Coachella 2010 – Day One in the Sun

Daniel House

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It’s been a ridiculous long time since I last made any posts to this here blog, and while I can blame it on the fact that my desktop computer took a big ol’ dump, I can just as equally attribute it to the fact that I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump and have simultaneously been rather busy at work as well. Excuses and explanations aside, it’s important that I force the creative juices to flow even when I’m not feelin’ it.

This last April, I made the pilgrimage to Coachella for the first time in three years, because for the first time in three years I felt that Goldenvoice finally pulled together an impressive enough lineup to warrant their greedy move from a two day festival to the three-day endurance trial that the festival has now become. I am happy to report, that it was – for the most part – completely worth it. I had a fantastic time.

The first day, was intended to start for me with Baroness, one of the few metal bands on the bill, and Yeasayer who I saw a few years back (three times) at SxSW, and who pretty much floored me with their live show. And while I have not been as impressed with what I’ve heard from their newest record, the memory of seeing them in Austin was enough to get me pumped to see them at Coachella with their intriguing combination of jammy hippy rock, prog, and electronic dance. Sadly, Goldenvoice was so terribly disorganized that we ended up waiting in line for close to two and a half hours just to get in, and not because of the sheer amount of people trying to get in, but because somehow they thought it logical to have a total of 6 people between two gates to funnel the entire sold out crowd of 75,000 people through the gates… I can only assume this decision to be so understaffed was again one motivated by their bottom line.

We finally made it through the gates; everybody was righteously pissed at this point, and by now the only thought was to have some sustenance followed by some much needed alcohol, since without it we might seriously have to punch somebody in the face just to blow off some steam. I was however not too upset with the proposition of starting off my festival with a set from The Specials, one my the bands that still stand as one of those watershed music moments when their 1979 self-titled debut was largely the soundtrack of my life.

THe Specials at Coachella 2010
I saw the “Special Beat” once a long time ago, but that was little more that a cover band comprised of original band members playing faithful renditions of old songs. I never got to see The Specials proper, and even while this show was being touted as a reunion, Jerry Dammers’ absence was missed by those of us who remember him as The Specials’ driving force when The Specials blew us all off our collective seats. Regardless, the band was an utter delight. More than just playing faithful renditions old old worn-out songs, the Specials gave it all they had, breathing new life into a solid set, playing pretty much everything from that pivotal record with energy and joy.

Gil Scott-Heron was next on my list and was the perfect music to slide from day into dusk. His set was a flashback of an entirely different kind. His soul-jazz-poetry swirl was smooth and bluesy, picked straight out of 1970’s Chicago and dropped in the middle of the desert for a deeply satisfying set of music that I certainly never got to see as a kid.

Them Crooked Vultures at Coachella 2010
Them Crooked Vultures were one of the bands that I was the most excited to see. The modern-day supergroup, they hit the stage very much at home in front of the throngs of loyal devotees. And why not? They’ve all played in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans in their various other bands, but something about this being the desert, they seems that much more at home. The set started with Homme greeting the crowd with a “I’m from the desert. I’m Joshua,” leading into a ferocious set delivered with a confidence that showed a seasoned group, ready to play the arena of your choice…tomorrow. The more structured songs were where the band shone the brightest. When the band attempted to hearken back to Zeppelin with extended jams on some of their riffier songs, the band seemed a little disjointed. TCV is ultimately a Josh Homme project first and foremost, and while I totally “get” what he’s trying to do, his music is not ultimately rooted in the blues.

LCD Soundsystem once again killed. Last time I saw them @ Coachella, they were in one of the tents, but this year, they were one of the headliners on the main stage and were without a doubt one of the great shows of the night. There is noting particularly remarkable about their songs from a compositional standpoint, but there are few bands that will plaster an ear to ear smile on my face more effectively than LCD. It’s near impossible not to move during their energetic set, and seemingly pointless to want to see anything more after they’ve left you an ecstatic limp rag after they’ve finished.

Regardless, there was no way that I was going to miss a set from the legendary P.I.L. Prepared for the worst, I was delightfully surprised. Lydon was relegated to one of the smaller stages, and sadly his set was among the most poorly attended of the night, likely due to the massive turnout for the slick spectacle that was Jay-Z. In spite of the ragged turnout of oldsters who remember the early P.I.L records with great relish, Lydon was in top form, back with his snarly, snotty, snarky countenance. They played a handful of their expected “hits,” but for me the real treat was that they chose to play a number of classics from their first two records including “Annalisa,” “Religion,” and “Albatross.”

Purely by accident, I ended my night watching the last half of Fever Ray‘s set. Worn and spent from a long day in the hot sun and a surprising amount of walking, I was heading home, P.I.L.’s whining squall fading in the background. I was in drawn by a darkly haunting hypnotic throb. As I got sucked further in, I became utterly transfixed and not just by the music–which was fascinating and entrancing–but by the set and the visuals which were seemingly taking place inside of a witches coven. I was spellbound by the entire effect and made a point of getting her record upon my return to L.A. I could not have imagined a more satisfying way to say goodnight.

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