It is absolutely amazing that after holding this event 10 times previously, the city of Indio and Coachella security could do such a horrible job getting things started on Friday. Traffic was backed up almost once attendees got off the freeway at the Monroe exit at 1:00pm because obnoxious folks were driving in turn lanes and then cutting back over, not realizing people like them were the ones causing the problem. Don't see why a cop, even someone recently deputized, wasn't positioned at every intersection and issuing tickets.
Even worse was the line to get in the venue at Monroe as it took three hours for those of us who needed bags checked. Close to the gates, people were allowed to walk right up and merge as the line devolved into a mob. Couldn't tell what the problem was because by the time we got up to checkpoint, security had given up and let everyone bum rush the gates. One security guard was overheard saying there was a "breach at Monroe," but made no mention it was authorized. Many people started to run to the concert grounds and it was lucky no one was hurt. Hopefully someone gets fired over this.
Street Sweeper Social Club was raging on the Coachella stage playing tracks from their debut album. For those interested, I grabbed a slice of Hawaiian pizza and a Heineken, and when I sat down to enjoy them, Tom Morello brought out his Rage Against The Machine bandmate Brad Wilk to play drums during a cover of LL Cool J's "Momma Said Knock You Out."
At the Outdoor Theatre She & Him offered a sweet blend of indie pop as M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel exchanged taking turns on lead vocals. It was a delightful surprise to hear Ward sing a cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." Back on the Coachella stage, The Specials brought a wonderful dose of ska that livened up the crowd.
Under the Mojave Tent, Lucero delivered a fantastic set of alt country that at times brought to mind The Band and Wilco. I was surprised by the small turnout, which is everyone else's loss. Lead singer Ben Nichols mentioned they played late bar music as opposed to festival music, but the band would probably fare better at next weekend's Stagecoach Festival.
Passion Pit's dance tunes are infectious, but I can only take lead singer Michael Angelakos' falsetto vocals in small doses. Them Crooked Vultures rocked the Coachella stage, and to no surprise, multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones was the highlight, particularly on bass when he laid down some outstanding riffs.
Echo and the Bunnymen played the Outdoor Stage. Singer Ian McCulloch slipped in bits of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" into the songs, the latter of which he condescendingly pointed out. He rambled between songs at times, not sure about what, and seemed annoyed. Their hit "Lips Like Sugar," though, got everyone's attention.
In what appeared to be a larger Sahara Tent than previous years with increased lighting and effects, Erol Alkan laid down some sweet beats that had many dancing. At Mojave Imogen Heap was thoroughly enjoyed by the young females shrieking up front, but her music was too laid back with the time left in the festival. In contrast, the high-energy, Caribbean rhythms of Vampire Weekend had many at the Outdoor Theatre dancing the night away. The same goes for the electro house music of Benny Benassi back at Sahara.
Jay-Z was 25 minutes late to the Coachella Stage, so I headed over to see Public Image Limited at Outdoor. One of the first things out of John Lydon was a shot at Jay-Z, something to the effect of if you got a headache from Jay-Z's music, you should take a PiL. The bass was slightly distorted as the set began, but was soon properly mixed. The challenging music and lyrics may explain the small audience. Lydon's ego may not have allowed it, but PiL could have played in a tent.
As I headed out for the night, I caught Beyonce on stage with Jay-Z covering Alphaville's "Forever Young." The crowd seemed to enjoy it, but it was rather bland as she repeated the lyrics, mirroring the unimaginative use of fireworks accompanying the end of the song.
Thankfully, the music of Day One outweighed the logistical nightmares, but it's too early to call the festival a success, even though it has sold out.