May 20, 2008

Fleet Foxes

With 42 times and counting, the Sun Giant EP from Fleet Foxes is the most played album on my Itunes (post new laptop). The five songs run for about 18 minutes. It might be the prettiest 18 minutes of the year; nonetheless, it’s still a (sun) giant tease.

Naturally, the first full length LP from the harmonious Seattle five-piece has my ears. The self-titled album lives in the download circuit until an official June release date (like everything else these days). I always like hearing something as soon as possible, but it’s also nice to get a few runs in before reading a single review (look no further than the last post to see how influential those can be).

It’s a cliché way of describing it, but it has to be said: Fleet Foxes create a world within their music. One that I would sure like to hang in (Neil Young wanders around in it, I don’t know about yours, but he’s an old wizard dude in mine). It’s easy to take cues from the accompanying album art, but there’s enough vastness in this beautiful and complex breakthrough to find your own pasture.

Sun Giant primarily came from the edge of a mountain, whereas this one seems to travel both over hills and through valleys. After adjusting, I can say the added lows on this record work. It’s sunny in all the right places. Take for instance, The vocal jump on track three, “Ragged Wood”, wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it weren’t for the vocal drop at the end of the preceding, “White Winter Hymnal.” This is seen again between tracks four and five. All making the peak that much more rewarding when the ground finally drops halfway through track six, “He Doesn’t Know Why”, and an isolated Robin Pecknold declares:

“There’s nothing. I can do. There’s nothing. I can do. There’s nothing. I can say. There’s nothing I say. I can say.”

And landscapes stretch onward, finding another view atop track ten, “Blue Ridge Mountains.”

We eventually roll back down the hill (with Neil) on modest closer “Oliver James.” The stripped-down focus on that now-classic reverb cements this one a fine way to complete the package.

Along with Sun Giant, this LP might end up on some end-of-year lists. It’s certainly making a run at mine.

May 8, 2008

A Coachella Story: Volume Three, The End.

It took a few miles on the bikes that morning to snap back into festival mode. I’d be lucky to see another day like Saturday in my lifetime. You couldn’t help but feel like a kid on December 26th. Think of this entry as if it were Back to The Future III; entertaining, yet still desperately in need of more florescent colors. But hey, nobody saw that final western chase scene coming, where the train explodes off a cliff right? Or in this case a giant pig released into orbit.

Gone was the mad rush mentality to see every act. Instead Sunday brought about a sense of togetherness, a chance to actually hang with the people around us. We entered the polo fields in a larger pack this time. Floating between tents at the recommendations of others, with no real agenda until the headliners.

Again, most links lead to actual videos of those happenings.

4:00 We were willing to give The Field another chance after his boring solo opening show for !!! last year. Word was he had since added a full touring band to liven it up, but this time the guy was denied entry into the US and had to cancel. We figured that out after some waiting and moved on to the tent we could hear from a mile away, Deadmau5 (pronounced Deadmouse). There is a fine line between stuff I can dance to and straight-up techno house. This DJ was comfortably sitting on that line. Either way, it was necessary to get the blood flowing again. We didn’t stay long though.

4:55 Stars was on the main stage. I’ve seen them live a few times, enough to declare that they are consistently passionate about life in general. I was happy that of the few songs we heard, “You’re Ex Lover is Dead” was one of them.

5:10 If you have a name like Does It Offend You, Yeah?, I want so badly for you to be good. And they were pretty fun, lots of grimy synthesizer and British posturing. The ridiculous, “Let’s Make Out”, got the crowd into it. “We Are Rockstars” has been steady on the radio as of late. And the place went bananas for it. I’ll grant style points for cowbell use and also that outfit.

5:50 Mike was way into seeing Gogol Bordello. And I had no idea what Gogol Bordello was. This was a healthy exercise for me. The crazy Gypsy Punk scene going on was immediately approved. Even Pink was into it. There’s a time and a place for this band, live and outdoors. Our dance circle in the outskirts grew with every song, eventually collapsing into a pile of panting… people. The guy sounds like Triumph the insult dog.

If for no other reason, this video is posted for the absolute babe at the beginning.

6:15 Coincidently of the same Broken Social Scene-Canadian constellation that Stars are from, Metric was causing a stir at the outdoor theatre. A certain little someone loves Metric. I, well, don’t know any of Metric’s songs, but singer, Emily Haines, was lovely. Her band’s equipment was crapping out and she handled that well. I did have to make the executive decision to leave early and camp out in position at that main stage. Initially this broke Kati’s heart, but she came around.

6:45 We crept closer until landing about 20 feet from the main stage. This would be our glorious home for the next four hours. Who better to kick off the circus than, Sean Penn. Yes, the actor. Clearly a bit off, he bravely addressed the thousands about some non-music stuff. Video here. His fragmented rant covered war, elections, poverty, environmental activism, and revolution. I couldn’t quite gather what his “Dirty Hands Caravan” was specifically going to do, but it was something about our generation having an impact, and meeting at "the clocktower" taking 300 kids to New Orleans on a bus. He may have been hard to follow, but it was still a thing cool to do. He's kind of an America hero. And he even said something he hadn’t said in 28 years.

