Due to foreseen and unforeseen circumstances it was a late start on Friday, Day One of Coachella 2007. The reasons were bad and good: The bad part was traffic on the I-10, The good part was our host, Palm Desert native Jessie "Boots Electric" Hughes, who was so excited about his new Eagles Of Death Metal recordings, he had to give me an immediate taste. Hopefully he won't change the beat of the first track, "Oh Girl," which burst through the speakers like someone rhythmically jumping up and down on top of cardboard boxes… it was pretty fabulous.
Walking through the main gates, I was greeted by the sound of Silversun Pickups, who sounded absolutely massive on "Kissing Families"–appropriate as Brian Aubert and company were being channeled through the main stage's massive speakers–and actually sounded tighter playing the expansive stage than they had ten days before, on the tiny stage at Silverlake Lounge for the Fold's 10th Anniversary. They've apparently adjusted rather well to arenas and stadiums, which is nice to see for all those locals who've followed them for years now. Unfortunately, it was broad daylight so–to quote the wrong song–"so much for the light show."
Of Montreal was going off next door at the Outdoor Theatre, looking and sounding even kookier than they do on their fantastic recent album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. Lead singer Kevin Barnes appeared to be about 17 feet tall as my girl and I approached the stage for the band's splendid, penultimate song, "Rapture Rapes The Muses," which sounded like a Devo-Cure collaboration in the best possible way. Getting a little closer, it was apparent that Barnes had traded in his hot pants for a giant dress apparatus the size of a rich man's Christmas tree, which he had to scale via a ladder. Curiously, he looked rather like The Gorgon, the fat dude those spoiled children conjure up in that O.G. Star Trek episode, "And The Children Shall Lead." I was pissed I didn't get to see more. Of Montreal is kewl.
We moseyed over to the Gobi Tent to see if Amy Winehouse had indeed stayed sober long enough to show up. She did, in fact, along with every other damned person there. It was a terrible screw-up, putting the currently buzzing Winehouse on the smallest stage at Coachella. Getting into Gobi was impossible and the kids were packed sardine-tight a good 50 yards outside the entrance. It was an eye-strain situation standing outside in the sun as Winehouse played inside the dark tent. I couldn't really make out her face, just her enormous beehive hairdo over the heads of the crowd. The audio was great though: She did a cover of Lauren Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" that sounded like she was born to sing it, though, she did get slightly upstaged when her backup singer Zalon got his solo. Yowza.
Leaving that clusterfuck, we headed over to catch Stephen Marley with little bro' Damian "Jr. Gong," but those doobie-smoking S.O.B.s (Sons Of Bob) were a good half-hour late getting to the stage. To make matters worse, Arctic Monkeys started early, screwing up my Coa-chooser itinerary (LOL).
Just FYI- Arctic Monkeys will triumph over the backlash that tainted the release of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not in the States (where they were hyped as the Sex Pistols' second coming after Whatever landed at number one in the U.K. album charts the first week of its release. The wee lads from Sheffield were great–not note-perfect by any means, which would be awful for a punk-inspired garage band–but way tighter and more confident than they were when they first hit the west coast for that Spaceland show. "Fake Tales Of San Francisco" and "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor" both kicked ass, and the new single "Brianstorm" sounded like anything but a sophomore slump.
The best part was the interplay between the live performance and the between-song banter: They played everything furiously, quasi-doubletime, frothing-at-the-mouth speed; then, between songs, they sounded ultra-chill. "We've got two more songs for you and then we're going to leave," said very relaxed singer Alex Turner. "Not that it hasn't been a pleasant meeting… we've quite enjoyed it."
On the way to buy a burrito, I finally got to hear Bob–I mean Stephen–Marley sing a song, his last: It was "Exodus." Nice closer. For reals.
No Coke, only Pepsi (and all it's shity overly sweet sister products) at Coachella's food vendors. This is a terribly, terribly upsetting. After seeing this, however, I immediately spot a man wearing "SPAM" flip-flops, which instantly makes me feel better.
Walked past Julieta Venegas, playing to a barely half-filled Gobi (confirming the Amy Winehouse scheduling SNAFU) and Rufus Wainwright playing to a mostly full Mojave Tent. He sounded gorgeous, phenomenal, but his yearning-for-what-you-can't-get music is just too depressing for Day One of this giant party.
