Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Coachella: Day 2

Despite all the par excellence on display on the first day of Coachella, there was still much more to come. After a visit to the unbelievable Joshua Tree National Park, my partner in crime and I went back to the oasis of the Empire Polo Field for what ended up being another splendid day of music.

First up was MGMT, orchestrators of one of my favorite albums of the past few months (that being the already-gushed about Oracular Spectacular). The middle child Mojave tent was once again brimming with lusty, sweaty festival folk, so I didn’t “see” much of the lads. However, they sounded fantastic. The standouts were “Pieces of What,” “Electric Feel” (which featured a lovely little audience sing-along), “Time to Pretend” (which garnered the loudest hoots and hollers), and the closing track “Kids.” They sounded punchy and full of sunshine, the perfect band to hear while dripping sweat all over the place.

It was right before MGMT went on that I saw four dudes wandering around, dressed in campy, Native American style. They were utterly resplendent in their gigantic headdresses and face paint, not to mention the fringed pants and vests. And they were only a few of the festivalgoers who made, shall we say, interesting fashion choices over the course of the weekend.

The next band, Boyz Noize, was kind of a happy accident. We got our tents confused, and instead of seeing Bonde Do Role we heard some pretty wicked beats. I knew, and still know, nothing about them, but I can tell you they can kick it. Yes they can.

Kate Nash, bless her heart, was one of the few disappointments of the weekend. I had been totally excited to see how her Lily Allen-but-cooler songs would translate live, and instead of the brilliant set I had envisioned, she sounded rushed, nervous, and just a tad off, be it key or pitch I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it wasn’t working. She opened with my favorite songs of hers, “Pumpkin Soup,” but it was done way too fast. Instead of sass, we got nerves. Which is understandable, but it was still kind of a bummer. Moved on after just a couple songs. Oh Kate, I wanted to love you...but she's still awesome, and her record is great, so I'm sure this was just a one-off. A fluke, if you will.

After the Kate debacle, we switched tents and snagged some front row space for St. Vincent. She and her white-clad band were really, really, really, really good. The girl can wail, and shred on a guitar to boot. I liked her album, but after having seen St. Vincent live I would highly recommend both the record and her live show. You won’t be sorry.

Next up was one of the most highly anticipated bands of the weekend for me, Hot Chip. It had been a very long year since I saw them at the 9:30 Club, and I was like a kid on Christmas morning waiting to hear the new songs live. We got pretty close to the stage after hanging out for a couple Erol Alkan songs, and then some balloons were released and it was party time. Angelic singer Alexis Taylor even donned some seersucker for the occasion, and all I can say is nice blazer, sir. TrĂ©s dapper. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, they killed it live. As expected. Happily, there was a lot more instrumentation and movement (i.e. bouncing around) in this set than the last time I saw them. They were more of a band and less pure knob-twiddlers. The irrepressible “Over and Over” whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy, and I was delighted with how divine “One Pure Thought” sounded live, and “Hold On” was a joy. Though, really, with lines like, “I’m only going to Heaven/ if it feels like Hell,” how can you go wrong? Hot Chip was one of the best bands of the weekend, bar none.

During a break for some (expensive) dinner, we could hear the sounds of Death Cab for Cutie wafting over from the Coachella stage. I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a Death Cab fan, but they sounded pretty good.

It was then time to bask in the presence of bona fide legends (for the first time that day), when we pulled up some polo field and sat immersing ourselves in some Krautrock courtesy of the monumentally important Kraftwerk. There’s really nothing else to say, really, apart from sweet Jesus they’re good. Insert Wayne & Garth’s “we’re not worthy” homage to Alice Cooper here, because Kraftwerk was unreal.

I went from legends to a new kid on the block, as I got myself up front for Mister Calvin Harris’ set. You already know I’m a pretty big fan, and not just because he’s absolutely adorable. He and his band (yeah, I didn’t know he had one, either) were so delightful to be around, as excited as they were to be playing. I was there for the entire set, which was nearly an hour but absolutely flew by. It was even better than I had hoped, as the band brought added levels of cheekiness to songs that were already pretty sassy on record. Another of my favorite sets of the festival.

So then this older guy played. He was kind of a big deal in the 80s. Loves the color purple, evidently. Sadly, I only stuck around for a few songs (unless you’ve been there, you have no idea of how that desert sun can suck the life out of you), but this did include “Glamorous Life,” and we were serenaded by the delightfully nostalgic strains of “1999” walking the interminable distance to the parking lot. He’s still got it, that guy. He’s still very purple and very fabulous.

Second day same as the first: fucking fantastic.

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