April 24, 2009

Coachella 2009 | Day One

In this almighty game of life-highs and life-lows, only once a year can you find your body moving about a tented field, exuding superhuman, 72 hour-ed stamina to some French DJ’s closing number on a Monday at 1:00am, and then have it back sitting behind a desk at an ear-ringing, Monday, 8:00am. One can surely find other teenage wastelands to more frequently get their rave on. But there’s only one 100-degree party in Indio, California that presents 127 bands to 160,000 people over 3 days. And this body is thankful that it's just an annual event.

Our Coachella 2009 featured some new friends (shout-out to you Saturday one day pass-ers!), new sleeping quarters (nice house, Gabe!), a new lineup (well mostly new, I’m looking at you, M.I.A), and the same beat-up digital camera I always bring (anything vintage looking, like the one above, came from Victoria's dirty Diana camera).

Friday’s roster was heavy on nostalgia. I was curious to see how the likes of Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, and Paul McCartney would translate over this rather progressive festival. Answer: Very well (besides that Morrisey vegetarian situation).

We left the coast around 1:30pm and despite a minor cluster-rush getting into our house, arrived in time for phase one of the mission:

M. Ward

This would be the start of a beautiful friendship we’d share with the Outdoor Theatre, which is a cross between the intimacy of a tent and the enormity of the main stage. Backed by a top-notch band, a shy Ward chose to jam rather than serenade, even offering an ace cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." And hearing a sentimental favorite, “Chinese Translation” put me at ease knowing the morning’s runaround to get here was worth it.

The Black Keys

These two guys did their best to fill the main stage with good ole’ blues-rock. I would have liked to see them absolutely destroy a tent instead. Nonetheless, they ripped the afternoon apart. "Strange Times" were here.

Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band

Country-tinged and all grown-up, Conor stuck to his recent (post-Bright Eyes) style. His hat was notable. We stayed for a bit, but felt the urge to jump in a tent and get weird.

Crystal Castles

I’m not going to lie; this show didn’t go anywhere it should have. They started 20 minutes late (pretty rude at a festival) and then sacrificed their sound for the sake of spectacle (still looking at you, M.I.A.). I know, I get it, Alice Glass is controversial and screams and jumps in crowds and climbs scaffolding. What she didn’t do was perform anything close to the danceable tracks on their album. In fact, the Kyp Malone cardboard cutout mask on the guy in front of us really stole the show:


We swung by the Mojave Tent, where some serious space-shit rap was taking place.

Leonard Cohen

Of the many reasons a novice Cohen fan like myself should make time for his performance, respect was a good one. Everyone seemed very much in awe of the smoothest 74 year old on the planet. I’ve never seen Empire Polo Field at such a hush. And he sang "Hallelujah" - quality footage.


I remember reading a few years back that Zach Condon was searching for a bunch of musicians to join him on tour (since he can’t play all the gypsy instruments at once). I wondered how that process worked, and what, aside from skill, Condon looked for. And now in support of his latest EP, he’s cut that group down to a less novel, 6-piece. Whatever the criteria was, the right guys were kept. From the looks of it, Beirut is no longer one guy surrounded by 15 trumpets, but rather a real band, and even more than that, a tight ensemble. What a wonderful set. Each song was met with an immense amount of crowd love. The girls were swooning. Songs like “Postcards from Italy” and “Nantes” seemed to actualize right in front of us.

Girl Talk

The beauty of a festival was on display here: in under an hour you can go from something so folksy organic to something so pop-tronically packaged. I’d been waiting nearly 3 years to see Gregg Gillis lay it down, and all day to actually dance (looking at you, Crystal Castles). Clearly others felt the same way, as the max-ed out tent bled out all sides. I vaguely remember our buddy, Chris, carrying a small kid like a shield to charge up near the front (nice form). We got “Tiny Dancer” put up against “Juicy”, and other show-stopping samples like the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and "Since You've Been Gone" (could have gone without Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” though). He fell off the boat. Sweaty.

Paul McCartney

First we’ll let the setlist do the talking:

Main set: Jet | Drive My Car | Only Mama Knows | Flaming Pie |Got to Get You Into My Life | Let Me Roll It (with a coda of Purple Haze) | Honey Hush | Highway | The Long and Winding Road | My Love | Blackbird | Here Today | Dance Tonight | Calico Skies | Mrs. Vanderbilt | Eleanor Rigby | Sing the Changes | Band on the Run | Back in the U.S.S.R. | Something | I’ve Got a Feeling | Paperback Writer | A Day in the Life - Give Peace a Chance | Let It Be | Live and Let Die | Hey Jude

First encore: Birthday | Can’t Buy Me Love | Lady Madonna

Second encore: Yesterday | Helter Skelter | Get Back | Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) - The End

Take your pick of youtube videos.

Seeing a living Beatle is special enough. Paul didn’t have to be so generous, giving us 35 songs in 3 hours, until you consider what Friday meant to him. Just before “My Love”, he explained that it was 11 years ago on the day since his wife Linda passed away. He added,

“She loved the desert, she loved music, she loved rock ’n’ roll….it’s an emotional night –- but that’s good. That’s OK.”

He sang to John too, with “Here Today”, and “A Day in the Life”, which unfolded into “Give Peace a Chance.” And not to be forgotten, George’s tribute came in the form of “Something."

The idea of seeing this in my lifetime had never really occurred to me, a possibility. Surreal. An older gentleman actually feinted into my arms at one point – I wouldn’t make that up. Old guy, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay, and you were able to see the remainder of the show from the first aid area.

Sir Paul's banter flirted with goofy to say the least, but he can do and say (and facially express) anything he pleases.

In a perfect world I'd already have Saturday and Sunday posts up. But hey, stadiums and shrines has never tried to be a news source. I'm excited to cover the rest of the weekend, so hang with me, they're on the way.


Debbie said...

loving it! keep it coming.
ah, PAUL...

riss said...

I saw girl talk at Bonnaroo. He was amazing minus his laptop kept unplugging :P