7:00 My Morning Jacket is another band I’ve waited years to see. They’re music is big, perfect for a big venue. Perfect for a sunset. And perfect as a weekend closer. Sporting some sweet moon boots, Jim James got straight into with “One Big Holiday.”

Mixing old favorites with some new LP, Evil Urges, MMJ simply put on an inspired show. I saw a few folks convert to fans right there. “Highly Suspicious” was a poster boy introduction to that “new directions” sound. The song feels strange on the album, but really worked well live. “Wordless Chorus” was easily the highlight, as James got to his knees and howled. James might have the best pipes in the biz (well besides Yorke).

8:30 We dreamt of water, we really did. But we weren’t about to leave our prime spots right before Roger Waters. Thirst subsided as awe overtook. A zone best described through internal monologue:
“Pink Floyd!”
“Is this real?”
“Holy Sh*t (at the first chord of every song)”
“Waters kind of looks like Richard Gere. No. He looks exactly like Richard Gere.”
“Oh I should take a picture with my phone and send it to every person who ever watched The Wall in my childhood basement. No Dave, you should stop thinking and start losing yourself in this moment. But how will I ever document this unprecedented greatness? You can’t, Dave. You’ll just have to write a dumb blog or something. Fine.”
“Woah flames. Weird how that pig is being released into the sky. Did they mean to do that? (Turns out they didn’t). Pretty dramatic. Wonder if they go through one giant expensive pig per show.”

You go to so many of these “indie shows” that you sometimes forget about that theatrical full package, where music becomes larger than life. To my right, a pack of 12 yr-olds were passing a joint to an old, baby booming dude. I’d check over at him a few more times; he was near tears, hanging on every lyric. Generation gap closed.

64 year-old Waters was beyond polished. His backing band filled Gilmore’s parts seamlessly. The first hour was a Pink Floyd greatest hit-fest, pulling from The Wall, Animals, and Wish You Were Here. And of course that Obama pig took a lap around the park during set one closer, “Sheep.”

That's a video I took of the pig, one of the many on Youtube. “Thank You. There's my pig. We’re going to take a short break and come back and do Dark Side of The Moon.” – Waters

He didn’t lie. The whole album was played.

11:00 Somehow we made it to the center of the Sahara tent for the ultimate, end-all dance party, brought to you by Justice. This was not for the novice festival-er. This was for the die-hards, with no conscious regard for their bodies or their Monday morning jobs. The tent was at capacity. With a giant glowing cross on stage, the song “Genesis” serving as an intro, and two symmetric French men fixed in various self-worshipping power poses, you might assume these guys thought that they were gods. And by the way the crowd responded to every peak and valley in their electronic world, the thought really wasn’t too far off. Their remix of "We Are Your Friends" was the agreed upon finale.

Justice @ Coachella - Phantom (insane dancing)

They played for well over an hour. Apparently, it’s a $10,000 fine for every minute over curfew in the city of Indio. Justice (or the Goldenvoice company) alone owes Indio somewhere around $300,000. Prince was in the same boat the night before.

Random final cheers could be heard as we rode through the last of the crowd. I don’t think one word was exchanged this time on the bikes. It could have been deep reflection, or just deep fatigue, or harsh realization.

Thanks for reading. Now I promise to not write the word Coachella or say “Co-A-chella” until this time next year.

May 1, 2008

A Coachella Story: Volume Two

Hovering over the set times late Friday night, I declared that such a stacked lineup had never been seen before, on paper. Our only concern was finding time to see it all, in reality. It’s still hard to believe this caliber of talent was cued up for the day without a single break. Seriously, this was something I live for. Ask The Hoff. It was legit.

Mike is in the process of building a Bill & Ted-like time machine. Its sole purpose will be to bring us back to the Saturday, April 26th, 2008, over and over again. We’re rooting for you, Mike (sorry Bobby for re-using that material, you'll always be my Billy).

Our desert dragon house woke up around noon. Some housemates went straight for the booze, others to breakfast, or to the pool, but most did a variation of all at once. We would learn later that one guy passed out at 4pm, never actually making it to the festival. He is a legend in his own right. Our team was out that door by 2pm. We were feeling rough, and raw, in the prime of our lives.

*Note: most song links lead to videos from the show, so relax, spend some time with them. And pro-photos can be found here.

3:00 Once inside the gates, it was a sloppy b-line to the Mojave tent for Man Man. Towards the end of their set, these animals had already earned full control over the crowd. Man Man is one of a kind.

In standard white outfits and war paint, each member had such an aggressive inventiveness about their instrument slaying. Vocals and percussion came from all directions on stage. This video of “Mister Jung Stuffed” might display that better. I think we heard “Top Drawer” in there too. I’ve been getting into the new Rabbit Habits LP from time to time.

3:40 Already in position for our first “must see”, MGMT, we waited, hoping to recapture that rapture felt back at their January show. After an extended sound check (or deliberate build-up), those dreamboats broke into a steady stream from Oracular Spectacular. They kept the audience anxious though, keeping the holy triad of psychedelia, “Electric Feel”, “Time To Pretend”, and then “Kids” for the final centerpiece. This band is on top of the world right now. It’s neither the first, nor the last time they will be praised on this page.

