Monday, May 6, 2013

Coachella 2013 Day 1 - Weekend 2

This year I have not just one, but TWO guest bloggers!  6-year Coachella veteran Doug, who helped out with blogging duties last year, will be returning in all his snarky glory in purple.  Chris, 1st-time (and probably last-time) Coachella attendee, will be drawing up her new experiences in orange.  I will be chiming in here and there. 

Another year, another exhausting weekend in the desert.  Why do I do this to myself? This year's lineup did not get me very excited.  While there were plenty of acts I would be happy to see, none of them screamed out CAN'T MISS for me.  As far as headliners go, this was the worst in all the years I've gone in terms of selling me on going.  I like/own one Blur album (13), I know one Stone Roses song (one more than most people apparently), I kind of like Phoenix but don't know much of their stuff, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers just screamed of last minute desperation for a name after they couldn't get someone better (and I'm not a fan of their post-1999 work).  So the intent for me this year was checking out some smaller acts and hanging out with fun people.  As usual, I got lazy and didn't feel like walking around too much. Meant to see way more than I ended up seeing, and for this I am displeased with myself.  Anyway, let's get to steppin'.

It was my first time at Coachella. I had already mentally prepared for the heat, the crowds, and security. But what I soon discovered was that you can never be totally prepared for a festival of this scope, so when I got there the first day, I didn’t exactly hit the ground running. It turned out ok though, and as the days wore on, I got more into the swing of things.

WIN:  Digging the postcards of past Coachella posters that came with the wristband.  Brings back memories...

FAIL:  The hotter than expected .7-mile walk to the shuttle.  We all tried the shuttle this year.  Doug's friend set the trend by accidentally purchasing them along with their Coachella passes.  Anyways, I once did an insane 3-mile walk to Coachella thanks to terrible car traffic trying to get in the first day, so I thought less than a mile would be nothing.  We were all caught off guard.  This stretch felt like a 5-mile walk in the shadeless 90-degree heat.  We seriously considered driving to the shuttle the next day. 

WIN:  The shuttle was nice and air conditioned.  It even had bathrooms in the back! 
The shuttle bus was clean, but atmospherically it was like an absurd comedy. Coachella had issued the driver mix CDs to play during the ride, and from the look on his face, it was clear it wasn’t exactly his cup of tea.  The riders for the most part were loud and pumped for the fest. Everyone seemed so hyped and I was already starting to feel my 5am wake up call. I needed lunch. I ate a mint instead. It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the weekend. Why am I here? Oh yeah, Stone Roses. 

FAIL:  The walk from the shuttle drop off was a terrible dusty maze, which I understand is helpful to separate and direct the crowds to their shuttles at the end of the night, but extremely unhelpful in the day when there is a shuttle full of people every so often.  It's even worse to walk through all that dust knowing that the shuttle entrance is a few feet away from the first security checkpoint.  Also they tried to disperse the crowds with colored roads.  Sorry Coachella, still crowded and on top of that, very dusty.  Thank goodness I was paranoid about the dust storm from Weekend 1 and brought a handkerchief.  It was a lifesaver all weekend.  I don't know if I was spoiled by cooler weather last year Weekend 1, but I don't remember Coachella ever being THIS dusty.   

FAIL:  Due to the Boston Marathon bombing right after Weekend 1, we saw that security was not messing around. They were searching people much more thoroughly than I had expected and this caused a long wait in line in the hot sun. From there it was another long, dusty walk to the second security check point where there was a second search. We saw bike taxis along the way, but it hadn’t hit me yet what a valuable service they provided. Two security checks and we’re finally in. I was delirious from hunger and the heat.
I know Coachella was just trying to keep people safe, but it seemed a bit disorganized.  I was told people entering from self-parking got through pretty quickly.  Maybe I was just getting grumpy from the heat and waking up so early. 

FAIL:  Thanks to the long security lines, we missed Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.  At least I caught some of their set streaming from Weekend 1.  They would've been good.

