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Concert Review: Coachella 2009 – Day Two – 4/18/09

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I awoke around 11am, after maybe six hours sleep, completely exhausted. A part of me dreaded what lay ahead, which of course reads ridiculous when compared to the grand scheme of things and the difficulties many people face, but at 41 and in that moment with my recuperative powers and access to stimulants no longer being what they once were my body wanted more time in bed over trekking back to Indio.

My wife, Senora Bicho, drove us to Coachella, but traffic heading out of Orange County was brutal because that freeway is the main route when heading out of town to Las Vegas or “the River.” Those first 30 miles took way longer than they should. If it was going to be this bad the whole way, it could take four hours to get there. Quitting seemed like an option, but once we hit Corona, traffic cleared up and the freeway home was clogged. Halfway there, we pulled over to grab a bite to eat in the city of Colton at a Subway. The Senora pointed out how tired I looked and I did feel wiped out. The bed continued to call, and with no one I felt compelled to see, I considered it, but we had gone this far, so we soldiered on.

Once we got there, Amanda Palmer, the female half of The Dresden Dolls, was introduced in the Gobi Tent by way of a group of Coachella attendees, who in sports-fan fashion, had letters painted on their backs that spelled out “Amanda Fucking Palmer.” Joined by a cellist, she delivered her plaintive, introspective songs that seem better served listening to alone during sad moments in your life, yet the group catharsis of sharing the music and emotions worked well.

Henry Rollins spoke to those under the Mojave Tent, regaling them with tales of his travels to Vietnamese killing fields where the citizens take comfort in the fact they beat the big, bad Americans and suggestions of his own Middle East Peace Plan in which the Israelis and Palestinians would be bombed with albums by The Ramones, Curtis Mayfield, and George Clinton. Since nothing else has worked, it wouldn't hurt to try it. He implored the audience to travel the world, meet the people in it, and work together to take control from the people screwing it up.

As we headed over to the VIP area across the grass field, Michael Franti was leading Spearhead on the main stage as they offered up a tasty helping of their hip hop/funk/reggae/rock stew. Zeppelin and AC/DC riffs snuck into the arrangements. Franti thanked everyone for spending the day with the band. Once inside, we found ourselves sitting next to David J, whose work in Bauhaus and Love and Rockets I am a big fan of. While sharing that information may have been appreciated, I left him alone and instead attempted to surreptitiously take his picture as a background object in a photo of the Senora.

We headed back to the Outdoor Stage to grab a spot for Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio almost made me stop due to the intriguing, upbeat rock sounds they were creating from the main stage. Also along the way was a very odd art installation entitled “Hand of Man,” where a user places his hand in a device that works a large mechanical hand that can pick up a car; the meaning and symbolism are still unclear.

The soothing harmonies created by Fleet Foxes under the setting sun were almost enough to quell my thoughts about the surrounding cigarette smokers not dying soon enough from cancer, which is saying something considering how little I care for my fellow man and their selfishness. We sat back far enough so that we could lounge in our legless chairs, but it turned out to be too far back once Thievery Corporation took the main stage because their music crept into the mix.

Luckily, we had planned to leave anyway to catch soul legend Booker T. backed by the Drive-By Truckers. We walked up as “Green Onions” filtered out of the Gobi Tent, and discovered it was maybe half full. I shouldn’t have been surprised, yet I still was at the lack of respect and limited musical history of my fellow Coachellans. Their loss. Booker and the band closed with Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and an instrumental of “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” made famous as the adopted theme for The Blues Brothers.

That now left us at a crossroads. We had an hour before anything we were interested in (The Chemical Brothers, Jenny Lewis, Mastodon) was going to start and still at least two hours to get home. Knowing there was going to be a long day ahead on Sunday and with the Internet now allowing for a partial recreation of the Coachella experience from the comfort of your home, that’s where we headed.

We got back home in time to catch the last hour of The Killers’ set on the webcast. They did a serviceable job if you enjoy their music and the fans seemed happy when they were cut to, but The Killers following McCartney was an impossible task and made them seem like they didn’t deserve the headlining spot. Their musical influences are too obvious, and I get removed from the music as I unconsciously identify them. Fireworks accompanied both “Mr. Brightside and When You Were Young” and the set was over online by 12:10am.

I have seen a few short clips of Chemical Brothers and they looked to put on a mighty fine dance party, although I haven’t found a bootleg, so who knows if they were able to keep it going for their entire set. Jenny Lewis was carried on the webcast the following day and she and her band sounded pretty fantastic. She played alone on acoustic guitar for “Silver Lining” and followed with “Acid Tongue” where a chorus that included Conor Oberst joined her. Mastodon performed Crack The Skye in its entirety. I have been unable to find an audio bootleg, but clips of the entire performance can be found at YouTube thanks to tamaman08. Even with the inadequate audio, you can tell they rocked the Mojave Tent hard.  I would have stayed if I had closer accommodations.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS