So now I’ve had a week of recovery and letting things settle post-Coachella, I thought I could finally feel up to solidifying some of my thoughts. I’ve seen a lot of “recaps” of the weekend(s), almost all of which could have been written beforehand–hot! so many diverse artists! so many bros in the rave tent!–so I’ll try to avoid those. (It was damned hot, though, that’s for sure.)
I told a friend before the weekend that I was looking forward to Coachella, because I can just zone out and listen to music. And that’s how the weekend plays for me. I’m not bothered by the crowds, I don’t socialize in the camps/hotels, I just float from stage to stage to stage to stage, doing and hearing what I want. It’s great.
Instead of recapping moment-by-moment everything I did, I wanted to mention a few each day.
After starting off with a few forgettable sets early on Friday (including my only two stops into the aforementioned rave Sahara tent), I headed out to the wide open Main stage to catch Hello Seahorse!, a dynamic and cool Mexican band.
Denise Gutiérrez, lead singer of Hello Seahorse!
Hello Seahorse! impressed greatly, their singer was engaging, and has a beautiful, operatic voice. I don’t make comparisons to Radiohead lightly, but Hello Seahorse! reminded me of their mix of musical dynamics, ethereal on top of rock/electronics. She only sings in Spanish, and barely said any words in English between songs, so for all I know, the lyrics are garbage. But still, I’m now a big fan. One underrated aspect of Coachella every year is their Latin American lineups, though this year I think Hello Seahorse! was their only one.
After a pretty cool set by EMA, I waited for Gary Clark Jr., who proceeded to blow the whole tent away. Sometimes a hot crowded tent needs some hot steamy blues, and that’s what we got. There is a lot of snobbiness to the Sahara rave tent sometimes, how the electro house DJs just play beats until the bass drops and everyone goes YEA! Gark Clark Jr., however, brings that same excitement with his guitar. The feeling when he drops into the riff after his hot solos had people raving. It was really fun, and shows — maybe the blues can be the next dubstep. Haha. Anyway, this was a breakthrough gig, and Clark should be a star soon (if not already). His sound reminds of The Black Keys, but with more soul mixed in (and Jimi Hendrix licks).
After watching Pulp–the explosion of “Common People” was amazing and one of the highlights of the weekend, I high-tailed it right over to the Outdoor Stage for, hell yes, Mazzy Star. The contrast between Jarvis Cocker, a real cool rock star, and Hope Sandoval could not have been more striking.
Hope Sandoval kindly requested the lights stay off, and she and the newly-reunited Mazzy Star played their seductive songs to near-darkness. It was perfect. The band, by the end, found their groove and it was quite a phenomenal performance. Perhaps a relatively-rowdy festival was not the ideal situation for Mazzy Star music (more on that later) but still, they sounded GREAT.
FULL LINEUP I SAW: Mea, Abe Vigoda, The Sheepdogs, Hello Seahorse!, EMA, Gary Clark Jr., GIRLS, Dawes, Pulp, Mazzy Star, M83, The Black Angels
IF I COULD DO IT OVER: I probably would go to The Black Keys or Explosions In The Sky instead of M83.
Saturday was my epic day. The schedule was (almost too) killer. I sort of set it up to see all women, until the end when Bon Iver and Radiohead finished my day.
After an up-and-down afternoon of some failed sets (Dragonette), cool vibes (Keep Shelly In Athens), buzz rap (Azealia Banks), old farts (fIREHOSE & Buzzcocks), I headed out into the 105-degree Outdoor Stage to catch tUnE-yArDs. It was almost reckless to be out there like that, but the festival kept everyone well-misted and, well, when someone is as riveting a performer as tUnE-yArDs, you don’t think about it. She brought an interesting mix of intense and fun to her amazingly impressive live technique of loops and live samples and percussion. This was a really good set and I had a really good time. Her albums are good, but one must experience her live.
After tUnE-yArDs, I was getting into the heart of my lineup. Laura Marling and St. Vincent were back-to-back in one tent, meaning I’d have to miss Andrew Bird, Jeff Mangum, and The Shins. Not complaining! Marling played a beautiful set, but the noisy atmosphere seemed to get to her. She seemed to cut her set short (her guitar guy brought her a guitar for the last song, but she’d already walked off). She had more time, and hadn’t got to even her recent (amazing) singles (“Sophia”). Regardless, I do consider her one of the best songwriters going right now.
St. Vincent on the rail on the edge of the crowd
St. Vincent had a post-sunset slot, and honed her set down to include nothing but high-intensity rock songs. Her energy was almost unbelievable. Her final song was sung while crowdsurfing, which only served to make the rowdy crowd rowdier. But, as usual, her stage diving wasn’t done in a reckless way, but in a more “this is badass” way. I dunno, it’s hard to explain. But Annie Clark’s stage presence and uber-coolness won everyone over. This was the set for me all weekend, and one I’ll always remember.
After that somewhat jawdropping performance, I wandered over to watch Feist for a bit, before Bon Iver and Radiohead closed things out. I did squeeze some Godspeed You! Black Emperor in between Bon Iver and Radiohead, which was crazy. The 30 min. of Godspeed I saw were dramatic, brilliant, menacing. I should have made more time for them.
FULL LINE-UP I SAW: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Keep Shelly In Athens, Dragonette, Azealia Banks, fIREHOSE, tUnE-yArDs, Buzzcocks, Laura Marling, St. Vincent, Feist, Bon Iver, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Radiohead
COOL STUFF I COULDN’T FIT IN: Miike Snow, SBTRKT, Jeff Mangum, Andrew Bird, Flying Lotus
IF I COULD DO IT OVER: leave Bon Iver a little earlier to see more Godspeed, skip Feist for Flying Lotus.
We all have heard about Sunday’s lineup, I’m sure: Hologram Tupac and Dr. Dre! I started out pretty early, taking it easy with some new bands like Gardens & Villa and Housse De Racket. First Aid Kit was next, who I’d discovered pre-Coachella and was really looking forward to. They sounded very nice, but some keyboard troubles seem to throw them off their game a bit. Also, like Laura Marling, a noisy festival is not necessarily the best vibe for their quiet clear folk sound.
First Aid Kit
Santigold was next, out on the main stage at 3:30pm in the DEAD of the sun. But again, her party vibes made you forget that. She played through her songs, with her cool band and it was quite a good time. She keeps growing into one of my favorites.
After this, I went to try to see Real Estate, and listened outside their tent. But it was PACKED, and I couldn’t get close. Around this time, I started thinking, maybe I should just go home. It was 105 degrees out, I’d seen a lot. It’s 4:30pm and I still have 7 hours left before Hologram Tupac. There was a couple of two hour blocks looming where I wasn’t overly interested in anyone playing. My mind was wandering. Not even physically, I felt fine, just mentally, I felt done. So, after Real Estate, I called it in and went home to watch Mad Men. 🙂
SUNDAY LINEUP I SAW: Tyler Uppercut, Gardens & Villa, Housse De Racket, Oberhofer, First Aid Kit, Santigold, Real Estate, Don Draper
IF I HAD STAYED LONGER THE LINEUP WOULD’VE INCLUDED: Thundercat, Gaslamp Killer, The Weeknd, Modeselektor, Dr. Dre/Tupac
REGRETS: OK so Thom Yorke came out and sang with Modeselektor at their half-filled tent. I like them, I would have been there. That’s what I missed by going home. 🙁 (He’s collaborated with them 3-4 times.)