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Coachella Day 2

May 10, 2006

OK, so here’s my review of Day 2 of Coachella, or, as some people like to call it, “Sunday.” I readily admit I don’t know much about formatting this thing, and that’s why my Day 1 review had the pictures and text floating around each other, looking like bad concrete poetry from a 10th-grade English class. I will attempt to remedy that with this review, but who knows….


DAY 2

Sunday started off much the same way as Saturday, except that at 9am it was already as hot as it had been at any time on Saturday. We upped the rehydration ante and chugged water and Gatorade before breaking out the remaining Keystone Lights.

I really wanted to catch The Octopus Project, as I had heard very good things aobut their performance at SXSW. Unfortunately, they were playing at noon, which meant there was no realistic way I was going to see them. After three years of attending Coachellas and other festivals, I know my body well enough to know that showing up first thing and staying until the end is not a good idea. Hopefully I’ll get them to come through St. Louis this summer…


We did, however, make it in just in time to see Mates of State. I’m no Superfan, but I like everything I’ve heard of Mates of State, and had heard great reviews of their live show, including their performance at last year’s Austin City Limits Festival. Unfortunately, their performance on this day didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The sound was thin and the performances didn’t seem particularly tight. Both singer/keyboardist Kori Gardner and singer/drummer Jason Hammel seemed to be struggling to hit the harmonies. We stuck it out for a while and then decided it was time to grab some lunch (two chicken soft tacos, if you were wondering).


When the schedule for the weekend was released, I was disappointed to see that The Magic Numbers and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists had identical, competing set times, as they were both bands I had been looking forward to seeing. I decided to split the difference and headed off to the main Coachella Stage to catch The Magic Numbers. When I got there, there was a pretty big, very receptive crowd and the band seemed genuinely surprised to have that many people come out to see them. I really enjoyed the set and wished I could have seen the whole set, but I had to move on over to the Outdoor Theater to catch…


Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. I’ve seen them play a few times, and I’ve always been impressed. Dressed in all white, they played with a ton of energy and ripped through a short but good set that included “Me & Mia”, “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone”, and “Timorous Me.”


After Ted Leo & the Rx were done, I headed into the beer garden to meet some friends for a beer before heading back out to the Outdoor Theater to catch the beginning of Minus the Bear before heading off to see Wolf Parade. I’ve been wanting to witness Minus the Bear live for some time now, but just haven’t been able to pull it off. They sounded great, even if David Knudson’s guitar wasn’t quite loud enough. It was the kind of solid, enjoyable — if not legendary — sets that make up the bulk of a weekend like Coachella and make it so worthwhile.

When Minus the Bear was done, we walked over to the Mojave Tent, where they were running a little behind schedule, which meant we were able to catch the very, very end of Metric’s set. It sounded great, adding yet another band to the list of wish-I’d-seen’s for the weekend.


We passed the set change with a quick beer and then made our way up close for Wolf Parade. Technical difficulties were far more common this year than they had been in the past, and few caused a greater delay than the one Wolf Parade faced. Unlike Madonna’s half hour delay (which I secrectly took quite a bit of pleasure in), Wolf Parade’s 25-minute delay, while frustrating, evoked a certain amount of sympathy from the crowd. You could tell it was frustrating the band as they went through keyboard after keyboard and cord after cord trying to figure out what was wrong. You could sense that this band’s chance to prove themselves at a high exposure event like Coachella was slipping away minute by minute. Also unlike Madonna’s set, where the crowd turned hostile, the crowd here was very respectful of the band’s predicament. Fortunately, once the band did start, they put on one of the best performances of the weekend. Their abbreviated, eight-song set was powerful and loud, and the band sounded great. If they had been able to play all of their fifty allotted minutes, people would have been talking about how Wolf Parade was “The Arcade Fire of ‘06”.


When Wolf Parade was done, I made my way back over to the Outdoor Theater to meet up with some friends who had left Wolf Parade early to see Bloc Party. Last year, Bloc Party put on one of the best shows of the weekend, and when I saw them again, five months later at Austin City Limits Festival, they were even better. While their performance at this year’s Coachella was good – great even – it just didn’t measure up to the previous two times I had seen them. For my friends who were seeing them for the first time, however, it was perfect. My coolness towards their performance probably also has to do with the fact that I was coming from seeing a great Wolf Parade performance, and that we were so far back (by the bleachers) that you kind of lost out on that all-important visceral component of a live performance.


At the end of Bloc Party, a friend and I headed to the Gobi Tent to see Gnarls Barkley, who had already started one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. I will never know why they had them playing on essentially the smallest stage, but the crowd was overflowing. We weren’t even able to get under the tent it was so crowded. Keeping with their penchant for movie-themed costumes, everyone on stage was dressed as a character from The Wizard of Oz. Danger Mouse was dressed as the Tin Man, the string section was dressed as flying monkeys, the backing singers as a trio of Dorothies, the band itself was dressed as witches, and Cee-Lo was dressed as the Cowardly Lion, sporting a t-shirt that said, in big black letters, “Mean ol’ Lion.” I didn’t get a picture of it, but he started the set off with a wig resenbling a golden mane. I imagine that got hot real fast. The set itself was great and the crowd was very enthusiastic. The band sounded good and you could really tell they were having fun. I highly recommend catching them this summer if you can.


