Friday, May 26, 2006

talk to the band

Pretty fantastic things going on over at Arthur Magazine that deserve your attention today. Jay from Arthur called up Sully from Godsmack, obstensibly to chat him up about his band's new record, but what happened instead was Sully was questioned on his band's seemingly pro-war, pro-military stance nowadays, culminating with their choice to allow the US Navy to use one of their jockrock hymns for recruiting purposes.

Now at first I thought running the transcript of this interview was a bit unfair. Of course Jay's matching wits with Sully about the Iraq war was going to be a lot like trying to swat a fly with a Buick. But now that I think about it and now that I've read the whole thing I've come down on the side of thinking this was a good thing, this is what needs to happen to people who--thoughtfully or no--lend their names to a product (in this case the military) that is causing harm. The frustrated activist in me loves this shit, and I love Jay for doing it. What do you think?

keep the water coming, raul

So here were are, sitting right on the spring's ledge looking down at Memorial Day, which can only mean summer, sweat, cookouts and (in my case) copious amounts of poison air, all ready to come over and put their feet up on my furniture.

Today demands a summer song, and it shares a little something with that Swervedriver tune from the other day:

"Doornail (Hats off to Buster Keaton)," by Anders Parker

This comes off our man's 2004 solo release (no really, buy it), fresh from his days fronting the noise-country-rock band Varnaline. What this shares with Swervedriver is Anders Parker's guitar indeed once belonged to Adam Franklin. By some coincidence it was actually purchased in a Statesville, NC, pawn shop, which is where Swervedriver had their gear stolen in 1994. That's it that you're hearing right there, that big howling thing.

No, that's not true at all. But, it could be.

And this isn't to say this is a big fat shoegazing adventure (far from it), but it is a stomping, swampy seven minutes of backwoods rock, straight from the Crazy Horse School of Guitar Mashing, that one up the road that looks haunted. Sloppy static and overdriven amps merge with whirling organ and caveman drums, and once Anders' echoing voice reminds you "God won't change a thing" the windows in your car start rolling down, just like that (it's true, even when you're not in it. New technology from the good people at Nike).

And what it really shares with Swervedriver is a fact I failed to mention in that post: Both of these songs make me wish I could play guitar. And that, my friends, is what a good song is all about. Happy summer. Go outside.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

salt water taffy and a side of onion rings

Sometimes the day just gets away from you.

There isn't much you can do about it, things happen and before you can turn around, wind your watch or take care of any of the so-called 'normal' things you would ordinarily do. All of a sudden it's "whoops" and lookie there, a crap day (and most likely night) is all over your shirt. And what do you then? Give in? Give up?

Well, first you have a drink. Then you have another. Then maybe you try and regain focus by sharing a laugh with some friends and then, most definitely then, you cap it all off with a good song, a song that's hardwired for a good mood and a smile on your face.

"Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" (Untitled)," by the Eels

I don't have many of these songs in my collection and neither, for that matter does the man called E. Most of my tastes run to the more melancholy, most noise-heavy side of things, but today, and with this song, there's plenty of room for the sunny side. This sort of bouncy, head-bobbing little treat is one of those songs that put the spring in your step, particularly after forces beyond your control take a big heat-dump on you.

Enjoy. Goddamn right it's a beautiful day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

never lose that feeling, never learn

So. How have you all been?

Sorry again for disappearing like that. You know, I've shown these tendencies before, it's true, and not just in the sense of meeting imaginary deadlines I set for myself to drop some music out there in the world (or, at least, drop some music by someone else into the world). Suffice to say work intervened, as is its custom, so to fight through the doldrums I'm going to fire up something in my wheelhouse, and it's not something necessarily spirited like that Tool track or something upbeat like that Mogwai track. No, we're internalizing this one.

"Duress," by Swervedriver

Ah, Swervedriver. Usually brought up in conversation as the Great Underappreciated Hope as they are known among the music cogniscenti (or people who use filthy phrases like 'music cogniscenti'), often paired with some claptrap about perfect they were for the road, or driving really fast, which isn't all that far fetched since most guitar rock tends to go well with "the road," be it Swervedriver, Black Sabbath or Huey Lewis (if that's how you roll). But the difference is Swervedriver (in addition to a kick-ass name) also sang about road topics like driving cars fast, or driving cars fast after taking drugs, or getting on a train and taking drugs and talking with a girl. You get the idea.

