By Lisa Morgan
I truly believe I may be a finalist in the “Cool Mom of the Year” award as I have been given the extreme, giddy pleasure of attending the second weekend of Coachella Fest with my 21 year old son as members of the press (insert unbridled worship of my publisher here). As ecstatic and grateful as I am, I did feel a tad bit left out this past weekend as reports and pictures poured in of friends enjoying the festival during its first weekend. I feared that the element of surprise would be lost on me as I had already been shown pictures of the giant snail underlining the art aspect of the music festival. “The R Kelly hologram was GREAT!” comment from my friend Robert had me going for a second. That is, until I read in the Rolling Stones review that he actually sat in with the band PHOENIX in person. The reviews between Rolling Stone @ Coachella, the message board on the festival website, Coachella.com and those whom I hold in utmost musical-intellect regard, were mixed. One anthem rang loud and clear; though it wasn’t without issues, Coachella was an event that left attendees without any regrets, even if at the end, some were almost literally blown away (insert rim shot here).
Allow me to share with you my research of this past weekend’s festival in preparation for my own adventure this weekend. I gathered experiences from people whose opinions have garnered much of my respect due to their active participation in music, as well as their passion for it. For those of my readers, who much like me, may be on a bit of a learning curve when it comes to rock and roll vernacular, allow me to preface the following quotes with this important information: When a band “kills”, “crushes” or “destroys” something, is a very good thing. “Stinking up the house”, as one can imagine, is never a very good thing.
Robert Wolfgang Laster, a local desert fixture at live music venues with his trademark bandanna, glasses and magic camera (I’m not kidding – this guy’s photos are amazing) had this to say: “Coachella was definitely different this year. It was the coolest (temperature) Coachella ever, and the lineup was not as cutting edge as years past. A lot of the bands had already played Coachella, and I found no new bands to discover like I had in the past. But I did get to see bands like LOCAL NATIVES. I had become a fan of theirs at previous Coachella. Friday had the most ‘up and comers’ such as ALT-J, STARS, and JAPANDROIDS. But the head liners Blur and Stone Roses definitely stunk the house up. Luckily next week, I will be able to watch the full FOULS set and not fear that I’m missing anything. The main stage Saturday was amazing. VIOLENT FEMMES, HOT CHIP and POSTAL SERVICE proved deserving of the main stage. The XX, a band I love, was hard to not fall asleep to, proving that they might not be a big festival band. PHOENIX surprisingly destroyed it. Although there was slight disappointment with the rumors of DAFT PUNK featuring David Bowie, the ridiculously mismatched combination of PHOENIX and R KELLY made up for it (at least for me). The wind could’ve ruined everything on Sunday, but it didn’t. I didn’t venture out from VIP to see WUTANG because I like breathing air without sand in it, and I knew I could see them next week. I heard they were great, but I didn’t want to feel like I missed anything. The LUMINEERS and SOCIAL D killed it. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS. I thought to myself, when I first saw them in the lineup, ‘Eh’. I thought that I would be bored and bothered by their set because I had burned out on them a decade ago. Surprisingly, they inspired a 45 minute nostalgic dance-athon that sent me home with a smile.”
Franz De Klotz is a well-respected businessman in the Coachella Valley, who unbeknownst to some, has a constant musical encyclopedia playing in his head at all times, even at board meetings. Franz represented the 40 and over crowd who took advantage of sharing this adventure with his young sons. “It was great! So many great acts, Lisa! Friday, we saw JELLO BIAFRIA (only 3 numbers) and then went over to see DOG BLOOD/SKRILLEX (my 13 year-old’s favorite). Then we caught the main stage acts, the YEAH YEAH YEAHS, BLUR and STONE ROSES. All in all, it was a fantastic first night! Saturday we saw VINTAGE TROUBLE (who currently are opening for The Who). They were really good! We watched a few tunes of VIOLENT FEMMES that turned out to be not too exciting, so we went to check out all the really cool art installations. At the request of my boys, we went to see BEN BENASSI when John Legend sat in and sang a song. I really got hooked on the energy of that techno stuff! The younger kids really gravitate to the Sahara tent. If you go there, you’ll see what I mean! Sunday, NICK CAVE was good. I liked all of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ tunes. They have a new guitar player that did a great job in spite of the fierce sandstorm. Downloading the app for Coachella was a big help in staying “in the know” regarding all the bands/start times!”
