Sunday, May 21, 2006
We hit Table Mountain this morning, which was a pretty cool experience - and I mean COOL. It was so cold at the top of the mountain - about 40 degrees. Afterwards, we picked up Becks on the way to the hotel and then walked to the biggest market in town. Everything else in town is closed on Sundays so we didn't have much choice. This was kind of a blessing in disguise, as we bought a whole bunch of really cool things. My favorite two purchases are this really, funky painting and a table that flips into a chess board. I"ll have pictures of both of these up as soon as I get back.
We bounced over to Becks' spot at the University of Captetown (UCT), where Di and I took a nice nap in her bed. Then we went to Obs (a suburb, better known as Observatory) and had dinner at a nice Italian place. After we finished dessert, we went out to a pool hall and had a couple of beers. For the record, Di and I went 2-1 against Becks and her two friends. Good times.
I have a lot to say about the racial situation down here, but I don't want to take the time now to rant...hopefully, I'll get to it in due time.
The flight over could have been better - if I slept. Besides that, it was great. Our seats had personal TVs with on demand movies. I saw a couple of great flicks: "Tsotsi" and "Brokeback Mountain." "Tsotsi" is a really cool South African joint about this thug kid who inadvertantly adopts a kid and how his life changed. I highly recommend it - so do some other people, as it won the Acadamy Award for Best Foreign Film. My first purchase in Africa was the soundtrack...so me, huh...
"Brokeback" was also a great flick, although I'm not sure I agree with Best Film of the Year title or whatever its called. Jake G. was awesome - really great acting. I'm a huge Heath Ledger fan and he was also great. I was expecting a bit more from Michelle Williams. She wasn't bad or anything, but I just didn't see where the hype was coming from. I thought Ang Lee did an incredible job, especially considering that it was just a bit different than "The Hulk." Overall, the film was really good and I'm glad so many people gave it such good reviews, as I think that says a lot about today's society. However, I also think the Academy is constantly attempting to make a point or give the awards to whom it thinks would have the largest impact or is the most politically correct (see Denzel Washington in "Training Day").
Anyway - I have no idea why I just went off on that tangent. We're off to Kruger National Park tomorrow for the first leg of the safari. I can't wait to see our first animal...I hope its a cheetah, but I'd have no qualms if it was an elephant, leapord, giraffe, rhino, lion...or really anything else. This is going to be extremely cool...
Friday, May 19, 2006
Hit GNR last night in NYC...amazing and my buddy, Jason, got some great pics. All will be posted when I get back from Africa.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Before I get started, I just want to say that this was my first Coachella, but certainly not my last. I hope to be back next year, but if not, there will be a good reason. Almost every performance was absolutely amazing - one after another. I'm not sure if it is the whole environment making the music sound better, the scenery making the artists better, or simply the monstrous systems. Perhaps Goldenvoice (the company who puts on the fest) simply knows how to select artists that are amazing performers...who knows. Anyway, I've done my best to sum up my weekend and relay the incredible experience. Words do not do Coachella justice, but I hope to give some of you a taste of what it is like. To tell you the truth, you may just have to make the trip out west with me next year...
I woke up at around 10:30. The first acts go on at around noon. Since I was staying approx. 75 minutes away (according to mapquest), I knew I would not be there for the opening of the gates (supposedly around 11 am). Anyway, I had arrived at my hotel room really late the night before. There was a room service breakfast thing that I filled out and hung outside my door. What an amazing idea. I woke up and turned on the NFL draft. About 30 mins. later, my french toast arrived. I figured that a good breakfast was going to be an essential part to my day! I had created my personal schedule for the day in an Excel spreadsheet. With so many stages and good artists, I needed some sort of personal time map so I wouldn't miss anything. I ate up my brekky, watched the Jets pick D'Brick (who I am extremely happy with by the way), showered, listened to some old Damian Marley on the cd alarm clock, watched some more of the draft, went through my day's schedule one more time and filled out a few artists that I would check out if there was time. If you have traveled with me, then you probably know that I am generally well prepared. I get a little caught up in my research sometimes. The reason I mention this now is that I was extremely prepared for my Coachella weekend mentally, but there were a few necessities that I had to pick up before I was ready to enter the gates. I put my printed out ticket, my schedule, a few other color-coded schedules that I had downloaded from the Coachella message boards, some tip sheets, a map, a schedule to the Coachella film festival and a few articles into a folder. I threw the folder in my bag and then added a sweatshirt (I had heard that the desert gets surprisingly cool in the evening hours), my camera, a digital recorder, my shades, extra batteries, a book (I was traveling by myself and thought I might have some time to kill - stupid), and a few other essentials. I went down to the front desk and asked where I could find a pharmacy - apparently, CVS does not have a store on every other corner like in the northeast and the closest similar store was a few minutes in the wrong direction. No worries though...I threw in my Coachella mix (and 5 other cds into the 6-disc changer), dropped the roof on my Mustang (yes, I said it: MUSTANG - as in the car that I will buy as soon as it is affordable) and rolled out of the hotel parking lot.
