Pile into the rental minivan (since parking sucks, take as few cars as possible!) with Thomas, Dan, Matt, Tony, Joyce, and Altara, pop in the iPod into the tape deck, and drive out. Stop for munchies on the way, slather on sunblock, and go walk around the Empire Polo Field with a few thousand (5,000? 10,000? more?) others all day listening to roughly 80 different acts for two days-- if you're like Tony, that is. The rest of us only did Sunday, which left us with "just" 40 or so acts.
We arrived in time for the tail end of Zion I, then on to Subtle, Diplo, Jem, M.I.A., Autolux, Kasabian, Bravery, Arcade Fire, New Order, Nine Inch Nails, and Black Star. A few broke off to see Miss Kittin, Z-Trip, Roots Manuva, Bright Eyes, and Prodigy. Aesop Rock was supposed to be good, too.
The Coachella experience was pretty good. Weather was unusually mild with a nice breeze and not at all crazy-insane-lunatic like I heared the previous year was. Empire Polo Field is large enough that three tents and two stages fit pretty well and never felt too crowded til the end of the night when seas of people formed for New Order/Nine Inch Nails/Black Star and the other big acts. Food and beer wasn't cheap, but not too bad and the precious substance known as water was "only" $2 a bottle, which isn't bad at all.
We started by walking around a bit after seeing Zion I's closing moments. Stopped off for pizza (supposedly delicious) and polish sausauges (not bad), then off to Subtle and Diplo. Subtle wasn't bad, but Diplo did some cool mixes while we were there. I haven't listened to either DJ much, so I may have to do so more in the future-- particularly Diplo. After that, we wandered over to Jem, who drew a large crowd to the Outdoor Theater. I'd barely heard of Jem a few weeks ago and was surprised how big the crowd was. I clearly must be living in a cave (constructed of New Order/Garbage/U2). ;-) She wasn't bad, but I wasn't enraptured or anything.
We hit Kasabian, then M.I.A., then back to Kasabian next. Both tents were packed and we couldn't even get inside for M.I.A. Kasabian had a slow start, but at the end of the set they were moving pretty good. Ditto for M.I.A., when we first arrived it was "passable" but by the time we left she sounded pretty good. We made periodic stops to one of the "mist" displays as well to cool off- very handy at 2:00pm and you're stuck in the sun.
Next up was the Bravery-- they're getting quite a bit of airplay on KROQ and sound pretty acceptable in their two albums. They had some equipment problems so they launched into a cover of a U2 song (I forget which, remind me to check my video clip) which was pretty sweet. Compared to their studio work, live, well, they weren't nearly as good. Not bad, but they lacked the draw I was expecting. You could see they were having fun but the depth and layering of sound in their studio work just wasn't there live.
Dinner was quick, then off to the Arcade Fire for a few minutes. Joyce and Altara stayed the whole time while I took off early for New Order. Arcade Fire's quite a few people, a much bigger group than I expected, and they are pretty good live. Some songs don't carry over too well live, such as Haiti, but... I heard Neighborhood #3 only after I left for New Order, and it sounded good. *sigh* I wish I could have stayed through their whole set. The panoramic shots are from Arcade Fire, where only a (large) fraction of the crowd is present...
The crowd for New Order is downright massive, although it's bolstered by quite a few Nine Inch Nails fans who just want to sqeeze in. (in turn, probably quite a few New Order fans were up there with Gang of Four to squeeze in...). Bernard Summer has a foot injury so he isn't dancing around much-- and that sets the mood for the set. New Order has traditionally been awful live, and this set is worse than usual. They leave the bass kick the normally use for the hard notes in favor of guitars or something else, and the strong, elegant, snappy notes just aren't there. It just pains me to know that I've heard New Order do so much better live...
The crowd for New Order turns into a sea of people pushing in for Nine Inch Nails. I'm not much of a NIN fan but I do recognize a bit of their work. If we were packed in like cattle for New Order, we're now canned like sardines for NIN. The light work is excellent-- the whole set is damned cool.
The buzzkill for NIN is the twits around us. A girl is there with her boyfriend and he passes out hard. Frantic cries of "water! does anyone have any water?!" so I hand over my half-bottle. She aims it down his throat while he's still unconcious, then tried to hold his semi-concious then unconcious body for the next 20 minutes because she wants to finish watching NIN. **rolleyes** Then around us, a few guys decide they should start a mosh pit, only instead of moshing they're going to shove and push each other around. A few guys are cool with this and join in, but eventually you're going to piss some people off who are there to enjoy the show without bodies repeatedly slamming into them, and it's going to end bloody-- and it did end bloody. They formed and reformed the shove-pit three or four times, too. Twits.
The lunacy abated, but we pushed forward for Black Star. Erik wasn't there, but he refuses to let me neglect my underground hip-hop culture from back home, and I was surprised-- with Mos Def and Talib Kweli, then Common... that was just badass. Mos Def came down to the audience twice too, I got to exchange a high-five with him, and he was rapping directly to the crowd-- sweet. They even put on an encore, adamantly stating "I love Coachella! We'll do one more song-- I'll pay the fine!" F'ing badass! They even tried to do a second encore, but their producers stopped them. heh. Black Star was definitely the most impressive part of the whole show for me.
Getting out wasn't bad at all. Parking lot traffic wasn't the 2.5 hour wait that may-may described. Tons of fun.
(if you ask me again, would I do both days next time? I'm not sure about that one though... one day with bands I like, SURE! Both days? I dunno...)