Coachella 2005 Blowout
Well I just got back from Coachella last night, and my God was it amazing. We got a late start to the show on Saturday and hit some pretty intense traffic because of it, causing us to get there at 3, a little later than we'd hoped, but Sunday we got in right about 1 and caught an entire day of awesome music. I'm going to post all this info slowly, but I'll start out by making a list of all the bands that I got a chance to see. This list includes all bands that I stopped to see and heard at least one song from beginning to end, but it does not include bands that I just happened to hear in passing. Hopefully I'll get some descriptions and awards up in the next few days.
The Raveonettes - These guys were a huge surprise and I had not planned on watching them at all, but they were playing the main stage when we got in, and I was dying to hear some music. For whatever reason, I was convinced I didn't like them beforehand, but after seeing their live show, I'm beginning to wonder why that was. They played a mix of new and old songs and mixed in an excellent cover of the classic 60s song "My Boyfriend's Back," done up all in The Raveonettes style of course. My complaint had always been that all their songs sound the same, but live, each song definitely took on its own unique personality, it was an excellent way to start the festival.
M83 - They were yet another highlight early on Saturday. I was wondering how well their music would translate to a live show, but they did a fantastic job of it. Songs like "Teen Angst" and "Run Into Flowers" sounded more like rock anthems than they do on the albums, and that is definitely a good thing. Guitarist/keyboard player/programmer/singer Anthony Gonzalez walked to the microphone from time to time, but most of the vocals came from his synthesizer and he used all kinds of nifty effects to manipulate them. Also, their bassist danced the entire show and was absolutely hilarious.
Snow Patrol - I was wandering around trying to decide what to listen to next when I heard their big hit, "Run," so I decided to go check them out. The next two songs they played were absolutely awful and I walked away in disgust.
The Kills - These guys put on a great live show, but I just could not get into the music at all. Their sparse guitar and drum machine arrangements just didn't do it for me and I kept waiting for the songs to get to the next level, which they never did. Still, singer W jumped around the stage with reckless abandon and guitarist Hotel was throwing rockstar poses left and right, which was enough to keep me entertained for half of their set.
Razorlight - I have nothing especially positive or negative to say about these guys. They played some good old brit-rock and did it well, but it was nothing to write home about. Singer Johnny Borrell took off his shirt and climbed all over the stage supports, but I never really felt like I was drawn into their show.
Rilo Kiley - I was only able to catch the first four songs of their set because they were having some technical difficulties early on, but I still managed to hear two of my favorite songs of theirs', "It's a Hit" and "Portions for Foxes." Singer/guitarist Jenny Lewis was a much more intense performer than I'd expected, and their songs sounded very clean, but I had a decision to make and I decided to bail early and catch all of Wilco's set.
Wilco - Jeff Tweedy mentioned early in the set that he hated festivals, and after witnessing their set, I understand why. First of all, the crowd never really seemed to get into the music, which was a huge let down because every time I've seen Wilco in the past, the crowds have been awesome. Secondly, Wilco needs more than 50 minutes to put on a show, at least in my opinion. Their catalogue is so vast that they just can't showcase enough of their sound with only 10 or 11 songs. Still, what they did play was awesome and I had a good time despite the people around me, but I'd rather see Wilco as a headliner than in this scenario.
Weezer - I've seen Weezer 4 times in the past, so I know they can be hit or miss, but I really expected them to bring it for this show. Instead they were the first and only really big disappointment of the festival for me. They played an uninspired set that included no songs from either Pinkerton or Maladroit and way too much material from The Green Album. The hits from Blue made for some fun crowd singalongs and I enjoyed hearing the new songs (the new album sounds like it could be really good), but I expected more from one of my favorite bands.
Bauhaus - I have to admit, I like what I've heard of Bauhaus, but I've never really immersed myself in their music, so I had no idea what to expect from their live show, their first since 1998. When singer Peter Murphy came out for the opener "Bela Lugosi is Dead" hanging upside down six feet above the stage and sang the entire song like that, I knew I was in for a treat. Once again, the crowd had a difficult time getting into the show, but I absolutely loved it. Peter Murphy brandished a staff from time to time and sang some of the songs from platforms perched high above the stage. The songs I knew, "In The Flat Fields," "She's in Parties," were the highlights for me, and I've been inspired to delve further into Bauhaus' catalogue.
Coldplay - I saw Coldplay in the summer of 2003 and was extremely disappointed, so my expectations were low for their Coachella set, but they really blew me away this time around, despite the fact that they didn't play my favorite song, "Don't Panic." Sticking largely to material from the new album X&Y, which sounds like it's going to be fantastic, and A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay brought an energy to the stage that I never imagined they would have. From the set opener, a new song that I don't know the name of, to the encores of "In My Place" and another new song, they held the crowd absolutely captivated for an hour and a half. When I first bought Parachutes back in 2000, I never imagined that Coldplay would be headlining such a massive festival 5 years later, but they have constantly exceeded everyone's expectations of what they could be. I'll always remember Chris Martin changing the words of "Yellow" to "and we were all at Coachella." Brilliant.
Shout Out Louds - These guys were probably the best band I saw that I'd never heard of before. They were nothing really out of the ordinary, but they played airy indie pop along the lines of Grandaddy, but with a little more oomph. It didn't hurt that the keyboardist was absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't take my eyes off her. I don't think I would've recognized the singer if he'd walked by me five minutes after the show. I haven't gotten the CD yet, but I'll be grabbing it soon enough.
Sloan - The Canadian indie-pop kings just didn't do it for me. I watched them for three or four songs before I figured out that I just wasn't going to get into them. I can't really describe it, but their songs were lacking something, and I just wasn't compelled to continue listening.
Subtle - I think I categorized these guys as hip-hop when I did my band-by-band breakdown, but hip-hop they were not. As for what they were, well I'm not sure if I could tell you that either. They were fronted by underground rapper Doseone, who has one of the strangest voices I've ever heard. It's a very high-pitched, nasal voice that seems like it should drive you insane, but somehow seems strangely appropriate for the music. He walked around the stage wearing a clock (a la Flava Flav) and one opera length glove (a la who the fuck knows) while he dismembered a toy baby, and I was drawn in by the oddness of it all. It all seemed very funny to me until he told this tragic story of a band member who had been paralyzed in a bus accident on their last tour, at which point, I couldn't stick around any longer. This was very serious to he and the rest of his band, and my finding humor in it was not appropriate, so I took off.
Gram Rabbit - Unfortunately, while I was watching Sloan and Subtle, I could've been watching these guys, who actually were okay to laugh at. I only caught about one and a half songs, but it was enough to know what these guys were all about. The singer was a buxom blonde wearing a one-piece lycra body suit and a rabbit mask. The guitarist and bassist wore similar masks, while a large, balding man handled the drum machine and other synthesized effects. There were also two female dancers wearing similar suits to the singer, but their mask covered their heads completely like Bugs Bunny at Six Flags would wear instead of just covering their faces like the singer's did. Their music was this interesting dance-rock along the lines of Electric Six, if I remember correctly, but that was fairly unimportant I think. What I will always remember was when the singer and her two dancers ended up in a pile on the stage in some sort of faux-orgy. I'll just say that I wasn't complaining.
The Perceptionists - There is nothing really incredibly positive or negative to say about these guys. They do pretty standard conscious hip-hop with some great lyrics, but it's nothing spectacular. What was spectacular was the length of rapper Mr. Lif's dreadlocks, WHOA!!!
M.I.A. - She was quite possibly the highlight of all of Coachella for me. She came out sporting a sequined blue and green jumpsuit with a ton of energy and a huge smile on her face. You could tell that she was excited to play for such a huge crowd, and the crowd fed off her energy and went crazy, causing her to have even more energy. It was an amazing effect and something I would like to see more often at concerts. She went through almost every song on Arular flawlessly while she bounced around the stage and danced during the breakdowns. By the end the entire crowd was moving and going insane. When she left the stage, the crowd chanted, "MIA, MIA!" until she came back and did an encore that you could tell was entirely unplanned. She even sang one song over the beat of Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" which was awesome. It's so rare to see a musician that is not only truly happy to be doing what he she is doing, but is also making sure that everyone around her knows how happy she is about it too. I'll remember this performance forever.
The Fiery Furnaces - I only caught them briefly for three or four songs, but I was pleasantly surprised. I've never been able to immerse myself in Blueberry Boat, but live the songs took on a new, more rocking life, which made them much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, their set ended about ten minutes after I got there, but at least now I know.
The Futureheads - "Hounds of Love" is a brilliant song, and it was made so much better live as the Brits divided the crowd in half and had each side sing one of the "Oh Oh" parts. All four of the band members were singing at once, and they, like MIA, all seemed genuinely happy to be there. They're a little short on material, as only about half of their album is really worthy of being played live, but they made up for it on the not-quite-as-good songs with their energy and their charming smiles. I'd see them again just for "Hounds of Love" and "Meantime."
Gang of Four - Here is where all the bands I wanted to see had sets that were overlapping, so I did my best to catch as much of each band as I could. This was the first time Gang of Four was playing live with their original lineup in more than 20 years, and I thought there might be a little rust, but boy was I wrong. Singer Jon King's vocals had the same bite they have on the albums, and the band was so tight, I couldn't believe they'd been apart for a couple of months, let alone all those years. They stuck mostly to material from Entertainment! and Solid Gold, and put on a blistering show. Unfortunately, I missed their last three and a half songs, and apparently King destroying a microwave with a baseball bat as well. Still, I came away very impressed.
The Arcade Fire - I came sprinting over to the second stage just in time to catch the start of their set, and they opened up with "Wake Up" which was a fantastic way to begin the show. Everyone on stage was singing whether they had a microphone or not. Then, after switching up their instruments for the first of many times, they launched into a chaotic verison of "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" that had band members donning motorcycle helmets, climbing the stage supports and banging on any object in sight with drumsticks. They then played "No Cars Go," a bit of a surprise since it's on the hard-to-find EP, before they finished up with almost all the songs off of Funeral including an amazing rendition of my personal favorite "Neighborhood #3 (Power's Out)." I had to run again during "Rebellion (Lies)" so I could be sure to catch all of New Order's set.
Nine Inch Nails