Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Coachella: Top Of the Pops (Day One)

Oh, hey guys. So I'm back from Coachella, and man am I tired! No, seriously, I am. Moreover, I didn't bring a digital camera, and neither did my friend, so this is going to be a completely non-visceral experience! ARE OYU READY FOR TEH EXCITEMENT!?!11

Just kidding, you guys. I'll use this guy's pictures from his cell phone for some sort of basic visual component, as well as stock publicity photos! Yeah, I know, how cool of me, but it's better than just text. I'm sure I'll be able to obtain better quality pictures of the performances later, and when I do so, I'll sneak them in. Anyway:

Day One

This year was hot - hotter than last year, but not as hot as my first year (2004). Before the heat was apparent, my friend and I arrived at the Salton Sea, our campground, at about 9:30 at night, where we futilely attempted to make a fire, set up a tent, and generally camp effectively. I also had a semi-argument with some drunk hipster dude in an adjacent campsite about whether or not Elliott Smith's fans thought his suicide was expected and/or appropriate. We then woke up, had a mediocre "Date Shake" from the Date Gardens down Highway 111 (one of the most generally unnecessary concotions ever conceived), arrived at the polo fields by 10:45, walked in like the semi-veterans we were, remarked at how the Sahara Tent looked really fucked up this year, etc., then went and saw the following:

Head Automatica
Pretty mediocre, manic New York scenester rock, but they were, to their credit, "into it." This seemed odd in retrospect, however, when my friend informed me that lead singer Daryl Palumbo is also the lead singer for Glassjaw. Glassjaw, for the unfamiliar, is a semi-emo outfit which is basically Palumbo's creative outlet for his living with chronic Crohn's Disease. He obviously is feeling a little better if these are his new digs. Anyway, it was a way to start off the day, especially considering it was outside, giving us a glimpse of what seeing the other bands of the day would be like when 75% of them happened to be playing out in the sun instead of in one of tent stages. Oops.

The Like
Pretty mediocre, also, but perhaps more so. An all-girl band composed of the offspring of music industry pseudo-royalty, and they sounded as such. My friend thought one of the riffs sounded like The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" and dubbed it "Where Is My Vagina?" (lolz w/ Villa) We caught a few songs before apathy got the best of us.

White Rose Movement
Early part of this day just wasn't very good, and these guys were, in my opinion, probably the worst of the crop. 80's revivalist synth pop that sounded like something an EMI exec was convinced is the "NEXT KILLERS" and threw cash and big name producers at. The skinny spectre of a lead singer, on the other hand, was convinced he could sell his legitimacy by dancing like Ian Curtis, with is odd considering Ian Curtis danced, unattractively, like the epileptic white boy he was. Pretty much the guy was a huge douche bag, therefore. The music itself wasn't terrible, but this is the sort of thing I could do without in the "indie" scene.

The Walkmen
So finally, the "oh hey we're indie rock HEY GUYS HEY HEY LOOK AT US!" bands ended and someone who is only, as it were, incidentally indie began. I have been a Walkmen fan for quite some time, and have even seen them once before at my school's "music festival." They were, then, quite unenthused by our student body's surfer/stoner drunkard reception. Here they played the mainstage to a considerably more enthusiastic and familiar crowd. A fucking great performance, really. The songs on the new album (which has, less than a month from release, strangely eluded leaking) sounded great, particularly a big loud anthemic guitar song they used as an opener. Yes, they also played "The Rat," and lead singer Hamilton Leithauser is going to lose his voice by the age of 40 if he keeps continues to scream the way he did. They closed with their new single, "Lousiana," for which they used a saxophone and trumpet player for the end horn section, which I was happy about. Horns just inexplicably make me happy.

