It was another beautiful Coachella weekend. I’m back home attending to my swollen feet and pondering what I just experienced these past three days of the second weekend of Coachella. Before I get to my top five performances of the weekend, I want to talk a little bit about the festival itself. This was my eleventh Coachella. I was lucky enough to have been to 1999’s initial fest. Coachella has come a long way since then. I remember walking the polo field as a fourteen year old [update: actually I had just turned fifteen] fantasizing about how ten years from then Coachella would be considered our generation’s Woodstock and how I would brag about having been there. Thirteen years later, Coachella has surpassed all of my fantasies. While Woodstock will be forever ingrained in the American pop cultural collective mind as an event that defined a generation of the late 1960s, Coachella has reached a multitude of generations (something Woodstock failed to do in its two poorly organized 1990s incarnations). Moreover, in the United States, Coachella revitalized the appeal of destination festivals influencing the creation of Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and keeping Lollapalooza grounded in Chicago. Everything about the festival is now bigger, longer, and more eventful than anything I ever thought it could be. I’m very happy to have been able to experience them, and, to the annoyance of my friends and acquaintances, I brag insistently about having been to the first one.
I have to say though, that I am not too keen on the double weekend experiment of this year and I hope that the festival will someday return to a one weekend gig. Although I have to admit that if it wasn’t for the second weekend, many of my friends would not have been able to attend. Of course, if they would have just bought their tickets in June of last year like I did, we never would have had any problems making sure we all got our tickets to the same weekend, but I digress. The problem that I have with the double weekend Coachella is that it ruins the uniqueness of certain performances. I cannot help but wonder how much better I would have thought Dre and Snoop Dogg’s performance would have been if I had seen it the first weekend when I knew nothing at all about the Holo 2pac or the guest performances. In this case, weekend two goers got shafted by having the surprise spoiled. This is the reason why I had initially bought my ticket for the first weekend because I did not want the surprises ruined. However, on the other hand, weekend one festival goers get the shaft when a performer decides to one up themselves the second weekend as was the case, in my opinion, with Radiohead, The Hives, and the Black Keys. Weekend one goers did not get to experience beautiful renditions of Radiohead’s “Nude” or “Exit Music (for a film)”. They also lost out on John Fogerty’s surprise performance with The Black Keys. In addition, weekend two goers sort of got to experience the festival twice without really having to pay for it twice because of the webcast for weekend one. Since, as far as I know, there was no weekend two webcast, weekend one goers could not, at the least, watch the weekend two surprises and performances on their computers. Of course, if you were one of the lucky few who were able to afford both weekends, you had none of these problems.
Anyway, enough talk about that. Let’s move on to my top five performances of Coachella, weekend two.
5. Swedish House Mafia:
Ok, I’m not a big fan of electronic music. In fact, I was beginning to grow a hatred for it. I stuck around for this after the Black Keys because all of my friends that were there with me wanted to see it and I really had no other bands I especially wanted to see. I was very glad that I stayed. The Main Stage turned into one giant party and I could not help but be engulfed by the energy of it all. Complete with live fire, an amazing light show, and confetti (it’s not a party unless you have confetti), Swedish House Mafia was a very pleasing surprise that ended Friday night with a bang.
I had to race to the Outdoor stage from the Main Stage right after Arctic Monkeys in order to catch these legends of ska from England. It was my first time seeing these guys live and I can see why this band is so loved by many rocksteady and ska aficionados. The crowd was wonderful and so much fun. A giant skank pit formed right next to me that my girlfriend and I could not help but join. The last number “Night Boat to Cairo” created an explosion of dancing half dehydrated Coachellians. It was sheer madness I tells ya!
Although I saw Pulp from afar, due to my exploits on the Outdoor Stage with Madness, they were still able to impress me. Jarvis Cocker was as flamboyant as ever. That man is one sexy bitch! Their sound was perfect and the accompanying light show supplemented beautifully to the music. Thankfully I had seen absolutely no footage from their performance from last weekend so everything they did was fresh to me. Of course the closing number “Common People” brought the whole crowd to a frenzy.
