I just made it to our gathering place in time. I'm part of a camping group - have been for years now - but this year the organizer didn't make it, so I wore an organizer hat. As a friend later commented, it's normal to be unnerved when this responsibility falls on you; everyone feels like everyone else is a better, more responsible organizer. (well, almost everyone; i know a few who think they're the best in the world at it but wouldn't want the work because they'd stress out and freak, which i'm unlikely to do in the worst of times and certain not to do when in a laid back relaxed festival mood). Our other flying-in-from-NY member was running late - his flight was delayed because the captain of his plane needed a new chair - so we waited for an hour and a half or so before all had assembled. The security line was much better than last year (yay); when we got into it, it was maybe a tenth as long as when we got into it a year ago (at a comparable time). Even better, they had a designated gathering area for groups, removing the stress and hassle of trying to stay together - particularly helpful given that the elapsed time between when the first car and the last car got through was more than an hour (separate lines; some of us got the pro forma line, while others got the real line).
We got in around 3.30, and set up camp. The best part of this was the guy with the old school, non-easy-up canopy which (a) he'd never assembled and (b) had no instructions. With two software engineers and a mechanical engineer we managed to figure it out; it was a fun puzzle. (The rest of the day involved eating, and drinking, and talking; fantastic for someone suffering from undersocialization).
My first band of the weekend was Wolf Gang. I really wanted to like them; i'm inordinately fond of the one song of theirs i'd heard before the weekend. The drew a large crowd, but I was underwhelmed; it was ok, an echo of new wave two decades later, but ultimately not my cup of tea. Still, I enjoyed it enough to stay through the end. I then passed through Honey Honey on the way to see R3hab; Honey Honey seemed to be a group of women harmonizing country songs, and had drawn a small crowd. (I was not enticed to remain). R3hab was playing a fun, danceable set (albeit with rough, jarring transitions) to an energetic crowd; i'd never listen to this while coding, reading, or doing anything other than seeing it live, but it was fun. :)
After them, I wandered back to see Other Lives, a band that hadn't originally been on my list. They were fantastic. THey wer eplaying something which sounded like a cross between 70s folk and dreampop; they had an elaborate set of instruments including fiddles, a large xylophone, and a harmonica; and they did a fantastic job of combining atmosphere with interesting lyrics. They were one of my favorite sets of the weekend.
I then tried (and failed) to check out Kendrick Lamar. I just couldn't get into it; maybe if i'd started off with a different song, but when I arrived, he was performing "Pussy and Patron" ("I'm going through something with my life, but pussy and patron will make you feel alright"), which really just didn't do anything for me (and wasn't helped by the dudes wearing tshirts shouting "YES MEANS NO"). So I wandered off to see EMA, a group whose music reminded me intensely of this mortal coil. THey were fun, particularly at the moments of their high tempo songs, which occasionally perfectly matched the intensity of the storm I could see raging behind them.
The Coachella Valley Music Festival takes place in the desert. Every year i've gone before, it's been in the 90s or hotter, and dry as a bone, as befits the desert in mid-spring. But this year there was a freak storm. 50 MPH wind gusts are one thing (that's not unusual); the 42 degree night-time temperatures were another; and the blustery rain of Friday was something yet again. Rain! in the desert! No mud; it would evaporate before that. But enough for dramatic looking clouds and bitter cold. And an intense, beautiful backing to some of EMA's music.
After EMA, I wandered over to check out the rest of SebAstian's set. This was high energy house music, iinfiltrated somewhat by the horrors of dubstep, with an energetic but shivering crowd. Alas, the visuals were horrifying. (I can't remember the specifics and didn't write them down ... but it was enough to make me wonder if it was even sane to like the music, they were so bad).
I passed by Grouplove intending to stay, but found myself uninterested in the technicolor rockers (visualize a technicolor lily tomlin accompannied by a jesus figure, dressed in white with badly dyed long blue hair); the music just didn't move me. I heard from others that they put on a good show, but shrug
The grass grew cold; I went to fetch shoes. Then some of my camping buddies and I checked out the Arctic Monkeys, which was good hard rock, and was basically what I had wanted grouplove to be. THis was fun, but I left early to go see Wu Lyf, a kickass, energetic band whose music was perfect for sunset. When they were done, I wandered over to dance to Alesso for a while (another sample of quite good house music), and left to catch Mazzy Star, who were a bit low energy for me but otherwise quite good.
Then I encountered the saddest thing of the entire weekend: Atari Teenage Riot, a band whom I had no desire to see but who are truly legendary in their genre, playing to one of the tiniest crowds i've ever seen. I passed through their tent on the way to M83, who had the densest crowd of the weekend; while I enjoyed their set a great deal, they've changed a lot since the last time I saw them, and I think I prefer the then-M83 to the now-M83 (then they were ethereal and atmospheric; now they seem to have taken on a more rock aura).