But regardless, these guys wrote some stellar tunes. Lumped in with the rest of Britain's shoegazers, their sound was too gruff to be paired with the likes of My Bloody Valentine or Ride, too swirling and psychedelic to get swept up in the grunge craze. Thus, they amazed me and about 0.00167% of the record buying public in their day, and put the rest dead asleep along the spines of their Jesus Jones records.

Back then I was in college, despite the opinions of just about everyone I knew at the time, I could not stop listening to Swervedriver's "Mezcal Head." (it's out of print, naturally--but a copy can probably be had cheap in the average used bin.) The best track by far was this one, eight minutes and three seconds of snarling, swirling menace that unspools slowly and deliberately, like a confession. The song builds in its own time, lazily allowing this glassy, five-note guitar line to pace around the room for almost three and and half minutes before the vocals kick in. Once they do Adam Franklin can barely be heard above the churning racket, mumbling some nonsense about ecstacy, murder and sleep as those guitars just gather more intensity from eachother, swarming him under. It's a little hypnotic, a little depressing, and a little amazing how inevitably you just have to give in, close your eyes and let this song take you under too.

That's where I've been.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

coachella day two, the big wrap-up, or, an albatross lifts

So in case this hasn't been made clear, by far the biggest downside of Coachella (other than the heat...and the crowds...and the 1-hour wait to simply LEAVE the polo fields--not the parking lot--every night), is you can't see everything. Yes, this is leading into a teary-eyed realization that hit me when Mogwai finished their set: I didn't get to have my Madonna Moment.

No, that's not it. Actually, for those of you who haven't heard the story that's been repeated ad nauseum, a lot of people didn't get to have a Madonna Moment--or I guess they did, since I supposed a six-song, vaguely exhausted and oddly underwhelming set would qualify as a moment. Just not a terribly big one, or one that could live up to the impossible hype surrounding it. Either way, they should've been mad they missed a helluva set from Mogwai, and the Editors, and, for that matter, Massive Attack.

I missed Massive Attack, most of them anyway. I have to say, as much as I love "Mezzanine" and was looking forward to catching a part of what they had going on, there couldn't have been a greater contrast than walking across the field from the last few minutes of Mogwai to the first few songs of Massive Attack. It was like going from a laserium show to a guy shaking a flashlight back and forth and burning some incense.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Their sound wasn't bad, there just wasn't much to it. You have to understand, I had just seen Stuart Braithwaite and company beat the ever-loving hell out of their guitars, surrounded by lights, noise and explosive vibrations, and Massive Attack was Daddy G with a telecaster, some percolating beats and a squiggling display of light behind him that looked like "KIIT's" overweight uncle. The vocals were whispered, hissed, vaguely sinister, and meanwhile, still well in earshot right in front of the stage, was the final hissing, howling notes of Mogwai. Pretty impressive contrast.

Not that their fans cared. Many of them were sprawled across the grass, well into the midway. Good-sized crowd, just not a particularly engaged one, which I suppose is what you get. I wish I'dve seen more, however. I was supposed catch Massive Attack back in '97 when they were to open for the Verve at the Bill Graham Civic, but they cancelled. Still, I was expecting something a little louder, a little gruffer, and a little beyond the low pulse that I heard.

However, I did reemerge from the press tent after filing my Mogwai report to hear the last few notes of Massive Attack, and these were pretty enormous. The stage was exploding in light and noise, and Daddy G was gesturing to a smiling, older woman with short hair who no doubt guested on vocals for their set's finale. Can anyone out there verify who this was? It would be a shame if this were Elizabeth Fraser and I missed that bit of candy.

Again, the downside of Coachella.

The evening came to an end fairly quickly after that. My associates wanted to catch Art Brut, so I caught only a few songs from Dungen (who were great--though their tent was maybe only 1/4 full) before heading back to man the laptop during a big, punishing dose of Tool--no wait, TOOL. Yes, that's better.

