Thursday, May 04, 2006

COACHELLA 2006

Coachella poster by Betamike
Coachella 2006:
The Deluxe Del Taco Multimedia Edition
[Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger]
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There is so much to say about Coachella 2006... First up, the obvious question ... yes, I f**king saw Madonna. ..There... Please don't ask me how it was either...Okay, you can ask me but I'll just put it in my recap...This wouldn't be much of a Coachella recap if I didn't. ..2005 was my first-ever trip to the Coachella Arts & Music Festival. It was such a profound, life changing event that I just had to go back this year! But this time our smaIl cuddly group of four turned into a big snuggly group of eight!. We had heard that Goldenvoice (the producers of this festival) had increased the size of the Sahara dance tent to accommodate Esther so we figured we had better invite some more friends as not to dissapoint them on their numbers...Ha!..The festival was a sell-out....You can look at that statement in two ways [ahem]. ..Both are somewhat correct...What I can say is this year's festival left an indelible impression on me. The music - better, the weather - hotter, the crowds - larger, the memories - sweeter! It was Rock and Roll, baby!
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Getting There
The group split up to get out to California. Myself, Gashapon and Kelly all traveled out early to save some Skymiles and to hit the L.A. scene. All eight of us booked through Song (the best damn airline out there, R.I.P.) and wouldn't you know that about a month before we were to fly, we learned that Song would die mid-air through our trip...Actually, the rest of the group flew Song on its last day under that operating company name...Upon hitting L.A. I picked up our van which turned out to be a very small 7 passenger grocery-getter that wouldn't even fit our luggage. Luckily, the Hertz agent upgraded us to a more respectable car for our trip...a Ford Expedition...Okay, I have never driven anything bigger than my VW Bug much less a tank like this...Nevertheless, I was fearless to the point of erratic on the L.A. freeway system...I think everyone phoned their families once we got parked.
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What you need to know: Kelly kicked ass on Song trivia winning a majority of the games even though Skinny (that's me!) had the overall highest score that flight... I'm just sayin'... Although I apparently don't know who the Spice Girls are (see pic to the right) and think that Winnie Mandella is the presidential wife notorious for her shoe obsession even though as James pointed out, she probably doesn't own any shoes. My finger slipped alright?!..We stayed at Kelly's sister's house in Long Beach, ate at an IHOP owned by a former Afghani rebel turned CIA agent, acted all Anaheim gangsta at the Disneyland Resort, bounded unsupervised through the Disney Studios, O.D.'d on $1 Ice Cream at Ikea, crashed a party for the Junior Association of the Blind at the Beverly Hills Hotel (but it's okay because they couldn't see us) and then picked herb from behind the bungalows (herbs...Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Mint...dammit)...Finally we drove the huge-ass, environmentally unfriendly Ford Expedition that they gave us at Hertz to LAX (I always think it stands for laxative) to pick up the rest of our crazy crew for an unforgettable weekend!
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Catching up on Michael Jackson's "Moonwalk" at Ikea...where they had ample copies.

Gumbo in a bread bowl at New Orleans Square in Disneyland
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COACHELLA Day 1
I was soooo excited about Coachella this year because I was getting to experience it through James, Devan, Kelly's eyes as they saw it for the first time. However, tradition still rocks and Christy and I were able to slip downstairs before everybody to have our quite time breakfast and hard boiled eggs...Why hard boiled eggs?..Because they are there!..The festvial opens at 11am and we made pretty good time getting in right as the first act took the stage at 12pm...This year my musical priorities all ran towards the end of the day so it was nice to come in and not have to rush anywhere...Gives me time to people watch, whatnot...The landscape at the Empire Polo Fields during Coachella is heavenly...Purple mountains off in the distance, opulent blue skies and an alien landscape of white structures on the horizon punctuating the lush green grass like some alien community. Each year (since this an Art festival as well) there is a new instillation of some kind. This year the festival had these neat Dome Installations, one for each season: Spring (with gnomes), Summer (with a Vaudeville circus and a DJ), Autumn (brown!..with leaves!!) and Winter (which looked frozen but was like Hell inside). There was also a tall sculpture that looked like one of the freaky landwalkers from The Dark Crystal, a giant knife that squirted water, the insane Cyclecide Bike Rodeo and of course, the Coachella standard - the Tesla Coil (which proved to unreliable this year to say the least).
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Who I Saw

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There wasn't too much internal conflict over who I saw and when except that I regretted not being able to hang with the group as much when it came time to making some firm choices as to which venue I went to...If you are not at all familiar with the Coachella (or any festival for that matter) experience, you are usually given a shit-load of artists and only a small window of time to get from one stage to another before you find yourself on the outskirts of some tent behind a row of giants, not being able to catch what could possibly be a history-making performance...

