Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Festival Review :: Coachella - Los Angeles, CA, Sunday, April 19th, 2009

After deciding the week of the festival that I should probably buy a ticket to Coachella, I began scouring craigslist. It was nearly impossible to find any for Friday, which was a shame, because it meant I couldn’t see Conor Oberst, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, M. Ward, The Black Keys and more. The most tickets offers I found were for Sunday, which was surprising as it had the second best line-up. I ended up buying a ticket from a fifteen year old kid in Encino for cheap. Thanks kid whose name I don’t remember! A quick drive to Empire Polo Field in Indio and I was ready to bake in the heat. If you went to the right stages, the day carried the theme of an ear bleeding noise-fest.

Los Angeles is spoiled, because if you miss one No Age show, the natives are bound to be playing again next month. Downtown hosts The Smell, which is the art-noise and No Age center of the universe. The front of the venue proudly wears the band’s name and title of their first compilation record “Weirdo Rippers,” as it was the cover photo. The Mojave hosted the only mosh pit I saw that day as No Age trippingly thrashed three chord tantrums all over the stage. Guitarist Randy Randall tossed his luscious sweaty locks about as he jumped around or waded into the crowd or leaped off his amp. As Drummer and vocalist Dean Allen Spunt pounded at his ripped up kit, he repped a New Image Art t-shirt from their show at the West Hollywood gallery a couple of months earlier. For their last song Randall tossed the green dinosaur piñata that had been adorning the stage in the air, beating it into the crowd with his guitar where it was promptly torn limb from limb.

Okkervil River was inconveniently lined up at the same time as Shepherd Fairey. I really wanted to find out what Mr. Fairey could be doing on stage for an hour, live art or otherwise. ‘Literary’ is the go to word branded on Okkervil River when reviewers are feebly attempting to describe them. It makes sense, the round glasses and button up shirt tucked into dark slacks made singer and guitarist Will Sheff look like a literature professor. Oh yeah, it’s not all about their look, they’ve also got encyclopedia sized narrative lyrics and the band takes their name from Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya. The Texas natives felt right at home in the Indio desert, encircled by palm trees, mountains and a bleary sun. Shraff’s hollow meandering vocals guided the set from the jumpy “Unless it’s Kicks” to the slow strum of the lovely female guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo on “Plus Ones.”

For the next couple of hours, the only bands to watch were the appropriately named Lupe Fiasco or the K’breaded K’Naan. The absence of any captivating set to watch had me puking into the grass. Then again, that could’ve been a bad chicken sandwich I had for lunch. After that, there was a wailing match between Peter Bjorn and John and Anthony and the Johnsons. and.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs exploded onto the stage, singer Karen O glitteringly sober in her gold plated dress. A giant eyeball with sparkly plastic explosions hung behind the band. Their set decorations reflected the docility and high production of their newest album. However, Miss O proved she could still manically thrash about and scream on songs like the b-side epic “Countdown.” Guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase showed that they haven’t lost any vigor since their first album. Then they played the droll “Zero”…

Taking the noise throne as night descended was My Bloody Valentine. The lighting behind them brought the pink and black of 1991’s Loveless to life, blinding, blurring and blending musician into instrument into the abstract visuals on the screen behind them. Loveless was characterized by riotous riffs and drowning vocals with eerie and unmistakable, albeit indistinguishable, guitar and vocal melodies. The band likewise brought their music to life a grand cacophonous scale. The music flowing with the lights out into the crowd to drown them in noise. The only downside was that the band got so loud at times it all buzzed into one, like ambient television static, particularly for those close to the stage. There were also melodic meditations. Scruffy guitarist and vocalist Kevin Sheilds was poised and zen-like through tunes like the methodical “Only Shallow.” Wearing a red dress and cardigan, the sweet Bilinda Butcher sang most of the songs while playing guitar and looked like she would fit in just as well as a mother of three in the sixties.

My Bloody Valentine sure has a sense of humor. The bridge of their last song “You Made Me Realize” was the climax of dissonance for their set. Guitarists strummed as loud and as quickly as they could and the drummer beat a crashing rhythm into the kit. This went on for at least fifteen minutes. I’m not even exaggerating. People covered their ears and walked away as the droning wall of sound made even your blood vibrate to the point where you thought it would turn into gelatin and ooze out of your pores. It went on for far too long, tried the audience’s patience and was hilarious. When they decided they were good and finished, they bounced right back into the chorus to finish out the song.

Some people stayed and cried all through The Cure’s set. I wasn’t one of them.

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