Hello everyone! Coachella was two weeks ago, and as this is the last week of the semester, I’ve been overloaded with homework and group projects as of late. Today I finished a project a little earlier than expected, so I finally got around to writing this first of three (or four) posts on Coachella 2010! It was an amazing year, and here’s the first little bit of it. This review covers what I saw of Kate Miller-Heidke, Alana Grace, Jets Overhead, Baroness, DJ Lance Rock, Sleigh Bells, Perry Ferrel, Proxy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Passion Pit, Them Crooked Vultures, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Fever Ray, and Jay-Z:
Whoever made the executive decision to put Kate Miller-Heidke first on the very long list of artists playing at Coachella this year made the right choice. She was by FAR the best opener since I’ve been going to Coachella (2007). Her music was pretty simple folksy pop – it was just her with a keyboard and her husband with a guitar up on stage – but her voice was incredible! Every once in a while, she’d flip a switch and this operatic voice would kick in. She used her voice to perfection and didn’t overdo the novelty of it. The Gobi tent was packed for being that early in the day, and the crowd was eating up everything she was giving us. This was an amazing start to the Coachella weekend.
Wow, how’d I decide to catch this?! My friends and I walked over to the Outdoor Stage, sat down for a song and a half, and then promptly left. As we were leaving, a friend mentioned that it sounded like a horrible Flyleaf cover band (because that’s exactly what the world needs more of.) Truer words were never spoken.
Don’t have a ton to say about this band. They were good. The lead singer has a nice voice, and he can hit some pretty high notes. That’s about it.
First metal band of the weekend! I don’t think I’ve caught much metal at Coachella in the years past, but I made sure to change that this year. Baroness was a great start to the day (this was where I started seeing bands I was familiar with.) They shredded through their set. Unfortunately, they had some sound troubles with an amp about midway through, but they fixed it and trekked on. They’ve been getting some great press as of late and for good reason. These guys play sludgy progressive metal like nobody’s business.
DJ Lance Rock
Are you familiar with Yo Gabba Gabba? No? It’s a kid’s TV show on Nickelodeon created by one of the guys in The Aquabats, and it’s pretty great! DJ Lance Rock is the main character of the show, and this year at Coachella, he brought along all of his friends from the show: Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee, and Plex. I wouldn’t have caught this show if it wasn’t for some of my friends back at home texting me that I couldn’t miss it, and I’m glad I didn’t. It was totally immature and playful, but it was fun. In summary, it was a bunch of people far too old to watch the TV show singing along to songs like “Party in my Tummy”, “I Like To Dance”, and “Get The Sillies Out.”
M.I.A.’s label Need Records has been collecting a pretty interesting roster lately, and part of that includes Sleigh Bells. This duo consisting of Derek Miller on guitar and Alexis Krauss on vocals is one part The Kills, one part M.I.A. (imagine that), and another part Atari Teenage Riot. These guys are loud, raw, and want to rip your face off (in the nicest indie rock sort of way.) I enjoyed their set overall. Krauss has a very strong stage presence, and she loves to scream. Their songs are all pretty short and speed along mixing killer distorted beats with killer distorted guitar riffs. The only thing to watch out for with this band is repetitiveness.
BTW: the band just released their first song today. Check it out over at Pitchfork. I think my notes will make perfect sense after listening to this song.
So I put this picture up for Perry Ferrel for a reason: it perfectly summarizes what I saw. I walked into the Sahara for a last 5 minutes of the set, which was enough time to catch a horrendous remix of Superhero by Jane’s Addiction. I know Perry is the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction, but how someone could ruin their own creative work like this is beyond me. It was pretty bad. It ended with some stupid remix of an infomercial for a chopping appliance.
My first serious set in the Sahara tent of the weekend started with Proxy. I’d liken my relationship to this set in the same way that I approached Erol Alkan’s set in 2008. While I knew one or two songs and had an idea of what his sound was, I didn’t know too much else. Regardless, he tore the place down. His songs have these sick synth/bass lines that rip everything apart. I don’t mean that in a Justice/distorted sense; I mean that his synths are incisive and sharp. It’s a pretty unique sound that really only lines up with what Boys Noize and the Boysnoize Records crew is doing (makes sense that he’s on the label.) The tent was going crazy throughout the whole set. Someone smuggled in a blowup alligator, and people were crowd surfing with the alligator the whole time. Some people have said that the Sahara’s volume was down during this set. Maybe they are right. I don’t really remember that.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Time for metal show #2! When the lineup for this year’s Coachella came out, The Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP) was one of the bands I was most excited to see on the list. I’ve heard so much about their live shows, and I’ve wanted to go to one for a while. For those who don’t know, DEP are about has hardcore as you can get. Their music is insane. They’ve got a singer who can power through every song while screaming at the top of his lungs the whole time, time signature changes happen about forty times per song, and everything they do feels like a runaway train is about to crash and burn. But somehow they keep it on the rails.
Their live shows are known for their intensity and violence. This reputation has spread in part because of a little YouTube video in which vocalist Greg Puciato runs offstage and into the crowd, well, he more runs onto the crowd. He quite literally runs out, stepping on the heads of the audience. Crazy.
Fortunately (or unfortunately?), I don’t think feet met anyone’s head this year at Coachella, but the show was just as intense. After fixing some early mic problems, DEP sped through their set. Like any good metal show, a pit opened up early on, and kept going at a pretty full force throughout the set. I was surprised at just how many people in the crowd knew the lyrics to the DEP songs. I’m familiar with what some of the songs sound like and how they progress, but I have never been able to understand a single thing said in the songs. I guess I’m just not that hardcore of a fan Near the end of the show, Puciato decided to climb the stage structure and hang upside down by his knees for a while. It was a great show to say the least.
