Monday, May 02, 2005

Coachella - A Diary

Coachella Day 1 - Saturday, April 30, 2005
We started the first day stopping at a convenience store for some caffeine. While inside, Stephanie and Christy ended up talking to this nice older lady who asked if we were going to that concert. It was so cute. She said that she had heard of one of the groups and we were totally thinking she would say Coldplay but instead said Nine Inch Nails. What a riot! We then loaded up and enjoyed the exciting ride to the festival. The traffic wasn't really that bad at all which made us wonder how on earth we could be so lucky to be here.

Coachella is all about discovering new acts that you normally wouldn't have thought about seeing. The first half of the day was packed with such groups and unfortunatley we didn't take much advantage of that due to the fact that we were ass tired and needed to get oriented to the whole place before we rushed off to stand or hop or bounce for eleven hours straight. Coachella is set up perfectly. The lines to get in to the festival were not bad and the feared bag checking not really an issue (my friend Mike was able to make it in with his cold medicine and I got away with bringing in my sharpie...that day). First place beside the restrooms we hit was the merch stand. We had heard that if you don't buy your swag on the first day, some styles and sizes would be sold out by the second day. This actually proved true for some groups such as Wilco. What we didn't know, and my tip to those planning a trip next year, is to hit the Coachella Boutique (much different than the t-shirt stand) over by the tent stages. They have artist designed Coachella merchandise that run in limited prints of only 500. They sell about ten bucks more than the normal tee (which is about $20) but you'd be the coolest kid in school with a near one-of-a-kind shirt or poster. Gates opened at 11am and the first act took the stage at 12:30. I had a choice between the Sexy Magazines or Boom Bip. I chose neither as I was still in awe of the grounds. They were amazing! Lush green grass everywhere and perfectly manicured. The Empire Polo field where the festival is held is enormous, it took us almost an hour just to get oriented. For the directionally challenged, Coachella comes to your rescue. Large "You are here" signs are posted at every junction and large art pieces pierce the sky at important locations so you can always find your way to the bathroom near the giant bloody baby. Since it was almost 1pm when we got our shit bought, we decided it was time to eat.

About what I thought, water was $2, soda was $3 and the cheapest entree' was around $7. The food selection was very broad though. You could get Szchehuan, Chinese, Vegan, BBQ in addition to your standard burger, pizza and hot dogs. For the really sadistic, you could also have Mexican. Although, you would be no one's friend. I need to pause to give kudos to the vendors as well, the portions you received for your $7 was quite generous, although charging $2 to have the smallest bag of chips on earth added to your burger (as it should have come with it) was a bit much. The neatly organized stands reminded me of something out of Roller Coaster Tycoon, especially the stand that sold nothing but candy.

The first group we got to see was Radio 4. They had come to Orlando with VHS or Beta (a band I was dying to see and would love to have seen here at Coachella) but VHS canceled and I was overworked, plus (+) the fact that I knew I was going to the festival equaled (=)"skip the show." But I was really glad to catch what little I saw of their set. Their sound was great but this was also my first visit to the Mojave tent, my least favorite concert location. It is covered but hot due to the fact that all of the up-and-comers were all placed it was packed. We ended up standing in the back on our tippy toes and after a while figured we needed to catch something that also included a breeze so off to the outdoor stage we went to see Jamie Cullum. It was great to catch is refreshing alt-jazz (I hate labels) sound. He did a sweet cover of Radiohead's "High & Dry" but sadly not "Lover You Should Have Come Over" by Jeff Buckly. Probably for the best as Stephanie and I would have cried a little.
Statistically two things are true about this year's Coachella. One is that at any point during the day, a British band was playing. The second is that if you were an electronic band or DJ, you got the biggest ass tent of the festival. If there was a number three, it would be that there truly was a girl walking around with a hat that said "Vagina" on it. We liked it so much, we named our finger band (more to come on that) Vagina Hat or "Vhat" for short. Our finger band rocked! Okay, where was I? Right, we were really curious about the translation of a DJ at a mostly alternative rock music festival plus one that performed in the middle of the day so we went to check out Peretz. Peretz is the DJ moniker of Perry Farrell, the same frontman for Janes Addiction and Pornos for Pyro, not to mention the organizer behind the granddaddy of all these festivals, Lollapalooza. Turns out that it was in the humongous Sahara tent and it was paaacked. I think mostly because everyone wanted to see what Perry Farrell as a DJ looked like. It was as if you were staring at a monkey in a cage, no one was dancing. Neither were we really so I guess those that live in glass houses... Anyway, it sounded danceable and all but it seemed that he was really just there to look good and press "play." He had the best clothes though, Errol Flynn pants that came up to his abdomen with a big shiny silver belt. It was sauce! This was about the same time that the gang ran into Danny Devito. Right there in the crowd walking around. I hated being a vulture because I know how they are after being a tour guide at Disney but I couldn't resist and he was so nice and approachable...and short.
We caught the tale end of Ambulance LTD before seeing a very awesome set by M83. Stephanie and I were so entranced by their unique sound that we stopped and watched their set before heading over to Snow Patrol. I think that is what is great about a festival like this; you can really get into some new music, especially when it is live and you still like never know how good a band is until you see them play in front of you . Their sound is definitely French, electronic and rocking! I finished watching their set and joined the gang over at Snow Patrol which was not an easy task as they were on the Main Stage and no less than a sea of people had decided to catch their set. I have to say that I am not a big fan of the light rock that Snow Patrol, Keane, Coldplay, etc. has to offer. Likewise, I am not saying that I dislike their music by any means but it let me take advantage of resting and not stressing out if I missed one of their sets. I don't a Snow Patrol album so I can't tell you how great they were but according to the rest of the Vhat crew, they didn't sound very good. But we were still having a great time. It was around this time that we all whipped our smuggled Sharpie pens and drew faces on our collective pinkie fingers to form Coachella's surprise appearance by Vagina Hat! It was clear that the concert-going public had no clue that Vhat was going to make an appearance but there they were. Judging by the crowd, they were seen by at least 100 to 300 people. They were sauce! We wanted to make sure we caught Keane, who were next on the Main Stage but had time to catch Razorlight, another British band and one that is rather obscure. We got about two songs before heading back over for Keane.
One of Mike Britton's top five favorite bands is the Stereophonics so nothing was going to stop our crew from making their set. It was in (surprise) the Mojave tent and we actually got a pretty good spot for it. I think it was the first band that we actually stayed for the entire act. They were good, I had never heard them before. Steph and Christy had gone to see Wilco at this point so on our own we hit the Food Court. The pizza line was a block long so we decided on Mexican and had this burritto that I swear was 130 degrees when handed to us. It was big and full of good stuff though so we were happy. We timed it so that we could catch the first few songs of MF Doom who I was curious to see. Not really to listen to but to see with my own eyes. I have found him fascinating for a while. He has great dub and beat stuff but then he also has some hard core rap that I can pass on. I just wanted to see what his was going to choose to play...and wear. More infamously, he is known for wearing a Doctor Doom mask like in the Fantastic Four and I think that's hot (we also picked up this habit of saying hot while on this trip, I wish it weren't true). True to form, he came out wearing the Doom mask but the set was straight up rap so we left to catch one of my favorite bands...Weezer! Just for your information, we tried changing our saying from "hot" to "sauce" using the one-syllable formula that has made "hot" a hit. Time will tell.
I have to say that I am never dissapointed in the Weez. Rivers is a Geek God and I worship the ground his little boy soul walks on. He is also one really fucked up dude right now (check out May's Rolling Stone if you don't believe me). They kicked off the set with "Say It Ain't So" and then launced right into "Undone, the Sweater Song" all from the Blue Album. Nothing really from Pinkerton but stuff from the Green Album as well as Maladroit. Mostly I was excited to hear stuff from Make Believe. They played "We're all on Drugs" "Hold Me" and "Beverly Hills" which was great! They finished with "Buddy Holly" that ended with awesome feedback. Possibly the influence of reading the Rolling Stone article but they seemed to play at a more mellow speed but still stole the day with their awesome performance. The night had finally settled in and we were able to enjoy the evening breeze which we heard was really a gale force wind. I also heard that it would be freezing at night. We got lucky with the weather in the daytime being pretty mild and got the same treatment at night, probably about 60 degrees or so. At some point along this time, we all dediced to hydrate and buy some water. I had been carrying the backpack for most of the day and Christy was nice enough to ask several times if she could carry it, but it really wasn't that heavy so I thought "I'll be funny and pretend to be ultra un-Chivalris and say something crazy" So I tell her that she has child bearing hips and I wouldn't want to cause any undue damage by having her carry any extra weight. Of course really just ranting about stupid crap like always. I then say she sould protect her tender loins. I am not sure why any part of the child bearing anatomy came up but I'm like that. Well, they all heard me say "Child bearing lips" which I guess meant something completely off the wall to them (gee, can't imagine what!) so I never lived it down the rest of the trip with my child bearing hips comment. It wasn't until the next day actually that Christy found out I had actually said "hips" instead of "lips" Ooops! We also had time to go see the Tesla coil that spit purple electricity out the top of it. Very loud and sparkly. I heard that it runs on babies!!! Up next was Bauhaus so we could just stay in one spot finally and rest. I had no real clue about what to expect with Bauhaus but knew that they were dark and foreboding back in the 80's. A precurser to Ministry and the like. Nighttime was a perfect time for their set. I have to tell you that I was totally blown away by how good that Bauhaus sounded (so much so I bought their shirt). Technically they were just superb and! Peter Murphy, the frontman for Bauhaus sang the first song, the creepy "Bela Lugosi is Dead" upside down hanging by his ankles like a bat. This was a 10 minute song! Very creepy, very cool, very goth! While the group went to catch Mercury Rev, I stayed and watch all of Bauhaus, mezmerized by their performance. I had felt this way years ago when I saw Ministry for the first time. It made me embarrassed that I made lite of them earlier, as did I to Ministry before I knew who they were.
To top the night off, Mike, Christy and I went to see The Chemical Brothers while Steph went to see Coldplay. I know what I just said about Weezer stealing the day but my life would not be the same if I had not seen the Chemical Brothers show. It was freakin' awesome! This marks the first time I had ever been to a (please don't kill me for saying this) "rave." Which it was not. Sure there were drugs (pot) and freaky people (everyone) but this show had more substance. The sprawling Sahara tent was so packed, people stood outside 1o rows deep just to listen. We started in the back but moved up to the middle in no time. I expounded so much energy, I am not sure where my body was taking it from. You can ask Mike or Christy, I was stupid crazy in there, like a country kid who heard rock for the very first time. I have loved the Chemicals for years but was so close minded about their show. I mean, you could put on a CD and have the same show right? You just don't know how amazing it sounds until you hear the boops and beeps and metallic whirs and bass lines until they come straight from the electronic teet of their equipment. Take that plus the fact that they had an amazing light and video presentation, we were all bouncing off the walls. Once they started playing "Block Rockin' Beats" all hell broke loose, it was free love baby! Outside of the Sahara where there was oxygen, a spectacular light show of rotating flowers was broadcast onto the top of the tent making it impressive for those that could hear but not see what was going on inside. I will forever remember having my eardrums punished by the Chemicals!
After all was said and done we headed for the exit to wait for Stephanie. When you looked back down the hill towards the festival from the exit, you could just see this sea of humity coming towards you, it was sauce. Barely able to walk but pumped on the excitement of the day, we all piled back into the rental and headed back to Rancho Mirage and the Country Inn for very little sleep.

