April 27, 2009

Coachella 2009 | Day Two

Historically, Coachella Saturdays live in the most carefree of worlds. Gone are the pressures of getting to Indio and yet to arrive are the realities of leaving it. There's a fleeting harmony you wish could run at half-speed. Alas, you have but one option: start early, stay late, grip it, and rip it.

Day Two is also notorious for competing set times. I’ve been known to act like a dad on vacation around this point:
“Beer Garden?! We have 2 minutes here.” (Chewing cliff bar, downing water, holding crumpled flyer with highlighted strategy)
I’m working on it. And luckily this year’s big day was rather linear, meaning less fannypack dad, and more skipping-child-of-the-sun-gods. And we're off:

Making this background music was a small price to pay to finally meet up with the crazy amount of friends who showed for Saturday. Liars isn’t quite the central party-crowd band to start the day on. But my periphery got a good show and picked up on some
Drum’s Not Dead jams.

Dr. Dog

Now the Mojave Tent was the appropriate place for a mass such as ours to get on track. Dr. Dog showed up to play loud, significantly louder than their sweet and sunny studio stuff. There was an adjustment period, but ultimately, solid.

Henry Rollins (spoken word)

Where do I begin with Rollins? He’s a clear-headed visionary. In his own mad way, he’s brilliant. There aren’t many acts that could sustain a festival crowd for 50 minutes without lifting an instrument. I figured he’d be ranting about something (if you haven’t heard Think Tank, that’s what he’s good at), but he managed to box his anecdotes into an overall message of sorts: we are a generation empowered by opportunity, we can do anything, we should be traveling and learning and respecting other cultures and questioning “the man” and so on. He was magnetic:

"I want to go over to Israel and Palestine and bomb both countries… with Ramones albums. Why are they so angry? Because they haven't heard The Ramones.

"The world is waiting for you with open arms. This is your time. This is your country. I'm only growing old in it."

He left us all carpe-diem-ed out.

TV on the Radio

It was a tough call, but we bypassed this main stage attraction for Fleet Foxes, front and center at (you guessed it) the Outdoor Theatre. Just going on previous show experience with both bands, those bearded Seattleites got the edge over the bearded Brooklynites. Seeing “Golden Age” as I backed away was like passing on hamburgers that just came off a grill because you really want the steak that won’t be done for another ten minutes, and you’re so freaking hungry, but you know that you can’t eat the steak if you grab the burgers since: one, you won’t enjoy it as much (a full show, up close, is better than two half-sets from the back) and two, you can’t be the guy at the cookout that eats everything…

Fleet Foxes

Robin Pecknold had no choice but to smile and wave during sound check, as the mere sight of him plugging in a chord sent everyone cheering. He looked up, puzzled, as if unaware or simply uncomfortable with the level of popularity his band has reached since last year. His unassuming presence really hasn’t changed that much (apart from a few more one-liners). They all seem like really nice people (my special love for J. Tillman is well-documented).

“Sun Giant” accompanied by a setting sun and a captive audience – the scenario couldn’t have been scripted any better. I have heard them mixed better though, and no question, they have too. Their delicate sound might evoke the great outdoors but it's indeed better suited for the great indoors. But for real, it didn’t matter. In fact, they tweaked their arrangements to emit more (and perhaps compete with Thievery Corporation’s pulses from the main stage). A faster tempo here, and organ jazz-up there, it made for a livelier feel and made up for whatever might have been lost to those standing further away. It wasn’t perfect (and it's been perfect), but it was powerful, and sharing it with some great friends will serve a lasting memory.

Here's "Your Protector" brought to you by my nearly broken, Sony Cybershot (note: I am not the "woo!"-er guy. I'm more of a strong "yeah!" guy, for the record):

Band of Horses

On paper, this back-to-back scheduling warned of rustic overload. Also on paper (or according to lazy journalists) Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses play the same ‘kind’ of music. Finally, for the benefit of both bands really, this comparison could be put to rest. Instead of dissecting how unalike they are, let’s talk about the Band of Horses set, which was quite impressive. My expectations shouldn’t have been low to begin with; these guys did blow me away in Boston years ago. I guess my belief in them wavered a bit after Cease To Begin. It turns out their move towards country-rock on that album decidedly made these guys rock stars.

From his first boot stomp on “The Great Salt Lake”, Ben Bridwell pledged to snap us into the night, one southern anthem at a time. The revelry did take some breaks for the reflective, like “The Funeral” – too soon to call it timeless?

OK, I’ve renewed my membership as a Band of Horses fan. Now let’s hear that new record.


We caught the last few minutes of this hot mess, just in time for her “everyone get up on stage with me” routine. I’ve never heard such a wide spectrum of accounts on one show: some disgust, some gushing, all emotional (see what she's getting at?) I won’t bash it, having been both inside the wild and outside, scratching my head. Either way, her persona cannot be denied. The verdict is: it really depends on: a) how close in proximity you are to the performance (level of involvement) and b) what you like about live music (entertainment, music vs. other), not mention c) if you like anything besides "Paper Planes."

The Killers

Here’s where you grip it, folks. Let go of your music snobbery. Forget that Brandon Flowers is a bizarre human being. Remember how good Hot Fuss was. Accept that you are about to see one of the biggest bands on the planet. Commit. Rip it.

Flowers took the stage like a Roman dictator. He questioned whether we were human or we were dancer. And we were nonsense. We were Hunter S. Thompson’s dancers.

As unsurpassable as Hot Fuss proves to be, the Killers would never have been able to deliver something in the league of this performance, in 2004. This was a coming of (day &) age. But I'll be damned if Flowers hadn't been planning his world domination from the start.

They’re arguably a “radio single band”, but when you have that many hits under your belt, they’re also going to be a "fun live band." It was a clear and steady assault. Great sound. Props to Flowers’ militant showmanship.

Gang Gang Dance

Our crew’s energy level was dropping fast, but I recruited 2008 veteran, Kati, to close this thing out with a simple text message:

“gang gang, tribal dance, drums…”

Us and about 50 other people celebrated our common intentions.

1 comment:

Michael McCusker said...

Easily one of my favorite S&S pieces... God, I wish I was there. I would have the best sunburn.

I need a strong, life-confirming bear hug immediately... (I'm looking at you Henry Rollins).