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Concert Review: Coachella – Day One – 4/25/08

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At about two in the afternoon on Friday, traffic into the lot off of Monroe Street was backed up at least two miles. I had made arrangements to stay at some family friends who lived about a mile from away from the Empire Polo Fields, so I parked there and walked after getting settled. I poured some Jim Beam Black Label into my Diet Monster energy drink to fuel my excursion. The temperature was supposed to be in the high 90s, but an occasional breeze made it feel better than last year. Also, better than last year was the ticket pick-up and gate entry. The process ran much smoother and the wait was nowhere near as long.

As I entered Slightly Stoopid was in the middle of their set on the Coachella stage. They sounded horrible from the beer garden as the bass was completely distorted and ruined their reggae/hip hop hybrid music. Upon leaving the area, security needed to check everyone’s bags just in case someone was trying to smuggle out a slice of pizza or a half a cup of beer.

On the Outdoor Theater Architecture in Helsinki played some jazzy dance music reminiscent of The Scissor Sisters without the catchy hooks. That’s a problem when so many other things of interest are taking place, such as the interactive percussion station that allowed 30 to 40 people to take part and jam together. Returning to Coachella, The Breeders played some good, slightly fuzzy, alternative rock.

Back at Outdoor, people continued to stream in to see Vampire Weekend the entire time they played. The crowd loved them, but their music was just okay to me. Not the next big thing to my ears, a little too poppy and reminded me of some ‘80s bands, so I am surprised with all the attention they have been getting lately. 

Under the Gobi Tent Cut Copy were laying down some wild dance grooves that had everyone hopping. Even with earplugs in, they were still loud. I am not usually a big fan of electronica, but they kept me captivated as their songs never went so long that I wanted them to end like I do much of their peers.

I peeked into the Sahara Tent where Sandra Collins, although there was a fellow on stage who seemed just as integral, had her audience enthralled with the tunes she was making as well. I would have stayed for the remainder of the set, but I wanted to make sure I left myself enough time to get a good position for The Raconteurs back at Coachella, which was all the way at the other end of the grounds.

There I caught the last few songs by Tegan and Sara. They were all right, but even with sitting closer to the stage, the mix was horrible. The low end was muddy. I found their softer sound made their placement between The Breeders and The Raconteurs curious. Still, it was good that they made the roster as their fans obviously enjoyed them and women in general don’t have a great presence throughout the weekend, only 24 of the 128 are led by female singers.

I worked my way up close at the break. One head security guy was earning his pay. He caught a guy rolling a joint and threw his weed and papers away. I don’t know where he went as the sun set, but that didn’t stop others later, including the resourceful group of young men who made a pipe out of a water bottle.

The Raconteurs delivered a great set. They focused on their latest release, Consoler Of The Lonely, 10 of the 13 songs they played coming from it. What was most interesting is that while Jack White usually gets credit for being a guitar phenom, Brendan Benson played the slide and sounded good. “Blue Vein” is their ode to Zeppelin. It is similar to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and White channeled Jimmy Page on the solo this evening. The harmonies on “You Don’t Understand Me” didn’t sound as good live and White’s guitar wasn’t working during the first part of “Steady As She Goes,” but no one expects perfection when it comes to rock and roll, and I have trouble believing anyone walked away unsatisfied. The band was joined by a musician who played organ, fiddle, tambourine, basically whatever was needed, yet he was never introduced nor did he take a bow with the rest of the band.

Back at Sahara, I caught the last 15 minutes of Aphex Twin, which was unbelievably intense. He didn’t want you to dance. He wanted to knock you into submission. Even those who were cold sober had to feel in an altered state. Aside from the hard-driving music, the visuals were hypnotizing. The videoscreens were filled with pulsating colored fractals, green lasers shot over head, and lights strobed from above. As if that weren’t enough, people dressed as a cow, a Dalmatian, a panda, and a gorilla pranced on stage.

Needing a breather, I went and sat down next to The Quad Cubatron, a 20×20 ft. wide art piece comprised of 5760 computer-controlled color-changing LED lights that presents 30 minutes of 3D graphics. Two dopey gals were either acting like idiots or had taken mushrooms because while it is an amazing piece of work no one else was as ecstatic and orgasmic as they watched and caressed each other.

Pendulum hit the Sahara stage like they had something to prove. They wanted to make you forget everyone else with their musical attack of heavy beats and basslines. They could have been called Pandemonium as their flashing light array combined with their sounds dazzled the senses.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings seemed out of place at the Mojave Tent with their throwback rhythm and blues revue, but damn, if they didn’t have the audience enthralled. Fans of Any Winehouse will be familar with their work, as some of the Dap-Kings played on Back to Black. Variety is the real key to success for festivals like this, and their act was the find of the day on Friday. They sold me an album with their electrifying performance.

Walking past Outdoor, I caught the tail end of Serj Tankain, who sounded no different than when he is working in System of a Down. He got off a blast at the Bush Administration and the apathetic public with “Unthinking Majority.”

Jack Johnson was the headliner who closed out the Coachella Stage. I didn’t think he was that big of an act, but he drew quite a turnout. I stayed for a few songs, but his laid-back rock sound, complete with Johnson’s own lilting guitar work, was too relaxing for someone who still had a mile-plus to walk home.

All in all, a very good day.

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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
  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s Jack Johnson.

  • http://bruisedpeaches.blogspot.com/ sean paul mahoney

    True that about Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings! I saw them three years ago at Sunset Junction and they blew me away! I, like yourself instantly became a believer and have seen them a couple times since then!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Josh, you probably need to be stoned to get him. No surprise that my pal Fumo Verde is into him.

    SPM, I am envious.

  • http://blogcritics.org/ Phillip Winn

    Hello back!

  • Fakeshemp

    Oh dear lord in heaven. They let Jack Johnson close.

    I HATE JACK JOHNSON.