Friday, May 2, 2008

Coachella: Day 1

For those of you who might not know, yours truly went to her first Coachella this year. I say first because, frankly, after the fun I had this year I can't imagine not going back repeatedly. It was one of the most insanely wonderful things I've ever done. It was three days of blinding sunshine, searing heat, and rubbing elbows with over 100,000 people on a polo field in the middle of the Southern California desert. Oh, and there were some pretty good bands there, too, as you can see from the poster on the left. I'd like to go through and give you some general impressions from each day of the festival, as well as post some more in depth reviews from the sets I spent the most time checking out. I hope to see you out there for Coachella 2009...

My first band of Day 1 was Architecture in Helsinki, who played the Outdoor Theatre (yes, all of the other stages were technically outdoors as well, not sure why this one was nominally recognized as such). They were really good, a lot bubblier and bouncier and poppier than I remembered them being. At one point in the set, we were told that it had been their dream for ages to play Coachella, and if they got here it means dreams really do come true. Aww. It warmed the cockles of my heart to see them do their thing. After seeing them in the sweltering desert I can heartily recommend their live show. They covered the song "Guy" by Matthew Williams, you'd know it if you heard it. It was big in the 80s.

It was after the AIH set that I began to notice many people walking around with incredibly painful looking sunburns. I thank my lucky stars that I liberally applied my SPF 55 lotion all weekend.

Next up was another band from Down Under, Cut Copy. They played in the smallest of the three tents, the Gobi tent, and it was absolutely packed. We couldn't actually see them, but the sound was excellent and what I heard was fantastic. They remind me a little of New Order, very electric but with some pop sensibilities. Another highly recommended live act (hey D.C.-ers, catch CC live on May 15th @ the Black Cat!).

After Cut Copy, it was back to the Outdoor Theatre to check out buzz band du jour Vampire Weekend. They were...ok. Not bad, not good. Definitely not exciting enough to stick around for more than a couple songs. They promised a new album, since as of now they have but one. Since it's a slippery slope for bands that rise so meteorically, I am unsure as to whether I think they'll make it to album no. 2. For now, they were my least favorite band of Day 1.

Next up was a duo I had been really excited to see, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. I'm a big fan, and you might remember the video for "Thou Shalt Always Kill" was one of our Video Vixen selections a while back. Live, the two are simply fabulous. Dan le Sac brought his big beats with him from Blighty, and Scroobius Pip's rhyming was deliriously delightful. They had the crowd in the Gobi tent eating out of their hands with their combination of speaker-shaking noise and whip-smart lyrics. A highlight of the festival for me, for sure.

Continuing on a steady march, it was over to the mid-sized Mojave tent for some Goldfrapp action. This was an idea had by many, as the tent was overflowing out onto the surrounding green grass for their set. One of the only bands I saw to start late, after ten minutes of intro music Goldfrapp finally took the stage. In sharp contrast to the last time I saw them live, when she was decked out in dominatrix black leather, Alison Goldfrapp donned a loose, flowy pink tunic dress, more in keeping with the spirit of their latest album. The best moment of their set for me was "Utopia," when Alison showed she can still hit those falsetto notes with no problem. She really does have one of the most beautiful voices in the world today, and I got chills during that song. Consider them a can't-miss when it comes to live shows.

Took in a couple Aphex Twin songs in the huge Sahara tent, but I didn't even try to squeeze into the pulsating insanity of the crowd. The strobes were intense, the beats were massive. I'm not a big Aphex Twin fan, but it sounded good enough to me.

And then it was time for the main event, one of my main impetuses for going to Coachella in the first place: The Verve. I'd been waiting for this moment for what seemed like ages, and after some strategic maneuvers, we managed to get to the second row of the crowd. I was giddy with excitement, and the band didn't disappoint. I thought I was going to pass out from sheer bliss during their set. It was the perfect way to cap off the first day of Coachella, and indeed they were my band of the entire weekend. It felt so good hearing their songs live again (though I do wish they had dipped into the older stuff more than they did, most of the set came from Urban Hymns), and they looked so happy to be together again, performing. It was a glorious set indeed.

All in all, my first day at Coachella was great. Despite my favorite band playing on the first day, it somehow managed to get even better.

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