the Mojave, and ending with the Sahara which is where all the DJs and electronica acts perform.

First act of the day for us was Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke in the Gobi tent, which is smallest tent, and would turn out to be logistically challenging when acts that had blown up overnight were booked in there. Kate is a cute, petite blond woman who is a classically trained singer with a phenomenal range. Everyone I was with knew of her and wanted to see her, yet I didn't know a thing about her. Turned out to be a very lovely surprise. I will try to post videos from the actual sets if I can find them. Doesn't seem to be any from her Coachella set. Here is a pic I took of her:

Next, I went off on my own to see a Canadian band called Jets Overhead in the much larger Mojave tent. My friend Mark Gillespie was also at the festival and he told be about them. They had elements of 90s shoegaze with a more melodic songwriting sensibility. I immediately downloaded their cd afterwards.

My friend Kurt dragged me afterwards to see DJ Lance Rock, who is a very skinny African-American man in an orange music conductor's uniform who hosts a children's show on PBS called Yo Gabba Gabba. It is profoundly silly and very childlike, but surprisingly is also brilliantly demented in a Sid and Marty Kroftt kind of way and was one of the highlights of the festival for me.

Afterwards, I went back to the Mojave tent to wait for one of must sees: Yeasayer. Of course I had to sit through As Tall As Lions, which just seemed like a Muse wannabe. I was not impressed.

Yeasayer have really grown on me throughout the year and I had heard their live shows could be painfully bad or extremely brilliant. Luckily I think we caught them on a very good day as it was one of my favorite performances of the festival. It was upbeat and the crowd really seemed to get into it.

My whole group met up to see Passion Pit at the Outdoor Theater. We had all fallen in love with the album and were very excited to see them live. The sound unfortunately was not good and the singer's voice, which is not strong to begin with, seemed even whispier in the desert air. I so wanted to love them, but I just didn't.

All of us housemates gathered together to see La Roux in the tiny Gobi tent. I have never seen that tent so packed in my life. The audience was spilling out into all corners from it. Initially, I was going to go see Grizzly Bear, but decided at the last minute to check out La Roux. Grizzly Bear put on such a perfect show here in Atlanta that I really didn't want to ruin its memory. La Roux, I thought, would be sort of boring, seeing as it is mainly programmed music. Was I in for a shock. The show had amazing energy and the singer was spot on. It was such a wonderful show and definitely one of my favorites of the festival. Here is a clip of the final song, "Bulletproof" which caused the crowd to go crazy.

Next, Kurt and I ran over to the main stage to see LCD Soundsystem, who put on a very dynamic show. They have very long songs and sort of blurred them all together, but were just so much fun and musically tight. A definite festival highlight for me. The new cd This Is Happening is brilliant.

The final show of the evening was from the enigmatic Fever Ray. The show was brilliant. Very dark and spooky and really did a great job of highlighting the songs. The only bad thing was having some very obnoxious Euro-trash in front of us who talked throughout the entire performance. It just became infuriating.

All in all, it was a lovely start to my festival. Saw some amazing bands I wanted to see, and was introduced to bands I never would have sought out. Was an exhausting day, but a lot of fun. Really got me excited for the rest of the festival. There would be more disappointments and a lot more surprises set in store for me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coachella Here I Come!

I am officially done with my contract job and now am off for the rest of the month before starting my permanent job. Tomorrow I head out with Kurt and Dan for the 2010 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California, outside Palm Springs. This is my first trip there and I am beyond thrilled. There is a good lineup and I am going to be inundated with great music. The only drawback is that we got the set lineups today and unfortunately there are far too many overlaps with bands I want to see, so I will be making tough decisions on who I will see and who will be neglected. I guess it is a better problem to have than looking around for a band to see.

I know I have been woefully lax in posting to the blog and I am hoping that I will be able to blog some from the festival. I will even attempt to do some videos as well with my new HD camera.

So until this weekend, have a great week and I will report from Coachella!!!