I found Rite Aid, picked up some 30+ spray lotion for my arms and legs (wonderful - I hate that thick and creamy, white lotion that gets all caught in my arm and leg hair), some lotion for my face, chapstick (spf 20), ear plugs, a 1.5 liter of water for the drive, and a few other items. I don't know what it is, but I hate that old ladies always think that I work at stores...I mean, don't they ever look for a name tag or a uniform or something? Anyway, I got a couple of surprising glances in the parking lot when I took off my shirt to apply lotion in the parking lot. I thought that the ladies would be used to people doing that outside of L.A. - guess not.
I was finally back on the road, heading towards Indio. Cali has such a different landscape than the northeast. There were these really windy roads between large dried-out hills. Then the hills disappeared and the road was flat. I could see large mountains with snow-covered tips off in the distance. Once I was getting closer to Palm Springs, I saw a whole bunch of those skinny windmills. I don't know why they installed those things so close to the road. I found them to be pretty distracting, especially on Sunday morning when the wind was strong and they were all flying.
I had found a bunch of driving tips in one of the local papers online. I kind of figured that I should follow these recommendations to avoid the heavy concert traffic, so I got off at the suggested exit. At first I felt relieved because I didn't really see any other cars for the first bit. This didn't last and I finally ran into a jam. After sitting for a while, I started to get a little concerned because I wanted to see Perry Farrell, who was performing with Hybrid until 3:00 and I was cutting it kind of close. When I was getting closer to the festival grounds, I noticed a turn off that was not on the suggested route, so I took a detour and followed my map. Unfortunately, I got a little confused and turned in a littler early and ended up in the farthest lot from the concert. I was pretty happy with the time I saved by bypassing the traffic though.
I parked the car, raised the roof, and cranked some tunes. I triple checked that I had everything that I needed and everything that might not be allowed in the gates was well hidden. It was already SO hot...the sweat was literally dripping from my face! I had drunk a lot of water back at the hotel and about half of the 1.5 liter of water (saved the rest for the drive home), so I had to take a leak like nobody. I put on my shades and my hat, grabbed my bag and locked the car. I had read that the balloons that the organizers used to mark lots were virtually useless after dark, so I ignored them and tried to get a good idea of my location by the surroundings. My car was parked perpendicular to a little horse ranch...thinking that would be enough to get me back later, I followed the crowd towards the gate. Along the way, we walked past the camping area. There were so many tents. A whole bunch of people were still arriving and registering for their spot on the grounds. It really looked like camping would be a good time.
I was highly impressed with the organization at the gates to the festival. The lines were short and were moving fairly quickly. I guess when they are not really searching bags or patting down concertgoers the lines tend to go fast. The gates are set up, so after you get your ticket scanned, you have to walk around a couple of corners before you enter the main area. The first things that I noticed were the large posters of the lineups of past years. Then I turned the last corner. I was up on a little hill, which allowed me to get a good view of the crowd. What a crowd it was - so many people. I couldn't believe how amazing this place was and I had not even seen anything yet!
I looked at the time. 3:00. I had some time to kill. Lyrics Born (LB) was scheduled to perform in the Gobi Tent at 4:05. I had never seen him, but I've been listening to his music for years, so I was really excited. I wanted to get there early to ensure a good view, but I had some time to kill. The only "official" Coachella merchandise stand was set up right by the entrance, so I figured I should pick up some gear and get it out of the way. I wanted an LB hoody, but there was no LB merch yet, so I grabbed a Coachella sweatshirt instead and threw it in my backpack. I turned out into the main area and saw a Gatorade stand. I picked up two Gatorades and then I bought two waters and threw them all in my bag. This was one of the smartest things that I did all weekend. Having liquids on hand at all time is priceless. With such a tight schedule, I knew that I wouldn't want to make any stops between sets (and obviously, I wouldn't want to leave a performance for much needed water). Someone had recommended that instead of buying multiple bottles, to just buy one bottle and keep filling it up at the water fountain. However, water was only $2 a bottle and Gatorade was $3...not cheap, but considering how much I spent to get out to Cali for the weekend and tix to the show were about $175, I figured $10 on water and Gatorade each day was totally worth the money. I was completely right on this and having my bag with me was so worth it!