Just as the first stars were becoming visible, The Jesus And Mary Chain hit the main stage for their big reunion show (discounting Thursday's Glass House appearance). They sounded remarkably well-rehearsed for a band that hasn't played in a decade, giving the crowd–which was quite enormous at his point–the full stoic, sunken-cheeked rock star treatment. "Just Like Candy" was a highlight with it's "Leader Of The Pack" drumbeat and full-scale emotional dynamics, and damn if that uncredited one-off backup singer didn't look exactly like Scarlett Johansson (because it was Scarlett Johansson). She didn't add a damned thing vocally but did make for nice eye-candy. All in all though, aside from closer "Reverence," the best song was an as-yet-unnamed new one, which bodes well for a new album.
Jarvis Cocker got started at the Outdoor Theatre a good 20 minutes after The Chain's Reid Brothers left the main stage, apologizing for not being "punctual." It was more of a monologue than a performance at certain points–I get the feeling that Cocker would make a fantastic talk-show host–but he was in fine form vocally. His new solo material was not exactly what I was expecting, but a full rung down in terms of energy and intensity as compared to his work in Pulp–not that that bothered his fans. In response to Cocker merely saying, "It's Friday night," the girl next to me went berserk, jumping up and down and screaming "It's my birthday! It's my birthday!" clearly pleased that Cocker would acknowledge her special day in such personal terms.
As the Outdoor Theatre schedule was so delayed that Sonic Youth and Interpol were no longer playing simultaneously, I got to check out Interpol at the main stage, where I was reminded what a mesmerizing album Turn On The Bright Lights truly is. Those guys really nailed the post-punk ethos on every track on that album–with just perfect every-changing layers of arrangements around simple, heavy themes. Live, "Obstacle 1" sounded about as big as the desert sky, all lit up now with the converging circle of spotlights. I couldn't help but feel a sense of disappointment though, every time Interpol went into a song from second album Antics, a situation that reminded me of the old adage, "You've got your whole life to write your first album, and six months to write your second." The songs on Antics are aiight, good even, but no match for the first batch.
On a more positive note, the song "Mammoth," which Paul Banks announced as being from the next album, was fantastic. Just as the song reached it's sparkly highlight, I looked behind me to take in the reaction of the faithful, and lo and behold, I made eye contact with a girl who'd wedged herself in between two cardboard garbage "cans," and was squatting down–skirt hiked up, panties at her knees–to take a piss… at least I hope it was a piss. I'm sure it must have been quite a moment for her: A nice little wee surrounded by 50,000 of your closest friends at an Interpol show.
Up next at the Outdoor Theatre was Sonic Youth who were terrible. Just kidding, they were great, ragged, and swirling, with the fat low end of two basses and Thurston Moore having fun with a pick and his fretboard–fingerpainting with sound. The ringing harmonics on a heartfelt "Do You Believe In Rapture" alone were worth the price of admission, though "100%" was the highlight for me, with Thurston's raging pick-scratch solo. Conclusion: Sonic Youth is now to indie-kids what The Grateful Dead were to hippies.
I skipped out on Bjork, who was amazing during her headlining set in 2002, to see Gogol Bordello in the Mojave Tent. Their set of crazed drunken gypsy music once again underscored an important musical lesson: With enough energy, attitude–and in this case speed–all music evolves/devolves into punk. With the (un)usual gaggle of circus freaks dancing around the stage throughout the song, "Not A Crime" from the Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike was a good one to finish with.
They didn't finish with it, of course, but I did, running off to the Outdoor Theatre to see DJ Shadow, who was a bit of a disappointment. His set started off tight, with hip-hop and soul-heavy live mixes that had the kids on their feet. But during what should have been a highlight, Shadow left the audience hanging for a good three minutes, teasing the crowd with his evergreen "organ bit," which–the video screen suggested–never fails to impress a crowd. Well, it didn't impress me. After several passes at the synth, he stopped and folded his arms, apparently waiting for sufficient applause from the crowd before starting up again. That shit might have gone down great at an all-night rave, but this was Coachella, where folks who had been sweating bullets all day were kind enough to stick around 'til midnight for his short-ass set. Dangling a carrot like that for that long, just wasn't cool.
Flipping a complete bitch at the end of the song, he very politely and humbly told the crowd that he was having technical difficulties and was "hanging on by his fingernails."
I should have seen Bjork.