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...


Post a Comment

<< Home