I grabbed some food and beer and then returned for Amon Tobin, who I expected to be more dance music. Instead, what I got was a deep progressive trance which reminded me of both DJ Spooky and DJ Moshic. Unfortunately, though, DJ Moshic is what I listen to when I can't sleep and choose to deal with that by laying in the dark listening to trippy music until I drift off; Amon Tobin was on starting at midnight on the pacific coast, which my east-coast adjusted body interprets as being quite, quite late. I found myself laying down next to the edge of the tent, huddling for warmth, drifting in and out of sleep listening to the set. (I quite liked it, but I don't remember it).
Saturday, I started a bit later, missing a band I'd sort of wanted to see, but I amde it in for We Were Promised Jetpacks a bit after 1. They were a surprisingly good shoegaze band (probably the first straight-up shoegaze i've really liked other than my friend's band); watching their set was a lot of fun. Then I wandered over for We Are Augustines, another band who, despite really liking the one song i'd previously heard, just didn't do it for me; the music was fine, but there's something about the frontman which rubs me the wrong way. But i'd only allotted about 20 mintues for them anyway, and then I wandered over to see some of Destroyer, a band so completely forgettbale that i don't remember them at all.
The main act for me for the day was the back-to-back sets of AWOLNATION and the Kaiser Chiefs. The sun had come out, it had warmed up substantially, and they were on the mainstage; I got up close to the front and baked in the sun waiting for them. AWOLNATION put on a fantastic, energetic show, which should have had a pit but didn't. The Kaiser Chiefs put on a more subdued show, but it was still a lot of fun, and I was happy to have gone.
I went to get food and drink and shoes for the night, and came back in time to catch the end of Sebastian Ingrosso's set. I enjoyed it, but rumor has it that it was a complete repeat of the previous night's SHM set, which is disappointing if true. Next, I went to see Kasabian, an energetic, rocking britrock band whom I quite enjoyed. I left before the end, though, because I didn't want to miss any of Bon Iver, whom I've wanted to see for years. Their set reminded me in a lot of ways of Mumford&Son's equivalently timed set from last year. It was, as expected, fantastic, and mesmerizing; I was awed even though they only played two songs from For Emma.
I'd cleverly positioned myself to be close to the stage yet still able to dash out, so as soon as they ended I dashed over to see the second half of Miike Snow. They seem to have ditched their masks, but their show was still great. I particularly enjoyed the crowd wildness for Animal (the one time all weekend that I popped my earplugs out while at a show).
When they were done, I wandered over to see Kaskade, my one EDM act for the day; it was a lot of fun, and I was beset by none of the tiredness of the previous day. (Although, really, crowd? Nobody recognizes Sweet Dreams? what is the world coming to?)
Sunday was a strange day from a scheduling standpoint: there was basically nothing I cared about until 7, after which point there was no time where tehre were fewer than three bands I wanted to see at any one time. This combined with my general third-day lethargy to make it hard to motivate myself to do anything for most of the day.
I did manage to make it in to see Zedd, primarily because I wanted to hear his Zelda cover in person.
I should note that I really, really, really dislike dubstep.
But; Zedd is quite talented, even when he's doing stuff I dislike, and after listening to him, I learned something: part of what's happening with dubstep is that the tracks being mixed are tracks that are currently popular; I don't recognize them and they leave me cold, but they make the young crowd go wild. In a way, this is no different than the sampling of the 90s, except that it's not sampling my music, so it doesn't work for me. (OK, fair enough; that doesn't deal with my other objection, which is that dubstep is all beat and no melody, and that it's somehow not danceable despite being all beat; but that's just my old man hat).
I wandered back out of the venue and hung out in the campgrounds, drinking and being social - again, fantastic for me, as i'm generally undersocialized - until it was time for Gotye. I saw a little bit of the Hives before, with some friends from the camping group; it was good, and fun to dance to, but not my thing. Gotye, on the other hand ... I love somebody that i used to know; it's brilliantly done ... but the rest of their music sounds nothing like it. My friend loved it; I was bored. And hungry. And tired. I stuck it through to the end, because I was with a friend who was into it, but ...
Some wandering around for food and drink and bathroom, interspersed with a visit to see part of Girl Talk's set (a set which disappointed me musically and left me bewildered at the crowd) led up to one of my favorite musicians: DJ Shadow.
I've seen DJ Shadow more times than any other musician. In general, I think his shit is brilliant. Unfortunately, he's been a bit influenced by dubstep, and he devoted part of his set to a special guest star (whom the crowd loved and I didn't recognize) (i found out later that it was zach de la rocha. meh.). so, while i enjoyed it, it also left me somewhat disappointed; i wanted more, different, better shadow. the shadow that i used to know. the current shadow, while he's just as talented, is interested in different shit than i am, and while it doesn't keep me from respecting him and loving some of his shit, it means that i don't enjoy him like i used to.
When he was done I wandered down to the end of the venue to see Avicii, a fantastic swedish producer/DJ who is widely reviled among EDM snobs (because they don't like his fans and think his hit song is overplayed) but who is crazy talented. I've wanted to see him ever since I first heard his music, and I had a blast dancing to his set. (Accordingly, I did not see hologram Tupac. I never gave a shit about Tupac; my time was much better spent dancing to some of today's best pop house music).
I stayed up late talking Sunday night, and lingered long Monday morning; I never want the festival weekend to end.
Maybe next year?
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