Coachella Recap

A little late, but here’s a quick band by band breakdown of Coachella weekend.

You’ll notice no Friday update.  That’s because after 2.5+ hours in traffic we were still miles away from the parking lot and decided to abort until the next day.  So no Perry Farrell, She & Him, The Specials, Them Crooked Vultures, Echo & the Bunnymen, Vampire Weekend, Ceu, Public Image Limited, or Jay Z. 🙁  My favorite quote on the situation:  “Whoever is in charge shouldn’t be allowed to organize dinner for two, much less a festival for 80 (thousand)″

Saturday, 4/17

John Waters
We started our day in the beer garden across from the Mojave stage listening to John Waters tell stories about his films and just rant in general. Hadn’t clicked before sitting down that this was going to be John Waters the director, but it ended up being a pretty cool kickoff.

This wasn’t a solo set by Ms. Deschanel from She & Him, but a rockin’ Mexican grunge band.  Singer looked like a cross between Bono and Chris Cornell.  Decent daytime rock on the main stage.

Jason Bentley
Hit the Sahara tent for the only time all weekend to watch the KCRW Music director spin.  But DJs aren’t really my thing, so it was short lived.  Love your show and your station though…

Old Crow Medicine Show
Really fun twangy, old-time alt-country with fiddles and strings who put on a great set.  I was torn at the end with this debate:  If you prominently feature a fiddle, should you or shouldn’t you cover “The Devil Came Down to Georgia” in concert?  They didn’t, but I think if they had it would have been awesome.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
One of my favorite albums of last year, and their live show exceeds expectations.

The xx
If I were to retcon my top albums of 2009 list these guys would be near the top, but since I only heard their record for the first time on Christmas XXmas eve it needed some time to secure that slot.  Probably the band I was most looking forwards to and they didn’t disappoint.  I hadn’t seen photos of the band before the show, and they ended up looking both not at all and exactly as I’d envisioned them if that makes any sense.

Faith No More
This falls under the “more interesting than good” category, though it was still fun and worth seeing.  They came out in suits and played a very faithful cover of “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb before launching into “From Out of Nowhere.”  Neither the band nor the songs have aged particularly well (Mike Patton kinda resembles Michael Douglas nowadays), though it was still awesome to hear “Midlife Crisis” and “Epic” played live back to back.

Les Claypool
You always pretty much know what you’re gonna get from Mr. Claypool, and it’s always fun.  Highlight for me was “Riddles are Abound Tonight” from the pre-Primus Sausage days.

The Dead Weather
I was pleasantly surprised by this Jack White side project that has him on drums and MC duties.  Heard a few songs here and there previously that were just okay, but live was a different story.

More upbeat and power-poppy than what I’ve heard of her before, makes me curious about her new record.

Wow!  They are not men, they are Devo!  Sounded great, and seemed to age a lot better than Faith No More.  Really cool visuals/cartoons in the background too.

Sunday, 4/18

One EskimO
On their recordings I get a bit of a Damien Rice vibe, but no so much live. Still decent and a good mellow start to day 2.

The Middle East
Actually saw these guys open up for Pavement on Thursday before Coachella.  They’re definitely growing on me, especially this one story song that builds to a pretty rocking crescendo by the end.

Another Spanish band, this one a little more dance-y than rock-y.  Of the two I leaned towards Zoe while my wife preferred these guys.

Local Natives
I was curious to see what the hype was about, and it seems legit.  The crowd overflowed from the Gobi tent for this solid set.

De La Soul
Great hip hop set.   I hadn’t realized these guys had been around since 1987!

Matt & Kim
Tent was so packed I didn’t actually see them, but instead just listened from outside.  This was during the “lightning round” so I only caught 3 songs, but they sold me with a cover of “Rock and Roll Part 2.”

Florence + the Machine
I was excited for this one, but it wasn’t really doing it for me.  Could have been the crowd though, as it was another overflowing tent and we were so far in the back it was tough to see and hear.  My wife says they sound like a cross between Bjork and something else…

Sunny Day Real Estate
Ahh, nostalgia from a misspent youth…

Yo La Tengo
This was probably my favorite find of the festival.  They were so good we broke from the lightning round plan to hear a few extra songs, and have been blazing through their extensive back catalogue since returning.  Good stuff.

Julian Casablancas
He was ok, though I think I prefer full on Strokes.

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Speculation that Beck would be performing with her proved to be false, but she still held her own and delivered a strong set.

Only caught the last few songs here since I was sent to the car to get pants, but I loved what I heard and might finally give Spoon another chance to win my musical heart.

Another band that’s growing on me at long last.  The crowd for this one was ridiculously large.  Towards the end of this set my wife and I split up so I could see the beginning of Pavement and she could see the start of Yann Tiersen, and both of those stages were quite sparse with the rest of the world watching Phoenix.

As mentioned above I caught the Pavement show in Pomona on Thursday, so I didn’t feel obligated to catch their entire Coachella set.  I stayed for the first 5+ songs (Silence Kid, In the Mouth a Desert, Stereo, Frontwards, Father to a Sister of Thought, Two States) and made it back in time for the last 2 (Unfair and Cut Your Hair), while slipping out in the middle to meet my wife at Yann Tiersen.  My timing couldn’t have been worse, as this worked out to be more or less to the exact second that Phoenix ended.  So I was walking one way while 70,000 other people were coming right at me in the opposite direction…

Yann Tiersen
The most painful conflict of the original schedule was Yann Tiersen overlapping with Gorillaz.  However, one good side effect of Eyjafjallajökull moved Yann into the earlier slot vacated by Gary Numan.  After fighting the crowd and reaching the Mojave tent my ears were blasted with some crazy guitar rocking.  It sounded great, but I was confused.  My previous exposure to Mr. Tiersen was solely from the classical influenced pieces on the Amelie soundtrack, so I thought I was in the wrong tent.  I actually went outside to check the big schedule to make sure.  Confusion aside, he was pretty awesome.  I especially loved how he’d play the violin so vigorously during the rock outs that the bow was visibly fraying on stage.

Atoms For Peace
I know I have a bit of a (deserved) reputation for not liking things on the first listen and then learning to love them later on.  But try as I might, I just can’t get into Thom Yorke.  He’s gotten more chances than I usually dole out, and even though everything in my musical pedigree says I should be a raging Radiohead fan they just don’t do it for me.

And so we’ve come to the end.  Great set, excellent use of audio visuals and special guests.  “Feel Good, Inc” with De La Soul stole the show, especially with that classic laugh repeated over and over.  That never gets old.

My only point of confusion is this:  While waiting an hour for this to start we noticed someone climbing a ladder to the lighting rig catwalk above the stage.  At first we thought it was a worker, but then noticed 2 or 3 other people already up there.  Then we saw another person make the ascent, this one in a red sequined leotard and elaborate headgear.  They reached the top, sat on something that resembled a trapeze, then squatted out of sight.  Our first thought was “Gorillaz are going to have some crazy Cirque du Soleil acrobats?  Cool!”  But then the set ended with nary an acrobat to be seen.  Odd, eh?

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