Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the desert sessions

dang! the other day i finally blew out the last gigantic, eyeball-sized snot wad that's been holed up in my sinuses since i returned from the desert two weeks ago. it's like, now there's so much more space in my head. so now my recap of the 2007 coachella valley music & arts festival can be told, even though nobody cares anymore.

this year's fest lasted longer, had more elaborate art installations, and was remarkably devoid of discarded plastic water bottles underfoot (thanks to genius 10-for-1 empties-for-free-bottle program -- whoever thought that up deserves a bonus). it was hotter than when i last went, in 2005. it was harder work, too, as in '05 i did all the heavy lifting in advance for citybeat's preview issue. but this time i edited that beforehand, and then filed three reports for the l.a. times, one at the end of each long day. they were thankfully brief, but this schedule still restricted all my partying to between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m.

friday, april 27

the mellowest and least crowded day. coiledsoul and i got settled thursday night at the palm springs party palace -- same place we rented in '05. the chief eventually joined us, and celebration ensued. in the morning CS made breakfast tacos with eggs, cheese, and turkey bacon. mmmmm. then we took off in my rented taurus and smacked into the mother of all traffic jams on the main drag toward the empire polo field. we sussed out a detour (hooray for thinking outside the box), and soon were approaching a distant, shimmering cacophony.

* perry farrell's satellite party propels us into the fire -- a plush wave of that big ol' tribal zep grandiosity he does so well. from behind my dark diva sunglasses i behold an alien landscape of pointy white tents, giant pod-plants, a pulsating geodesic dome, Seuss-ian misting sculptures (which breathe fire at night), many other colorful curiosities, and one lost and lonely (in a menacing way) martian.

* in the smallest tent, the gobi, gillian welch and david rawlings complement each other in red and white nudie-style sequined suits. b/c they are from nashville, tennessee. then to the dance tent, the sahara, at the end of the row, for david guetta. the french dj spends some time tweaking dance nation's pop jones. then back to the gobi, where amy winehouse's throwback soul sounds incredibly cool under the hard azure sky. can't get anywhere near inside b/c it's way too packed.

* we cross the field to the jagged wavo-punk blast of arctic monkeys. soon i'm ambling up to the jesus and mary chain with the inimitable ron garmon, as CS simply has to see icky rufus wainwright. (later she reports he was whiny and horrible. exactly.) anyway, JMC kind of rocks my world. they're playing "head on" when we wander up -- which i love mainly b/c of the pixies' cover. i have to leave to see peaches do her shake yer dick/shake yer tits thing ... she seems annoyed by the JMC sound bleeding in, but this is the lot of, well, anyone not on the main stage, really. the big platform dominates, all weekend long.

* a blur of colorful felix da housecat, totally mental el-p, campy brazilian girls, and the rush of imagery, sounds, and ideas that is faithless. i have no desire to get closer to sonic youth. interpol slices through the evening air with their dark emo edge.

* bjork. she's just delightfully, wonderfully, ground-control-to-major-tom weird. costumes and all-girl brass/vocal backup. zhanking us all very much. more of an atmospheric set than the pyrotechnics-roiled pop i saw at the bowl a few years ago, but, dang. she remains the planet's wiggiest and most impish rock star. bliss.

saturday, april 28

all day, pot smoke. no obvious clouds billowing, necessarily. just, there was dope in the air. everywhere. yay.

* even hotter, and my brain shrivels up by the time we run the usual entry/search gauntlet. the world shimmers, and fountains of wayne greets us with their damn fine if confoundingly absurd suburban pop-rock. the sun pounds on them, but their melodies do not waver.

* following on the main stage, regina spektor gives off strong weird-chick-alert vibes. so what? weird chicks rock. her opener, "ain't no cover," is minimal and bluesy, with a cool hollow percussion sound from tapping on her microphone, giving it the feel of a living ancient blues. at the same time on the 2nd stage is jack's mannequin, in which the leader, something corporate's andrew mcmahon, also bangs on a piano. he is indulging his emo-pop jones. they do a cover of tom petty's "american girl" that, well ... its heart is in the right place. they play incredibly hard despite the 105-degree heat. i feel faint just watching them.

