| Sputnikmusic
 

Photo courtesy of Coachella

So four years and four Coachellas later for me, and you’d think the desert festival had lost the capacity to surprise. Indeed, the checklist for a Coachella Weekend goes something like this: Up-and-coming indie band makes good on their promise via rousing early afternoon set that ensures double the audience for next weekend; sunburns will be accrued at melanoma-threatening rates; sound problems will invariably affect what could have been an amazing set; the unholy signature dish that is Garlic Crab Fries will simultaneously thrill and torpedo my digestive system; the weather will turn on you; a band I never would have predicted beforehand will become my favorite set; the shadow of Daft Punk will hang heavy over the entire weekend, regardless of the fact that most of the attendant rumors come from neon-tank-adorned bros who first heard of the French duo after “Stronger” introduced the pair to a whole new audience of college-age Natty Ice fans. And on and on it goes.

So, to get it out of the way – no, Daft Punk didn’t play. This despite many a false sighting, including a literal stampede to the Gobi tent after a trailer played before TNGHT’s set, the same teaser that later played before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ main stage gig. There were no big surprises for the weekend – no offense to Phoenix, who killed it, but no one has been surprised by anything R. Kelly’s done since 2002 – and more people probably tweeted wondering who the fuck the Stone Roses were in the first place than turned up to see their headlining turn Friday night. Yet Coachella remains a singular experience with a singular vibe that nevertheless never seems to get old, despite the growing rush of ravers, the increasingly corporate influence, the fact that a beer cost nine goddamn dollars and how most everyone ended up buried under a layer of dust after Sunday’s sandstorm (God is not a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan??). The music remains at the heart of it all, enhanced rather than distracted by the pristine desert environment, and so long as Coachella remains the preeminent American music festival, it’s safe to say that the caliber of music available for any number and demographic of fans will continue to kick a goodly amount of ass.

Photo by Watchara Phomicinda

It’s 1 in the afternoon and the bad weather that marred last year’s Coachella is currently ruining prissy Angelenos’ moods by the coast a hundred miles away, and good riddance to it. The sun and triple-digit temperatures here make tent sets a must this early in the day – Lord Huron’s music in the Mojave tent was appropriately dusty and windswept, last year’s Lonesome Dreams conjuring up sun-blasted images of folky dirt roads. Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon, seems to have long ago abandoned any pretense of normalcy, taking the stage after Lord Huron in a leopard-print shirt and multi-colored hair that would make Wayne Coyne envious. Tracks from his new LP Wondrous Bughouse translated well live, particularly the sweeping “Mute” and an epic closer in “July.”

Bassnectar

It’s early, but the haze of drug use has already begun to set in over the festival grounds. As appropriately psychedelic as Powers’ set was, most people are already enjoying the fruits of their illegal purchases next door at the Sahara tent, aka the rave tent, aka the candy kids tent, aka the easiest place to indulge in a dancing chemical party of Bacchanalian proportions. Dillon Francis, Thomas Gold, Wolfgang Gartner, Bassnectar, etc. – the lineup for Friday reads like a who’s-who of Ultra and fraternity playlists, a worship of the bass and the drop that is almost ritualistic in its nature, an epileptic light show of carefully crafted images and pogoing dancers, repetitive and mind-numbing and irrepressibly enjoyable, at least for a few minutes. Stimulants are practically a necessity for any longer. The first entry in my long-running series “People Who Can’t Handle Coachella” is a short girl in approved raver gear, furry boots and all, lying motionless on the Sahara grass and already being attended to by paramedics. It is 2:43 in the afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Coachella

Another case study: if you are standing in line for a festival and security asks you to remove your shoe, don’t take it off and then decide to run away before the guard can look inside. He will call people after you, and running on one shoe is not a good look. Getting tackled and hauled off to the cops isn’t, either. “This is what happens when you fuck with me,” Miguel says after the guy in front of me pulled this little stunt. Miguel is short and enjoying the newfound power that comes with being security at the Yellow Gate probably more than he should. “Tell me if you have any drugs or you’ll end up like him.” Being someone Who Can Handle Coachella, I laugh and say no. Since I am wearing sandals, I assume he thinks I am a trustworthy person and lets me by after a cursory bag check. A few yards past Miguel, two girls with impossibly long legs are popping what is surely Advil and a man in a KEEP CALM AND RAVE ON tank and the filthiest mustache this side of Anthony Kiedis is staring at his shoes and drooling.