WIN:  Doug decided to come up with his own categories.  Enjoy!
BEST FELLOW MORRISSEY HATER - Johnny Marr.  Just for reference, we got to Palm Springs around noon, somehow didn't get into the venue until 3, and didn't really see anyone until 4.  That first act was some guy from The Smiths named Johnny Marr.  I don't listen to The Smiths.  Not that I think they suck, they just never did it for me. BUT I really really really hate Morrissey , like as a human being.  I can't stand militant vegetarians. I saw him at Coachella 2009.  He really seemed to hate being there and twice stopped his set because he had to say something about the smell of cooked meat and leave the stage because he had to compose himself. F THAT GUY.  So anyway, Johnny Marr was in The Smiths or something and I guess they all hate each other and Morrissey doesn't like when they play Smiths songs without him.  So of course Johnny Marr plays Smiths songs.  If it gets Morrissey upset, I fully support this.  As for his set, I stuck around for about 5 songs.  He had a respectable turnout (with a much older crowd than I'm used to seeing) and seemed to be enjoying himself. Good for the old guy. He came out with a rose in his mouth and then strapped it to his guitar.  British people...Anyway, this was a nice appetizer to start the day.
Where am I? The festival grounds are massive. It made the map I’d been studying online look like a joke. After a little rest and hydration, it was time for Johnny Marr.  Johnny Marr hit the stage strong with The Right Thing Right. It was a great opener and the crowd responded in a sea of undulating bodies and bobbing heads. I was right there with them. He’s an awesome live performer, a real showman with the kind of natural charisma that always made me wonder why he was never a front man. His talent as a guitarist is unquestionable as he’s proven time and time again in all the bands he’s played in (The Smiths, The Pretenders, TheThe, Electronic, Modest Mouse...) and now with his solo work finally out after all these years, I was overjoyed to see just how truly great he was on his own. Unfortunately, that song was followed by a gratuitous Smiths song, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before. Luckily, after that, I was rewarded with Upstarts.  Energetic and catchy, it was a real pick-me-up and I soon forgot about how hot it was and remembered why I love going to shows in the first place. But too soon again, he played another Smiths song and not knowing how much more of that there’d be, I decided to get out of there with Hey Hey Scenesters and headed to Divine Fits.

Johnny Marr's songs were good.  He's very talented, so I don't understand why he needed to play songs that made him sound like a bad Smiths cover band.  It was weird.  It's not like last year's Coachella performer, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, who definitely needed to play Oasis songs to keep people around.  Their original songs sounded kind of like bad Oasis songs. 

FAIL:  Morrissey.  Did i mention I hate him?  He wasn't there, but he somehow still bothered me.

Giant Snail loved Divine Fits
WIN:  Divine Fits was already playing when we got to the Outdoor Stage. They sounded really good, though I thought Like Ice Cream was a ridiculous song. It’s summery sounding, but lacks substance lyric wise. Baby Get Worse was better with heavier guitar and a more appealing bass line. The keyboard and synth backing this song really picked it up for me and I found their performance on this one to be dramatic. It turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser and for good reason. They’re a good live band and I’d gladly see them again, though maybe not as a headliner. That said, I did enjoy the rest of their set and did not leave disappointed.
This was a good start to my Coachella weekend.  Divine Fits sounded great live, as good as their album A Thing Called Divine Fits.  Their songs are catchy even if most of the time they sound like either Spoon or Wolf Parade (I haven't listened to them, but I'm guessing they are heavy on the synthesizers).  My Love is Real and Baby Get Worse are some of the few songs that sound like they actually collaborated. 

WIN:  BEST BAND THAT HAD A SONG OR TWO ON THE SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD SOUNDTRACK - Metric.  I have a genuine like for Metric's indie electro-y pop music and Emily Haines' voice.  They played at like 4:45 at the main stage and I had time to catch just three songs - and they were all songs I knew!  The main stage audience bounced along nicely and seemed into it.  And Emily brought the swag with a gold mic.  They sounded good and I heard them play a couple of their hits right off the bat - Help I'm Alive and Youth Without Youth.  Wished I could have heard Black Sheep but I had to leave to go see...

