Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coachella 2012 Day 2 - Weekend 1

The magic continues...  with Doug in purple sprinkled with some of my own commentary.

Seared Ahi Tuna Wrap
WIN:  A hearty vitamin-enriched breakfast thanks to Jake's in "downtown" Palm Springs. I refuse to believe a town so small has a downtown, however; felt more like a Village Square.
Surprisingly large portions.  Doug could barely finish his plate of tacos with salad and he paid about the same price as he did for the tiny ones at Coachella the day before.  We felt very healthy afterwards. 

FAIL:  We missed Childish Gambino because we were unable to get up before 1 pm and they decided to change up the parking on Day 2 and we had to take a few laps around the Indio Polo Field before they finally guided us into the newly opened lot next to the camping area.  On the bright side, the lot was pretty close to the entrance, so less walking. As a consolation, on the way there, I played Gambino's Camp album in the car. Hey Hey Scenester seemed impressed. 
Thanks to the Disneyland-style line to parking, we missed AWOLNATION, and Childish Gambino's nerd rap.  
I was impressed by what I heard of Gambino in the car.  Creative use of hipster and skinny tie in a rap song. 

WIN:  The day after rain made for probably the prettiest day at Coachella I've ever had.  The sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy and white, and there was a happy breeze rolling through.
I was especially happy about the weather when we were packed into the Radiohead show and no one was sweating on me and I could feel a lovely breeze.  

WIN:  We only caught the 2nd half of The Buzzcocks' set upon our arrival into the grounds, but damn, they were awesome. This is the 2nd time I've been at Coachella and a group of old fogies well past their prime showed everyone how it's done (first time was Devo in 2010).  Bonus - when you recognize a song you've heard a million times and finally learn who the band is.  It was a good start to the day.  English punk rock FTW.

WIN:  Noel Gallagher and his Birds played half Oasis songs. That's enough for a win, but they weren't the songs I knew.  I only knew Don't Look Back in Anger (written by Noel) and that song's awesome so that guarantees them a win. Other than that they were...whatever.  I think Noel Gallagher secretly hates himself and really wishes he could write a song that is even 5% as memorable as anything Oasis did in 1994/1995. His self-loathing came through with his poor, disinterested stage presence. 
Too bad the rest of the set sounded like generic versions of Oasis songs without the unique vocals.

FAIL:  The free water refill station was just a sink...and it was far.  The water was of questionable potability.

WIN:  I've always thought of The Shins as that pleasant-sounding band from Garden State and that's pretty much what they were here, an enjoyable set.  They played songs that I recognized, like New Slang and that other one I know, and they get an EXTRA MILLION BONUS POINTS for an excellent cover of Pink Floyd's Breathe.  That was a nice surprise.

Their lead guitar player is also a girl but I'm undecided if she was actually cute or just cute because she plays guitar. I get easy crushes on girls who play instruments. I've gone off on a tangent now...moving on...
The Shins (aka the singer James Mercer) sounded great despite the completely new lineup from when I saw them years ago.

FAIL - Some a$$hole left some gum on the barrier I was leaning on.  My track jacket now has a sticky white glob of gum on the back. And napkin bits. F**k that guy.
Don't understand why people put gum all over the barriers.  There were trash bins everywhere.  Maybe the garbage situation got out of control...

WIN - Burgers, hot dog, and a bag of fries for dinner.
The hot dog and fries cost the same as those stupid cage-free / grass-fed tacos and we couldn't even finish the fries!  Still angry over the tacos?  Yeah...

WIN:  The 10 minutes of Flying Lotus we caught.  I'm not that big on the whole DJ / remix / electronic / computer music thing, but sometimes with a good crowd, and an actual live band behind you, it can sound really good. I was intrigued enough to get some tracks once I got home.  

FAIL:  Now, admittedly, catching 10 minutes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's set is not enough to pass judgment on this prog-rock band, but they didn't grab my attention in that amount of time.  But for the sake of full disclosure - their songs often span 20 minutes and, in fact, during this 50-minute set they only got through 3 songs. So my need to leave early and get a good spot for Radiohead really ruined their chances. So I guess really it was a fail on my part.  But I choose to blame others.
I was curious about them, but it all sounded the same after awhile.  

FAIL:  Bon Iver.  Stop it.
The only reason to see him was because he won a Grammy.  Luckily, we missed most of his sleepy music. 

