Coachella 2008 has come and gone, and it was amazing. Two (our trip was cut short) hot days in the desert and plenty of good music later, here’s my rundown of the artists I saw on Friday. I hope my reviews can give you insight onto how great live music is. Here are some quick links to find the artist that you might be looking for (but check out the rest too!): Battles, Dan Deacon, The Breeders, Vampire Weekend, Diplo, Pendulum, Aphex Twin, Fatboy Slim. Head to the bottom to check out some SICK pictures.
We arrived at the polo fields a little later than we wanted to, but Battles was a great band to start the weekend off with. Seeing as their songs are well over the typical 3-4 minute mark, they only played 5 songs I think. Regardless, the buildup that Battles is so great at accomplishing made every song well worth it by the end. My obvious favorites were Atlas and Tonto (the two songs that everyone knows best), but they did play a few others off of their LP. Great music, but not too much in terms of show.
I had such high hopes for Dan Deacon. After listening to his music and kinda liking it, after hearing and reading about his mind-blowing live shows, after having my heart set on being amazed… this was a downer. Don’t get me wrong, running around in circles and making a massive tunnel in a hot tent is fun, but the whole playing on the same level as the audience doesn’t work. If you aren’t right next to Deacon, or obliviously gone on E, there isn’t too much other than loud, high-pitched electronic sounds peaking the speakers. Sorry, I know that everyone loves his live shows. I must have missed something.
This doesn’t really count as a full set because I came and left midway because there were other bands I wanted to see, but for the few songs I stopped, sat, and listened to, the Breeders impressed me. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as (just like the Pixies) tons of major artists site the Breeders as being big influences.
From what I’ve read this week, everyone thought that Vampire Weekend was boring. I must respectfully disagree. I’m not sure what everyone was expecting, but this band is full of Ivy-Leaguers, and their music sounds as such. I don’t know how they could have made the show entertaining other than by playing their music flawlessly, which they did. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and danced a bit. One thing that I did find odd was when they said that they were going to play a “new” song, and proceeded to play something that consisted of dog barks. I hope it was a joke. They played another new song that was pretty darn good. Vampire Weekend is probably the most mainstream indie band right now, well deserved.
Walking into the tent preparing for the amazement of Pendulum, Aphex Twin, and Fatboy Slim, Diplo was a past-time for me. I expected to hear some stuff similar to what I’ve heard from his original material, and it was nothing like that. He played a good mix of electro, a sick remix of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and other stuff that I enjoyed. Another plus? When he played Paper Planes, MIA herself came out onstage and danced a bit. The only part I disliked was when he started to play Burial’s Archangel and one of the massive balloons floating around the Saraha Tent hit one of his turntables. It completely knocked the needle off of the vinyl. I love that song, so it sucked that I didn’t get to hear it through. Good set nonetheless.
Last year, one of the members of Pendulum played a DJ set in the Dome. This year, they were playing a live set, and I was psyched. Pendulum does one of my favorite remixes (the Prodigy’s Voodoo People), and I knew that their mix of drum ‘n bass and rock would turn the Sahara Tent into a pit. I really don’t consider them a drum ‘n bass group anymore. They perform with a full drum set, an electric guitar, a bass, a set of synths, and an MC. Their sound hits so hard, and their set was great. They played Voodoo People and all of their other hits as well as some other newer songs off of their album that will be released soon. They had their wall of lights behind them; it was a complete live performance.
Pendulum -> Aphex Twin. Really? Incredible. There were a number of surprises through Mr. Richard D. James’ set. One was that he actually showed up. Back in 2001, he was billed to play, but cancelled at the last minute and got Squarepusher to replace him. Needless to say, when I saw his face on stage, I breathed a sigh of relief. Surprise #2, he didn’t play his own material. Well, I guess it wasn’t that big of a surprise, but I was kinda naive going into this set.