Gregory Little, a local event coordinator for a global audio visual company, gave his review as a music enthusiast, as well as an industry professional: “I was looking forward to hearing BASS NECTOR and MOBY in a large environment. This year’s tent was decked out with more tech than most stadium concerts. The sound in the center at mix position was PERFECT! The low end was well controlled and the DJ’s knew it. You could not help but be overcome by the energy of the tent and all the people in it. Now, when you combine the visual impact of the LED panel walls from stage to ceiling, LED boxes suspended above you, and a ridiculous amount of movers, haze and lasers, all you can say is ‘WOW!!!!’ We walked past the tent earlier Friday and saw a band called MOD STEP. What a great surprise. PHOENIX was unknown to me, but two of my friends insisted that I had to see them. Another WOW! I love synthesized stuff, as well as progressive rock, so I was immediately sucked in. The mix was great and the visuals worked for the performance. It was more like a soundtrack! Then, combined with the R Kelly performance, it just worked. You felt great positive energy from the crowd! SOCIAL D speaks for themselves. They are solid, seasoned performers. I am exhausted but so satisfied with the weekend. It was tough putting my business suit back on. I wanted more music!”
The chatter on the Coachella.com message boards in response to the question, “Which bands did their worst” (“worst”, as in not good) seemed to ring in one accord about various sound issues that were not exactly the fault of any one band. “I didn’t see any bad sets, but there were quite a few that were f***ed up by sound issues and sound bleed. GRIMES, JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD, JAMES BLAKE, TNGHT, RODRIGUEZ and JAPANDROIDS were all ruined by sound problems. THE SHOUTING MATCHES also had mic problems; they started late but finished later. BEARDYMAN sounded really good”, reported one source. “I love both JAPANROIDS albums, but they really have not figured out the whole live performance thing yet. They have great energetic songs that could craft a huge set, but they talk too much between every song. They kill their own momentum”, shared another. Apparently, during their performance, the JAPANDROIDS kept complaining about mic levels, and after the drummer got up and went over to the sound guy to complain right in front of everyone, their vocals went down for the next song.” “I love JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD”, shared another in attendance. “Their set wasn’t completely ruined by the bad sound, but it was very distracting.”
RODRIGUEZ got generally mixed reviews. Unanimously, he and his band were plagued with apparent sound issues, and he spent some of the time communicating with his band in between songs. This seemed to be viewed by the younger audience as a reason to disengage, while the older generation of music fanatics saw his performance as humble, gracious, and at times, incredibly powerful. I will be taking it upon myself to determine which side is accurate; although I have a feeling I will be inclined toward perceiving greatness. The other “must-sees” on my list, based on my research are TAME IMPALA, LUMINEERS and PUSCIFER who “crushed it” according to Brandon Ray Henderson of CV Weekly’s Best Performance Band, The Pedestirans.
Unanimously, The Red Hot Chili Peppers did not disappoint. That is unless you’re Rolling Stones writers Matt Diehl and Monica Herrer. I can’t help but wonder if the weather above performance had more to do with their review: “The first weekend of Coachella 2013 ended with an anticlimactic super bummer when the weather deteriorated into a blinding sandstorm by the time the Red Hot Chili Peppers started their headline set to close the festival yesterday. ‘California, show your teeth’ singer, Anthony Kiedis, sang during the band’s second song ‘Dani California.’ By then, the elements had indeed revealed their fangs, with brutal, freezing winds. ‘I feel like I’m in Lawrence of Arabia,’ Kiedis cracked. ‘I feel like I’m in the Dust Bowl with Woody Guthrie’, bass guru Flea retorted. They were the capper on a Sunday lineup that provided an ideal microcosm of the ongoing allure of Coachella, even as the weather made clear the potential challenges of the festival’s desert location: By the end of the day, it was hard to enjoy anything with a mouthful of sand, burning eyes and numb extremities.” Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA was quoted, “We didn’t expect a mother****in’ sandstorm!” Welcome to the desert kids! Kudos for playing through it, when others might not have! According to the Rolling Stone writers, “The Chili Peppers and Wu-Tang Clan helped reaffirm Coachella’s status as a sort of deli tray for the current state of popular music, where nostalgia and futurism battle for dominance.” I find this to be an eloquent description of the unanimous theme summing up this year’s grotesque (as in huge and diverse) musical buffet; a lineup deep in the most compelling new sounds in rock, pop, dance and more.
This weekend I will, if local weather predictions are accurate, trade haboob-like wind conditions for the 100 degree heat typical to this desert and festival. But it’s a dry heat as they say, and armed with an obnoxious hat, zinc oxide, my 1980’s fanny pack with water bottle attachments and my “comfy” shoes, I should successfully embarrass the hell out of my 21 year old son who is most likely hoping to be a chick magnet with his press pass and camera. I am also hoping any sound glitches will have been corrected. Perhaps too, the sighting of a truly cool “hologram” or two will be more than jest. I can’t help but believe there are some surprises in store that I will be more than happy to share with you all.
Robert Wolfgang Laster Photography
Rolling Stone Music/RS @ Coachella