A Slice of Fried Gold

Coachella: Day Three

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My wrap up of the third day of Coachella is now here, and I'm sad to see it go just like I was to see the festival itself go. While I was significantly more broken because of my weak body after this festival in comparison to others, it was definitely the best festival I've ever been to musically speaking, and probably the most well arranged as well. Not to say the others weren't great, it's just to say Coachella was that ridiculously awesome. I really think it's an event that needs to be checked off in life like any other experience...went to Coachella...check. I've done that now, and it makes me very happy to say that. Before we get into the bands though, I wanted to talk about one other random thing from the weekend.

Arts and Crafts Tent: Joanne and I were EXTREMELY enthused with the arts and crafts tent. When you wander from the booze soaked campgrounds, past the techno tent, through the vendors, and to the other side of the roller skating rink, you get to a tent where people are drawing portraits of strangers, creating new apparel to wear, and designing their own zines (amongst other things). Sure, they play music, but really in a lot of ways it feels like an entirely different world than the one that surrounds it. It's people sitting around being creative and meeting each other and just having a wonderful time.

When Joanne and I went, we sat down to do portraits of each other. We followed the suggestions they had at the table, in which we interview each other to get a better feel of what to draw. Given that we were supposed to be strangers, I created an entirely different persona for Joanne. This didn't help, as I was sunburned, needed a shave, and was wearing glasses. Essentially I looked like a disgusting, nerdy yeti. Still, it was a damn good time, and it gave me an excuse to draw dragons, flying penguins, and a smiling sun in the background of Joanne's portrait.

After that we went to design our zines. This was also a good time, but I started feeling BAD around then, so I went back to take a nap while Joanne grew increasingly in love with the place to the point that she almost skipped half the day to hang out there. Thankfully they shut it down at 2, so in your face Joanne! You had to watch awesome music with me! HA!

Still, this was a very welcome change of pace to the music and party centric weekend we had been dealing with.

Bands Seen: Gorillaz, Deerhunter, Owen Pallett, Local Natives, Jonsi, Phoenix, Julian Casablancas, Mayer Hawthorne & The County, Plastikman, Thom Yorke, Yo La Tengo

Local Natives: This was the first band we caught on the final day, and one of the bands that I was most excited about from it as well. I've really been digging their new album Gorilla Manor, and they managed to nail all of the tracks I heard them play. They had a really tight sound that did what live music should do - take their recorded music and build on it. The fact that they took that and closed with a particularly rousing version of my favorite track by them (a song called "Sun Hands") really sealed the deal on this being a great performance, and even had Joanne asking about them (she'd never heard them before, so it was a pretty big deal).

I also enjoyed how humble they were, as they thanked the audience and shared their surprise that anyone would be watching them while Owen Pallett was playing. It was worth what we missed of Owen Pallett, even though...

Owen Pallett: (continued from Local Natives) Owen Pallett himself was awesome. Pallett is perhaps more well known as the string arranger for Arcade Fire or as Final Fantasy (his solo name before going by his own name), but to me, I was really excited just to see Pallett classic. I love Heartland, his solo album from this year, and to see him perform his dense tracks from that album with just an effects pedal and a violin often. He played a really nice mix of his collected works, but closing with my favorite track "Tryst with Mephistopheles" really made me love his set. Also, Joanne later told me that he was her third favorite set from the weekend. Given that she knew nothing about him before then, that's some great praise for the guy. Highly recommended.

Jonsi: This is the closest I've ever gotten to see Sigur Ros, so getting to see Jonsi was an astonishingly glorious moment for me. Sigur Ros is my favorite band, and to see their lead singer sing in his hauntingly gorgeous voice was enough to fill me with a mix of pure glee and sadness over never seeing Sigur Ros (or at least not yet). He performed tracks from his new album Go, and he and his band were fully ready to blow everyone away. They did not disappoint, especially for the stage spectacle (Jonsi and his drummer's costumes were hugely entertaining) and the versatility of the band (nearly everyone switched instruments at least once, sometimes in the middle of songs). It was quite the moment for me, and it made me about as happy as any artist did over the weekend.

One downer: we were checking out the merch tent later on when I saw Jonsi signing and talking to fans. It turns out you needed a special ticket to make this happen, even though I was five feet away and as excited as I've ever been to see someone. It was quite a bit of a bummer, but not the biggest bummer of the night. Oh lord no.

Phoenix: Holy crap.

Holy crap holy crap holy crap.

To say Joanne and I had a good time at Phoenix is the understatement of the festival. Joanne was adamant in saying that they were the best she saw all weekend, and I find it hard to disagree. They played a lot of material, they played it incredibly well, they had impeccable setlist design (I loved them starting with "Listzomania" and closing with "1901"), and they were just very charming guys. The audience was in a perpetual state of what would most likely be called euphoria, and from what I understand it was one of the largest audiences of the entire weekend (sorry Pavement!).