* we hear travis and then DJ heather. some kids in the sahara offer me a tobacco-laced joint, and i get a serious rush off the (ew, menthol) legal substance. then the throb of MSTRKRFT.

* but, let's face it, today is all about kings of leon. CS loves herself some redneck boyz, and here's a whole bandful of 'em. she's been real skeptical about their latest album (because of the times), but she's warming up to it, and their set has "molly's chambers" and a lotta other older stuff, so she's happy. (i think this is where we notice the lovely and vivacious, boisterous young woman we end up calling fanny-pack girl. in her cowboy boots and cutoffs, tackling boys and slugging down their whiskey and practically having sex with them right there by the picnic table. you go, girl.) anyway, i just dig the KoL's nasal twang and strangely primitive, stones-like style ... which has gotten more muscular and taken on some distinctly emo elements. but they done themselves proud, yessir.

* the chief and i ignore the chili peppers while he picks out souvenirs for his daughter. i miss the good, the bad & the queen ... have to go see tiesto DJ on the main stage from within his corral of light. i think i understand why dennis calls him "chees-esto." between the scrolling electronic marquee and the banks of blinking, winking lights, the presentation was rather self-aggrandizingly smug. oh, well. a nice, light ending to a breezy day.

sunday, april 29

protest time. rage against the machine, baby! the search lines for dudes were longer than the ones for chicks. but there was a lot less aggro in the air than i expected. maybe cuz of the heat.

* we have another sensory-overload entrance experience with explosions in the sky, washing us onto the field on a wave of plush, dramatic, synapse-frying instrumental music. it couldn't be more different from the hip-hop activism of the roots, but it has a spiraling urgency that makes a good introduction to the philly conscious rappers, who do live mash-ups and old favorites and a long, long version of bob dylan's "masters of war," first mashed-up itself to the tune of "the star-spangled banner," which is mindblowingly revelatory on too many levels.

* i dash off to hear CSS, this poppy-punky party band who provide the day's meta zeitgeist moment, announcing before their mojave set that they'd just met paris hilton backstage. it's the title of their single, "meeting paris hilton." but they actually had! she's here, there, and everywhere at coachella. just like way too many other annoying celebrities.

* then willie nelson changes the shape of the very air. everything just feels a little more congenial, a little more good-natured and cooperative. suddenly there are cowboy hats everywhere. he does cheesy stuff like "mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys" and righteous stuff like merle haggard's "workin' man blues," and new stuff, including a good one called "you don't think i'm funny anymore."

* air starts so late on the outdoor theatre that their set gets cut short. it's not a tragedy. lily allen totally charms me with her ska-pop attitude. paul van dyk raises a bouncy thunder in the dance tent. i am very tired.

* teddybears is another band of swedish lunatics (including one from the caesars of "jerk it out" fame), and they perform while some members wear big costume bear heads, and behind them play scenes from famous movies, altered with bear heads superimposed on the main characters. like, travis bickle with a bear head. the warriors with bear heads. spinal tap with bear heads. that sort of thing. their music is insane and kind of great.

* everyone is waiting for this moment. the very dust in the air shivers with anticipation. rage goes on, and we're standing atop a picnic table in the VIP area, gazing in wonder at the sheer volume of humanity on the other side of the cyclone fence. the atmosphere isn't anything like the '05 NIN appearance, when pent-up hostility seemed to radiate from every corner. this is more of a celebration, with expectations -- there is a sense of "hope they'll be good." i've never been a big rage fan; i always say i like the idea of the band more than the actual music. it's righteous and stuff, and i can get behind that. but i don't really care to hear much of it. still, the two songs we stay for sound pretty great, despite some technical problems. it's a kind of funky rumble, portending a louder noise. would that RATM had been around during the bush II years to work that mojo every day.

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