Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Coachella Day 1

I've intended to cover Coachella for months, especially since it happened in April. It was easily one of the best weekends of my life. Three solid days of music in a beautiful setting - the 3rd time was truly the charm.

I had planned for months. I always research every single band on the lineup, making plenty of Excel spreadsheets. It takes me weeks to do this. First, a list of all bands, notes about the music if I don't already know it, and a numerical rating from 1-4 of who I need to see, with 1 being the top priority. There are some half numbers in there. Then I translate that into a color-coded schedule of priority as set times are announced and conflicts start to happen. I read reviews in music magazines and blogs to see who's up and coming and who can't be missed.

As a seasoned veteran by this point, I know how it works. I know that you can't see everyone on all five stages. I know that the days are long and you get tired and you need to rest and sometimes you just give up in favor of the pool or a nap, instead of trekking down to the fields. I know that some bands won't be worth all the hype and other bands who you accidentally walk by turn out to be your new favorites.

Let me dig out these printed spreadsheets now, worn and battered from days of use with notes scribbled on them.

Day 1! Friday!

My trusty companion Liz was going to meet me in Indio from her home near LA for the magical music weekend (her first Coachella!). Great for her, after being laid off, she had just gotten a new job. She decided to be responsible and not ask for a day off so soon. Little did we know that her new boss would turn out to suck beyond belief. She planned to work til 4 or 5 then head to Indio. I'd have to spend the majority of the day alone. I could deal.

First up on the schedule was Dear and the Headlights, nearly kicking off the entire festival at 1pm. I left Phoenix around 9am, hoping to get there on time, but alas I didn't make it. Traffic in Indio clogs up pretty quickly and I didn't get to park in the closest lot. Missed them completely! Lucky for me, they're from Phoenix and I will surely get a chance to see them again.

Second - Alberta Cross started around 1:30 and I stepped into the festival in time to hear their last track. Bummer. Whatever it was, it was good. And Leave Us and Forgive Us is still one of my favorite tracks this year. You can get it free on their website right now! New album out in September....I'm waiting.

I caught a few minutes of the Courtneeners, who were good and fun. I always have a spot in my heart for any band from the UK.

I left the main stage area in search of the dance/DJ/eletronica tent. I ended up spending a good chunk of the weekend there. I'm still trying to figure out how I got into that genre. That type of music certainly didn't exist in Oklahoma where I grew up. It was all country with a little top 40. Even in college I wasn't super into it. I think living in Spain and coming back and being neighbors with a Spaniard and an Italian who had turntables in their living room may have had something to do with it.

It's very evident at Coachella that I'm not a glowstick dance kid. I'm there in my J Crew shorts and flip flops, sticking out like a preppy sore thumb sometimes. But there's nowhere else I'd rather be than an all day rave with some of the best DJs in the world in beautiful Palm Springs. It was truly blissful, even alone.

I walked into the Sahara tent and promptly fell in love with a chain-smoking Brazilian DJ named Gui. I had never heard of him, never heard his stuff, but was instantly mesmerized by the beautiful hooks. And sadly, he has not done a date in the USA since, nor are any on his schedule. Why can't I live abroad again?

He had his laptop and a mixing board and built it all, piece by piece. Gorgeous layering. I've been scouring the internet for downloads of some of his live sets so I can have a complete session. The video I took only captures a couple minutes of amazingness. I love you, Gui Boratto!

Gui Boratto from L Dubbs on Vimeo.

I had planned to catch Noah and the Whale and We Are Scientists, but I had to watch all of Gui. I'd just seen WAS in Phoenix a couple months before at a small gig, so not too big a loss. I do love them though, they're always really funny in addition to great tunes.

I caught a few minutes of Cage the Elephant. Ain't No Rest for the Weary was enough to entice me to check them out, but I thought they were just okay. I jumped back into the dance tent for Steve Aoki - the dude was crazy. There were dragons and dancing ladies and people on rafts and maybe even some fire. The music was a little too screechy fast for me, but he puts on a good show.

Time to hit the main stage for Airbourne Toxic Event, who were really humbled and excited to be there on the main stage as a local Cali band. I loved some of the stuff, felt okay about the rest. I'd go see them again.

Stupidly at this point I decided to get food. I missed M. Ward. Completely. Doh, I am kicking myself now! The Black Keys were also playing at this time, but I missed them too. Back to the dance tent for the Ting Tings. That's Not My Name drives me a little crazy, but they really impressed me with their live set. Every song was fun and very danceable. I had a good time.

I ran over to the little Mohave tent to see White Lies, another UK band who I stumbled upon in research. Fairwell to the Fairground is a great track. Their whole set was great. I hope to catch them again. They're playing with Kings of Leon in Oklahoma soon, maybe I should go home that weekend?
Next up was Crystal Castles. I've been in love with their album for awhile, the weird video game soundtrack that it is. I was really, really looking forward to them. And I hate to say, I kind of hated it. The female singer's voice was loud and annoying and didn't need to be there. If they took her out, you'd have a great live performance. I could only handle a couple tracks til it got to me. Probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. Sorry, Alice.