The Breakdown: The Section Quartet were a lot of fun from what I could gather. They are (surprise!) a quartet of classically trained musicians that cover alternative megahits in strings. I was shopping at the time but it's not not like I missed their set entirely as they were opening the Main Stage (read: huge) and the sound of cello carried over megawatt speakers can reach you even in your dark place...Next up was The Like. I thought of using the word "like" here somewhere to be cute but I just didn't have it in me. I quite liked The Like though (hey, they use it themselves in their own website). They had a very independant sound fronted by a female singer (they were an all female band) who sounded a bit like Bjork, and that is always welcomed...You can catch my response to The Like over on Christy's blog...I was anxious to catch the White Rose Movement as I figured them to be this year's representative of the electro-dance style that I like so much. Clearly I put too much faith in the Eighties. Well, you win some and you lose some...

Talk about winning, Mike Britton actually asked us if anyone wanted to go see Lady Sovereign with him in the Gobi Tent...For those keeping score at home, the Gobi tent is the size of your bedroom....unless you have a really large bedroom...From what I had heard about Lady SOV, it was rap done by a trashier Sport Spice with a thick cockney accent ... real gangsta! Turns out I was wrong, it was more electronic than rap...It was FUCKING AWESOME!!!..I had never had so much fun at a show that I was absolutely thinking I was going to hate...Score one for Britton, he knows his shit!..Go out now and pick up some SOV...Me and the whole crew were "Ch Ching"-ing the rest of the trip, short stack was tight!..About the time she was singing about this girl she once knew who used too much fake tanner (song is called "Tango"...go look up the lyrics), I noticed this guy laughing hysterically next to us...Turns out it was Santino from Project Runway...I knew this was good shit then...

I think I ate somewhere in here, but the next thing I did was get a great spot (once the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah kids left) at the Mojave tent for TV on the Radio...Please let me convert you all into TVotR fans...It's really easy: just pick up "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes" and bliss out to "Staring at the Sun" and "Ambulance."..Once you have assimilated all of this, find yourself lucky enough to catch one of their live shows, watch them perform "Ambulance" live and then send me a nice little thank you letter...or email, whichever...

My good spot for TVotR got me about 8 people back for Ladytron who put on an absolutely kick ass set complete with "High Rise," "Seventeen" and "Destroy Everything You Touch" all while being bathed in red light with edgy synchronized video flickering behind them...I can't say that Helen or Mira were particularly energetic or warm...more like cold and calculated, but I actually wouldn't have wanted them any other way...I met back up with the group at our "lost and found" spot (it is ideal to have one of these) by the World's Fair sculpture where we were able to listen in to both Franz Ferdinand and Eagles of Death Metal (who I really wanted to catch but just didn't have the energy to be rocked by Jesse Hughes's sexy mustache)...

Depeche Mode were on everyone's agenda but I had already seen them in Tampa at the kick-off to their world tour with James and Devan so I wasn't too terribly wraught over having to leave them early to go catch Daft Punk in the Sahara Tent...I will tell you that they are incrediblly good no matter how much of a hater you are (you disgust me!) and if you have never heard them live with a drummer, two keyboardists or the amazing video show they have for their new tour, you really haven't lived...or danced...The bass is incredible!..Depeche actually went on to play three encores, something that hasn't been done at Coachella in their history but something that is necessary due to the fact that they perform almost every song in their extensive catalog..

