Coachella Music and Arts Festival ~ Annual Sonic Smorgasbord

By | April 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm | No comments | Coachella, Columns, Feature Stories

By Lisa Morgan

I’ll be the first to admit that the lineup to this annual event is nothing short of overwhelming.  Some names are familiar, others, not so much.  At least that’s how it is for this music enthusiast.  Granted, the demographic age most familiar with many of these artists may be closer to my 21 year old son’s age group, but there is literally something for everyone at this year’s Coachella Music and Art Festival.  This, I believe, is as much a tribute to this generation’s depth of music appreciation for past genres as to Goldenvoice’s nod to the over 30 alternative rock fan. The problem is that there’s just so much music to choose from.  The best advice I can give anyone who has made the healthy investment to attend, is “Do Your Research”.

Coachella.com has provided a fantastic and thorough website that lists every single band scheduled to perform, ALL 178 OF THEM! There are links to each artist’s website and social media page wherein you can sample their music and check out their bios.  You can even select the bands you think you want to see, and the site will list them according to date and time so you can identify any scheduling conflicts and be sure to see your favorites.  Other valuable information regarding the event and a venue map are available as well.  So, having done what research I could through the website, and by reaching out to that younger demographic, I will disclose my personal findings of interest.

Emerson De Klotz, a freshman at Xavier High School, shared suggestions that I felt were extremely informed and thoughtfully derived: “Beach House is psychedelic and curiously catchy; definitely worth giving a listen. Vampire Weekend is upbeat rock with an indie-twist. The Lumineers have great lyrics and are heartfelt, not to mention original sound. Tame Impala is slow, steady but nonetheless has an awesome alternative style.  Postal Service is electronic and fuses with alternative styling for weird sound and good vibrations. Two-Door Cinema Club is another indie-electro band that brings upbeat music to the table.”

Based on my own research and experience, a roots revival over the last few years seems to indicate that audiences of all ages are hungry for a new generation of rustic, heart-on-the-sleeve music—the kind that nods to tradition while setting off into uncharted territory. The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men have tapped into that appetite with their indie folk style that can be compared to Grammy Award Winning Mumford and Sons. These two bands are among a small list of bands on Coachella’s lineup that, as my son pointed out, appear to be significantly under billed. They are listed in the small print but are sure to draw some of the largest crowds.  Shovels and Rope have captured my interest as a gritty folk rock group reflecting deep Joplin and Dylan influences and attitudes, while Father John Misty creates an almost psychedelic folk brand of music with powerful, painfully honest messages.  Other bands tapping into roots music on the new wave, punk, techno and rock genres are the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Gaslight Anthem and the self-titled “Grandfathers of Folk-Punk, The Violent Femmes.

There are a number of bands that have been touring and drawing huge fan bases prior to the YouTube, social media and electronic music crazes that have augmented the music industry.  These are bands that have solidified themselves in the foundations of alternative music.  Bands like Social Distortion, Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Modest Mouse, The Decendants and The Dropkick Murphys will most likely be topping the must-see list of other Coachella artists as they have contributed much to their sonic development.

DJs and electronic artists are included in the line-up, and gaining huge popularity.  One such artist, Major Laz­­­er, describes himself as “part man, part laser”.  He just performed at Austin’s South X Southwest and is said to pump it up like no other.  Techno sound phenom, Robert DeLong is scheduled to show up in LA with a toolbox of Wii-motes, keyboards and drums to develop a live rock show that CMJ Magazine claims worthy of “an 8-bit warrior, seamlessly creating danceable electro beats with his Wii Remote and Sega Genesis controller on par with the Chemical Brothers.” The kid has a surprisingly smooth, old-soul singing voice that combined with his sound makers creates a surprisingly multi-genre pleasing musical experience.

Returning with his amazing capacity to charismatically entertain while exuding amazing musical and rhythmic sound simply from his mouth is sound savant, Beardyman. On his website, Beardyman claims that after 6 years of research, he has finally developed the equipment that will allow him to finally realize the ideas he’s had in his head all this time (a must see if you’ve seen what he’s produced so far without the new technology). Moby, the Godfather of the electronic genre, will also be showcased.  He released his first single, Go, in 1991 and has been making records ever since, selling over 20,000,000 of them worldwide.