That freed up time to catch the end of Franz Ferdinand, always a crowd pleaser, even though I missed Conor Oberst. Eh, that's okay. Saw a bit of N.A.S.A. (I'll pass) and got to see the beginning of Leonard Cohen's set. The man's a legend. I don't know any of his newer stuff, but at least I can saw I've seen him!

Back to the dance tent AGAIN for Ghostland Observatory. Knocked my socks off. Awesome, awesome stuff. By this point it was dark and the corresponding light show was amazing. If you are prone to seizures, you would not have survived. The tent was starting to get packed as the better acts were set to take over the rest of the night.

I had planned to run over to the main stage to catch the legend that is Morrissey and/or Silversun Pickups, but this is when I met the Aussies. The pack of shirtless Australian men, who had all been laid off from their jobs temporarily and decided to road trip America during that time. They had flown into Seattle in late December, purchased a cheap van, drove all across the US, to New York, down to Florida, back over through El Paso, sleeping at campsites and in the car, until they ended up renting a house in Palm Springs for the Coachella weekend. They had even been through Phoenix and were planning to go back again on their way to Vegas. I couldn't leave my new friends, Angus, Angus and Charlie, especially since Girl Talk was coming up, so I parked it there and kept dancing.
Girl Talk - totally worth the hype. I had only wished I'd been able to catch him earlier at a small venue. He sets up in the middle of the floor and just mixes with the dance party around him. His shirts say "I Am Not a DJ." So so so fun. All you favorite old and new tracks, mixed and layered with great beats. Such a blast.

Girl Talk from L Dubbs on Vimeo.

I couldn't desert the Aussies just yet, since The Presets were up next and they're Australian. Also one of my favorite albums of the year, I was glad to catch them. Lots and lots of fun. However, Liz had been texting from the road, she was getting closer and closer to arrival. Sucky thing about Coachella, your phones don't really work when 60,000 people are in close proximity and trying to text/send photos, etc. I had to leave and go to our designated meeting spot to find her, which I did, and I think she was in a daze of wonderment at the whole event.

The Presets - This Boy's in Love from L Dubbs on Vimeo.

I think the two of us ran back to the dance tent for a few minutes, then it was time for the Legend of All, a living Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney.

I don't know that anyone my age knows his more recent material. But who cares?! He's a Beatle! We headed back to the main stage and parked it, hearing some classics woven in with the newer stuff. Even when I first pulled into the parking lot at the beginning of the day, it was evident that Friday's crowd was there for Paul. Car windows painted, Hey Jude blasting, that sort of scene.

Liz and I took it all in, glad to be there. However, tiredness got the best of us. Paul was supposed to end around midnight, but kept going. We hadn't heard Hey Jude yet, nor a couple other must-haves, but we started the long walk back to the car anyway. Thankfully the sound projected. We were able to sing along for part of Hey Jude. I also walked around the outside of the dance tent where The Crystal Method was tearing it up. Man, tough choice between that and Sir Paul, really.

We had quite a drive back into Palm Springs, all the way at the other end of all those towns that run together. It was the only decent hotel I could find for a decent price, 45 minutes away. Aussies invited us over that night, but after 12 hours of sun and dancing, plus 2 more long days ahead, I wanted nothing but sleep!

Day 2 and 3, coming up!


3 comments:

nerak said...

WOW. I don't know ANY of those bands. You need to educate me!

Ms. Liz said...

You know, of all the crap David pulled I begrudge him making me work on Friday the most. ARUGHH!!!! This makes me feel like I was there though and we got to party down with Paul. Should I do an addendum post/comment documenting my parking experience?

7:04pm - get off freeway
7:25pm - pass Coachella entrance
7:27pm - line up to park
7:28-8:20pm - crawl at -5mph around cow fields and other rural area codes and land masses
8:25pm - become tired of being starred at by cows
8:27pm - get rerouted to parking entrance around the corner and through the woods
9:04pm - have 4th person approach me in my car, in the line of cars for tickets or a ride on a bike
9:15pm - barely mitigate panic attack that not only have I missed Morrisey and the Silver Sun Pickups AND Leonard Cohen (Curse you David!! Curse you), I might miss Paul too.
9:45pm - ditch my hunk of metal finally parked in a patch of soft dirt and hope its not too late
9:50pm traipse through said soft dirt, corresponding mud patches, already intoxicated "earthy" types, more live stock and a myriad of security guards on unitmiditaing bikes
10:15pm - enter Coachella grounds and think "Man Alice (as in Wonderland) has NOTHING on me"
10:26 - tackle hug Lauren and know all is well in the world

Ms. Liz said...

Disclaimer: that time line may or may not be accurate, time wise, but it was my journey that night.

Lesson: If you are going to Coachella take a taxi to the front, get there var early and bring a bike, or drive with someone because its an endeavor.

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