In a weekend of artists missing Coachella because of the Icelandic volcano, Phoenix was not one of them, but their light crew was. Their lighting was non-existent/plain, but it didn't matter - it just motivated them to rock even more. The whole place was an explosion of dancing and singing along up front, and lead singer Thomas Mars frequently came down to the crowd to sing directly for us all. As cool as light shows and videos and spectacle is, quite often a straight up awesome performance can be all it takes to really make an audience love you.

Phoenix is a band that demands that you love them, and I was blown away by their performance at Coachella 2010.

Yann Tiersen: This hurts to even talk about. Yann Tiersen was one of the artists I was most excited about, and I really could not wait to see him. The biggest problem was the fact that he was playing at the same time as Gorillaz, but I was willing to sacrifice some of their set to see him. I like him that much.

However, remember that volcano I just mentioned? It made Gary Numan cancel, opening up a set time that started around the ending of Phoenix and ending before Thom Yorke - aka the only gap we had the entire night. They moved Tiersen to that time slot but didn't announce it, and I wouldn't have even noticed it if it weren't for us walking by the Mojave Stage's schedule between Thom Yorke and Plastikman. I was pretty much inconsolable, and all Joanne could do is hug me.

I know this is a stupid thing to be super sad about, but it REALLY bummed me out.

Thom Yorke: Sadly enough, we didn't spend a lot of time watching Thom, but what we did see was really enjoyable. I heard him play my favorite tracks off his solo album The Eraser ("The Eraser" and "Black Swan") and we came back just in time to hear him play stripped down versions of Radiohead classics "Airbag" and "Everything In It's Right Place", so really, that's all I wanted to hear from him. Not that Thom isn't always good, especially with a unique backing band of Flea, Nigel Godrich, and more, but I'd seen Radiohead before and never had the opportunity to see Plastikman. Still, beautiful stuff from Thom, but that's what we've come to expect from the guy.

Plastikman: Joanne and I mostly wanted to go to this because of Lucy and Morgan recommending Plastikman throughout the weekend, and to see what exactly his performance specific iPhone app would do. It was our curiosity that drove us there, and it was a really interesting and intense performance. Plastikman (an electronic outfit, btw) was encircled by a cage of sorts that displayed his lightshow, and it was very hypnotic to watch. Paired with his miminalist and pulsing music, and it was downright entrancing. The iPhone app was...not as much. We didn't really understand it, as all it did was some bizarre counter that spouted gibberish to us.

Still, it was a worthy venture and something I'm glad we checked out if only for a little bit.

Gorillaz: My most anticiplated headliner. The band I'd been waiting all weekend to see. They were...good.

You can watch the video above and sense the excitement that was in the crowd. It was palpable throughout the beginning, and something that really got the audience buzzing. However, part of the way through the set while they were playing mostly Plastic Beach tracks (and slower ones at that), the audience started not paying attention and they started to lose them. People would leave, reactions would be compulsory (not because they wanted to), and when it came time for an encore cheer, the audience could barely muster an effort.

Which is a shame, because the spectacle of their show was grand (the videos were awesome, as you can see above), they sounded pretty much perfect, and they played a really nice mix of their music with a lot of cool guest stars (Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Little Dragon). I really enjoyed it, but the fact that almost the entire audience was dead while I was singing along to all of the big moments Damon Albarn was giving us (that guy was a gem, I have to add) was kind of disappointing. Part of that was their fault because of setlist design (they picked maybe the worst encore closer I've ever heard), but still, the audience clearly was there to party and they didn't get what they wanted.

It was a really nice performance, but something that was really hard to get into. The oddest thing was later I heard people saying things about how amazing their performance was when all we heard from people around us were complaints and all we saw were confused faces. From a band that to date has been a cartoon one, it's unsurprising I suppose. It's still a shame that they prove themselves as a remarkably legitimate band at this performance and are received with what amounts to global hipster indifference.

The Aftermath: The next morning we woke up bright and early to depart before everyone else woke up, and as we started gathering our things we heard something in the distance that sounded like a group of people shouting "too legit! too legit!" We of course had to investigate, especially considering it was right next to the coffee stand. As we got closer we noticed a huge group of people (pictured above) who randomly split into a circle, at which point one person split off and ran inside of that circle to high five everyone else. As he high fived people, they'd split off and follow him in the high five onslaught. It was hilarious.

We stood and watched for a bit and talked to security, who was absolutely delighted with what was happening. I asked how long they'd been doing this, and they responded with "all night in different places across the campsite. They don't really bother anyone, unless someone comes near, at which point they make them dance. I'd take a wide circle from them."

We laughed and went over to the coffee shop that was near them, when we heard the shouting of "DO A DANCE! DO A DANCE!" Apparently a pair of flies fell into their spider web, as two girls continued walking to their tent while dancing. Then as we were leaving, they actually stopped a car, encircled it, and shouted "DO A DANCE! DO A DANCE!" until the people got out and...did a dance. It was hilarious. It was quite the unifying partying moment, and I was proud to see it. Perfect way to end Coachella really, with dancing and a little bit of ridiculousness.


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