WIN:  BEST CANADIAN BAND WITH THE NAME OF ANOTHER COUNTRY IN THEIR NAME - Japandroids.  I was very eager to see The Japandroids.  I have their latest album, and while it has a fun spunkiness to it, it has this very strange sense of polish that seemingly robs it of the full blast of raw punk-infused energy I feel is trying to burst through.  As I suspected, their live show is the best way to experience them. The energetic duo, playing only guitar and drums, just tore through their songs (and guitar strings and broken drum sticks) and really got the Gobi Tent rocking.  They were genuinely happy to be there and it showed in their performance.  Their songs were very catchy and fun to sing along to.  The crowd doing the "OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OHHHH" refrain during The House That Heaven Built was a joy.

BEST STAGE CRASHER - This man-lady in a dress (I couldn't tell, he/she was very androgynous) somehow rushed the stage during the Japandroids set and lasted a good 30 seconds of ridiculous dancing before one of the band techs got 3 security guys to grab her and take her to the back. Rock 'N' Roll.
WIN:  WORST BLACKOUT - I don't remember what I did for the next hour...and no I didn't take any drugs. 
Doug seems to have forgotten that this was when he and friends double fisted cups of beer and had dinner.  I must say, there has been a huge improvement in food offerings this year.  I was never so relieved in my life to see a Kogi truck.  At that moment, I felt like I was eating the best tacos in the world.  This was also when Doug began his love affair with Lime Truck's Ahi Tuna Poke Nachos (fresh tuna, pickled veggies, and edamame hummus served with fresh chips). 
Later, I found myself at the Green Truck. This was sadly one of the best parts of the evening for me. I had a fantastic vegan burger from Green Truck. It had a flavorful homemade patty topped with fresh vegetables and a terrific focaccia bun. They also make their own ketchup which I used liberally. I sat down on my orange mat (it folds up really small and turned out to be a great accessory to have at the fest) and had the best burger I’d ever had at a show. Plus finally being able to sit down was awesome. I could hear Stone Roses playing in the background. They sounded great and I really wanted to see them, but hunger and fatigue took precedence and I was content to just scarf that delicious burger while listening to them in the distance. At the time, it all seemed just perfect, but in retrospect I wish I’d planned better.

WIN:  BEST BAND WITH A JOSH HOMME FROM QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE LOOKALIKE - Modest Mouse.  I've never gotten super into Modest Mouse but the songs I do know I have always liked.  I thought they put on a pretty good show.  They had a pretty huge band with all sorts of instruments up there.  A fine start to the evening hours and made me make a mental note to get more of their stuff on my iDevice to listen to at my leisure.
I was so excited to see Modest Mouse live, but a little disappointed that they didn't play more songs from The Moon & Antarctica (reminds me of college).  They played one song from that era.  It was good.  I did love hearing This Devil's Workday live.  Otherwise, they sounded like what I thought they would sound like.  Not a band I would HAVE to see again.  Hm, I don't know if this was a WIN after all...  I don't think Chris was a fan.  I can see how their singing style could be hit or miss for people. 

WIN:  BEST USE OF CHEERLEADER POM POM MATERIALS TO MAKE A SCARF/BOA THINGY - Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  I've seen her wear crazier outfits, but I thought this one was a success because when she bounced on stage some of the pom pom stuff got in her mouth before she started singing and she had to pull it out as if it were hair.  I laughed. Rock 'N' Roll.  Side note: I don't care for her new blonde hair.
Everyone kept telling me I HAD to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs for Karen O's outfits.  Her outfit was crazy alright.  Kind of reminded me of when I saw Björk at Coachella.  She definitely has stage presence. 

