This past weekend, my Facebook wife Joanne and I ventured down to California to go to Coachella Music Festival 2010 and then to roam around San Diego soaking in the summer sun. It was shockingly an awesome time, as it combined a few of my favorite things (live music, ridiculousness, warmth) into one major undertaking. I loved every minute of it.
I'm going to give a walkthrough on everyone I saw of interest, along with everyone I saw in a given day and other tidbits of ridiculousness. Today, I have the first day, along with pictures from the party the night before. Note: if you are allergic to awesome, go no further in this post. It's all chronological as well.
Bands Seen: Jay Z, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Passion Pit, She & Him, DJ Lance Rock, Baroness, Wale, The Avett Brothers, Grizzly Bear, La Roux, Yeasayer
The Pre Party: Joanne and I managed to make it into San Diego around noon the day before the festival thanks to some creative clock reading and mismanagement of time (aka we missed our plane). After hopping to it and gathering food and drink for the weekend at local stores, we started our surprisingly quick jaunt to Indio from there.
Once we actually got into Indio, it was like we had made it into some sort of hipster convention. Cars were painted with "Carpoolchella 2010", the level of fashion shot through the roof, and the percentage of men with facial hair went from roughly 30% to 99.9% (I beard proof any situation). Still, fun was in the air, and Joanne and I stopped by a local store for toys to play with in our down time and for a beer at a local coffee shop (Just Java served delicious beer as well!).
We set up camp, and quickly introduced ourselves to our neighbors for the weekend. With beer in our hands. Glorious beer.
They even had a tent set up just for playing pinball! How cool is this place? It's like heaven for me.
Basically, the rest of the night was Joanne and I acting a damn fool, her crowdsurfing for the first time and nearly breaking herself in the process, lots of dancing, picture taking, and varying degrees of insanity. This would be the only night we partied, for reasons that will quickly become aware.
The Next Morning: Remember the colossal mess at security? Security ain't got nothin' on the shower scene. I waited for 2 hours to shower the first day, and Joanne waited FOUR HOURS. The good news was during that 2 hour window where we were separated, I befriended our ridiculously cool neighbors Morgan and Lucy (husband and wife from LA by way of Boston). They became a staple for our mornings and early afternoons, and thankfully guided us to a number of acts that ended up being massively entertaining, including the second one I'm going to talk about. Speaking of music...
Day One BEGINS!
Baroness: I don't really listen to metal. It's not really my style, but when I hear good metal, I appreciate it for what it is. Baroness is good metal. They were raw badassery injected into a sea of tight pants, ironic mustaches, and indian headdresses (more on that later), and I was really entertained by their antics. While we only stayed for a couple songs, I'm really glad I checked them out, if only for the entertainment value of long hair being gloriously headbanged into submission. I quickly texted my friend Darren after hearing them, as he is Mr. Metal, and Mr. Metal needs to know about the awesome these guys bring to the table.
DJ Lance Rock: This was one of the acts that Morgan and Lucy guided us to, and we had no idea to expect. DJ Lance Rock was in the Sahara Tent, which is the dance tent and would likely be electronic. It was, and it was GLORIOUS and hilarious.
Turns out DJ Lance Rock is the guy who runs the show Yo Gabba Gabba, a kids show that also draws the eye of the hipster community. Basically, every song was about kid things like peas being covertly delicious, how hugging is awesome, and all kinds of really random things. What happened on stage was about as joyous of an event as you can imagine, as all of the characters came out to dance during Lance Rock's set much to our delight. Brobee, Plex, and all of the rest of the gang danced their weird little feet off, and even though I wouldn't call it amazing music, it was about as life affirming of a moment as you could possibly get out of this cynical and hip crowd.
The Avett Brothers: While I recognize openly that The Avett Brothers are very good for what they do (countryfied singer/songwriter type stuff), I also openly admit that it's not for me. I just have never been able to get into their music.
However, I decided that we should stop by and check them out because a) they could be cool live and b) they seemed to fit Joanne's taste in music. Sure enough, both a and b were correct, as I had a very good time listening to their unique blend of music. It was good time music from a band I expected bummer time music from, and for that they get my seal of approval. Nice work Avett Brothers.
Yeasayer: This was the first crowd that really blew me away, as two years ago at Sasquatch we watched this band on the main stage early on one of the days with almost no audience. Now they are playing on the fourth biggest stage to a filled to the brim tent with extra people hanging out on the sides at 4:20 in the afternoon (there was A LOT of people who participated in that time honored tradition when the band started). It was pretty crazy.
Overall, Yeasayer sounded pretty good, although starting their set with an extended version of their latest album's opener "The Children" was definitely a way to disconnect me earlier on. It just comes across as creepy live. However, when they played all of my favorites ("O.N.E.", "Sunrise", "Ambling Alp" and "Tightrope" to close? Yes!) it was a pretty damn good time. I was very surprised to find out that their guitarist/keyboardist (pictured far left) actually was the owner of the sweet voice on all of my favorite tracks of their's.