When it comes to main stage acts, the earlier the better. There’s something to be said for being able to lie down and enjoy (relatively less crowded) sets, and the wind hasn’t yet picked up, meaning the sound reaches further and clearer through the warm, shimmering heat. Both Metric and Passion Pit did what bands on a main stage are supposed to do – play the hits, keep the crowd engaged, and throw up a few curveballs. For the former, the highlight was the lovely Emily Haines leading the crowd through an acoustic rendition of “Gimme Sympathy;” for the latter, the manic energy and refined singing of Michael Angelakos was a vast improvement over the band’s pitchy 2010 set. Modest Mouse was predictably great, including debuting a new track that went over well (underrated theme of the week was a ton of bands showcasing new material), although they broke the cardinal rule of ironfisted Coachella organizers by going over their time limit and getting their sound cut off near the end of closer “Float On.” Issac Brock was undeterred, defiantly finishing off the song even though only those near the front could hear a thing.

Later on, as the crowds swell, the sound on the main stage tends to suffer, though usually not through any fault of the bands themselves. The larger the spectacle, the more prevalent it becomes – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Zero” was a powerful tune, but ended up more distorted than it perhaps would have in a more controlled environment. Karen O was positively maniacal in an outrageously sequined outfit that made her look more like the female Ziggy Stardust than the brittle punk that dominated the ‘00s. The look was fitting for a new tune like “Sacrilege,” where the band brought out a full gospel choir, yet I couldn’t help but feel the song would have been more effective near the end rather than as the first of the set.  Much more effective was the band’s haunting rendition of Mosquito standout “Subway” and MVP Nick Zinner, whose quietly violent guitar playing stole the show from Karen O’s flamboyant yells.

Despite the majority of the crowd only knowing “Girls & Boys” and “Song 2,” Blur absolutely destroyed their set, leading many an ignorant American to proclaim that these guys were headed for something great. Another gospel choir made it on for “Tender” (still their best live song), and the band only seemed to grow tighter and more confident as the show went on. Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn seemed to get along surprisingly well, leaving me with visions of the two finally finishing the reunion album that stalled last year. Blur – best band to come out of the Britpop scene? Arguable for some, but for me Blur cemented that reputation with this show.

Photo courtesy of Stereogum

The Outdoor stage remains the gold standard for festival viewing, however; the perfect mix of blissful open-air environment, great acoustics, and a viewing expanse that usually means you are never too far away from the action. The lineup is almost always superb, as well – in the afternoon it was Britt Daniels of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade plying their trade in new supergroup Divine Fits, which marries the strong rhythmic backbone of Spoon with Boeckner’s more innovative guitar pyrotechnics and some pervasive synth work. Local Natives (my new favorite band after the band gave away two free tickets in a Los Angeles scavenger hunt the day before the festival) played an intense set during the coveted sunset slot that drew equally from Gorilla Manor and new album Hummingbird.

Photo courtesy of the LA Times

Closing with two polar opposite acts in reunited hip-hop group Jurassic 5 and reformed synth-poppers Tegan and Sara, the Outdoor stage was in danger of taking away the spotlight from Blur and closer Stone Roses. Indeed, Tegan and Sara drew a crowd easily five times as larger as the “Madchester” group, more a testament to the poor scheduling instincts of the organizers and the generational gap in Coachella attendees than anything else. Not to say they didn’t deserve it; the crowd knew nearly every Jurassic 5 song, and their deep, bass-heavy grooves sounded better on the Outdoor stage than they would have anywhere else, and Tegan and Sara earned their lofty closing spot with a greatest-hits set that liberally sprinkled in Heartthrob’s best tracks. While some of their older songs would have projected better in a smaller, more enclosed venue, Heartthrob’s mega-watt pop rang loud, clear and triumphant in the open night.