Tool was another polarizing presence--both at Coachella and out here on the Internets. They are not cool. Their mythology, lyrics, album art and, yes, fans can easily be seen as, well, a little silly at best and downright ludicrous at worst. A lot of the talk about Tool centers around their mook-like beer-swilling fans, which on that Stylus review I just linked to basically became the subject. Agreed. Tool fans--metal fans by in large, particularly those who haven't been vetted by a feature in Pitchfork or Arthur (such as Sunn0, Earth, Isis, and a host of European oddities)--can be scary, and can very much resemble the big toads who essentially drove many of us music geeks into more boutique tastes in the first place.

However, seperated from that (and I think Tool would appreciate being seperated from that as well)...They. Are. Impressive.

"The Pot," by Tool

Go ahead. Listen to this. I admit, if you're not predisposed to enjoying the guitar and proggy polyrhythms, this will never, ever grab you. However, if you listen to the above Metal bands or even some good ol' indie guitar rock, give it a try. I have no idea what they looked like onstage at Coachella, but hearing this song and the others that night explained how they did not, in fact, spur a mass exodus to the gates as many people forecast. They had the biggest crowd of the weekend. It's true.

If it's more comforting for you to think that the polo grounds were by then full of shirtless, tattooed drivers of 4x4s and musclebound faux-goth jocks, go ahead. But there wasn't a shift change. Tool got a great turnout, and everyone who did got a great show. There, I said it.

OK, that'll about do it. Odds are I'll be covering this next year as well, so until next year we'll not talk about heat, the desert and festivals (at least until I grit my teeth about friends in Nashville who get to see Radiohead). Thanks for playing along. Back to normal next week...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

coachella, day 2, part iii: at war with the elephant

Strange goings on by this time at the desert fest. The guest of honor was about to arrive. The ceremony--with apologies to all bloated drunken frontmen in the world--was about to begin. Madonna. Sweet mother of God, Madonna. Did you hear, she was going to be in the the dance tent. Oh. My. God. The dance tent. Close enough to touch, smell, taste if you can for a second set aside the 20-30,000 sweaty bodies all around you. Madonna. What will she do? What will she play? My god, I heard she arrived by helicopter, did you hear that too?

I didn't care. I was assigned to cover Mogwai, and I couldn't have been happier. My thoughts on Madonna are, perhaps, better left for another post, but I'm not a fan. Her set became this polarizing point of the whole weekend--"Are you going to see Madonna? Or Tool?" Carrie Brownstein asked during Sleater-Kinney's set (even though they weren't playing opposite eachother--though you can be sure those who were seeing one weren't seeing the other). It was a social barometer. My meter could be read at an decidedly low-pressure point with regards to Madge. And I wasn't alone.

It just seemed like it as I crossed the polo grounds. Sure, there were the light-stick adorned folks above who I saw walking by, but for the most part the grounds were deserted, like 1:30 pm deserted. At one point it seemed there were more empty water bottles on the ground that non-Madonna fans. I couldn't bear to think what that tent must've been like. And she hadn't even taken the stage yet.

Once I reached the Outdoor Theater I was a little worried for Mogwai. I'd seen them before so I knew they'd be okay, but would they draw the crowd they deserved? And, whatever crowd they drew, how would they react to being paired opposite Madonna? I mean, this is a band that once had t-shirts for their '99 T in the Park festival that simply read "Blur: Are Shite." They don't shy away from confrontation. Would they crank up their sound past their already face-melting levels and just try and bore a hole clear through the earth? Would they transform "Like a Virgin" into a death-metal anthem (like it isn't already)? My mind reeled.

Surprisingly, they didn't once address who was playing across the field or (it seemed) adjust their set in any way. Why would they, now that I think about it. It's not like you have any consciousness of anything else going on around you when Mogwai are playing. In fact, they didn't even announce their presence with authority (with apologies to Ebby Calvin), instead opting to open with the pensive and comparitively gentle "Hunted by a Freak."

But then someone kicked the doors open.

"Glasgow Mega-Snake," by Mogwai

I'd spent all day in the sun, two days in fact. That polo field, particularly on Sunday, was a hot, dry place. When Mogwai started with their business of building-toppling instrumental rock, I felt the first breeze I'd felt all day. I'm pretty sure they conjoured it with just the sheer physical force coming out of their amplifiers. In fact, I saw more than a few fans near me just raising their hands in front of them, arms outstretched, hoping to grab hold of the big sound slapping them about the head and shoulders. I'm pretty sure they did.