Animal Collective
Undoubtedly the weirdest set of the weekend, but I didn't expect anything less. Having a band like Animal Collective play a) in the middle of the day, b) on an outside stage, and c) for only 50 minutes, however, is a terrible idea. They only were able to play about 4 songs, and lost most of their supposedly semi-elaborate stage show as a result of the setting. Still, they were just as creatively enthused, conjuring up all sorts of psychotic unveilings. The new songs sound fairly decent - more reminiscent of their pre-Sung Tongs work (far more sprawling). We had to leave this, unfortunately, to go see:

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
These guys don't upset me or piss me off in the least - in fact, they have some good songs, and their album's, overall, good. However, it's been generally established (not by me, just anyone who doesn't write for an online music mag) that they've received a tremendous amount of undue affection (9/10! ****1/2 out of *****! INSTANT CLASSIC, etc.), and their Coachella performance was perhaps the best evidence of that. These guys are a run-of-the-mill, in almost the truest sense of the word, indie rock band with nothing particularly remarkable about them except that they don't suck, and yet, easily, 5000 people were watching them play in a packed tent. I'm happy if those people find enjoyment in this band, but throwing all of your hopes and dreams on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to revolutionize the world of pop music with what they've put on the table is just silly. If anything, this might be the single best example of people not taking pitchforkmedia.com with a grain of salt/sense of individual taste. Anyway, moving beyond my soapboxing, the performance really didn't carry all that well, either. They essentially went through the motions, and were about as energetic in front of 5000 people as they were in front of 500 during the video I saw of them at South By Southwest. We left after a few songs.

We managed to catch the very tail end of Common's set, and despite throwing out some pretty heavy-handed pseudo-Christian sentiment to all of us, his last few songs had a lot of good energy. This probably wasn't the biggest crowd he had played to, but he acted like it anyway.

Kanye West
Dude's definitely an ego-maniac, but I already knew that. His setlist was decidedly oriented toward crowd pleasing and not exploring the meat of his albums, but it still was, overall, a good performance. At one point he played A-Ha's "Take On Me" over the PA, to which the crowd sang along 7000 or so strong, and Kanye danced in a shuffle-step 80's fashion. lolz oh kanye

Sigur Ros
I was expecting goodness from these guys, but was completely blown away by how completely they delivered. Almost a full orchestra, horn section, plus the normal drummer, bass player, and, of course, the cello bow on the electric guitar. They played stuff mostly from last year's Takk, which was fine, since that album is just as consistent as their previous material. Said cello bow was, at one pont, broken when lead singer/"cello guitarist" Jon kept repeatedly hitting the bow to his fretboard in a cathartic swell of sound. Only problem with the set was that the sound for the orchestra was a little muffled, but really, the pure energy did away with any unpleasantness. Also, I just have to say, as I did to my friend that weekend, that there's no where else where I could see Kanye West followed by Sigur Ros on the same stage but Coachella. I'm not sure if I actually desired for that to ever happen, but Golden Voice thrusted it upon me, so I'm grateful for the experience. Thanks, guys.

The Juan Maclean
My friend and I missed out on their set during ArthurFest this past fall because they took so long to set up (over an hour past their scheduled time), and, at the time, we wanted to go see Cat Power. Ironically, they were a) playing at the same time as Cat Power again, and b) took, again, very long to set up. Neither aspect kept us from enjoying the show this time, since we both had decided long before coming to see Juan Maclean this time around, and they only took a half-hour to set up this time! Ha. Anyway, their equipment is a virtual circus of electronic regalia, which is both what makes them take so long to set up, and what makes seeing them live awesome. They essentially produce everything (a sort of, at times, Kraftwerkian dance music, for those unfamiliar) on the fly, with very little in the way of samples. There must have been 35 different manually-operated electronic instruments and panels up there between three guys. Anyway, a great set, especially, of course, "Give Me Every Little Thing."

We then caught a little of Depeche Mode, who were pretty cool. Very elaborate stage set-up. However, I'm not one to go to Depeche Mode conventions (yes, those exist), and neither is my friend, so we both have the intelligence to realize the worth of seeing Daft Punk in their first U.S. appearance in five years and their only one this year. And so...

Daft Punk
Wow. Appropriately, their set was "announced" by way of the alien greeting from Close Encounters Of the Third Kind ("Boo-boo-boo-boo-boo"), and then the curtain dropped, revealing a huge LED pyramid with two men in full robot helmet and leather flight suit regalia on top. Just absolutely mind-blowing. A lot has been said about this set elsewhere, so I don't want to be redundant, but go over to youtube.com and search for "Daft Punk Coachella" and you'll find plenty of videos. Just absolutely amazing, and, I'm more than positive, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

That's it for day one. Day two on Wednesday.


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