Daft Punk. HOLY SHIT!!!..Was this amazing!..I don't think my life has ever been changed due to one single performance, but this came close...I knew that this was going to be a packed show so James, Mike, Devan and I got their early to secure a good spot...Daft Punk hasn't played in the U.S. in over 9 years and rumor has it that this is to be their last tour (speculation)...To top that off, their current tour has them playing only one date in each Continent and this was their U.S. stop...PLUS THEY DRESS LIKE ROBOTS!!!..The hype alone was bigger than piece of corn stuck between your teeth...We actually made it into the tent dead center towards the front when we realized that several giants made it in just in front of us so risking not being able to see anything in favor of being that much closer, we moved toward the side of the tent, but a still-respectable location (I was pretty much a bitch mutha fuckah about getting a good spot, my apologies kids)...As the lights went down there were only two questions on our minds:.1) will they be rocking the robot gear, and 2) will I have enough room to go ape shit crazy dancing like a country girl on crack!..The answer was to be revealed soon!..As the tent went dark (I thought at first due to dehydration) you could hear the alien music response to Close Encounters of the Third Kind being played from behind the black veil...The crowd:..poooopshiiiit!..Then the veil lifted to reveal Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, I call them Tom and Guy, in their robot personas suspended in the middle of this giant pyramid...PYRAMID!!!..Stand back y'all, you are about to experience Betamike explode from the inside!..The set was amazing, "Around The World" was mixed with "Technologic" and then suddenly you would be back to "Around The World" before being launched into "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "One More Time"....it was like they imagined the perfect mix for this one special night that they played North America and gave us all the gift of audible ecstasy!..The most frustrating thing is that it ended...I can never truly tell you how magical the entire show was just by typing a lot of !!!!! and words like "skreeeee!" but it is as close as I can get to explaining it in print...I am not Sidney Sheldon.

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Me and some random guy who persisted in wearing a wolf costume the entire day.

Chilling in the Snow Globe

Martin Gore of Depeche Mode

Daft Punk blowing our minds with a little Robot Rock!