So, now was the hard step: how to find the Gobi tent. For some reason, Goldenvoice (who puts on Coachella) designed the map of the grounds upside down. It took me a little while to figure out how the place was set up. Anyway, I figured it out and went on my way to find LB. I got to the tent and people were sitting all over the place. I walked through the people sitting until I was behind a packed crowd. I was about 10 minutes early...perfect - just in time to hear the sound test.
Lyrics Born: So good! I think I found my new favorite live hip hop act. I know that this was one of the best hip hop performances that I've ever seen (and I've seen many of the best.) His flow is so smooth and his voice is even better in person than on cds. He had a live band with him and they were all extremely talented. Even better though, Joyo Velarde was his backup singer. She is a fellow Quannum artist - I'm yet to hear a Quannum artist that is not good. If you know LB's music, then you already know Joyo. If not, she has one of the best voices that I've ever heard. It is deep, soulful and powerful...incredible. LB rhymed so quickly and smoothly...just an absolutely amazing way to start out the weekend. I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of him, just to make sure that I got one good one. He did just about all of his best songs, except for some reason he didn't do "I Changed My Mind." Maybe he didn't want to do such an old song or maybe it was because the original version was from a compilation and not one of his own albums. I don't know, but I was a little disappointed, as it is his best song. I can't really complain though, because as I said, he did just about all of his other classics and I left the tent in a very good mood!
It was 4:50 and I had five minutes to get over the main stage (Coachella Stage) for the 4:55 performance of Common. It is truly amazing the way that the polo grounds are set up for the festival. First of all, they are in the middle of the desert, yet it is really a field with lush green grass. The ground is hard enough that you don't sink in and get mushy dirt all over your butt if you sit, but soft enough to make it extremely comfortable to stand and watch or sit or even lay down. Second, the grounds are huge. I have never experienced anything like it. The area is vast, but set up in a way that you can really get from one area to another in just a couple of minutes. It's hard to explain, but it really works well. The systems are super powerful, but set up so the sounds from one stage do nothing to interfere with the next stage over. Finally, Coachella markets itself as a "Music and Arts Festival" and there is no shortage of art. I was sidetracked numerous times on my way to see Common. I stopped to take pictures of huge, multi-story sculptures. There was this really cool transformer guy. People were pressing different parts of his body to hear different sounds...a very cool piece. I think my favorite "art" exhibit is called Cyclicide. This exhibit is a whole set of cool rides that work off of someone or a group of people peddling bike peddles. If you watch the Coachella movie, you can see what I'm talking about. Anyway, there is a Dizzy Machine, which gets two people on this see-saw type thing. They sit across from each other and peddle to motor them around in a circle...hilarious! There is also a Merry-go-round, Swings, this spinny thing (to the left) and other rides. All really cool stuff.
Common: I used to be a Common fan. I'm not exactly sure when I began to lose interest. I mean, it makes sense for me to like him and his music. He is supposed to be a soulful hip-hop artist with social-conscious messages in his music. However, something about him has always come off as incredibly fake. He's boys with many artists that I like: the Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, etc. He just seems different. I think that I first lost respect for this guy when he performed at Tufts, up on the residential quad. I think it was during my junior spring, but I could be wrong. He put on a good enough show and his music was good. On the other hand, he embarrassed himself and everyone watching when he completely forgot where he was performing. He was trying to give a shout out or something and went blank and had to ask what school he was at...I swear, it was like something out of a movie or a sitcom or something. Pathetic.
Regardless, at this point, I've seen him numerous times and he does always put on a good performance...sound-wise. I like most of his music, although I personally think he peaked with "Like Water for Chocolate." Tracks like "The Light," "The 6th Sense," and the "Geto Heaven" singe with Macy Gray are amazing songs. His earlier albums (especially "Resurrection") are also really good, but I just feel like he was working his way towards something big, but his style started to go downhill with "Electric Circus." People seem to love his newest album, "Be," but it just doesn't have the same feel that made "Like Water for Chocolate" one of the best hip hop albums of all time.