Three songs in they had a crowd. Four songs in and they unleashed the above song from "Mr. Beast," the most furious four minutes I've ever spent at a concert. I'm not sure if I've heard of a more appropriately named song as this sounded like Slayer scoring a monster movie, and the monster was 'the good guy.' Once the song ended (abruptly, like someone shutting a door in front of your face), more than a few people around me were just in disbelief, shaking their heads and screaming "Oh my God!" Mogwai was born for a stage like this where there are no walls to force their sound into itself, those three guitars can just climb out of their starters blocks and run as far as the wind can take them. Loud? Yes. But any louder than they would be ordinarily? Absolutely not. Madonna didn't matter, and neither did anything else. Cheers, Mogwai.

Conclusion coming soon, with a few scattered thoughts on Massive Attack and Tool...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

coachella, day two, part ii: the big rock bang-bang

(I'm going to finish this report if it kills me. Seriously.)

Okay, so after some wandering around in the sun to do some sceney-type reporting on the various domes and such littering Coachella's grounds, the Main Act of the Day, at least in my book, took the stage: Sleater-Kinney. By the way, a minor note on those domes. Impressive idea and presentation on the part of all the artists involved. Each one of them seemed to have a seasonal 'theme,' with a frozen pirate ship (complete with pirate-cicles) in one dome and a freaky springtime dome with a small armada of garden gnomes tittering at its center in another. But seriously, if the intent was for these things to offer shelter from the heat, they failed miserably. Sure, you're out of the sun but without much ventilation the effect was basically like taking a breather inside Shaquille O'Neal's hip pocket. Not good times.

Anyway, Sleater-Kinney. I remember talking to a friend about their last record "The Woods," and he was just starry-eyed about it. In fact, we both were. Much of what he was expressing was his sheer adoration of not only this great classic noise-rock record getting hatched, but most of all that it was being delivered by women, and how amazing that was. At the time I wasn't sure if I agreed--I mean, I wasn't about to admit that it could be considered weird or extraordinary that women could rock out this way. In my mind of course they could (Heart, the Runaways, and on and on).

But damn if his quote wasn't running through my mind Sunday.

"Jumpers," by Sleater-Kinney (Live, at the Crystal Ballroom--downloaded from rbally)

I'm standing there, the sun's bearing down on my big floppy hat and I'm just starting to feel that horrible trail of sweat wandering down my spine from such heat, but it was perfect. It was all perfect. Carrie Brownstein was all possessed leg-kicks and rock 'n roll adrenalyne careening around her side of the stage like a cross between Angus Young and Thurston Moore--in 7 Jeans. Corin Tucker threw her voice--the love it or leave it of S-K--so far across that polo grounds that I was pretty sure the antenna on my car was shaking against it. Janet Weiss...well, Janet Weiss is friggin' Bonham, right down to the Ludwig tubs. Just the three of them, big classic rock guitar mixed with feedback, noise and danger, and Jay's quote is just spinning through my heat-addled head--"And it's coming from women." Yes it is.

Which leads us to the next stop on my tour:

Couldn't get nearly as close to the stage for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (which surprised me--Karen O outdrawing Sleater-Kinney. Who knew?), but I was close enough. I

"Fancy," by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (live @ Coachella--again, via rbally--thanks Jennings!)

I was going to post "Y Control," as song I've got to confess I'd never heard prior to this show (and it was amazing), but since Jennings has been mighty cool enough to post their whole Coachella set we might as well go right to the fiddler for this one--as you should. Besides, "Fancy" is where I think I figured Karen O out. I'd never given them much notice with their first record (obviously), though I enjoyed "Maps" like everyone else with a pulse. But I've really enjoyed "Show Your Bones," especially the jagged "Phenomenon," which they also played. But no, this is where it's at and this is what demands to be posted This is where Karen O unleashed a...scream. This incredible, banshee wail about the two minutes into the song. Then she smiled, this big impish grin that said, "I'm having the goddamned time of my life. Aren't you?" Okay, I get it now.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that theirs was the only set where I saw the crowd both pogoing and hippie noodle dancing as I got further from the stage. Warrents mentioning.