The Royal Coachella Ballet performing in the Sahara Tent after Daft Punk

The record 60,000 crowd leaving the first day of Coachella

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Coachella Day 2

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Day two brought us some much needed rest...It always happens that on the second and final day of the festival, we get our groove on...We finally found the back way to the festival and were in no rush to beat down the gate in the morning...We started the day by catching Mates of State...I looove the song "Goods (All in your Head)" but I can hear married couples trying to out-do each other by shouting pretty much anywhere (hmmm, but probably not accompanied by organ) but I went along because I love hanging with my friends, and I only jest about them sounding like they are shouting... well, sorta...kinda.
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I tried to eat at least once a day, the $7 for everything guideline and my wallet didn't get along too well...Most days I brought in a giant bag of Beef Jerky to supplement one of my meals...Brought in = smuggled in the secret compartment of my backpack...I think I enjoyed a giant burrito this particular day while sitting outside of the Mojave Tent listening to James Blunt...James started out kind of as a joke (raise your hand if you aren't included in that grouping, thank you very much) but after his set was over, and a gorgeous cover of The Pixies "Where Is My Mind," I quickly apologized to a very talented James Blunt who probably couldn't hear me and moved him from "talentless hack" to "horribly misunderstood and forever doomed to be attached to that fucking 'You're Beautiful' song" in my mind...Now I have publicly announced my close-mindedness, I feel much better.
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Yet...as soon as all the fucking James Blunt hippies left the tent, Stephanie, Christy and I moved in to catch a very anticipated set from Metric, who I missed at The Social a while back...This was just a great year for awesome performances at Coachella...Canada rocks!..Emily Haines especially rocks giving this festival some really good rock with a solid set performed by the band...Always outspoken, Emily gave a great speech at the end of the set that primarily used the "C" word...And Coachella wasn't even mentioned once!
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You ever have one of those moments when you realize that you are on to something before anyone else?..I felt that way about Gnarls Barkley from the moment I listened to his album St. Elsewhere... Of course all of my group knew about Gnarls already as well but as fate would have it, Sleater-Kinney and Bloc Party were going on at the same time so we all had to part ways...I had to sit on top of two greasy plates of partially eaten Greek Pizza and a melted frozen lemonade but I made it up to the front for this set as I just knew it was going to be trippy...The band came out all dressed like characters from the Wizard of Oz, the strings section were flying monkeys, the backing vocalists were Dorothys and Scarecrows, the guitarists were Wicked Witches (it sounds odd not calling them Elphabas), DJ Danger Mouse was the Tin Man and Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley) came out as the Cowardly Lion...Jokingly, Cee-lo told us that Gnarls Barkley couldn't be there so "Mean Ole Lion and the Hearts" were going to perform in his place, which was cool because they released inflatable hearts with the album's logo shamelessly placed on them into the crowd...Christy actually helped blow them up from the back of the tent and snagged one for me which I still have...The rest of the group actually made it back for most of the set and watched from wherever they were and can tell you that it was CRAZY!..There was so much energy in that tent, Cee-lo has such a great stage persona and you can't help but be affected by his smile...If you haven't checked out Gnarls yet, please go on iTunes and get the album!..One of my favorite Coachella moments for sure.
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Coachella's Hot Mess
I'm talking The Material girl...I'm talking Madonna...Yeah so I did eventually decide to go see her...Um, against my better wishes?..Maybe...I sit on both sides of the Madge debate...First of all, Coachella brings all types of people for all kinds of music...Mostly, everyone is well behaved and there for an intillectually stimulating set of likewise intellectually stimulating music...Madonna is like dropping a disco ball into a goth club and having cheerleaders be the bouncers...Horrible analogy, sorry...Okay, let's see...Madonna is music royalty, a pop icon, an industry standard to which all should be measured in terms of success. .She is both trendsetting and rule breaking, she is Breathless Mahoney and Eva Peron...But in terms of Coachella, she is a novelty...And novelty brings lookie-loos like tourists to a fender bender on Interstate 4...We arrived and got a pretty not-bad spot for Madonna at the back of the Sahara tent where the big video screens were now about the size of our thumb...But still, not as far back as I thought...As it approached 8pm, the strangest set time for a star like Madonna that I can think of, the crowds began to intensity to an almost suffocating level...It must be made aware to you that this year set record breaking attendance for the Coachella festival...60,000 people alone on Saturday which was considered the slowest day this year...25 minutes go by and no Madonna...What?..Something like this suprises you?..The negative Nelly in me sets in...At one point the entire mass begins to boo loudly, we fear a riot...Not joking either, it was 97 degrees in the shade that day and some of these people were sitting in that tent since 3pm just to get a good spot...Finally the sounds of clocks ticking blast from the tent signalling "Hung Up" and like one large piece of flesh, we all begin to move in unison toward the light..

Here's the short of it:..1)"Hung Up" was amazing and Madonna sounded great...2) I am beginning to hate the song "I Love New York" because rhyming "dork" with "New York" just seems lazy, like something I would do...During said song, Madonna made the Associated Press by telling everyone that they could go down to Texas and suck Gerorge Bush's dick...hehehe...3) After her second song finished, she felt it was important to tell the entire crowd that "It's fucking hot in this tent!"...Really? Try it outside bitch....Hahahaha, people were pissed!..4) She played a guitar for three of her songs and looked pretty impressive doing so...5) At one point, people were hanging like Madonna monkeys from the support structures of the tent to get a better look a her....6) SHE ONLY PLAYED 5 SONGS TOTAL...and only two of them were older, "Everybody" and "Ray of Light," which she closed with...I somewhat feel that it was a waste of time seeing as I heard both of these last two songs all the while trying to leave through the fortress of people hanging on for dear life to my group...I saw one poor sould in a wheelchair try to ply through the crowd...I hope they are okay...There's my Madonna experience...You're welcome.
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To wash down the Esther taste in our mouths, we all managed to get great spots for some real honest to goodness make-you-feel-good music from the Go! Team!.. The Go! Team can make you feel better anytime you realize what a crappy world we live in...This is a really hard band to translate live...or at least that was my anticipation but from the get-go (get-go is such a Go! Team word) their performance was a blast of fireworks and energy...or energy fireworks as it was hot and dry in the desert...Real fireworks probably not a great idea...What I also like about the Go! Team is the use of vocals as just another "instrument" or sample in their music...Also, they just have heart...They are like the Care Bears of rock, if there was a Cheery Bear, and maybe there is...The band constantly changed instruments throughout the show, going from drums to synths to keyboard flute-thing...The best part of the Go! Team is their lead singer Ninja who I wish I could bottle and use her essence at will...The dance-off with the crowd at the end of the performance was awesome...I don't think I have ever seen the Cabbage Patch used in a concert setting since Salt N' Pepa...One of the most memorable performances of the festival was the drummer getting up before the crowd, visibly shaken by the overwhelming number of people there to see them and exclaiming breathlessly "Gosh...I wish you all could see it from up here" before starting into her sweet solo to "Hold Your Terror Close." [see neat-o vid]