Coachella Day 2 - Sunday, May 1, 2005
The second day began just as the first day was ending, with just a five hour window of rest in between. Christy and I were the morning people always hopping downstairs by 8am to grab a bannana, bagel and boiled egg (hey, they were there!) We got to the Polo Fields and met Christy's (now mine) friend Kristen who would be travelling back to L.A. the next day with us. Already it seemed like the day was rushing past us. I didn't make it in with my Sharpie this day which made me mad. Also, the cool Coldplay/Chemical Brothers fan that they handed out at the festival the day before was considered contraband the second day and not allowed in(?!?) Checked out the t-shirt shop and nothing really new or exiciting to buy although I did end up buying from Cardboard Robot, on e of the many independant vendors at the festival. Right as we came in we all saw Giovanni Ribisi walking through the festival with his wife and kids, that was totally sauce. The first band we saw was Sloan who I don't remember much about. I do remember going to see Donovan Frankenreiter. Donovan had a great sound but I had to laugh because it totally reminded me of Woodstock. It seemed like all the Gen's that were dressed like hippies were all at his show and the stuff was in the air my God! It was a nice chill out but on to other things! I was so excited to hear Autolux, they were one of the bands that I was excited to see ahead of time. I was first surprised that the dreamy voice I heard on the album was actually a guy. Whooops! No biggie. They were very good live and very loud mellow. Total shoe gazer music but completely awesome! I definitely want to see them again. Jem was next so after we finished Autolux's set we headed over for the last of her stuff. I can't pass judgement because I really didn't get to listen for very long. Timing was really not on our side today because we were also too late to get into the tent for Kasabian. This didn't stop us from listening to them though and I now have a new respect for them as they were incredible live. If you ever get a chance to see them in your home town, they are a show worth going to. We pretty much stayed in one spot because The Bravery were up next in the dreaded Mojave tent.

Sunday is by far my favorite day of the festival as more of my favorite groups were performing on that day. Unfortunately they were all performing at the end of the day. Sunday was totally top heavy. The Bravery were also a bad that I was excited to see as were Bloc Party but I chose Bauhaus over them. Ahhh, the casualties of Coachella. Anyway, if you know me, you know that I am obsessed with the era that I grew up in, The Eighties. Especially the revival sound. The Bravery promise to be that plus Aquanet and from listening to their album, I was hot for it. Sadly, they were victims of relying waaaay too much on a laptop as said laptop decided not to play Coachella and they ended up doing covers in stead. Like a magician who fails to pull the rabbit out of a hat and decides to tell jokes instead. Very embarassing for them I am sure but they still sounded good for the three songs I did hear. More of a payoff audibly were Tegan and Sara, the identical twin sister group from Canada. They absolutely rocked and sounded great, very faithful to their album and I loved being able to sing along. They also talked a lot to the crowd...but in a good way, they were very funny, I'd love to hang with them. We quickly caught Gang of Four for a few songs (actually we went to go eat but could still hear them) and then came back to catch all of the Arcade Fire's show. I may already sound like a girl but OMG!!! They were fucking amazing. Their album is Eff amazing and I just knew their show would be Eff amazing. They had at least 10 people up on stage all doing crazy amazing things. Accordians, organs, horns, stage diving, rig climbing, they didn't let you rest. One great song after another. They played "Wake Up" right off the bat followed by the Three Neighborhoods "Laika" "Tunnels" and "Power Out" plus Haiti and Crown of Love...awesome!! Whooo Hooo, Yipeeeee, Vhat rules! etc....