WIN:  Can Radiohead ever not be awesome?  Their stage was well-designed with several cool screens portraying each band member transposed against another.  Their sometimes polarizing songs from their latest album, King of Limbs, sounded great live.  By adding extra members to the band (at one point, 4 people played drums), their new songs were able to come very close to sounding like the album; when they didn't, they were often more interesting.  They also played older tracks (nothing earlier than OK Computer though), like Lucky (a personal favorite) and also a couple of new songs and B-sides like The Daily Mail and Identikit. Great great stuff. Their slower more subdued songs, such as Pyramid Song and Give Up the Ghost, were hauntingly beautiful in the desert night.  Bonus - Thom Yorke's brief cover of Neil Young's After the Gold Rush that segued into Everything in its Right Place. Beautiful. I can't possibly gush further.

Day 1
Day 3
Best of Coachella: Sat - LA Weekly
Top 10 Awkward Coachella Dance Moves

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coachella 2012 Day 1 - Weekend 1

My music savvy Coachella companion, Doug, will be guest blogging in purple ink, while I occasionally chime in.   

So this is my 5th time at Coachella and the 4th straight year I've gone. As always, it was an exhausting weekend.  I almost didn't go this year due to the quick sellout and the festival finally hitting that mainstream sector of society, where people will go just to be part of the big party in the desert regardless of what acts will be performing. Getting tickets and a place to sleep was the hardest it had ever been, but I'm glad I went.  Despite the pain in the ass it can be, going to Coachella is always a fun experience.
FAIL:  Two Weekends? WHY?  Still seems unnecessary.  This first weekend was just as crowded as ever. What was the point? (Other than making more money) 

WIN:  Last minute hotel booking.  Once I decided I would join Hey Hey Scenester, thus began the quest for a reasonably priced hotel room.  Last year I had some luck buying a reservation from someone on Craig's List, and was able to split it with 4 people.  This year there was just two of us, and Craig's List's cost for reservation and hotel rate made it almost not worth it. However, thanks to Expedia, we found a reasonable room in Palm Springs that was much nicer than the bed bug receptacle I stayed in last year at the Motel 6 next to the Del Taco I refused to eat at. 

WIN:  Even though I felt like I was in Gattaca, the futuristic wristband scanners did make it much quicker to get into the festival.  Also, the cloth wristband was a huge improvement over the uncomfortable plastic one from 2 years back. 

FAIL:  Admittedly, the iPhone app was better than the one from two years ago (I appreciate the alarm feature.  I still think there needs to be some sort of indicator if you have favorite bands with a time conflict), but I still don't understand why they didn't link the band favoriting under Schedule and Lineup.  I had to favorite the same band under each section.  Who wants to do that twice! 

WIN:  Watching in amusement as kids shiver because they dressed inappropriately for the weather.  Don't know why people still stepped out in the rain and wind wearing barely anything.  Maybe I'm just an aging hipster

FAIL:  Rain.  The first time it ever rained at Coachella.  It made Friday horribly cold and it made me sleepier than I already was. But it wasn't all a fail (more on that in Day 2).  

WIN:  Rain.  I was in 3 layers of clothes and still freezing, but at least it lessened the size of the crowd, and I didn't have to deal with being pressed up against sweaty, smelly people.  

WIN:  Mid-afternoon power nap music.  Because we're old and lame, the first thing we did Friday was head to the Outdoor Stage, plop ourselves down on the floor and take a nap to the sounds of Neon Indian.  I can't really remember what Neon Indian sounded like, but I remember it being very pleasant and conducive to a nice, refreshing power nap in a field.

FAIL:  The sound for the Outdoor Stage is terrible unless you're right in the middle towards the front.  I don't know why it's so difficult to fix this because the sound is great for the Main Stage almost everywhere.  The audio almost ruined The XX for me 2 years ago and I still can't tell if I like Neon Indian or not.

WIN:  Arctic Monkeys.  Having lost track of these young Brits after their first album, my friend James made sure I was up to speed by giving me their last two albums a couple of months before the festival. I'm glad he did.  It's always better to see a band knowing more than one or two songs. They were very fun to watch and even more fun to sing along to. Highlights of their energetic set included Brianstorm and Fluorescent Adolescent

FAIL:  Overpriced food.  $4 for one chicken taco or $5 for one "grass fed" beef taco? Not cool, bro.  On the upside, someone had forgotten two sealed shrimp cocktails by the register.  
We took that as a sign to enjoy 1 of them as compensation for waiting in the wrong line and paying over $10 for merely 3 tacos.  

