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.


At 10:38 AM, Blogger heather said...

i am so jealous that you went to coachella, THANK YOU for the indepth reviews.

And The rock photography exhibit at the Tech Museum was a nice surprise as part of the "Amazing Music Studio" exhibit that let you explore the science side of music, like mixing tracks, and acoustics, and rhythm. It was muy muy cool. It's a travelling exhibit that may be coming to other necks of the
woods if it is still on the road, you can Google it.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger chris said...

Thanks, Heather. Unfortunately this was the best info I could find (, and Detroit appears to be its next stop. And who doesn't love Detroit in the fall? The leaves and the abandoned factories turning color, it's a treat.

Ah well. The book looks good at least.


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