This was also the first location where we saw someone collapse out of a combination of dehydration (party much?) and heat exhaustion. It would not be the last.
She & Him: While I do not love these guys recorded (I like Volume One and kind of abhor Volume Two), I had a wonderful time watching them live. The biggest reason had to be Zooey Deschanel, actress and lead singer of this group. She had perhaps the most effervescent and bubbly personality I've ever seen out of a live singer, and it was just a joy to watch her as she took us on a tour through all of their tracks.
M. Ward was pretty entertaining himself, as he had the look and feel of a bluesy solo star from the 60's, and when they played together on the keyboard toward the ends of their set, it was a real highlight for interactions between a band. Their band was filled with some grungy looking session type musicians, but they sounded good, tight, and like they'd all been doing this for a while.
Plus, they came out and did a mini-encore with just She (Deschanel) and Him (Ward) of "I Put a Spell on You" in which Deschanel KILLED. She was hitting all of the high notes in stunning fashion. A surprising hit with me, even though I didn't earn Zooey's love.
Passion Pit: PASSION PIT!
These guys earned my number one spot on my 2009 albums list, and with good reason: their album is filled with tracks that are easy to sing along to and fun as all hell. Did I expect them to be great? Yes. Were they? Yes!
Save possibly one other band from the weekend, Passion Pit earned the vaunted "most people singing along" and "most people dancing" award. One couple/brother & sister/ambiguous duo that was near us had just seen them in Colorado three days before and was still incredibly jacked about seeing them again. That's a good indicator that they'll be good.
They played all of the favorites, "The Reeling", "Sleepyhead", "Make Light", "Little Secrets", "Moth's Wings"...you name it. I had an absolute blast dancing and singing my voice away, as they pretty much killed it with their light show and on stage theatrics. Plus, they got a shout out from the Hova later on. It was a good day to be Passion Pit.
LCD Soundsystem: Maybe the band I was most excited for all weekend, maybe my favorite from the whole weekend, LCD Soundsystem killed it on stage for many reasons.
First off, James Murphy came across as perhaps the most genuine and interesting frontman I've ever seen. His bits about how they're the vegan side dish to Them Crooked Vultures chicken entree and Jay Z's steak, the added import of dedicating "Losing My Edge" to Gil Scott-Heron (given that Heron had just performed near by), his jokes about his new album being free on the internet a month before release, going to each member of his band and introducing them to the crowd...the guy is just a gem.
Second off, they played an awesome blend of new jams ("I Can Change" was awesome) and old favorites ("Losing My Edge" and "Yeah" were AWESOME) that kept the audience on their toes and constantly entertained.
Third off, "All My Friends" was just...perfect. It sounded so great, even with the added expectations coming from yours truly. It was just stellar.
If you haven't seen LCD Soundsystem live, I couldn't possibly recommend them more. So, so good.
Vampire Weekend: As much as I love these guys, they suffered due to LCD Soundsystem overlapping with them and running long. We managed to make it over to the Outdoor Theater where they were playing 20 minutes into their set, and just in time for "Run" to wrap up and "A-Punk" to kick off. VW sound like a band that has been around longer than they have, as they were very tight and a well oiled machine on stage. They sounded great, and earned some serious dancing from Joanne and I. In fact, this was the first band that really made us dance, and the first we had space to do so at (a lot of the audience was gone to get a good spot for Jay Z).
They played a quick, loaded set that always kept our attention and sounded great, but nothing really came across as mind blowing. Well, perhaps besides Ezra Koenig's epic fail at trying to get participation from the crowd on "One (Blake's Got a New Face)". That stood out quite a bit, as did Koenig's intensely wholesome look and Rostam Batmanglij's hilarious gangster look.
Jay Z: Given that I have a predisposition for disliking rap live, my expectations were adjusted downwards slightly. However, even with that thought it seemed like a huge mistake to not expect the best from the Jigga man, and sure enough he set the world on fire with his awesomeness.
For nearly two hours, Jay Z gave it his all up on stage, giving us a range of his catalog from the very beginning of his career to today. He even brought up guests on stage, as Memphis Bleek was his backing man, he had (not) Alicia Keys join for "Empire State of Mind", and even brought out Beyonce for one magical rendition of "Forever Young" with a huge fireworks show to pair with it.
I pretty much can never go to a rap show ever again, as they will all pale in comparison to Jay Z's HUGE show with an incredible backing band and one of the best light shows I've ever seen. In a weekend in which he was my least favorite headliner, he took the spotlight and ran with it.
He even provided the least likely incredible moment, as he had a recording of Oasis' "Wonderwall" play so he could save his voice for a song and drink some water as everyone in the audience sang along. It was incredible, and a perfect song choice as pretty much everyone knew every word. It was a very perfect moment to represent the performance, as it was very unexpected in its awesomeness.
After Party: What after party? After Jay Z ended we hobbled back to our camp site and went to bed! At our advanced age, our backs and knees can barely handle staying up at a show for 12 hours straight. We were broken people, my friends, and acted accordingly.
The good news is we got a free hug from Peachcake on our way out, so there was some upside.