After a trip that took 10 hours and was filled with more adventures and mayhem than should have been physically possible (hey, Adrian "Mini Mogul" Moreira, could you have any worse luck?), the first day of the Coachella Arts and Music Festival was now upon us. The problem is, how do you pull yourself away from poolside at your beautiful house next to the golf course at PGA West? That was a rough question for many of us (Aaron Axelsen, Gene Sandbloom, Mark Czarra, Dennis Blair and Dave Cash, included), but we finally managed to clean up and head over to the Polo Fields to check out one of the finest assemblages of live musical talent ever in North America.
The layout of Coachella is pretty damn sprawling, with two stages and three tents spread out over a vast expanse of real estate. Getting from end to end can take ten minutes, especially if you're ducking all the nu-skool hippies and fire jugglers, noise makers (what the hell is up with those nimrods banging on those tribal metal percussion contraptions? that SUCKED), and various and sundry passed out/resting individuals. The key, however, is seeing as many bands as possible, even if it means not catching their entire sets. The other key, by the way, is only drinking at the "V.I.P." (if some of those people were very important at ANYTHING, I'm Jon Cohen) bar, as the lines are much shorter, and you can't walk around with alcohol on the grounds, anyway, except for the "beer garden" areas were the kids down beer in penned-off spaces like animals in the zoo. Enough with the background, here comes the music.
With so many bands on parade, it wasn't hard to see a great number of acts. I just wanted to make sure I stayed for longer sets of the better bands. Badly Drawn Boy played to an almost full Mojave Tent, wowing the indie kids with is piano-led song smithery. Out on the Main Stage, Sweden's finest dressed, The Hives, rocked the house. The Main Stage this year was LOUD. In past years, hearing the headliners from the V.I.P. bar area was a bit of a stretch, as the sound tended to be so much better in the field. This year, however, it was definitely loud enough to hear from there, as was evidenced by the huge number of people in that bar area at any one time (including actual V.I.P.s like Cameron Diaz, Alicia Silverstone (who is rocking a very new, very short, very black hairdo [wig?]), Elijah Wood, Tommy Lee, Kelli Osbourne and, uh, Pat O'Brien, as well as a large contingent of the bands that were playing). After The Hives worked their way through the excellent "Main Offender" and "Hate To Say I Told You So," it was time to run back over to the Mojave Tent with Carlyn Kessler and the rest of the gang to check out Hot Hot Heat. Although their show was plagued with technical difficulties (welcome to the world of outdoor festivals), the band were troopers, working their way through them and pleasing the crowd to no end. Back to the Main Stage for Britpop sensations Blur. It was the second time I'd caught them this year and the re-addition of bass player Alex James, who had not been allowed in the country for the band's "secret" show at South By Southwest this year, definitely took the show to a new level. They were pulling no punches, wanting the crowd into it a soon as possible, with "Girls & Boys" as the second song of the evening. "Crazy Beat" and "Song 2" stood out as well, and yes, dumb Dennis Blair, we do play that song at popscene.
Post-Blur imbibing (as I said before, the nice thin about seeing bands on the Main Stage was the ability to be, uh, refreshed, with the beverages of your choice while listening and nice to see Christine Chiappetta, Lisa Worden, Robin Rockwell and the headed-in-a-new-career-direction Chris Muckley keepin' it real, not to mention finally getting to meet more real live Cornerstone peeps in the form of Patrick Schmidt, Scott Hurwitz and Kelli McNamara), it was again time to navigate the field of water bottle carnage to peek in on ex-Underworld DJ Darren Emerson. He was getting the Sahara Tent a-jumpin' with beats galore. I was now off to see my boys The Music in action at the Mojave Tent. The tend was PACKED and the the quartet from Leeds was rocking it as hard as they always do, and winning over the hearts and minds of the new converts as usual. "The People," "Getaway," "Take The Long Road And Walk It," "The Truth Has No Words," much of their debut self-titled album was showcased and frontman Robert Harvey was a whirling dervish, bouncing around the stage dancing, as he is known to do. Time for Queens Of The Stone Age and their amazing area rock for the indie kids. Again, as last year, Queens brought the house down in their own back yard, playing and incendiary set that had the crowd screaming for more. "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," "No One Knows," "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret" ""Go With The Flow" and my all time fave, "Regular John," off their 1998 self-titled Loosegroove joint, were all unleashed to the joy of the throng.
The endless back and forth running continued as I wore a path in the grass back to the Mojave Tent for Ladytron followed by Groove Armada. The 'Tron were their usual robotic 1984 selves, excellent, but not really a festival band. I much prefer them in the dark confines of a club The Armada, on the other hand, were a complete surprise. Playing with a seven person live band, they added such new life to their sounds, it was amazing. I was expecting a straight DJ set, but this was taking it to a whole new level. Nice work, boys.
Main Stage headliners and alternative superstars Beastie Boys closed out the night on the big stage and the crowd couldn't have been much happier if you handed out E (although half of them were already on it). I think I even saw Steve Nice shaking his ass on more than one occasion. It was the perfect greatest hits/party set, with a new number or two thrown in for good measure to keep it fresh. The Beasties were a perfect way to end the first night's official festivities (there are always after parties when you've got a house), but the sing-along nature of their set capped off a great day at Coachella.
But there's more! Sorta. The Mojave Tent was running so far behind that come the end of the Beasties, The Libertines (who I had gone over to see before and the Armada was still on), still hadn't gone on. Rumors were circulating that since it was past the 12 Midnight cut off time, the band would not be able to play. But, come 12:25, with no soundcheck, the quartet from London came on and ripped straight into it. The vocal mix was virtually nonexistent for the first song but they sounded tight for song number two. Until frontman Pete Doherty smashed the mic stand harder than I've ever seen before and walked off stage. Evidently, The Man had already had enough and the over-running was not going to be tolerated. From a canceled show in SF to this debacle, The Libs seemed cursed. But things would look up for them on Day Two. Stay tuned for more of my (not very) exciting adventures.