Archive for June, 2010


Two night of LCD Soundsystem

SF Fillmore and Hollywood Palladium, and all I got is this lousy pic of a disco ball…


Coachella 2010 wrap up

I’m finally getting around to a Coachella summary.

Dusk the 1st day of Coachella 2010

Towering cyclones of fire; naked men climbing speaker towers, humping the ground, bleeding profusely from headbutting car windows; raver chicks wearing pasties; riot police summoned to quell a restless queue of attendees…all part of the unexpected to be expected in a Coachella weekend.

Did I mention world-class musicians?  Oh yeah, there’s that too.  In fact, this year’s Coachella was the most stacked I think I’ve ever seen it.  From 1pm on there was a band I wanted to see…and usually there were several bands at once, leading to inevitable conflicts.

But the amazing lineup led to some drawbacks.  First, Coachella sold out all three days.  Second, Coachella may have also “sold-out” – the number of wristbands handed out jumped around 25% from 60,000 per day in previous sell-out years to more than 75,000.

This led to a number of headaches, starting with the parking situation.  In years past Coachella seemed to have the parking/traffic issues figured out which meant not too big of a hassle for drivers.  But this year with a new “in/out allowed” policy and expanded camp ground, the parking situation became more crowded and confused.  Or so I heard.  Fortunately, I discovered the joy of staying close to the venue and biking in each day which lessened the hassle.  But the first day wasn’t without hiccups.  I encountered a large line of people at the eastern entrance where there were only 2 (!) security personnel checking bags.  After talking to about 10 different event staffers, hardly any of whom had any idea of what was going on, I surmised that there might be a more fully staffed entrance near the main box office and thus was only temporarily delayed.  Those who remained in the long line had to wait anywhere from 2-3 hours to get in and as the afternoon wore on and the crowd grew restless, riot police were called in.  (from what I heard they didn’t do anything except establish their presence)

The extra 15,000 people inside the venue did not make things significantly uncomfortable – rarely would you have to wait very long for food, water, beer or an outhouse – but you could feel the increased density at the stages, especially the Outdoor Stage (which plays second fiddle to the huge main Coachella Stage).  Bands that should have played the Coachella Stage – Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Phoenix – played on this smaller stage.  Fortunately, Goldenvoice (the promoter that puts on Coachella) sported for a second row of speaker columns many of hundreds of yards from the stage.  This led to the weird situation of hearing the music perfectly while hardly being able to see the tiny people far away producing this sound.  Some examples from Vampire Weekend:

This was the view from the back row of speakers (i.e. can't see shit)

People climbed the back speaker column to see above the massive crowd

Perhaps the most symbolic representation of the big Coachella sell-out was the disappearance of the twin Tesla coils.  These awesome nighttime displays of loud, raw energy had appeared a every Coachella I have been to (since 2004) and had become a reliable sight when everything around them changed year to year.

Twin Tesla coils - gone

But enough about the crowds and changes.  Despite these complaints, Coachella is still a must-see-to-believe, world class music festival.  The following is only a small sample of what I saw, consisting of the better and more eagerly anticipated sets from the weekend.  On then to the music…

The Do-Lab

The Do-Lab has been a Coachella “stage” for the last few years, but it’s so much more: you might find a DJ spinning dubstep or some other funky/tribal dance music, or a strange burlesque/acrobatic performance and this all while water misters and manned hoses cool off the crowd.   It is this last aspect that makes the Do Lab the first place I visited upon arriving each day, but the music and vibe is a close second.  I haven’t been to Burning Man, but I take it this is just a small sample of what you’d see there.  It appeared that more of the overall art budget was devoted to the Do Lab this year as the misting area had become a multi-tiered platform that not only had misters, but also doorbell-type buttons around its base that shot out streams of water in random directions when pressed.

The Do Lab from the outside

Do Lab stage (didn't get any performance pics)

Sleigh Bells

Little was known about Sleigh Bells other than a few tracks and performance videos from the ‘net.  But even from that scant evidence you could tell they rock.  And they did.  This is music both hipsters and bros can headbang to.  Singer Alexis Krauss has that rare “it” factor combination of voice and charisma.  She stalks the stage and interacts with the crowd, making eye contact with the audience and flirting with guys.  She repeatedly gave a shout out to a tall dude close to the stage who was rocking out especially hard.  However, occasionally Sleigh Bells flirt with screamo-squelchy Crystal Castles-style squalor.   (It was notable that they didn’t play their most accessible/poppy song, “Rill Rill.”)  Time will tell if Sleigh Bells want to be a Crystal Castles knock-off, or something more accessible but still heavy.  Here is a crappy video I took of their big song “Crown on the Ground”:


James Murphy was hammmmmmered.  Not totally surprising since he was playing on the Main Stage right before headliner Jay Z and hadn’t played a show in a couple years.  (My observation of Murphy’s intoxication was confirmed by a recent Rolling Stone article in which he admits he doesn’t remember much of it after drinking Irish cunts – a whiskey/champagne cocktail.)  Murphy’s drunkenness did little to harm the show, although it must be said that putting LCD Soundsystem on the Coachella Stage was not ideal.  LCD belongs in an enclosed space like the Sahara tent in which they played in 2008.  Yes, Murphy messed up lyrics and complained about having to drop a few songs from the usual set, including highlight “Tribulations.” (Perhaps part of the reason songs had to be cut was that Murphy had long rambling monologues between almost every song.)  But he also was charmingly humble and blown away by the absurdity of the slot that was given to his band.   And, as usual, LCD got the kids to dance, and really that’s all that matters and all we expect.

The Do Lab with fireworks ending Jay Z's set beyond

Beach House

Beach House simple stage decor fit their aesthetic perfectly

Beach House was another band I had never seen before, and they were one of the highlights of the weekend.  Listening to Beach House is like taking a nice warm bath in music.  They are opening for Vampire Weekend this summer.  If you’re going to those shows, arrive early and take in Beach House.


Following Beach House in the same tent (Mojave) was Gossip – another band I had been meaning to see for awhile but for some reason hadn’t.  I wanted to see fatso Beth Ditto and her amazing pipes get the crowd moving.  And as expected, it happened.  Although musically completely different from Beach House, this back to back combo coming in the late afternoon Saturday (pretty much right at the halfway point of the entire festival) may have been the biggest highlight for me.   Oh yeah and it certainly didn’t hurt that some special guests, including James Murphy still in his (probably stinky) white suit from the night before on cowbell, (of course), came out for the funky breakdown finale.  See below:

James Murphy (still in his white suit from the night before) joins Gossip and other special guests to close the set

More to come on Dead Weather, Local Natives, Gorillaz and maybe some more…