Part iii coming soon. I promise.

Monday, May 08, 2006

coachella, day two: the race is not always won by the swift

If day one felt like a marathon of heat, sunscreen, bands and those who love all three, day two felt like a twisted joke, some strange cross between Hell and Groundhog Day, with a little bit of Lawrence of Arabia thrown in for kicks. I didn't have the Peter O'Toole scarf rig around my head, but I should've. Just as an added bonus, Sunday packed about five more degrees of heat, which was pretty much all I needed to decide that this whole Coachella thing may not've been as good an idea as I thought.

But, many of the handful of bands I really wanted to see were, in fact, playing on Sunday. Plus I was working, which sort of took the whole, "Screw this band thing I'm grabbing an umbrella drink and sitting by the pool with my iPod" notion and set it on fire in front of me.

My first trick was to absorb the above, somewhere about 100 yards from the Sahara Tent or, Madonna Central. Yes, Miss M was due to play her much ballyhooed set at 8 pm that night, and as such was entitled to rope off about 1/8 of the festival grounds so she could run through her soundcheck without running the unpleasant risk of seeing or smelling a commoner. The Mojave Tent, the AT&T Blue Room, they were all barricaded by some surprisingly powerful yellow ribbon--oh yeah, and about 15 security guards--until 12:15. Of course, doors opened at 8, and the first bands were going to kick off 15 minute before then, but of what concern are these things to a pop idol?

Crazy thing was, people were into it. People gathered behind that rope and when it was lifted ran like holy hell to the Sahara Tent--and I'm pretty sure it wasn't to get a good spot for the by-then delayed and somewhat anonymous Kristina Sky or OneRepublic. No, I'm pretty sure these people wanted them some Madge-lovin', and they were going to run across the surface of the sun to get it.

In the words of later performer Gnarls Barkley--"Crazy."

More to come, including Sleater-Kinney, Mogwai, and a brief dispatch from the fustercluck of humanity that was the MadonnaTent.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

coachella, day one, part II: let the wookie win

After the Walkmen's inspired mix of passion and disinterest and Wolfmother's straight-up trip to the back of an Econoline, I pretty much laid low and took care of business prior to My Morning Jacket. I'd seen them before, but that was back during the "At Dawn" days and back in the shittiest of clubs in the shittiest of towns, Tempe Arizona.

(and, as an aside, should any of you Tempeians be listening in right now, I apologize, I do, but you live in a shitty, soulless, dull as dishwater town, and one that's located like 45 feet from the sun. I understand that it used to have a lot going on back in the day between the Sun City Girls and the Gin Blossoms [before they got embarrassing], but enough. Your town and by extension Phoenix sold itself out and what used to be a pretty interesting college-fueled downtown is now covered by Urban Outfitters and the Gap, and anyone who defends such a place is really only revealing themselves as not knowing any better. So don't. And drink some water, for chrissakes

ANYWAY, point being, I didn't see what I feel was a representative performance by MMJ, plagued by bad sound and a bad atmosphere that wasn't helped by the chainlink fence running through the club, which bore the unfortunate name Bash on Ash. Needless to say I figured Coachella's outdoor, palmtree-dappled setting would really give these Bonnaroo vets a place to shine. And, yes, it did.

"Rocket Man," by My Morning Jacket

Now, they didn't play the above song, but I feel it's a fine example of what seeing them live is like, at least when reduced to its essence. It's that voice, that big, soaring voice of that Jim James fellow, that's what pretty much controls how high and how far that band can go. Of course there was the big, churning flat-out jams of "Dondante" and "One Big Holiday" with sunday drive guitar and "Crazy Train" drums, but inevitably what becomes ever more noticable about My Morning Jacket is That Voice.

It was most obvious on "Wordless Chorus," where James set his guitar aside and worked the room like some cross between Prince and Teddy Pendergrass. As the song ended James crouched and reached somewhere deep, just threwing it across the polo grounds on the wings of reverb, and we flew right along with it. It was a great trip, and a great way to greet the sunset.

Unfortnately my date with the Jacket kept me from Kanye West. I hear he was good, if abbreviated. I guess you can't go wrong when you crank up the jukebox and close your set with some Al Green and A-Ha (?), but Kanye won the day, as I hear. And I guess crowd transition from him to Sigur Ros was like a shift change at a college radio station.