Now for a night so exiciting my chest was thrust out so far you'd think my nipples were attached to two charging elephants (thank you Black Adder, you never dissapoint). New Order was up first with a truly inspirational set. I had recently seen a Trio broadcast of one of their concerts but thought nothing of it. Completely different that what we got at Coachella. They started the set with an older Joy Division song and went right into "Regret" and "Blue Monday" and stuff from Waiting for the Siren's Call which sounded great. They finished with "Bizarre Love Triangle" mixed with, believe it or not, Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" It was so funny, I am hoping that it surfaces someday. After the New Order set we firmly sat in place because (hold on to your hats) we were about to get the Trent experience. I had seen Nine Inch Nails for the first time with Stephanie and Mike in Lakeland, Fla of all places during the The Fragile tour. I had also recently gotten my hands of With Teeth and knew that this was going to be a great album and show. In defense of sounding like a broken record, Trent and Co. put on a show that makes you ashamed that you are such a talentless hack with no real emotion. Absolutely the best band of the night by far (although Arcade Fire is on a different qualifying level than NIN) not to say I've turned my back on my boys in The Faint or anything (they're still my fav!). But NIN really had a flawless set. And to think that five years of hiatus did nothing to him. It was SAUCE!!! The video screens helped a lot during Coachella especially during the night acts. I could imagine that the stage could have been built just a little higher as it was very hard to see the stage if you had the human wall standing in front of you as I did. Oh, right before NIN went on, they finally deconstructed the giant baby that they had built the first day. It was made out of papaer mache and underneath were giant squibs filled with red liquid. The video screens broadcast the robots killing the baby, perhaps to feed the Tesla coil who knows. Don't even get me started about The Faint. You don't want to hear about The Faint from me. All I will do is start foaming at the mouth and telling you how Effing Sauce they are. By far and without a doubt the perfect band. LOVE THEM. So it kills me that NIN went over three songs (12 minutes) making it even harder to catch the boys from Omaha than it was already. Everything is cool though because the Outdoor Stage where they were playing was on the way to the Sahara where I was going to see the Prodigy. At least Mike and I got to hear Paranoiattack which we had been humming/beeping/singing all day long. I already have tickets to see them in June with Bright Eyes so all is well. What bugs me though is that I didn't get to be there when Christy heard them for the first time and fall in love with them. Or even Stephanie for that matter. She had seen them with me when we saw No Doubt but never since they had toured Danse Macabre or Wet From Birth, I went to both of those shows alone...and it kills me not being able to share it with those that I love! But soon, soon. Also, it bugs me that they are so big now and so accessible. I just hope every tween that owns black fingernail polish won't start writing "The Faint" on their Trapper Keeper.

We finish the night with the Prodigy. Another band that I had no real clue about performing live. Mike puts it like this: They are the Nine Inch Nails of the Dance world. How true too, that is a scary show. What makes this a special performance is the fact that it is a reunion show with Keith Flint, the really scary guy from the Firestarter era. Getting a brief histroy from Mike, I guess people used to think that Keith was Prodigy and not Liam Howlett. Prodigy didn't have the light show that The Chemical Brothers had but where they lacked lights, they had raw power and of course, Keith Flint who kept yealling "Coachellaaaaa" at the crowd. What I didn't know about the Prodigy was that they were a full on band with drums, keyboard, vocalist(s) and of course DJ. Again, I was acting like a whacked out Pee Wee Herman but it was well worth it when they played "Smack My Bitch Up." I nearly split my pants on that one. Ha! At one point a lot of people had left which gave me more excuse to pretend I was retarded. This one scary Jesus guy even came up and danced with me then ran off. It was sauce! Once again, we dragged our collective asses away from the Coachella Music and Arts Festival but this time it was for the last time.

So sad how it was over so quickly. Greta Cohn described it so perfectly when she said (I'm paraphrasing) that Coachella is a great place to be but you are just glad to get home and be glad to have been there. It is truly the friends that make the experience. Thank you Stephanie, Mike, Christy and Kristin!

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