Passion Pit… So I think I should start of by saying that I do not love Passion Pit. I think that they have written some great pop songs and that they’re pretty good at picking the best parts of today’s electro/indie/pop scene and making it their own. My problem with them stems from their singer. I cannot get past his voice! I find it grating and imprecise and unnecessary. And when you sing entirely in falsetto, you should be none of these things.
Other than the singer’s voice (which sounded the same live as it does on record), Passion Pit put on a great show this year. They were lucky enough to get Friday’s coveted “sunset at the Outdoor Stage” slot., which should have been given to Grizzly Bear, but I digress. I really enjoyed their light show, and all of their songs were executed spot-on. I had a good time dancing with the crowd throughout the set, and loved when they played Sleepyhead – my favorite song of theirs. So maybe I’m not the best person to ask about a Passion Pit show, but I still think that they did a good job translating their material live.
Them Crooked Vultures
What can you do when you put three rock legends together into one band? You can rock pretty fucking hard, that’s what. And that’s exactly what Them Crooked Vultures’ Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal), David Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) did on Friday night on the Main Stage.
I haven’t really given their debut album the time it deserves, but after the few time I’ve gone through it, I’ve been left with the impression that, while there are some great songs on it, nothing really matches up to the greatness of its members’ previous bands. And while I still believe this to be true, it does nothing to take away from the fact that this show was amazing. I mean, this is the kind of music that the Main Stage was made for (same with Muse, who you’ll read about later.) Their sound is simply really loud rock that is both pummeling and sharp. Grohl is perfect on drums, Jones can somehow play every instrument known to man, and Homme’s vocals are as solid but haunting as ever.
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that they exclusively used my favorite lights as their backdrop light show!
Of all the artists I was excited to see at Coachella on Friday, LCD Soundsystem was my #1. They’ve toured a ton in the past, but I’ve been stupid and missed all of their past shows. This year, their first year on the Main Stage, they turned Coachella into their own disco complete with an oversized disco-ball.
I absolutely loved this show, but it was way too short. When a band has songs that are about 7 minutes long, and they have three full LPs out, at 50 minute set won’t suffice. From the outset, James Murphy let us know that it was short, and that they were going to play a much as they could. Murphy seemed sort of blown away at the fact that he was playing the show, but that just made it all that much better. The emotion that comes through the repetitive nature of LCD’s rhythms and the extraordinarily pointed lyrics in every LCD song really made this a special performance.
I know some people object to Murphy’s vocal style that at times becomes spoken-word, and others don’t really latch on to the LCD song structure, but I’m thankful not to be one of those people. To be honest, I cried a little during All My Friends. I mean, I knew I would; I do nearly every time I listen to the song. But it became so much more alive Friday night. They played a great mix of old songs and new songs (two new songs back-to-back as a matter of fact), but at the end of the set, they had to cut out two songs (presumably Daft Punk Is Playing At My House and North American Scum). They closed with Yeah (Crass version) and New York I Love You. I mean, they have so many great songs that any setlist would blow me away, and I loved this show. Loved this show.
BTW: the video for Drunk Girls just came out. It’s pretty hilarious.
I was in transition at this point, but I caught the end of Run and saw (and danced to) A-Punk. I’ve seen ’em a few times before, so I didn’t feel too badly about missing them this time around. They sounded great as always.
I finally get to write a review for Fever Ray. I saw her/them last October at the Henry Fonda here in LA, but I never got around to writing anything about it.
Let’s start with me saying that Karin Dreijer Andersson is (in my mind) one of the most creative people right now. She and her brother Olaf (collectively known as The Knife) make music that is haunting and dangerous and bone-rattling and like nothing else in existence. Shit, the fact that I missed Jay-Z to see this show for the second time should tell you how much I love her music. But the music is really only one aspect of the greatness that is Fever Ray. The second part is why I was in the Mojave Tent Friday night at Coachella: the live show.
The live show is the embodiment and physical realization of Fever Ray and the world in which it exists. Take a look at some of these photos. Fever Ray is this mystical experience that might look like Halloween but more closely resembles some pagan cult. I’m having trouble finding words to describe how great it was to see the live show again and to hear the organic sounds coming from the incredible sound system that exists at Coachella. I honestly think I had my eyes closed for a quarter of the set because I was so lost in the music.
So the show was incredible, again. I really hope that Karin produces more material as Fever Ray, or that The Knife comes out with another proper LP (I know they have the opera soundtrack, and it’s great, but I want a studio album dammit.) Another thing that was awesome is the Fever Ray fans that turned up for this show. Because it was against Jay-Z, the people who were in the tent were fully committed to Fever Ray. There were even some people who brought their own homemade masks and wore them during the show. I saw one that resembled The Knife’s crow beaks. Fans are awesome, and it really makes a show when the people surrounding you are as invested in the music as you are.
Setlist: If I Had A Heart, Triangle Walks, Concrete Walls, Seven, I’m Not Done, Mercy Street (Peter Gabriel cover), Now’s The Only Time I Know, Keep The Streets Empty for Me, Dry and Dusty, Stranger than Kindness (Nick Cave cover), When I Grow Up, Here Before (Vashti Bunyan cover), Coconut.
Sadly, because Fever Ray was on at the same time as Jay-Z, I did not catch his entire set. But that’s OK for two reasons:
1: I saw him earlier this year in New Jersey as the All Points West festival. It was an amazing show.
2: I DID see the encore which featured Beyonce singing Mr. Hudson’s part in “Forever Young.” This is one of those things that makes Coachella special. Yes, we get great headliners and subs. And yes, we get unique acts that no other festival has. But when you put the biggest rapper and biggest pop star on the same stage in the middle of the desert, magic happens. Magic happened Friday night with Jay-Z and Beyonce.