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.