|From Coachella 2009|
My answer was easy: The Smiths. But after seeing Morrissey on the Main Stage, I may have to qualify that response. In any event, I don't think The Smiths would be enough to get all of us to show. (Maybe if Cocteau Twins were also on the roster, as they were supposed to have been in 2005.) We're not in college anymore, and we know it. Making it through three days in the desert is rough when you're not a kid. But I guess that's what made this last Coachella so special. It was rough, but there was virtually no whining among us, because our collective enthusiasm for the lineup was amazingly high.
Wonderful, as always. This was my third time seeing them. And if they were to come to town next week, I'd see them again. Intense, skillful, rambunctious and carefree all at the same time. (Yeah, I know that logic doesn't bind those four adjectives together very well, but you'd have to see them live to understand.)
|From Coachella 2009|
Not as interesting without Zoe Deschanel. Him without She is a bit too folksy and not very cute. (Silly side note: Several people stopped me to compliment me on my She & Him t-shirt! Alas, they were mostly guys. Not sure how I feel about that.)
Highlight of the weekend for me. I almost showed up at Coachella without knowing these guys. Discovered them only a few weeks earlier while milling about at Virgin Mega. Something about their album cover made me take a curious listen. Yet another Joy Division throwback (and I don't use that reference in a derogatory sense, like many others seem to enjoy doing these days) with a bit of Depcehe Mode synths mixed in. Quite the big voice from a rather small guy.
|From Coachella 2009|
Tough deciding whether to see them or blow them off in favor of Crystal Castles. (So much freakin' overlap this year! Already had to skip The Ting Tings to see White Lies. But that was an easy choice, since I saw The Ting Tings at Bowery last year.) Not a big fan of their latest album, and we'd already seen them put on an impressive performance at the Main Stage in 2006. Only caught a couple of songs before bailing for Crystal Castles. Probably should've stayed put.
What the hell? As my Houston friend put it: sounds like a cat screeching on stage. At least they played "Crimewave" before we all lost our patience and left to grab dinner.
Man, they definitely know how to put on a show. Sort of like Chemical Brothers with Freddie Mercury as frontman. Too bad we were stuck catching glimpses from the side of the tent, because we had to scoot midway through the set to catch Moz.
Second biggest disappointment of the weekend. Without Johnny Marr, he's basically a lounge singer with a hack backing band. Everything sounded the same -- one indistinctive, whiny song after another. Even when he played some recognizable, likable oldies such as "There's a Light That Never Goes Out" (my absolute favorite Smiths song) and "How Soon Is Now," it sounded as if he were singing cheap karaoke covers of the real thing. And he was being quite the prima donna. (Yeah, I do realize the redundancy in calling Moz a prima donna.) The sound mix wasn't to his liking, nor was the odor in the air. "I can smell burning flesh, and I hope to god it's human," he quipped. (There were barbecue vendors nearby. And he's vegan.) Such principles from a man who long left miserablism behind to cruise around L.A. in a Porsche.
Filler, really. We needed to kill some time before Paul McCartney took the stage, so we drifted over to the nearby Outdoor Stage. I'd already seen them a couple of years back during CMJ, so I knew what to expect. Still can't listen to them without thinking "poor man's Smashing Pumpkins."
Most pleasant surprise of the weekend. When I first saw that Paul would be the headliner for the first night, I thought of him as a throwaway -- sorta like Prince from last year. But as the date drew closer, I was kinda excited about seeing him, mostly on the hope of hearing some Beatles material. It's hard not to like Paul. Seems like a genuinely nice guy. And he reeled off one Beatles classic after another: "Hey Jude," "Get Back," "The Long and Winding Road," "Let It Be."
The bastards didn't show! Saturday was definitely the weakest of the days for us, so we lounged around near the hotel for much of the day, since there was nothing to see until 6:00. Probably shouldn't have been so nonchalant. It took us about an hour and a half to cover the eight miles between our hotel and the venue because of traffic, so we didn't show up until five minutes before Glasvegas was supposed to have wrapped up their set. But the tent was completely empty when we got there. I went up to one of the sound guys to ask whether Glasvegas had already played, hoping that maybe some scheduling quirk pushed their set to a later time. He told me something cryptic about the lead singer "falling off the bus" -- "extreme exhaustion and dehydration" was the word from the band. I'm sure that was just code for "wasted and hungover." But whatever. I was oddly happy that they didn't show, because it meant that my poor planning wasn't the reason I missed them.
TV on the Radio
Don't understand why they're so big with the hipsters and wannabe hipsters. I do like a few of their songs quite a bit. But I can't listen to any of their albums all the way through, because they're all filled with annoyances -- like saxophones. (I hate the saxophone. Throw ten seconds of a sax solo into a beautiful song, and it instantly becomes a crap song.) The ho-hum performance gave me a chance to roam the grounds in search of a friend who'd moved from New York to San Diego.
I've tried and tried, but I just can't get into these guys. For a while, they were all the rage among the indie scenesters. But they're just too damn soft and folksy for me.
Only caught them because there was nothing better to see at the time. That and my San Diego friend is a big fan. Definitely not my style. While watching them and their parade of guest vocalists from every freakin' continent, I kept thinking about John Cusack in High Fidelity ridiculing the crappy taste in music of his ex-girlfriend's new lover: "His music: Latin and Bulgarian, whatever world music was trendy that week." (Sorry if you're reading this, San Diego friend.)
