Coachella, let's go again (Day One)
Ah, Coachella, you winsome siren.
That festival is going to beckon to me annually after the amazing experience I've had over this past weekend. Even with a lineup that some declared "not as strong" compared to past years, I had such a full schedule and was extremely pleased with almost every show I went to. In fact, as I scroll through the schedule now that it's over, I feel actual pain at the shows I meant to go to and completely missed. It all felt like a well-organized little technicolor city with oases of coolness and mist and fun around every corner, worlds apart from the everyday world. The variety of music represented was truly terrific and non-stop. And I am now in love with the Coachella tacos, two for $4! It just doesn't get much better.
The first really awesome set of the festival for me on Friday was the Black Kids. They were fun and having fun, they sounded terrific -- like the Cure filtered through a little bit of a danceathon soundtrack - plus they can really play. I felt an immense sense of kinship to see all these other kids counting off "1! 2! 3! 4!!" in unison for a band that's gained 90% of their buzz through blogs:
THE BLACK KIDS: "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" (live at Coachella 2008)
Yeah, like that.
After the Black Kids I heard the jarring strains of Slightly Stoopid covering old Nirvana wafting across the open field to me (no!!) and then headed to the press tent for this pleasant surprise:
Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip then turned in an electrifying, stimulating, clever, fresh set over in the Gobi Tent to another packed audience. I can't get enough of the way Pip rolls around his words into these sentences that you think aren't gonna flow back together, and then he pulls it off with panache and wit. The beats shook that tent to its stakes. Can't wait to see them again at Monolith:
A clamorous and multi-instrumental set from Architecture in Helsinki (not from Helsinki mind you but Australia) also popped up that afternoon. AIH were the first folks of the fest to be sporting the very popular yet really awful '80s fluorescent fashion alongside the kind of brightly colored sunglasses you know I had in the eighth grade.
Vampire Weekend! Hugely anticipated set that delivered what I had come to see. Crest of hipness or over it, these guys know how to write an infectiously catchy yet distinctively African-infused pop song. More seriously questionable '80s fashion, this of the preppy variety (those shorts?!), and one of my personal favorite pics I managed to snap:
And then as the golden sun began to slide behind the palm trees, and that perfect light hovered over the lawn and wrapped itself around the stage, The National took their places for a set that I was almost intimidated to see. I'd been looking forward to seeing them live for so many months here, and with so much ferocity that I almost couldn't abide. No screaming or fainting on my part, but I'd be lying if I said my heart wasn't a bit fluttery. Their music is so richly, deeply gorgeous with lyrics that drip poetry and a flawless way of phrasing things I've always thought but never said. The National carved something out of me and put something back in is the best way I can put it. Their set ended too soon for me, but it seemed like magic in the desert when that sun hit the mirrorball above their heads and splayed the crowd with dancing light.
Unfortunately the steep price extracted to see the National was missing about half of the Raconteurs and all my pictures were crap. What I saw was scorching as expected and led to a conversation about Jack White's exceptionally impressive guitar skills and how Brendan Benson is always better than we remember to give him credit for.
Then another pinnacle on a day filled with greatness - The Verve! Seeing the re-formed Verve was treat enough but did anyone really expect them to sound this tight? After Richard Ashcroft famously declared, "There's more chance of getting all four Beatles on stage together than a Verve reunion," there they were.
From the opening notes of "This Is Music" followed by "Space and Time" and then my much-beloved "Sonnet" -- it really did all sound like a sonnet, my love. Their set was one treat after another, with the newish song "Sit and Wonder" which had been played on the UK shows, and a brand new song that veered off into rave-worthy dance territory called "Love is Noise." It was the epic seven-minute closer:
Love Is Noise (new song, live in San Francisco 4-23-08) - The Verve
But before Love is Noise was unleashed on us, the true culmination of their set came for me with that Stones-string-sampling wonder that is "Bittersweet Symphony." This was a moment that will live on in shiver-inducing concert history for me -- check that break, that crashing like a wave, all the fists pumping together across the crest:
THE VERVE: Bittersweet Symphony (live at Coachella)
Now, Jack Johnson is so affable and warm and relaxing that I'll admit to falling out of the game for his set. After the Verve I just felt drained and exuberant and didn't give ole Jack my undivided. But Mason Jennings joined him for a new song "I Love You and Buddha Too," as did Matt Costa for "Let It Be Sung," a tune off the eclectic Brokedown Melody soundtrack.
The effects of running on Heineken and funnel cake for a weekend are catching up with me in force tonight and I am going to tuck it in for the evening with the sun setting on Day One. We got two more days to cover, kids. What a fantastic, halcyon Friday.