Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Recapping Coachella - Day 1

So let me quickly apologize to all two of my readers for not writing in awhile. I have been in kind of a slump emotionally and it wasn't really prompting me to write much. Most of the stuff I encounter these days on the internet seems really depressing and I wasn't (and still am not!) getting a lot of inspiration for writing about happy things.

However. I did for the first time go to Coachella this year and to say the least, it was incredible. I am so stoked I finally went, and kind of kicking myself for not having gone before. So we packed up my baby car (baby because it's young, and because I baby it since it's officially the most expensive part of my life) and on Thursday night drove out to the desert with the biggest tent I've ever seen, and all the beer we could get our hands on before Costco closed.

One thing that I was not prepared for was the four and a half hour wait to actually get onto the campground. They were searching every single car for contraband, particularly glass bottles and weaponry and things that could generally be used to kill people. Depending on how cranky the individual attendant was and how thorough s/he felt like being at the time, some people also had entire bags searched, which one could imagine probably ended up in a lot of weed being confiscated. So almost as soon as we got off the freeway and headed toward the Polo Club, we came across a line of cars that began about two miles away from the entrance to the Club. Then upon entry, the cars were separated into smaller lines on a field that led to the searching areas. It was like a huge parking lot at that point:

When we finally got onto the campsite, we then began our careful arranging of tent and car, since the tent was so huge and, to our dismay, the people directly behind us also had a larger-sized tent. After finally getting the tent set up (and having a couple of beers and meeting neighbors along the way) we finally got to bed at around 5AM.

Friday was a day of exploration. We walked around the endless campsites and around the festival arena itself, checking out the art pieces that were placed throughout the grounds:

There were two large outdoor stages. The main "Coachella" stage was immediately visible as soon as you entered the festival site, and the second "Outdoor" stage was to the right of the main stage. Then, in line with the Outdoor stage and extending toward the back of the grounds were three tents: Gobi, Mojave, and Sahara, each increasing in size from the last. These housed the smaller acts over the weekend, and the Sahara tent was nearly always dedicated to various electronica throughout the festival.

The first act our group wandered out to see was a bizarre collaboration between Perry Farrell, lead singer of Jane's Addiction, and Steve Porter, a house DJ and producer. From what I could tell, it seemed that the performance was possibly intended to be a mashup that laid Farrell's vocals, possibly from pre-existing solo tracks, over an electronic musical backing. Having been a fan of Farrell's vocal work both for Jane's Addiction and for various electronic tracks (he's no stranger to the scene) and of Steve Porter's live sets, I would have expected more of this performance. It just didn't seem to work. The vocals were incongruous with the electronic beat and were difficult to even hear - one of my concert pet peeves.

We next stopped by Yeasayer. I'd never heard of them but enjoyed their performance - a catchy and fun set full of indie dance poprock. Seeing this band so early on helped to remind me of something important about the value of a festival like Coachella - with such a packed schedule, it's easy to get caught up in trying to fit in all of the bands you know about and like. But it's equally if not more important to take advantage of the opportunity to hear groups that you haven't heard of, to discover and support new music. I picked up Yeasayer's album Odd Blood after Coachella and found it to not disappoint.

First up on the "must-see" list was Passion Pit, who were playing at the Outdoor stage. I have to say that though I enjoyed their set, I was underwhelmed by it in the context of the other shows I saw over the weekend. I felt that the lead singer was kind of weak when live, something that I feared might be the case just from listening to their studio songs. So many of the songs feature his high falsetto which, though it can be mostly tamed and perfected in a studio, is difficult to really nail live unless one is a really strong singer. Nonetheless, I went wild with the rest of the crowd when they performed what to me is obviously their best song, "Sleepyhead":

That was my video, but there are other more close-up ones on YouTube if you want to see what they were actually doing on stage... this one's pretty decent.

Next up was La Roux. This girl was a spitfire! She was canvassing the entire stage - it was really difficult to get a good shot of her. That was not to mention the fact that someone made the mistake of sticking her in the small Gobi tent. It was way too crowded in there. It's one thing to share the communal experience of being sweaty and packed in, jumping around as a unit to the beat; it's another thing to be jostled to the point of nearly falling over every time someone needs to scratch their nose behind you because there is that little room. La Roux herself was great and she really knew how to work the crowd. Also? I love her androgynous look:

She basically had her hair slicked up into a mohawk and she had a really sharp suit on. I think it's great to see a female pop performer that is as successful as she's growing to be, who doesn't perform practically naked.

Last on the list for me that evening was Imogen Heap. And wow. She blew me away. I had no idea that she did all of her own instruments on stage... it was nuts.

She had mics that she wore around her wrists such that she would play something on one instrument and it would record via the wrist mics, and then it would play back in a loop over the sound system. Then, she would move on to the next thing and do the same thing, until finally the whole background came together and she would begin singing or sit down at the piano and begin singing. She would even get up and play the drums at some points when the beat would come in with extra emphasis - this was especially powerful during "Headlock":

Not my video this time, but watch the whole thing! You'll see how she's always up and around messing with the different instruments she's got on stage. I also really appreciated her whimsy and quirkiness on stage - she was having sound issues because at one point one of her wrist mics stopped working, but she was joking around with the audience about it and getting really charmingly flustered, like she wasn't too cool to not care and she did really want to put on a good show for us. I also laughed when the audience started chanting "Hide and Seek! Hide and Seek!" and she responded with something like, "No, I can't play that just yet, because once you've all heard that you'll leave and I want to keep you here awhile longer." Ha! Anyway, I'd love to get the chance to see her again live, because her set was only an hour long and I love so many more of her songs than I got to hear. Hers was one of my favorite performances for the whole weekend.

The two big numbers after Imogen that I did not see were Jay-Z and Deadmau5. I decided to skip the former because I just personally had no interest in seeing him, but I'm really bummed that I didn't head over and see Deadmau5. At the time I was very paranoid about being split up and going off by myself, but seeing as how many times that happened throughout the rest of the weekend and I ended up just fine, in retrospect it was really sad that I missed it. I heard it was an insane set. Fortunately, I could actually hear parts of it from the tent, where I was - so I got to hear "Ghosts & Stuff," which sounded like a crowd-pleaser from where I was.

Stay tuned for the Day 2 and 3 recaps!

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