Edit: Sorry, humanity. I don’t know why comments were broken for a few days, nor why the paragraph breaks disappeared, nor why half of it disappeared and I had to write it again from scratch. But here’s the version as God intended.
We went to Coachella again this year! And what’s more, Julie came too, for both days. One of the tickets was a Christmas gift from me. The other was due to her being a rockstar.
It was easily as much fun as last year. True, the lineup was probably not quite as strong (Coldplay is not Radiohead), but it was still really solid, with classic and up-and-coming bands alike. And I’m much more up on the indie music scene than I was this time last year–last year I probably saw seven or eight acts that I knew nothing about (and that’s the acts I saw, leaving aside the others at the festival) where this year there were really only a couple. It’s particularly good to see bands with only the one album out (Autolux, the Futureheads, the Arcade Fire), because I can feel like I’m building an early relationship with them. (Nothing like the relationship Drew has with the Arcade Fire, though–he has a tape of theirs from their pre-album days, e.g.)
Plus, it was much cooler this year, temperature-wise. Highs of 86 or so; it was even too cold in the evenings. Not to say that the heat didn’t get to us; it still woke us up at 9 am and while hanging around the campsite we had to develop a shade system by suspending a tarp from tent poles. It went through a number of different iterations, at one point counterbalanced by a pair of jeans hung from an outstretched pole. We finally got it perfect on Sunday, attached to poles on one end and the tent on the other, but a massive gust of wind caught hold of it, sending it and the unstaked tent tumbling along. “Why didn’t anyone else’s tents blow away?” Julie asked. “Because no one else’s tents had a sail!” I replied.
But mainly Coachella isn’t about temperatures, or jeans hanging from tarps–it’s about music. As per last year, here’s my assessments of the bands I saw:
Best Set: An absolute tie between the Arcade Fire and Nine Inch Nails. The AF had a wild time performing, throwing themselves totally into their music (and, in one case, into the crowd), climbing the frame of the stage, fighting each other with their instruments. NIN just rocked like crazy, getting me to throw up the horns at several points. And they destroyed their instruments and amp afterwards. Plus, and this is something I never realized before, Trent Reznor is totally hot. (Runners-up: Autolux, Bauhaus, the Futureheads, The Kills)
Best Surprise: The Chemical Brothers. Well, it wasn’t a surprise that they were good, obviously, but I was amazed at the crowd: though they were competing with Coldplay, they packed their tent, and the crowd was extremely enthusiastic throughout. It was my first exposure to the electonica crowd en masse and, drugs or no, they made quite an impression. (Runner-up: Zap Mama, who I had never heard at all; they were the funkiest thing by far I saw during the weekend.)
Most Likely Album Purchase: The Arcade Fire, “Funeral.” I’ve heard it before, but, as with the Pixies last year (or They Might Be Giants in 1999), it wasn’t until after seeing them that I realized how incredible those songs are. (Runners-Up: Weezer, “The Blue Album”; Nine Inch Nails, “Pretty Hate Machine,” “Broken”)
Best Stage Show: Bauhaus. A band whose biggest hit is a 10-minute song called “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” should present themselves ostentatiously, and Bauhaus didn’t disappoint. They opened with that song, in fact, with the lead singer making his entrance suspended upside down from a 25-foot moving cable at the top of the stage. At other points he was striding across the stage, or standing on top of a platform, with a staff, like Moses; at one point he stretched that staff across his shoulders like Jesus on the cross. With his shock of white hair in the harsh white lights, he looked like a film negative. Oh, and the guitarist made that vampire pose. You know, the one where you cross your arms diagonally on your chest? Awesome. (Runner-up: Nine Inch Nails, who had good lights.)
Best On-Stage Antics: The Arcade Fire (see above). At one point the drummer was carrying the cymbal around while hitting it. (Runner-up: The Kills, a man and a woman named Hotel and VV, respectively, who sang with their lips and instruments [you heard me] like a few inches from each other and ended with what was either a mutual orgasm or a seizure.)
Totalest Asshole: The 30-year-old in a silk shirt and denim skater pants (not “denim ska”–that would be some sort of Special AKA/Bruce Springsteen hybrid)who was jumping around like an idiot during Autolux. When he wasn’t jumping, he was making the “cool guitar hands” during anything that remotely resembled a guitar lick. I mean, it’s Autolux, not Scorpion; it would be like jumping around to the Shins. It wouldn’t have bothered me that much, except he landed on one of our bottles of water at one point, and at Coachella you don’t take that lying down. I stepped forward and said something; he didn’t like it, but he cooled down from that point on. (What I said was, “Excuse me, could you jump around less? You crushed one of our waters.”) (Runner-up: Whatever motherfucker put SHIT AND TOILET PAPER on the inside of a Port-o-Potty.)
Biggest Disappointment, Band’s Fault: No real disappointments, though New Order and Weezer could have played more classics and fewer of their fair-to-middling songs from their upcoming albums. That was a theme this year: bands with a long history who had new albums to promote (add Wilco, Bright Eyes, and NIN to the above list). Of course, they have to play the new songs, but this being a festival where they compete with other bands for attention they also have to put their best foot forward, and some of the new songs were not, shall we say, the best feet. Last year, the biggest bands–the Pixies, Radiohead, the Cure–were happy just to be nominated, so it wasn’t as hit-or-miss.
Best Bands Missed Due to Scheduling Conflicts: Snow Patrol* (Ambulance Ltd/The Kills); half of Rilo Kiley (Wilco); the Secret Machines (Weezer); Bloc Party (Bauhaus); Coldplay/Spoon (The Chemical Brothers/Zap Mama); M.I.A. (the Fiery Furnaces); Gang of Four (the Arcade Fire); Aesop Rock (New Order); Black Star (Bright Eyes). There are more this year than last because I knew about more of the bands this year.
*Mia saw Snow Patrol and said they were really bad.
Best Bands Missed Due to Exhaustion: None, really–the reduced temperatures helped a lot. Though I was really loopy for Bright Eyes.
Okay, I’ve reconstructed this from memory (of the entry and of Coachella) as best I can, but I don’t remember how I wrapped it up. Had a great time, love music, love the Tesla coil crackling purple lightning bolts in the desert sky. But they’d better get Franz Ferdinand next year.