This hour-long set became the ideal example of how a set should progress. The first half consisted of some ambient techno, hip hop, and other electronic stuff. As the set moved out of this, RDJ moved into more IDM/glitch material. The lazers started to kick in, and the house lights were beginning to freak. Around the 45 minute mark, the full on thrash glitch stuff switched on and the “Come To Daddy”-Aphex Twin I know was blaring through the speakers blowing everyone’s mind. This was when the animal dancers came on stage and completed the out-of-this-world psycho performance that Aphex Twin is famous for. At the end, RDJ looked up, gave us a thumbs up and an ear-to-ear smile. Wow.
It was good that Aphex Twin was as great as he was, because Fatboy Slim came on about 30 minutes late. At Coachella, a festival known for tight set times, that’s not OK. So when the curtains finally unveiled Fatboy’s huge displays, we were kinda tired and pissed. My mood didn’t really change. He didn’t really play any of his own original material; the set was much of the same that I’ve seen in YouTube videos of his other live shows. He has one of the best back-catalogues of any electronic artist, and I don’t quite understand why he wouldn’t exploit that. It’s a great light show, but I left early because it was past 12 and the music wasn’t anything that I couldn’t hear from any other average DJ.
I have never been to a concert/festival like the Neighborhood Festival, but I can assuredly say that I will go again next year. Here’s the premise: Steve Aoki puts together this indie festival of artists on his label and his friends who just put on amazing shows. I’ll just give a rundown of the artists I saw and listened/danced/rocked/jumped to.
Starting off the day (around 3:30) was Funeral Party. I’ve never heard of them before, but they are the epitome of an indie scene punk band, complete with synths and a great bassist. They have great style and put on a great show. For opener, they started things off on the right foot.
Next up were Andre Legacy and Dirt Nasty. Two rappers who couldn’t write a serious verse if their lives depended on it. Then again, no one was in the mood to listen to some hardcore deep rap, so they fit in perfectly. Hilarious and off-color.
I believe that Squeak E Clean followed. Again, an artist (actually a DJ) who I’ve never heard of. Simply stated, starting off with MIA is a sure way to my heart. Following with some Justice, Daft Punk, Klaxons, Hot Chip, and other great electro kept me all ears throughout his entire set. First real DJ set I’ve watched and paid attention to, it was a great mix.
It got confusing here because I thought that Guns ‘n Bombs was up next, but only Johnny Love came out and started to spin some heavy noise glitch stuff when something went wrong with the needles. They weren’t playing something right and when he’d fade to one of the tables, it’d cut out. Odd, annoying.
Har Mar Superstar. What a show. I’m not saying I liked it, I’m still not sure. It was outlandish to say the least. I’ll leave it at that.
Here’s where the good stuff comes in (read: the DJs/rappers/artists who I’m familiar with). Flosstradamus came out and the crowds gathered (it was around 5/6ish). How they mix electro with hip hop and mainstream tech house is beyond me, but it works perfectly and the crowd loves it. I forget what the mix was, but they just went straight into Big Pimpin’ from an electro song. WHO DOES THAT? Pure genius.
So J2K stayed on the decks and Autobot went out onstage to meet Kid Sister who put on an amazing performance. Kid Sister is an amazing rapper and she puts on an incredible show wherever she goes (at least thats what I’ve read and seen). Following in the footsteps of MIA (as many female rappers are right now), the energy in her shows is so high and she’s all over the whole stage the entire time.
Moving away from hip hop/rap, we go to Crystal Castles. I don’t know who did the lineup, but I guess they had to throw them in somewhere. This 8-bit massacre tore the crowd to shreds. Probably the most hardcore artist here, even though their genre/classification falls somewhere in-between electropop and 8-bit industrial.
Back to the DJs. Steve Aoki (the creator of all of this) was up next. Again, mixing the electro with mainstream tech and some Yo Majesty! (I’m pretty sure it was Aoki who threw them in there). Somewhere amid Daft Punk’s Television Rules the Nation and Steam Machine, Aoki become possesed by some DJ gods and decided to stage dive into the crowd, something I’ve never seen a DJ do. It was amazing, he got passed over me, and like a good crowd, we got him back up onstage just in time for the next song to come in. Incredible. And as a side note, it was pretty cool seeing all of the artists playing at the festival come onstage for Aoki just to show their support for him.