Band of Horses
They're good when they rock out, like on "Is There a Ghost." Otherwise, they get a bit too drony and country-ish. Reminds me of My Morning Jacket. Sort of like indie revivals of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Again, not my thing. Yet more confirmation that Saturday was a weak night. But we only caught a couple of songs before scooting over to the Outdoor Stage.
One last filler before the main event. She's got a good voice and all, but just too jangly for me. Felt as if it were indie country night on the Outdoor Stage.
If not for The Killers, we probably would've skipped Saturday altogether. But their performance alone was worth the price of admission. Definitely the most polished performance of the weekend -- with elaborate stage decoration, fireworks and all. I'd seen them once before in Vegas during the back end of the Hot Fuss tour. They were basically playing on a makeshift stage in a parking lot behind the Hard Rock Hotel. Good show, but very mechanical, as if they were playing as carefully as possible to record a live album. At Coachella, they came alive. Seems they've toured enough now to know what the crowd wants: lots of of Hot Fuss, very little Sam's Town and just enough Day & Age. I'd written off The Killers after Sam's Town. They regained my interest with Day & Age. And their performance at Coachella made me a full-fledged fan again.
|From Coachella 2009|
We learned our lesson and made sure to show up with plenty of time to spare before Lykke Li took the stage. With time on our hands, we checked out Sebastien, mostly because he has a good track on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. Not bad. Didn't know that he sings. Thought he was just an instrumentalist.
I saw her at Le Poisson Rouge last year and was somewhat disappointed. When she plays live, she doesn't use recorded backing tracks. Instead, she tries to recreate her electronic-y studio sound with a live band, which doesn't really work. Translating Moog bass lines with a bass guitar just seems like a bad idea. So I went in with rather low expectations, even though I'm a big fan. And she delivered what I expected. If nothing else, her spunk is irrepressible. I think my Houston and Dallas friends enjoyed the performance more than I did, mostly because Lykke's a blonde from Sweden. And she gyrates quite a bit on stage, albeit in a spastic sort of way.
|From Coachella 2009|
Speaking of Sweden ... I think it may have been Go Sweden! Day at Coachella. A bit of a surprise to see PB&J on the Main Stage. I mean, they've really only had one radio-friendly hit -- "Young Folks." Not a bad performance, but it seemed lacking on such a big stage. Sorta like a college team playing in a pro stadium.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Felt like 2006 all over again. That's when we saw them perform a rousing twilight set on the Main Stage, and they got the same slot this year. There's something wonderfully entertaining about Karen O's over-the-top theatrics, especially when they play "Maps" -- the loudest love song I know. Can't help but feel sappy when she slides her gloved hand across her face, singing, "Wait, they don't love you like I love you," as the sun sets behind the mountains.
|From Coachella 2009|
My friends and I had just seen MBV at ATP in the Catskills a few months back. Yet we were all pretty excited about seeing them again. MBV was great at ATP, but the sound seemed slightly off there. We were all hoping that the intense loudness would carry better on an outdoor stage -- and it did. But even with the open air, it was still damn loud -- especially the nearly 20 minutes of punishing white noise during "You Made Me Realise." (Two of my poor friends forgot their earplugs, so they had to make do with their index fingers. More creative was the guy who shoved cigarette butts into his ears.) I wondered whether MBV would be bold enough to pull that off at a setting such as Coachella, where the majority of the audience may not understand their eccentricities. But I shouldn't have doubted Kevin Shields's stubbornness. Quite impressive. Even more impressive was the crowd, which endured the head-rattling noise and clapped wildly afterwards. I really wouldn't have been surprised if there had been a mass exodus or chorus of boos. I mean, the majority of the crowd was probably not yet in kindergarten when MBV released its last album. I was happy to be wrong and shown how cross-generational music can be, even if it's music of the highly esoteric variety.
|From Coachella 2009|
Hands down, the biggest disappointment of the weekend. I've been a big fan since junior high. But I've somehow never seen them live -- what with girlfriends taking off on family trips at the last minute, Robert Smith becoming a big mascaraed blob, and the whole bunch of them descending into general suckiness. I wouldn't pay now to see them on their own, but seeing them at Coachella seemed the ideal way to cross the old-timers off my list. Well, they stunk -- not because of poor execution, but because of their infuriating insistence on playing song after endless song of post-Wish drivel. It's sad when bands past their primes delude themselves into thinking that their new material is as good as their old stuff. I could sense that we were in for a rough set when they led off with "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea," perhaps the most nondescript song on Wish. I knew that there'd be limited space on the setlist for classics, and if "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" was going to fill one of those slots, we were in trouble. Sure enough, my fears were confirmed when they played "Just Like Heaven" and "In Between Days" -- two of my absolute favorite Cure songs -- in the middle of the set. What the hell were they gonna leave for an encore? As it turned out, my friends and I didn't bother sticking around to find out. We walked out, because we just couldn't bear to listen to any more of their new stuff. Not even the prospect of hearing "Boys Don't Cry" could convince us to stay. Never thought there'd come a time when I'd walk out on one of my sentimental favorites, but they were just that infuriating. What a sad way to close out an otherwise awe-inspiring weekend.
* * *
So that was Coachella. Such wonderful memories (minus the miserable Cure). If that was the last one for me and my friends, I guess I can take solace in the fact that it was the best one.