Quick Hits

  • Four Tet playing to a full house in the new Yuma tent, an enclosed space that evoked a hip, lounge-y vibe with couches, artwork and wood flooring. The line was also out of control, although this could have been due to the air conditioning.
  • The unholy collaboration between Boys Noize and Skrillex that was the hotly anticipated Dog Blood set in the Sahara, packed to overflow.
  • Lee Scratch Perry moving surprisingly well for a man of his age in the desert heat.
  • Stars, Beach House and Band of Horses proving the vanguard of traditional indie bands is still very much a factor in drawing huge crowds.
  • Justin Vernon coming on stage to perform with and give the seal of approval to up-and-comers Polica.
  • Japandroids predictably bringing the house down in the Gobi tent – the choice to put them in a tent rather than an outdoor stage was a brilliant one given the vibe they brought and the compact energy of the crowd.
  • Surprise favorite set of the night: FOALS delivering a rugged, raucous set of tunes late at night in the Gobi that hit all their new and old classics and made me realize just how great a song “Spanish Sahara” really is.

Saturday Coverage

Sunday Coverage





klap
04.17.13
apologies for the coding issue - no idea how to fix it

Omaha
04.17.13
Beautiful work < 3 I'm jealous, man

fish.
04.17.13
I'm jealous, the main festivals we get here mostly suck

EaglesBecomeVultures
04.17.13
nice writeup rudy!

greg84
04.17.13
Wow. Great write-up Rudy.

Metalstyles
04.17.13
Fantastic stuff, klap, really.

Tyrael
04.17.13
Sounds absolutely dreadful but great write-up man

clercqie
04.17.13
9 dollars for a beer? Are you serious? Wtf

klap
04.17.13
thanks all. yeah i smuggled most of my booze in

clercqie
04.17.13
Fantastic writeup btw. And those picture make me jelly.

"yeah i smuggled most of my booze in"
Festival rule #1

Buzzkillr
04.17.13
i dunno, the idea of a alcohol-free festival sounds pretty appealing to me. less drunk, boisterous people and a general focus and interest in the music being played

klap
04.17.13
i would wager there were more people on something other than alcohol than just alcohol

robin
04.17.13
"Blur absolutely destroyed their set, leading many an ignorant American to proclaim that these guys were headed for something great. "

wonderful. this is brilliantly and descriptively written. thanks for the phonecall you jerk

tommygun
04.18.13
sweet writeup

Trebor.
04.18.13
I would have loved to see Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Tegan and Sara

Aids
04.18.13
dude this is fucking hilarious, some of your funniest writing ever. I've only gotten to the bit about Miguel but god damn man, this is great.

illmitch
04.18.13
fantastic writing

"i dunno, the idea of a alcohol-free festival sounds pretty appealing to me."
lol

klap
04.18.13
thanks adrian, means a lot. the more of these i write the more bored i get so this year i was really trying to remember these funny little snapshots of the weekend

klap
04.18.13
yeah i read that article too, so bitter lol

klap
04.18.13
ehh, the only part of it i agree w is the fact that there are a good number of people there who aren't there primarily for the music

Romulus
04.18.13
"the more of these i write the more bored i get"

I'M SO SORRY FOR YOU

awesome writeup as always

aok
04.18.13
awesome intro yo

klap
04.18.13
see that part sounds like this person has never been to coachella or any other festival for that matter

Gyromania
04.18.13
rudy your posts are just the best

Aids
04.18.13
major music festivals do get more annoying every year though. I can't believe Sasquatch sold out in an hour, and you just know that 95% of those people are going to spend all day getting shitty at the campground, missing all the awesome depth the festival has this year, just waiting for Mumford and Sons.

I, too, am bitter.

Aids
04.18.13
well yeah obviously people are gonna take pictures of that shit, it's funny. There's lots of sluts and druggies, but being a drugged up slut is part of the fun of going to a music festival (unless you take it too far, like in klap's story). You can't tell how "personal" an experience it would be by photos. I always take the time to seperate myself from the crowd and enjoy my favourite band's sets alone. It's as personal as you want it to be.

Cygnatti
04.18.13
"see that part sounds like this person has never been to coachella or any other festival for that matter"

this.

Aids
04.18.13
@andcas - yeah that's true for Coachella (brutal schedule conflicts) but I've never had thaaaat huge of an issue as Sasuqtach. Worst conflict I had to deal with was The Antlers vs. Iron and Wine vs. The Thermals vs. Washed Out. The Antlers/The Thermals won.

klap
04.18.13
Conflicts are a part of every festival and frankly are unavoidable at some point. Regardless, there usually not too bad as to where you're going to leave disappointed. Secondly, the only time I've had an issue with crowds is for headliners or particularly buzzy bands - and if your band is playing early, that's literally never an issue. and yeah, the types of people that go to festivals that become cultural events (pretty much any big festival) is something you just have to take with it. i go to these things every year w a group of friends (8 people this year), and it's really more about the experience you have with those people than with all the other random idiots who might be there. plus i always run into people i know which is fun. there are pros and cons to every festival, but i've never come away not feeling like i'm def not going to go again next year.