Sadly the evening had to end but at least it ended in a gay phantasmagoria of kitschy glam with a decked out performance by the Scissor Sisters...This was an especially great time because Christy, Kelly, James, Mike, Stephanie, Kristen, Devan and myself were all together once again for this great finale to our music weekend...and we had all been foaming at the mouth to shout out to "Tits on the Radio" for a while, especially our DJ/Navigator Christy (beakers!!)...Also cool is the fact that I found $20 laying on the ground of which no one seemed to make an immediate claim to so I stowed it away for the community gas fund...As karma would have it, this Coachella money found its home with some other fortunate soul as I searched everywhere for it and couldn't find it...I bet it was dirty coke money anyway...I can't prove it but I could swear I heard its crunchy crinkling in the seat behind me on the way back to the hotel!

The original Vhat kids together again.

Mmmmm....snowcone! $5 and worth every penny!

Gnarls Barkley's flying monkey string section


The Scissor Sisters about to take yer mama out!

The Afterparty:..Even after the dirt and dust of Coachella was long washed out of our collective nostrils, we still had plenty of fun waiting for us...Our pal Rene at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno took care of us and got us up front for the May 1st, 2006 show with Dr. Phil, Oscar De LaHoya and best of all...Franz Ferdinand (who we coolly decided not to catch at Coachella because of our VIP hook-up)...We ate lunch at the Acupulco across the street from the NBC studios where Stephanie first stalked Conor Oberst last year and then on to the show...Rene got us right up in the front row where each of us got a smidgen of camera time, she is just about the nicest human being on the face of the Earth...Once the show finished we went backstage where we met Dr. Phil who was surprised to find these tweens with sunburns asking for his autograph...Let's not shit ourselves though, the coolest part was meeting Franz Ferdinand who just happen to be the most appreciative, down-to-Earth gents you could ever have the pleasure to meet...The coolest part was Alex Kapranos actually took a liking to my vest, staring at it for a few moments before saying "Wow, that's a cool jumper!"..Aaah, getting fashion points from the lead singer of the most well-dressed band in the World!..Go Betamike!

After we left the Tonight Show, we all packed up into the tank one last time and headed to Venice Beach to meet Devan's friend Stephanie who works at the quaint and might I add, magically delicious C&O Trattorina...The service was great, the food artfully displayed and the atmosphere was amazing...At one point, "That's Amore!" came on as waiters from all over the restaurant came over and shared in a cheers with us out in the open-air courtyard...It was all too sad to leave that place and those good times behind....But I will always have those memories and best of all, my friends!..I love them all so much!

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Dr. Phil (feeling me up)

Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand and us at the Tonight Show.

Franz and us.

The end to a perfect trip...with friends.

For more great Coachella Adventures, please check out my Flickr Site or my crappy videos from Coachella on You Tube under WDWTOUR. Otherwise, check out the great stuff that James and Stephanie have!

3 comments:

stephanie said...

I am serious when I tell you that I got a little teary at the end of your post. It was just such an amazing time, and I really needed that. It reminded me how much fun life can be, how happy I can feel and how friends are really all you need in the world -- and maybe some ch ching, too!

Excellent recap, betamike! I love you!!! And I love my coachella kids, too!

TripAway2Day said...

Sounds like your trip was a great one.

I went to Silver Springs yesterday. No comparison.

While some of the Glass Bottom Boat Captins were extremely "interesting" entertainment, the "Fantasy Waters" Fountain Show kicked Coachella's little dusty ass. I'm sure.

James said...

I could not have asked for a more perfect recap! What a fantastic experience...