I got to hear a little bit of Sigur Ros, and they sounded fine. They were one of the first acts I heard where I thought it would be terribly fun to be on some substance or another, lying back watching the sun set behind the mountains and picking up a slight desert breeze across your body. A perfectly lovely way to spend the day. But, instead, I was in the press tent, and to me it sounded like three songs stretched over an hour and a half. It probably was.

Next up was Eagles of Death Metal. I wasn't terribly familiar with their sound. I knew of Josh Homme's involvement, and I knew they did their thing with tongue jammed so far into their cheek that they start to no longer have a face anymore, but that's it. What I most noticed about them was they started a half hour late.
And, not to mention their Rock for Rock's Sake front man was the spitting image of Todd from "Boogie Nights". If I could find a picture out there right now I would show you, but you have to trust me. Also, I'm betting this was not a coincidence.

Anyway, once we agreed with emcee Danny Devito (?!) that yes, we were indeed ready to rock after waiting for 30 minutes, out they came, bringing crotch rock to a new generation. I mean, sure, there's a nice big of boogie to their Faces-era rock, and they're a lot of fun, but it's that trashy, T-top Camaro ride around the canyon kind of fun, and just as empty upstairs. But smart because they know they're being stupid but in a smart way. Like they know they're kidding around but seriously kidding, and you know they're serious about kidding. Or not. Or whatever.

All I could think while i was watching them was that with their western shirts, studded belts, facial hair and Josh Homme's tree-trunk arms is that they were probably the guys who beat up the guys from Franz Ferdinand in high school and made them learn guitar.

And for that, thank you. I heard some of Franz's set on my way back to the press tent. They sounded great, and I wished I could've covered their set instead.

Back at the press tent my colleagues wanted to go check out Daft Punk and the Rakes, so I was left minding the laptop to hear Depeche Mode's set. Now, I have to confess, I went through high school loving those guys, but I'd seen them several times before. I figured time hadn't made them change their show too much--Martin would look insane, interesting Anton Corbjin visuals would flash, and Dave Gahan would twirl like a little cranked-up pixie while Fletch pawed uselessly at his keyboard. Is that about right? So, I was content just to listen

Their crowd, I have to say, was huge, regardless. But they really could've OWNED that night, and they didn't. And this is the part I don't get because Martin had said in an interview that he knew they'd have to change their set for Coachella, to play more of the hits. Why then did it take them 45 minutes to play anything recorded before "Songs of Faith and Devotion," a record so beloved it fetches a clean .79 cents on amazon right now? I mean, guys, this is Los Angeles (mostly), your adopted hometown. Remember 101? You could've opened the show with "Behind the Wheel" or "Stripped" and the crowd would've blown the dates off the palmtrees, but instead you made 'em wait. Not smart.

But, they did at least throw the fans a bone with the first encore.

"Photographic," by Depeche Mode

All the way back from 1981, this little nugget, and I have to say from my VIP tent perch it sounded solid. Energetic, maybe a little angry. Probably half that crowd thought they were covering a Faint tune. Between that and Martin Gore's slow 'n low version of "Shake the Disease," the thirtysomethings in Violator shirts must've been smiling. But it took them an hour to do so. Why?

And with that my night (and this post) came to an end. I could get into how we started to leave at 1230 but thanks to the cattledrive leaving the venue combined with the insane traffic control that routed us the OPPOSITE way from Palm Desert and our hotel we didn't get 'home' until 3:05 am. I won't though. Never park in lot 4. That's my advice to you, my desert blossoms.

Sunday's report coming soon. Sleep well.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

coachella, day one: don't fight, it's better if you don't fight

Living in Los Angeles it's easy to forget the heat, particularly in April. Sure, it's been warm here, but there's springtime heat then there's desert heat, the kind of environmental terrorismthat crawls inside your clothes, gets in your lungs and crawls all over you. That's the kind of heat promised and delivered in the Coachella Valley, home to Indio, date shakes, golf, and, for some reason, the biggest music festival in the country.

Armed with about a quart of sunscreen and the biggest, silliest safari hat I could find i set out notebook in hand to cover the heap-big event, teamed with two other writers to help one of our editors blog the whole show, backwards and forwards.

The four of us divvied up the day and tried to accomodate each of our preferences (James Blunt was used punitively). The first few acts went by quickly. The Section Quartet did their thing, giving Radiohead and Zeppelin the string treatment, which I have to say was a pretty nice way to kick things off. It was certainly preferable to Head Automatica, a decent enough band that at times bore a fairly uncomfortable resemblence to Faith No More for my tastes. Yes, Faith No More. You just thought the '90s were over, but they're sneaking up on us too. Just wait until The Arcade Fire's next record comes out sporting some wicked slap-bass.

Anyway, the next act was Rob Dickinson, formerly of Catherine Wheel. Though Dickinson came to the Mojave Tent's stage with just an acoustic guitar at his side (and, it bears emphasis, no bandmates), he manipulated and looped that acoustic until he conjured some of that old 'Black Metallic' magic. You didn't think an old shoegazer was going to play a festival effectless, did you?

Next up was the Walkmen, and by now the heat was starting to take me out for a drink and ask about my family. I've liked a lot of what I've heard from these guys, so I was excited to check them out, but I've got to say...they let me down a little. The music was good, of course, even better than I would've expected with these little keyboard touches that reminded me of the Band (especially teamed with the nasally vocals), but there was something amiss. And, I have to say, I think that something was Hamilton Leithauser.

"The Rat," by The Walkmen

Hamilton. I get it. You're from New York. You're a sharp-dressed guy with an indie pedigree. This isn't your first time on a big ol' stage so you're not taking any shit from this little desert fest or anything tied with it. But behind you your band's laying down some pretty urgent stuff, especially on "The Rat," which unfortunately was the one time your pretty good-sized crowd started nodding their heads. Up until then it seemed like they were waiting for some cue to really get into you guys. Sure, it's hot, but do you think you can take the time to maybe spit out your gum, and, oh, maybe take your hands out of your pockets? Give us a little something. I know you can still bark those vocals out of you and do some damage to that larynx, but can you put your body into it? I'm old fashioned. Make me think this means something to you. By the way--snazzy suit.

After that my editor wanted me to meet him in the Mojave Tent to check out Wolfmother. I'd heard a few songs so I thought I had them sussed out as a solid '70s tribute band, even if they're one that somehow wound up on an episode of "The OC," rubbing skinny skunky shoulders with the likes of Keane and Death Cab. But I wasn't prepared for what was boiling over inside that tent:

It was like the last three decades never happened. Metal, hard rock, whatever you want to call it, was back, but not dressed up in this shrugging, "Yeah, well, you know, 'classic rock'" veneer of irony that I'd cut my teeth on in the early '90s. This was unapologetic rawk, for want of a better term.

It was Deep Purple. It was Blue Cheer. It was AC/DC and Sabbath all huddled together in Spicoli's van outside a Led Zeppelin concert, laughing and pushing against the walls, rocking it back and forth as the music gets louder and louder. Even Spicoli, high as he is, wants 'em to stop because it's starting to get scary, but it's no use. What are you gonna do now?

"Pyramid," by Wolfmother

If you're packed shoulder to shoulder in a sweaty tent while a thin Australian with Thin Lizzy's afro is twirling his microphone around him (!), bouncing around like he never knew it became ridiculous to do such things, you just scream as loud as you can, maybe throw some devil horns in the air. Leave your sense of irony at home, it's too hot today.

More day one lunacy tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

can i get a witness?

Greetings, my people.
Seems I dropped off (again) the last few days, but this time around I've got a grand excuse--I was off in the desert covering the heap-big festival of dust and desert called Coachella. My first time covering such a big event, and though it was a big pile of stress, exhaustion and adrenalyne, I had a good time.

Satisfying stuff, in a lot of ways, but of course I have more that I have yet to get out of my system. Tune into this space over the next day or so for my impressions, thoughts, ramblings, and whathaveyou, featuring photos, weirdness and some audio as well. No, not from the show--I think Mussolini's brown-shirts were more forgiving than the Coachella gate gestapo (I can't bring a pen inside? Really? You know I'm here trying to give your little show some love, right?).

Bah. 'Til later.