Aids
04.18.13
not sure, probably Coachella. They have more stages (only 3 1/2 at Sasquatch)

I also had Regina Spektor vs. Rodrigo y Gabriella once at a fest in Belgium, that was an easy pick though.

Aids
04.18.13
yeah klap nailed it

dude come to Sasquatch instead next year!!!

klap
04.18.13
the big 3 (coachella, bonnaroo, lolla) are more expensive than a festival like sasquatch i think, although prices are rising. i just looked at Outside Lands (sf festival) and it's pretty expensive. have to consider housing too

klap
04.18.13
i'll probs keep going to coachella simply bc location-wise it's so easy for me but eventually i will make it up there and over to bonnaroo at one point. might go to outside lands this year bc i have a free place to stay too

aok
04.18.13
it's harder for me to get as excited as i once did for festivals when it was all so new and sensational. i can't see going all the way to sf for outside lands, but with borgore, snoop lion, a few others added to the bill i think i gotta do moonrise festival. http://www.ragerestrpt.com/moonrise-festival-full-lineup-pretty-lights-snoop-dogg-to-headline-steezpromo/

aok
04.18.13
the atmosphere is fairly indescribable -- rudy's vignettes do about as good a job as you can but even that only paints a small scene within a swirl of chaos. it really is all about tackling on the sensations with a group of friends, taking in vibes, getting overwhelmed, feeling outside of yourself an reveling in it all. fuck i wanna be back ther

Aids
04.19.13
yeah I went with Regina, obviously. She was the artist I was most excited to see at that fest, well, besides Coldplay (fuck you!)

Aids
04.19.13
and yeah, andcas, there really is nothing in the world like experiencing a music festival first hand. Yeah there may be a lot of annoying people around, but as long as you have a good group, you'll have an unbelievable time. Most of my "best parties ever" have been during music festivals.

Aids
04.19.13
haha

man, they were fucking incredible. I was there with my gf at the time, and we were backpacking Europe. We were both obsessed with Coldplay at the time (Viva la Vida tour, I still fucking love that album) and so we decided to see them once that summer. We looked up dates and picked a festival.

It was fucking magical. I had to wait in line to get to the front section, and I missed all of Bloc Party and The Killers getting crushed by the line, but it was fucking worth it. Makes me sad thinking about it though: that's when our relationship was perfect...

clercqie
04.19.13
Festivals are the best. If it weren't for stupid exams I'd so be going to Primavera in Barcelona. Has to be one of the best line-ups I've ever seen.

Which festival was that, Aids? The Belgian one, Werchter?

Aids
04.19.13
yeah, 09

primavera always has amazing lineups

clercqie
04.19.13
Oh yeah, the Oasis edition. Memories...

slipnslide
04.21.13
nice article

Aids
04.24.13
"Oh yeah, the Oasis edition. Memories..."

hahahahaha. I was sooooooo drunk for Oasis, which is a good thing because otherwise I would have just remembered how much I hate the individual band members. The Mars Volta playing right before Black Eyed Peas was friggin hilarious, Will whatshisname acting like he was a fan lol fuck off. Oh god and the English frat boys/Kaiser Chiefs fans, good times.

klap
04.24.13
way ahead of you andcas hahaha. i lol'd at a good portion of that to the point where i thought some of it had to be staged

klap
04.24.13
i know lol. i think there was a second video too

Aids
04.24.13
that happens every time I'm at a fest. I'll ask someone who they're excited for, they'll say the headliners, then I'll mention some lesser known group that I'm into and everyone just exchanges glances and goes "oh yeah those guys are pretty good too." No one ever admits to not knowing a given band/artist at a music festival.

Aids
04.24.13
oh shit no I missed their set but I only like their s/t cassette anyway, their new EP was just decent, so whatevs

You need to be logged in to post a comment
Login | Register

FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy