Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recapping Coachella: Day 2

All right! So Day 2 started off with a cleanliness dilemma - the campground actually did have portable shower trucks (which I'd never seen the likes of before), however, the line to use a shower was over 2 hours long. I had opted to take a shower the night before while the rest of the festival-goers were pre-occupied with Jay-Z and Deadmau5, but after surveying the line that morning, my companions Marie and Jamaica had a better idea:

Why not, right? When it's as hot as it was out there (though fortunately, all reports say that this was one of the milder weekends, temperature-wise, in Coachella history) a cold shower doesn't seem half-bad. After we were all done and hair washed and cleaned, I lathered up my SPF 70 and got out one of two new, white, lightweight tunic tops that I purchased for the occasion to keep the sun off of my delicate vampiric skin.

After a lazy early afternoon involving naps and lots of beer, we headed out to Coachella stage to see White Rabbits. I found myself thinking that I liked the music, but the vocals were really generic. The singer sounded exactly like every other twee indie band singer and I kind of wished that weren't the case because I felt that if he developed his own style they might have something special. As it was, the set, though pleasant and fun enough, settled into background noise while I laid back on the grass and people watched.

I next wandered over to the Sahara tent for Dirty South. It was a decent enough set from them but admittedly not one of the standouts of the weekend for me. In general I wouldn't say that I'm the most devoted Dirty South fan though - I have a few remixes of theirs that I really enjoy, but for the most part their sound doesn't do it for me.

Next up for me was Bassnectar, and, whoa guys, whoa.

This was up there with Imogen in the "Holy crap" category. I originally wasn't really planning on catching this set because Saturday was definitely the day that I was planning on running around and trying to cram in a ton of people that were playing the same time on different stages. In fact, while Bassnectar was on, I'd originally planned on going over and checking out The xx on the Outdoor stage. However, right from the beginning of the set I was hooked and I did not want to leave. I'd been getting into dubstep for awhile and knew of Bassnectar, but I wasn't intimately familiar with either his studio work or his DJ style. So suffice it to say this rocked my world. For one thing, okay, I don't have the best stereo at home so I've not ever had a super celestial experience with my at-home listening in terms of being completely enveloped in music the way one can be at a concert. And that's one of the really fun things about going to concerts, is getting your ears blown out with the wicked huge soundsystem and reverberating bass. But with dubstep, it's just a whole different ballgame. It vibrates in your soul. The bass hits you in your solar plexus and knocks you into another world. I'm saying this, mind you, as someone who is completely sober now and who was, in fact, completely sober at the time that I was at this set. It just blew my mind. The song selection was top notch and everyone in that tent just got down. It was freaking magical.

I recorded this because a) "Where is My Mind" is a wicked awesome song and b) THIS WAS A WICKED AWESOME REMIX. My camera does not do it justice but it is songs like this alone that have me wanting to upgrade my stereo system in my car, just so that I can get that bass tickle all over my skin back like I had at this show.

Following up Bassnectar was Kaskade, who I have been dying to see but kept missing at other shows for whatever reason. I'm so stoked I finally caught him. His set was also epic. Right at the beginning, they released these floaty white balls down onto the audience, which were bouncing all around throughout the entire thing and adding some fun to the atmosphere. What's more fun than dancing like a fool? Right - dancing like a fool and also swatting at huge floaty balls.

That's not my video, because this song was such a huge moment for me that I totally forgot to pull out my camera. I'd never heard this mashup before, but Casper can attest to the fact that I love "Feels Like Home" by Meck, and "Like a Prayer" is actually probably in my top 3 favorite Madonna songs. So this came on and I was basically losing my mind dancing and singing and acting a fool. Kaskade really brought it with the mashups. In addition to the one above, he also played a bootleg mashup of his song "Be Still" with Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" which I can't find anywhere, probably because it's just going to be one of those things he keeps in his pocket to play at live events.

Ugh, the sound quality of these videos kills me! But anyway, here's one I did take, of something obvious:

This was a no-brainer to play and it brought the house down. I didn't record the whole song because I wanted to dance too, and I didn't want to take a shaky video :] But thanks Kaskade, for not letting me down from the high I felt after Bassnectar.

After Kaskade, I had a tough decision to make. Should I stick it out in the Sahara for David Guetta? Should I roll over to Outdoor for MGMT? Or should I take a breather for 20 mins and then stake out a good spot for Major Lazer? Well, as someone who has read my last few blog posts might suspect, I opted to check out the newcomers Major Lazer. David Guetta's recent work wasn't really grabbing me, and from what I knew about MGMT's most recent album Congratulations, it didn't seem like the type of music that would really translate to an energetic festival performance. (And I turned out to be right - I was able to hear the one song I would have truly cared to hear, "Electric Feel," and while the sound of the crowd indicated excitement to hear that song, I heard later that they played mostly songs from the new album and people didn't really get into it at all. They didn't even play "Kids!")

All that said, while Major Lazer was fun and got me dancing, I was actually a little disappointed. A little background - when I said "newcomers," what I meant was that this was a new collaboration; however, Major Lazer's core members are actually Switch and Diplo, veteran producers and DJs. So knowing that, I should have anticipated the possibility that they'd actually play a DJ set rather than just performing tracks from the album. Which is what they did - the set included bits from several of the songs on the album, but it was otherwise a set of songs that had a sound similar to the Major Lazer sound. And don't get me wrong - it was a solid set. I just had hoped to hear more of their actual songs in full-length.

After Major Lazer, I sprinted over to catch the last hour of Muse. These guys definitely know how to put on a show. I wasn't able to get any pictures because the crowd was packed and I was surrounded by a bunch of giants, but if it's one thing Muse embraces it's bombast, and that makes for a great concert. Highlights for me were "The Uprising," which was played during the encore, "Knights of Cydonia," and "Time is Running Out." I would have liked to her "New Born," as it's one of my favorite Muse songs, but I can't say for sure that they didn't play it during the hour that I missed while I was at Major Lazer.

After Muse, I regrettably missed the end of Flying Lotus's set to push closer to the stage for Tiesto, someone else who I somehow had never seen despite him being one of the top DJs in the world. I was rewarded!

So I was kinda off to the right, but I was probably only about 10 rows back, and if you knew how HUGE the crowd was during this set, you'd understand that being so close was a massive accomplishment. There were allegedly some 75,000 people in attendance at Coachella, and it seriously felt like there were 50,000 of them crowded around the Coachella stage. I had honestly never seen such a never-ending mass of heads before - not at any of the massives I've attended, nor at any other large gathering of people. This was truly a packed, shoulder-to-shoulder sea of people the likes of which was astounding.

I took a short video of what we joked later could be our theme song for the evening, "In the Dark." We had all been separated and somehow managed to find each other again among the mass of people before Tiesto's set at the stage. So this particular song would be the theme song why? Well, the lyrics in part are something like "Cause I will be there/And you will be there/And we'll find each other in the dark." Which is what somehow happened! We found each other in the dark. (Thank goodness.)

I also, from the looks of the video, tried again to capture how massive the crowd was. I think I kind of failed. If you think it looks big from that video, multiply that by about 5 and that's probably closer to what the mass of people actually looked like. The last video I took was of my favorite Tiesto song, "Adagio for Strings."

Sadly, it must be said that Tiesto's set, though energetic and fun, actually reminded me why I've been kind of moving away from trance as of late. It really is the cheesiest and most cookie-cutter of all electronic music, something that I've known and accepted for awhile, but didn't care because it was still fun. But there just haven't been that many tracks released recently that really stand on their own as good songs. They really are meant to meld together and just become background sounds that e-tards jump up and down to. That's why I particularly enjoyed hearing "Adagio for Strings" - though still a later release than when trance was at its peak, it has a unique sound to it that I feel set it apart from every other tune that he played.

There's a part of me that wishes I checked out Devo and 2ManyDJs, both of whom were playing at the same time as Tiesto. But I guess that's the nature of the beast with these festivals - you win some, you lose some. And some stick in your mind and rock it with awesomeness.

And three cheers to perhaps the longest post I've ever written! I hope anyone reading is enjoying my recaps. Day 3 is still to come :D

Ideally this will be cute enough to carry me through the rest of a boring day of studying

"I’m detecting microscopic amounts of cuteness"


Tori S. says: “One of the biology professors at my college breeds angora rabbits. She brings them in for the students to help socialize, so they’ll be nicer pets (don’t worry, they’re not for experiments!!!) It couldn’t be better timing than right now, what with finals coming up and everything. So, a bunch of us took picture of/with the bunnies.”
(thx Cute Overload)

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!