Next was a yet another trip to the beer garden. From there, we watched the first several songs of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set. They sounded good, but by this point in the weekend, I just didn’t have the energy or will to fight the crowd of the main Coachella Stage to watch them from out there. I was happy to settle for a tight angle from a distance in the beer garden as the moon was settling into place in the desert sky.

Just before the YYY’s set ended a friend and I made our way over to the Sahara Tent to try and catch Madonna. I told myself before the weekend started that if there were no conflicts with Madonna, I would certainly try and check her out. As it was, Mogwai was set to start playing 15 minutes after Madonna, so I was happy I would be able to see a song or two of Madonna without feeling guilty about skipping seeing another band play. Unfortunately, Madonna seemed to forget she was playing at festival – a festival in which other artists were playing at the same, in which fans had other bands they wanted to see and in which the stage she was to perform on was booked later in the evening for other artists. We followed the flood of people all heading to the Sahara Tent and, upon arriving at the Sahara Tent, determined that there was no way we would find a spot in the tent, especially if we wanted to leave before the set was over, so we found a spot outside of the tent, within view of a projection screen that had been set up for overflow viewing, and settled in. By this point in the day, several stages were behind schedule, so the fact that Madonna didn’t start right at her scheduled 8:10 start was not at all surprising. But as the delay passed the 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-minute marks, the crowd began to get restless. After about twenty minutes, every time the song playing on the PA would wind down and a new song would start – instead of Madonna coming out – the crowd would actually boo. It actually became uncomfortable. Finally, after 30 minutes, I decided I had to make it over to Mogwai, a band I was really excited to see. About ten seconds after I turned around to walk away, the music stopped, the curtain dropped and Madonna came out singing her latest single, “Hung Up.” I stopped my retreat, turned to watch the song, realized that a) she was singing out of key and b) I really didn’t care about her anyway, and was on my way.


Fortunately for me, the Outdoor Stage was also running behind schedule, so when I showed up, Mogwai was only finishing their first song, “Hunted by a Freak” and heading into “Mogwai Fear Satan.” There was nobody at the stage, owing to being scheduled against both Madonna and Massive Attack. I was able to settle in up close and enjoy what was easily on of the best sets of the weekend. Mogwai is LOUD. There is no denying this. I can’t imagine how loud they must have sounded when they played in the closed-in Mojave Tent in 2004. Despite some technical problems (see a theme here?) with their effects pedals, Mogwai put on a stellar show, somehow proving that deafening music can also be ambient music.

I thought I’d check out Massive Attack before heading back over to the Outdoor Theater for The Go! Team. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that Massive Attack was one of the best performances of the weekend, but I just didn’t see it that way. Maybe it was exhaustion beginning to set in or maybe it was my lack of familiarity with their entire catalogue, but I just didn’t get into it that much. At one point, it looked like a slightly-more-together George Clinton was singing adult alternative faux-soul on stage. I don’t know who it was, but I took that as a signal to head back over to the Outdoor Theater.


I’m glad I did, as The Go! Team put on what was my favorite set of Sunday. I had never seen them before, but I had heard mixed reviews. I knew they were a band where you were either going to be into it or just weren’t, and fortunately for me, I had a decent idea of what to expect, so the double-drummer set-up, the high energy and the scissor-kicking Lady Ninja were no surprise to me. They were not at all sloppy, as some reviews had reported, but, instead, were tight, hitting their notes, and full of energy and fire. Guitarist and primary songwriter Ian Parton apparently ate a pound and a half of sugar before their set and Kaori Tsuchida was a cartoon character come to life, bouncing all over the stage playing guitars and keyboards, shouting out backing vocals at all the right moments. They topped it off by closing the set with “Ladyflash,” during which Mike Watt, of Minutemen, fIREHOSE, and solo fame, came out on stage and played bass with them, a completely unexpected and totally cool moment that was a great ending to a great set.


I was to meet a friend in the beer garden before Tool, but they closed down the garden, so I was going to have to fly it solo for the rest of the night, barring any random run-in’s with friends. I decided to check the VIP section to see if they were still serving drinks, and, conveniently, they were. I had a few cocktails up there while I waited for Tool. Tool was really the only band I watched from the VIP section for any significant amount of time. After a delay of about 15 minutes, Tool hit the stage, opening their set with “Stinkfist”, moving into “The Pot,” one of the better songs off their latest CD, 10,000 Days. Tool was good — not great — but their music fit into the desert setting surprisingly well. When they went into a Lateralus-centric sequence of songs, I found my way back over to the Outdoor Theater to check out Scissor Sisters.


I have seen SS before, and that show was a great, fun show, but I wasn’t that thrilled with what I saw on this evening. I was itching to get back over to Tool, and itching to get some sleep, so when I walked up to the stage and they were playing songs I wasn’t familiar with, I didn’t exercise much patience and headed back to the mainstage to catch the rest of Tool.

I made my way back to the campground during the last song, “Aenima”, which happens to be my favorite Tool song, to beat the crowd, which I did, had a few beers and got some much needed sleep, trying to process everything I had witnessed and heard this weekend.


I have every intention of going back next year…

Here’s a few more pictures:








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