Wrapping up the DJ set was DJ AM who kept the electro going for his 40 minutes. Good mix, not too eventful though.
And the heavy hitters are now ready to perform. Chromeo was next to take the stage openning with the intro to their latest album, it was obvious that this would be the funkiest performance of the night. They kept the crowd dancing for their entire set and it was sweet when we all started chanting “2 step, 2 step, 2 step” for the best song: Fancy Footwork. It took a couple more songs to get there, but they finally closed with it, and every just went insane. I’ve never really been in a crowd where the intention is dancing, not moshing. It’s a nice change of pace.
Wrapping up my night (I left a bit early) was a knockout lineup of Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, and Santogold. Amanda Blank and Santogold are two girls who are also following in the path the MIA has laid down for indie female rappers. Spank Rock got big at the same time as MIA, so I figure that they are equals in terms of innovative sounds. Yet another great set that kept the crowd going until their 40 minutes were up.
Mickey Avalon took the stage next, but I had had enough. My feet were killing me, and Avalon isn’t really up my alley of musical tastes. I decided to call it a night, it was time.
Here is the short version of my Coachella Experience. I’ve tried to organize this in chronological order from Friday to Sunday.Bands
- Friday Favorites: the Noisettes, Silversun Pickups, Arctic Monkeys, Björk
- the Noisettes were spectacular, very unique… same goes for Silversun Pickups (sweet drummer)
- Tokyo Police Club=huge letdown, dissappointing
- Arctic Monkeys need to move around a bit (physically), but great music
- Interpol needs to never play music again
- Björk needed to play forever, I was starstruck
- Saturday Favorites: Hot Chip, Kings of Leon, the Arcade Fire, the Red Hot Chili Peppers
- the Cribs needs a wardrobe change, good music
- Hot Chip wins the “Funnest Show” award
- MSTRKRFT (and most DJs) need to move around a bit, I know that your Macbook is sweet, but there’s a crowd to entertain
- Kings of Leon brought the hard rock
- the Arcade Fire needs a new sound guy (maybe that was Coachella’s fault)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers needed more BloodSugarSexMagik, amazing light show though
- Sunday Favorites: Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, Rage Against the Machine
- Mika should be the lead singer of an 80s hair metal band
- Lupe Fisaco wins the Grammy (or he should have at least)
- Against Me! brought some pure punk to Coachella
- The Roots almost made me cry, up there for best all weekend
- Willie Nelson should sing more about pot, that one song was hilarious
- Crowded House should have left the stage after the water bottle incident
- Manu Chao was overly repetitive, extremely high energy
- Rage Against the Machine never left, they play as if it’s still the 90s. Amazing. Amazing…
It really is hard to believe that it is over. This event that I have obsessed over for three months has come and gone. It was so worth it, and I will be there next year rain or shine.
Anyone remember one of the biggest political bands of all time? Rage Against the Machine left the scene in 2000 due to Zach de la Rocha’s (lead singer) announcement that he didn’t feel that he could stay honest to himself and be in the band. After the breakup, the rest of the band (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk) joined together with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell to form Audioslave (which recently broke up.) Forgetting their complicated history, Rage is reuniting to play at Coachella and three more shows as a part of the Rock the Bells concert in New York and Northern/Southern California later this year.Rage plays amazing funk metal infused with very politically charged lyrics. Everyone of their albums is sure to punch you in the face and leave you on the floor bleeding. Tom Morello’s strong guitar sounds go hand in hand with de la Rocha’s emphatic style of writing and execution. Another characteristic of Rage’s music (common to funk metal) is the way that they push the bass to the front many times. It’s very heavy music with a message.I have been in love with Rage for about five or six years now. Yes, this means that I wasn’t into them while they were a band (I was only in 3rd/4th grade when they broke up), but their music hasn’t diminished in meaning as time has passed. If you want to check out what they sound like, I recommend checking out the songs Calm Like a Bomb, Bullet in the Head, and Killing in the Name. If you don’t like those, oh well, those are just my favorite songs. Read more to see the video for Sleep Now in the Fire. Rage Against the Machine will be the headliner for Sunday of Coachella.