FAIL:  BEST BAND WITH WORST NEW SONGS OFF DISAPPOINTING NEW ALBUM - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Ok so I hadn't gotten Mosquito yet before I saw them play on Friday, but the new songs off the album that they did play were very hit or miss.  The use of the choir for Sacrilege was cool and I liked her crazy vocals on title track Mosquito, but the other songs slowed their usually energetic set list to a crawl.  I've since gotten the CD and given it a few listens.  It's definitely my least favorite of their albums, and I really enjoyed their other 3 (and the EPs).  These new songs just didn't click for me live, and they haven't really clicked for me yet listening in the car.  It felt like half their set was new stuff and I was missing some of their crowd-pleasers like Date With The Night or Phenomena.  But regardless, I'm still a huge fan of theirs and Karen O is like a crazy girl version of Iggy Pop.  Just a great frontwoman. And you can tell she still loves the hell out of singing Maps
WORST NEW CATEGORY I MADE UP (The last one, about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I'm not even sure it makes grammatical sense. But I'm committing to it.)
I tried really hard to like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but I just don't.  Karen O's voice is a bit screechy for me sometimes.  I still think she's talented and a great live performer.  Their music is just not my thing.  Also, I couldn't really see anything, so I zoned out a bit.  Makes me kind of regret not going off on my own to see Beach House and Band of Horses.  I was a little scared to separate from the group on the first day. 
By the time Yeah Yeah Yeahs went on, a wave of fatigue had washed over me. This was partly from having not eaten and also from having been in the sun and on my feet for way too long. I learned a valuable lesson here.  Eating and resting somewhere between bands is a must. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but with all the action going on and running from one place to another, it’s easy to forget or just not have time. They were probably great, but I was so tired I couldn’t really tell.

FAIL:  I think at this point we were pretty tired and totally lazed about and missed the Stone Roses.  Whatever, I don't think anyone cared.  I'm also sad I missed Grinderman because I didn't want to walk from the beer garden all the way to the Mojave tent.  I also missed a potential high school flashback by not going to the Outdoor stage to see Jurassic 5.  So....

WORST COACHELLA GOER - Me. In my defense, Friday is always the longest day between getting up early to make the two-hour drive and just being there for like 9-10 hours. I'm old, okay??
Could also be me.  Halfway through Blur I was starting to get grumpy from being cold and tired from being on my feet all day and being awake for 18 hours (I didn't even get a chance to nap!). 

WIN:  MOST FUN I HAD SINGING ALONG TO SONGS I KNEW - Blur.  Despite the thin crowd at the main stage that turned out to see them (Seriously, if I had more interest I could've waltzed right up to the stage), Blur put on a fun set.  
If I hadn't been so tired I would have gotten a little closer to the stage least to keep myself warm..    
I loved singing along to Coffee and TV and Tender and Girls & Boys and also made my own fun by going "WOO HOO!" after every song until they performed Song 2 (a song I'm sure we're all pretty sick of, but hey I've never heard it live).  However, I got this sense like they really were just dragging along by the end and they didn't even do an encore. Hmph! >_<  Again, to reiterate, I like Blur, but I don't think most people know them past "that band that does the WOO HOO song."  I don't think they OR the Stone Roses were very strong choices for co-headliners.
Fueled and slightly rested, I was ready for the final band of the night, Blur.  They opened with Girls & Boys, one of their classic hits. The sound of the keyboard followed by the bass line starting the song was exciting and that energy could be felt through the crowd. There’s No Other Way was next up and is one of my favorite songs from their first album. They played this song a little faster live, but it was still great and Damon Albarn was in full force, belting out the lyrics like a man possessed. I like that they played a lot of slower songs in the middle like Coffee & TV, Beetlebum, and Tender.  Perfect songs for the last set of the night and the end of a long day. They closed with Song 2 and a dazzling light show that zoomed off the stage. It was a sight to see even in my spent state. A totally amazing performance and a super way to end the day.
I think people know more Blur songs than they realize, especially once they hear them.  I loved Coffee & TV, Beetlebum, Girls & Boys, and even Song 2 was great (I actually haven't heard it in a long time since I stopped listening to the radio awhile back, so it was awesome!  They rocked it live).

WIN:  Finally napping in the soft, comfortable seats on the shuttle after a long day at the fest... and free water.