4:35 Kati claims to have no recollection of the subsequent Boys Noize set at all, proving that people under 5 2' have BAC levels that operate differently than ours. Within 30 seconds of being in that tent, I remember thinking, “now this is something we can dance to”, as opposed to the Friday night’s Fatboy Slim sleeper. So as a disco ball-skull flashed over the stage screens, that’s just what we did. Boyz Noise is the German version of Justice, who is the next Daft Punk (More on Justice tomorrow). His dirty, buzzing electro got everyone doing this synchronized pulsing jump move.

5:20 The little Gobi tent brought us a treasure, St. Vincent. Everyone was mellow, even the security guy, who let us into the press photo area (explaining the ECU of the lovely lady below). Along with Marry Me standouts, she covered The Beatles’ “Dig A Pony.” I wanted to jump up and hug her at that point.

6:10 The big bonanza came at the Sahara Tent with our most anticipated act of the day, Hot Chip. Ironically standing in the same area as their set last year, I couldn’t wait to have our crew experience it. The situation was one upped when our LA friends Jessie and Elena appeared out of nowhere. Hot Chip owned it. They balanced choice hits from The Warning with their new stuff. I wouldn’t have made a playlist any differently. Last year’s highlight “No Fit State” might have taken second this time to world pleaser “Ready for the Floor.” This was the peak of sweaty. This was out of control. Video below.

7:10 Where do you go after a show like that? If the answer is next door to Islands, than you must have been living in the same suspended reality we were on Saturday. Islands took the cake for most underrated band there. I had that realization the night before as we fell asleep with 2006’s masterpiece Return To The Sea blaring from the kitchen speakers. They furthered that notion live, bringing the new Arm’s Way material to life. The stage was full of violins and such. Everybody lost their sh*t when Rapper Busdriver showed up for his cameo during "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone", and then disappeared.

Singer, Nick “Diamonds” Thornburn, is a genius songwriter. His music, in some form, whether it's The Unicorns or Islands or something else, will be around for a long time.

8:25 Seeing Animal Collective live has been an estranged oasis in the desert for a long time. I’ve missed them on both coasts (this totally rationalized skipping the mess at M.I.A). I didn’t take one video or picture or even say much of anything to anyone during the set. I was frozen; eyes shut for long periods with the stage colors seeping through, my mind surfing on the beats. I’d occasionally glance over at Kati, who was spaced out as well. I think we managed to have a conversation telepathically.

They opened with a slowed version of “Chocolate Girl.” Every song started off like a mistake, gradually repeating itself until gaps were filled and beauty was shown. Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) even graced us with a track off his personal, Person Pitch, “Comfy in Nautica.” This went into a new song called “House (Material Things).” Both video and the lyrics are worth posting:

Is it much to admit I need
A solid soul and the blood I bleed
With a little girl, and by my spouse
I only want a proper house

I don't care for fancy things
Or to take part in a precious race
And children cry for the one who has
A real big heart and a father's grace

I don't mean to seem like I care about material things like a social status
I just want four walls and adobe slabs for the girl Ow!

Elena took this one

An extended “Essploding/Fireworks” served as the climax. While we hanging up there, a tropical new song “Brother Sport” brought us celebration. Every time Avey Tare screamed an angel got its wings.

9:25 We wandered to the main stage neighborhood, Kati still had this glossy eye-ed, just-seen-a-pretty ghost-smile about her. I asked, “You okay?” To which we heard a “what, woah…ya” response.

Suddenly, Portishead’s “Machine gun” drums demanded everyone’s attention. It’s weird to walk into a place where everyone is way into something and you’re like, “hey what’s-ohhh...” We were right in the middle of a solid performance; one that people couldn’t stop talking about after. Tracks off Third were equally if not stronger in ringing bells with me.

10:45 Prince was up. It wasn’t until that guitar god took the stage that it really hit us. It’s freaking Prince! Here’s a breakdown told only through direct Prince quotes:

“Hello Co-a-chella. You’re at the coolest place on earth, right now!”
“When I agreed to play Co-a-chella, I told them I wouldn’t ‘play’ Co-a-chella, I’d party Co-a-chella.”
“Co-a-chella. Come on.”
“Clap Co-a-chella.”
“I need you to clap”
“Who’s gonna quake? You gonna quake? Ya. Earthquake.”

No one will ever pronounce the word Coachella quite like that adorable little man. His cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” left us baffled. Only Prince could change every lyric, skip all verses, and still come out on top. Looks like he made Youtube take down all evidence of it. The outside world may never understand.

We rode home like a couple of kids who couldn’t wait to tell their neighbors about Disneyworld. Our already damaged bikes rattled in the night. Having eaten one cliff bar all day, the thought of Peanut Butter and Jelly followed by a shower was a powerful one. We sailed. You’d think E.T’s life were at stake.

We arrived at the house that was in full swing per usual, just in time for the gentle placing of a lawn chair in the pool. The chair, of course, had another passed out legend on it.

Sunday's flying pigs still to come.