There are a few bands that are a must see because they reuniting, are rumored to cease touring soon or are a new compilation of players from other great bands.  The Violent Femmes, one of the most successful alternative rock bands in the 80’s, have reunited in time to play the festival.  Meanwhile, there’s a vicious rumor that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are nearing the end of their touring days. Of course, that’s what they’ve been saying about the Rolling Stones for a while now.  The Shouting Matches is a power blues-rock duo that is guitarist/vocalist Justin Vernon from Bon Iver and Brian Moen of Laarks on drums.  James McCartney, son of Sir Paul McCarney, is making his own name in music with the weight of legacy on his shoulders.  Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine have been ripping the faces off audiences throughout the Americas and Europe for the past five years with a live show that gives a nod to the Dead Kennedy’s front man’s past, and updates his vision into the 21st century with a truckload of new material that leaves no question that this is not nostalgia.

Quite possibly, the artist with the best back story EVER, and expected to draw huge crowds is Rodriguez. In 1997, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman set up a website, called “The Great Rodriguez Hunt”, with the intention of finding any information about the mysterious US musician, the “wandering poet” of Cold Fact fame. In the same year, Brian Currin established “Climb up on My Music”, a tribute site to the life and works of Rodriguez. In 1998, when Rodriguez was discovered, alive and well and living in Detroit, the search was over. This was all recorded in the award winning documentary, “Searching for Sugarman”.

I think my favorite part of these festivals, despite the drawbacks of such a large venue, are those priceless discoveries of new, unexpected music.  The smaller tents at Coachella also offer a more intimate, close up look at these dedicated artists that might have gone undiscovered or underappreciated. As we live music fanatics have come to know, you don’t really know a band or their music until you see and hear them perform live.

All in all, while some bands may be considered better than others, there is no one who has been invited to perform at Coachella that hasn’t garnered large public appeal somewhere.  As you enjoy these artists, keep in mind that they are judged by their corporate bosses, and paid accordingly, based on the revenue they can generate performing their art.  As fellow performer, Father John Misty says, “We all know the music industry is dying due to the wide-spread popularity (according to the experts) of streaming services. The professional musician thus relies on revenue accrued by getting within screaming distance of his or her audience and begging them, with songs, to buy their album ~ a mysterious medium wherein the artist has recorded what he perceives to be ‘ideal or definitive’ versions of his/her tunes.”  So while the investment to attend this festival is weighty, when you find an artist that fills that special place in your soul with their music, do not forget to support them and their musical future by buying their albums and merchandise directly from them.

Zia Record Exchange will be the Official Music Retailer and running the Artist/Band signing tent at this year’s Festival for both weekends on April 12-14th and April 19-21st.  You’ll be able to shop thousands of new and used records and CDs, as well as meet some of your favorite bands and grab some exclusive releases from Record Store Day and Zia Records.  Zia and the Coachella Boutique will have 3 special Record Store Day exclusives:

Rodriguez – Cold Fact: This is a very limited pressing of 500 units on clear vinyl. It will be hand-numbered.
Portugal. The Man – Church Mouth: Pressed on Bone colored vinyl, numbered and limited to 500 units.
Puscifer – V is for Vagina: Hand-screened jacket, red vinyl and will be numbered to 500. 250 copies will be made available at the start of each weekend. All 3 exclusives will be at the Zia Records Pop-up store as well as the Coachella Boutique. Come on by and support this independent record store and your favorite artist.

In regard to the cost of attending Coachella Music and Arts Festival, it might make you feel better to know that Goldenvoice does indeed give back to the community that plays host to this huge event.  Those contributions go toward Coachella Valley Community Trust, Indio Teen Center, Indio Senior Center, Martha’s Village Kitchen and Roy’s Desert Resource Center.  Contributions also support other accessible charities throughout Southern California such as Silver Lake Conservatory, The Painted Turtle and Global Inheritance.

Visit Coachella Music and Arts Festival website for all the information you need on the event, venue and the artists at Coachella.com

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