2. The Hives
What can I say about these lads from Sweden? They have lost absolutely none of their energy since the last time I saw them in 2007. In my opinion, they topped their 2003 Coachella appearance, even though in ‘03 I was able to get my hands on Howlin‘ Pelle‘s hair. Despite the 100 degree heat, The Hives managed to get the crowd to dance, jump, and mosh almost non stop through out the whole performance. I feel sort of proud of the fact that my friend and I were the initiators of the mosh pit that burst out in our section of the crowd. Of course, Howlin Pelle was as cocky and hilarious as ever. His little rant during “Tick Tick Boom” in which he encouraged us to invade the VIP area so that we could have enough space to oblige his request of lying down on the ground was classic. The most amazing thing is that somehow The Hives managed to survive the set despite bursting into flames from the immense amount of energy that they produced. It was a crazy show! And I’m sorry weekend one goers, but Howlin’ Pelle said it himself, we were a better crowd than you guys. I bet he says that to all the crowds.
Could it have been anyone else at the top for me? From the few clips I saw of their performance on weekend one, it seemed that Radiohead were a bit lacking in their presentation. Not so for weekend two. While I do not think this performance topped the orgasm that was their Coachella 2004 show, this particular show was nothing short of amazing. It had been a while since I had seen Radiohead live. The last time was in 2006, I believe, when they were testing out their In Rainbows material. Back then, I was not able to really appreciate the greatness of those new songs. This time around it was much different, while, yes, they did not play any music from The Bends, songs like “Nude,” “Bodysnatchers,” and “House of Cards” more than made up for the absence of some of their classics. It also further confirmed in my mind that In Rainbows has been their best album yet (yes, better than Ok Computer). What else can I say about this performance? It further solidified my belief that they are one of the best live bands out there. While I firmly believe that King of Limbs has been their weakest album since Pablo Honey, the live renditions of many of the King of Limbs material was ten times better than what I had heard on record. Of course, they did not stray from their classics entirely. Weekend two also got “Karma Police” which paved the way for one of my favorite moments of the festival in which the crowd, after the song had ended, continued to sing the last line of the song (“for a minute there, I lost myself!”) while Thom Yorke stood surprised and smiling. Weekend 2 also got “Exit Music (for a film)” which any Radiohead fan can tell you is one of their most emotional and beautiful songs. Finally, it all ended with a rousing rendition of their epic classic “Paranoid Android.” As I posted right after the show on my facebook, Radiohead was simply beautiful.
Those were my top five of the weekend. Of course, this is not to say that there were not any other worthy performances. Here are some other artists that got the thumbs up from me:
– Jimmy Cliff: His set was very fun and brought a smile to my face
– Arctic Monkeys: Another solid set from these English blokes
–The Black Keys: Not as great as previous Coachella sets, but still good. John Fogerty’s surprise appearance was very cool.
– Gary Clark Jr.: An amazing guitarist with a beautiful and soulful voice.
– Buzzcocks: Classic punk rock that is still good to this day.
– Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds: A straight forward and clean set. I very much enjoyed the “Don’t Look Back in Anger” sing along.
– The Shins: Very tight set.
– Bon Iver: One of the surprises for me. I really thought this guy was going to put me to sleep while I waited for Radiohead, but it was not to be.
– Gotye: I think this guy proved to me that he should not be a one hit wonder
– Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg: This show probably would have been one of my top five shows if I had not known about all that was going to happen. It’s a tragic consequence of the double weekend.
Lastly, I am only one man and I cannot see all that goes on in this beautiful festival. However, these are some other honorable mentions by my friends who went with me to the fest.
– St. Vincent: This was one of my friend’s favorite show of the weekend. According to him, she killed. I wanted to check her out but I chose to get my spot for Radiohead instead.
– At the Drive In: I still do not like these guys, but two of my friends told me this was one hell of a show. I decided that a beer break was more important. I guess I missed out.