WIN:  Pulp.  I'm not super familiar with their music but the half hour of their set that we saw was very fun and frontman Jarvis Cocker's warm-happy-to-be-here sense of humor was a nice counter to the cloudy weather.  

WIN:  The Rapture.  I can't dance for shit so when I find music I can bob and weave to, and not draw much attention to myself, I am happy. Added WIN for being in a tent with a warm crowd. As for the actual band, I probably looked up their music about 10 years ago because they had a cool sounding band name but I didn't remember it well.  Fun dance punk and easy to get into.  I was most pleased.
One of my favorite bands and they always put on an amazing show.  Even though I just saw them last year, I still can't get enough.  Wish they could have played a longer set. 

FAIL:  The Black Keys.  After seeing their third performance in four years, I'm just kind of sick of them and their music still never impresses me.  We also caught the more boring slow part of their set.  I'm just over them. I can't even really give a good reason for disliking them other than I think The White Stripes did this retro, blues-infused southern rock music thing better.  They just don't click with me. Sorry.
I may have overplayed their albums because by the time I got to Coachella, I was a bit burnt out by their music.  I had been looking forward to hearing them live, but once I saw them, it felt like they knew how to cater to their fans, but not to a festival audience.  Their newer songs translated well to the outdoor stage, but their older duets didn't work for me. 

WIN:  Refused.  Some nice aggressive punk to end the day. Their first big show in well over a decade.  They have not lost a step.
They are still very punk rock and anti-government at their ages.  Too bad we experienced Titanic-like temperatures by midnight and had to leave halfway through the set. 
We be old.  This is a young person's festival.

Day 2
Day 3 
Coachella 2010
Photos - Pitchfork
Photos - LA Weekly
Pulp's Entire Coachella Set
Best of Coachella:  Friday - LA Weekly
SpiritHoods (Reading this and being at Coachella kind of made me hate all things furry)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sound Bites 13.0: 1886 Bar @ The Raymond, Pasadena

Ramos Gin Fizz
The last time I went to 1886, it was so packed I had to walk right back out.  So, I was excited to meet up with HC and Fiona to get a preview of the bar's Spring cocktail list.

If I had known what was in store for us that night, I wouldn't have ordered a bite and drink; but I can never resist tots (with spicy ketchup) and I really needed a drink after a tough day at work. 

Warning:  we tried the entire cocktail menu and then some, so please excuse any fuzzy photos or lack of memory...

Cocktails with Candies:
  • 20,000 Leagues - a Julep created to honor the Pasadena passengers who perished on the Titanic 100 years ago.  Candy:  Yellow Chartreuse candy garnish
  • Barrel Roll - Bols Barrel-Aged Genever cocktail.  Candy:  delicate paper-thin candied Campari Chip that chases away the bitterness of the drink
Hot Cocktails:
  • Bittersweet Farewell 
  • Cinnablossom
  • Pimm's #5 - another table favorite.  I found out why over the weekend:  they use Rum Whistle in the cocktail
  • MacArthur Park Swizzle - loved the nutmeg
  • Water of Life - refreshing and love the name
  • Rum Whistle - bottled alcoholic green apple and celery soda.  We all loved it so much we had four...and then I brought my friend over the weekend to introduce her to the deliciousness... and then HC and I joined Caroline yesterday to help her finish her bottle
    MacArthur Park Swizzle / Water of Life / Rum Whistle
  • Battered Mushrooms with Mikey's Ranch - crispy and not too oily, unlike the Portobello Fries at Bottega Louie
  • Dim Sum Shrimp Toast Sandwich 
  • Roasted Lamb Necks & Afghan Bread - I was surprised by the lack of game in the lamb.  I liked the presentation of the bread masquerading as a napkin, but I wish the bread was in strips or something else easier to break apart to eat with the lamb
  • Pork Belly, Cured, Pressed & Crisped 

With well-crafted cocktails and tasty food (I will always return to a bar that serves good tots), 1886 is quickly becoming my new favorite bar. 

Song Pairing: 
Kings of Convenience - Misread

* Cocktail details from The Raymond press release.