May 1, 2006

Coachella Report: Day 1

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at May 1, 2006 10:35 PM

Now that I'm back in Berkeley I can finally do all the Coachella-related blogging I've been itching to do. Here's what I saw on Saturday:

The Duke Spirit: The first act I saw was this British rock band, which I knew of only through one track on that Snow Patrol mix CD (which has been a fruitful source of interesting music). That song, "Cuts Across The Land", was also the first one they played at Coachella, and I was pleased to find that the rest of the set was of similar quality. They have a female lead singer with a powerful voice, and some catchy songs. Until recently their CD was only available as an import, but it's now been released in the U.S. and I'll be looking for it. . The performance was a bit sparsely attended, as it was on the main stage in the midafternoon—around this time of day the shows in the tents were attracting a much larger audience.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: This show, on the other hand, had an audience nearly spilling out of the Mojave tent which was slowly being exposed to the setting sun. (It's not clear why they chose an east-west orientation for the tents, unless they were trying to sell more $2 water bottles.) I didn't arrive early enough to get a good spot, and couldn't hear much from the back of the tent. Fortunately I was able to work my way forward gradually; a lot of people mysteriously left after "The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth". (Maybe they were going to Kanye West?) So I was able to hear about two songs really well, but didn't get a good sense of the performance as a whole.

TV on the Radio: This is a band that I am mostly indifferent to except for a couple of songs that I really like. I probably would have seen My Morning Jacket instead, except that we wanted to get up in front for Ladytron (who followed TV on the Radio). This was extremely fortunate, because this show was amazing, and a totally different experience from listening to the CD. The band was passionate, dynamic, and relentlessly inventive. Tunde Adebimpe sang with an emotional force that was unmatched by anyone else I saw at the festival (except maybe Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and when their guitarist wasn't playing with windchimes hanging from the headstock he was beatboxing on a rendition of "Ambulance" that was far removed, and yet just as amazing, as the a capella track on the album. I'll definitely be watching for the next time this band visits San Francisco.

Ladytron: This was probably the act I was most looking forward to, and the only disappointment was that it was too short. In contrast to the emotional intensity of the preceding band, Ladytron were cool and detached, coming out onstage dressed like Star Trek villains and looking entirely bored with the whole proceeding, except when they would command the audience to dance with a single imperious finger. "High Rise" was a great choice to open the set, with the sun setting behind us. After this they played songs from all three of their LPs; I was mostly hoping to hear Witching Hour material but it was nice to hear "Playgirl", and "Seventeen" was inevitable (being the major single from Light and Magic).

Franz Ferdinand: I missed the beginning of their performance since I was at Ladytron; does anyone know if they played "L. Wells"? I was hoping to hear that. I did manage to hear "The Fallen" which is probably my favorite Franz Ferdinand song. They put in a strong performance but I wasn't as close to the stage as I would have liked to be, as a result of arriving late.

Cat Power: I only caught a few of her songs, since she also overlapped with the previous act. Moreover, I was in the back of the Mojave tent and couldn't hear anything. I suspected she was playing a cover of "House of the Rising Sun" but couldn't confirm it until I came in much closer. I did get to hear "Love & Communication", with which she closed her set, and I was a bit sorry I didn't see the whole thing.

Depeche Mode: This being the headline show, the audience was huge, and even though I'm not terribly familiar with Depeche Mode it was fun just to be part of such an enormous undertaking. Hearing a hundred thousand people sing along to "Enjoy the Silence" was especially impressive. I was way the hell back and couldn't see much, except for what was on the video monitors, but on the plus side I had enough room to dance. I need to take another look at Violator for my 90's music collection.

Daft Punk: I was really tired by this point and didn't have the energy to make my way into the Sahara tent, so I watched a bit on the screen outside and then left a bit early. I have a feeling this was a little better inside the tent.

We then shuttled back to Pasadena and promptly lost consciousness, catching some six hours of sleep before getting up to make the drive back for the second half of the festival.

Tags: Coachella, Concerts, Music

I woulda payed cash monnies to see you dance.

Then again, Cat was busting grooves something fierce (to Depeceh Mode and later Massive Attack), so I was entertained either way.

Posted by: Lemming | May 1, 2006 11:32 PM

Gazebo: If you ever want to be educated on Depeche Mode, let me know. They're my favorite band (by a very heavy margin). Maybe one way of giving an order of magnitude is that I have over 1 gig of Depeche Mode music on my iTunes playlist. The number of DM-related entries on my blog also gives a reasonable idea of the obsession.

Cat grooving to DM, after standing stoically the entire day, was extremely amusing. I'm sedate even with bands I really like, so although I was clapping the whole time (and that's the only band for which I did that), I don't know if an outside observer would have been able to tell how much I enjoyed it. Also worth pointing out was the running conversation he and I had at the beginning of each song in which we were identifying them from the first note (except for a couple brief confusions that caused us to need a few more notes).

As for Violator, it is an incredibly awesome album. That album was also the peak of their mainstream popularity in the US (at least as far as the pop charts are concerned). It only has nine songs, but what a collection of tracks!

You should have heard the extended version of "Enjoy the Silence" Depeche Mode performed in their concert at the Staples Center. Wow! (Actually, what you really should do is listen to the studio version of "Shake the Disease" to see how they changed it for this live performance. This particular rendition of that song was my highlight of Coachella.)

Posted by: Mason | May 2, 2006 12:27 AM
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