By Jeffrey Kieviet
Friday, April 19th; Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Coachella has something for everyone: hip-hop, indie-rock, EDM, and good ol’ fashion ska. It’s out in the middle of Indio, CA, which is right on the corner of Nowhere & Nothing; in the heart of sunny Southern California. The nights are cold on the desert sand and burning throughout the day. You can camp next to your car or pass out in your sleeping bag next to the beer gardens.
This was my first Coachella and will not be the last. We got in around 11 Thursday night and the rest of our group had already set up our epic camp site. We’d snagged 4 spot all next to each other to make a huge 2×2 set with a double-wide awning and inflatable futon. That’s right, a couch that unfolds into a bed made out of connecting inner tubes. If Indio had a lake we probably would have tried to sail it.
As soon as the sun is up it’s too bright and too hot to stay in bed, so I threw on a tank top and shorts, boozed up my engine and headed into the venue. 6 expansive stage, the best spot to find is always in the shade. If you’re lucky, you can find a good spot in the beer garden by the main stage and hang out under a palm tree, drinking Heineken and eating over-priced pizza while the Violent Femmes play a slow, aged rendition of “Blister in the Sun.” A lot of bands were like that, memories from the 80s & 90s with songs you can’t name and lead singers you can’t recognize, but they’ll play something and then: “I remember that song from that movie that time.” You know, what music scholars could only call “the classics.”
We started the day with an awesome band that I’d never heard of before, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. A 20-member band with enough English skills to phonically sing their songs and scream “Hello Coachella!” All the bands said “Cochella” the same way, with an odd emphasis on the middle that somehow avoided a specific inflection on any one syllable. I ended the night (a little early, but hey, I’m getting on in my years, I can’t party like the kid I used to) with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs! My favorite band of the day, possibly the whole weekend. I’d always thought they were some girl-band trio, like a female blink-182. Not sure why, but the lead singer kind of reminded me of Phoebe from “Friends.” They put on a rockin’ show and the music was excellent. They sounded exactly like their radio singles and I’m eager to check out some of their other tunes.
A few other honorable mentions of day 1 include: Japandroids (first heard of this little rock duo on Tosh.0 and was impressed by their creative name as much as their music), Of Monsters and Men (an awesome Nordic folkish band, kind of like Mumford and Sons meets Within Temptation. The lead female singer lost her shoe during the performance, that’s how they rock’n’roll), and Modest Mouse (I was expecting a better show but as a fan I’m glad I caught them. “Dashboard” is still a personal favorite. Ask me about my busted dashboard sometime. I’ll tell you how thankful I am to still have my radio).
Saturday, April 20th; Dropkick Murphys – Sigur Ros
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: 420 man, it’s a party, woo! And yes, it was a party. And yes, I don’t exactly remember a lot of what happened that day. But I will take to my grave that I was more out of commission due to heat stroke and exhaustion than by any foreign substance. I’m stuck behind a desk in a windowless office for more hours of the day than I’m allowed to sleep so going out for 3 days of fun in the sun took a lot out of me.
I don’t think we got a late start to the day but going through the lineup, I don’t recognize any of the names of bands that played before mid-afternoon. The Dropkick Murphys banged onto the stage to shout drunken Irish slurs and promote their pride in Boston; much love and appreciation to everyone who proved just how good humanity can be in the face of insane and unimaginable terrorism. We hopped on over to 2 Chainz to get our rap on, then on to Violent Femmes (as mentioned, old farts but they’re still there to have a good time), I caught all of Puscifer even though they didn’t play their one song (from the Underworld movie soundtrack, check it out, Rev 20:22), a few DJs (apparently Rihanna joined Major Lazer for his first song, which I caught but was only listening from the comfort of my shady spot so I can’t actually claim I saw Rihanna in concert), and then went back to the main stage to see a reunited Postal Service. I wasn’t a big fan back in high school but I was familiar enough to be excited about the little piece of music history.
As the evening wore to a close, we caught Franz Ferdinand (I dig their one album but I have no idea why they get so much radio play, it’s only like one song. A catchy song, don’t get me wrong, but I’m amazed by how popular they are), Sigur Ros’s whole show was filmed in black and white with soft focus and lots of deep shadows, a very haunting performance, and Phoenix is able to end with a rocking set on the main stage.
Sunday, April 21st: Deap Valley – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The awesome part of Coachella is discovering new music. Sunday we hopped around a lot, not really catching any full sets but getting snippets from all of them. I can’t recognize many, nor put many performances to the correct name, but there were DJs, singers, bands galore. One band I really want to check out was a 2-chick rock duo called Deap Valley. After them cam a DJ who actually mixed his music live on stage. I’ve always questioned the novelty of seeing a DJ live when he’s just playing songs with the press of a button, but to watch the guy record him saying “woo,” then slapping a drum in rhythm with the “woo,” and building a whole song from scratch was really cool.
Alex Clare, that guy who sings “Well it feels like I am just too close to love you,” on those Internet Explorer ads (I’m more of a Chrome user myself, but they’re awesome commercials), he’s a hipster-looking ginger. I know, I was surprised too. The Airborne Toxic Event only had that one song from that one movie (I wanna say Cruel Intentions but that’s what research is for and I gave my research lady the weekend off), and that’s not fair. They were too good to just be one hit wonders. We timed the Lumineers wrong and missed “Ho Hey.” Jeff the Brotherhood did not ask me to join them onstage so I felt their name was a lie. Social Distortion, Vampire Weekend, Wu-Tang Clan. The list goes on and on; I feel like Nick Cage at a social gala (name dropping like they’re falling out of my pants, cuz how else is he getting work?) but this was ridiculous.
Finally we get to the closers: Red Hot Chili Peppers. You know them, you may not have a single CD, but you can probably sing along to their entire greatest hits album. They’re encore was almost as long as their show. For a band that came out just after the Violent Femmes, they still can rock. They’re age hasn’t hit them. Sure, the lead singer’s moustache makes him look like he should be telling Jeff Foxworthy jokes instead of “Give It Away” and Flea bounces around like the kid he voiced in “The Wild Thornberrys,” but they love what they do. Flea even grabbed the mike towards the end and was all “We don’t like guns and we don’t like drones. We like peace and love, man.” C’mon, even if you’re not a dirty hippy that’s gotta melt your heart, right?