His performance at Coachella was average. I was really hoping for more. He did manage to get all the ladies to say, "Aww-oooo" in that nasally "owww" whine that hip-hop artists love to make the ladies say. I personally think it's hilarious and, as some of you know, generally make fun of.
Kanye West: The first superstar appearance of the weekend. I was pretty far back for Common because I showed up late. One of the first things that you learn at Coachella is that if you want to be close to a stage and do not want to be one of those annoying people pushing their way through the crowd in the middle of the set, it is best to get to the performance area 10-20 minutes early (depending on the artist and stage). Kanye West was scheduled to go on stage at 5:45, the same time that Common finished. Kanye produced a good portion of Common's album and was featured in some of the songs, so I figured that they would perform on stage together for at least a song or two. Coachella is definitely a place known for collaborations and Kanye was added to the bill only a couple of days before the festival, so it made sense that they would collaborate. Wrong.
As soon as Common finished his set, the crowd immediately began to squeeze in towards the stage. I swear the wind started to blow and wheeze and I heard, "Kanye! Kanye! Kanye!" as if I was about to be swept away by some magical or spiritual higher power. In all seriousness, it was pretty amazing how many kids were at the festival just to see Kanye West perform. While most people were trying to move up towards the stage, I began to shuffle back towards empty grass, slaloming couples along the way. I had just over half an hour to get back to the Gobi Tent for Imogen Heap at 6:20 and I didn't want to have a difficult time getting free. When I got to a comfortable area, I turned around to face the stage. I stood there for a long time...longer than expected.
Now, it is a well-known faux pas for artists to go on stage late at Coachella. Not only are most of the concertgoers following a strict schedule, but they also expect music all the time. In addition, it is absolutely amazing that how punctual the musicians are. If a band is listed to go on stage at 1:20, the first song starts at 1:20...really. Unusual, but very nice and once you get used to it, it really pisses you off when you have to wait for someone.
I have no idea who was to blame - Goldenvoice for putting two artists back-to-back with no set-up time. Kanye had a full stage of musicians, including violinists. More likely it was Kanye himself. His musicians were on stage and tuned for a good ten minutes before he honored us with his presence. In the end, Kanye West started his set 25 minutes late. 25 minutes! His whole set was only scheduled to be 50 minutes long!
I had snuck my digital recorder into the show and kind of got caught up in trying to catch my favorite songs by all of the artists. Di really likes the newer Kanye West album, so I really wanted to record a couple of her favorite songs. Stupid Kanye! By the time he played her songs, I was really late for Imogen Heap. By the way, my next project is making a mix cd of all the incredible performances from the weekend. I have no idea when that will be finished, but if you have any interest in getting a copy, just let me know.
All in all, Kanye was a great performer. He was really energetic, a very important characteristic to have when a musician is performing on such a large stage - especially for a rapper or a solo artist, who is the center of attention. He danced and ran around the stage, while keeping his voice stable and breaths in beat with his pauses. The musicians were really talented and put on a very musical performance. My favorite part of Kanye's set was his cover of "Take On Me." Yes, the 80's song! He did this sort of country, hop on one leg in a circle, while bouncing the outside foot up and down as he spun...you know what I mean? Good stuff! Classic stuff! Very funny!
Imogen Heap: By the time I got over to the Gobi Tent, I had missed a good portion of Immie's set. Fortunately, she was just starting my favorite song when I got there. For those of you who don't know, and I assume that is most, Imogen Heap is the former lead singer of the trip hop duo, Frou Frou. Don't know Frou Frou either...well, damn... her music is good. To compare her to someone well known - if you took Nelly Furtado on her first album, completely slowed her down and chilled her out, replaced her accent with a British accent, added some distortion to her vocals and completely computerized the music, you'd have something that sounded more similar to Imogen Heap's music. I guess that was not a good comparison, but I tried.
I was really hoping to love her performance. I had seen her on three different late night talk shows, including on Leno the night before in my hotel room. Her voice was incredible on cd and TV and it didn't disappoint live. She is extremely talented. Not only does she write and produce all of her own music, which is very diverse and complicated, but she also performs a great deal of the music on her own. At Coachella, she performed with her normal computer, drum machine, sampler set-up, but also brought a celloist to play along.
I was only able to catch three songs because I wanted a good position for the Jr. Gong. Unfortunately, Imogen messed up badly enough that she had to restart two of the songs. I had downloaded some mixes off of the Coachella message board a couple of months ago in preparation of the festival, including a great live cd that featured many of this year's artists. Whoever made this cd included two Immie songs - a mess up and the full song (restarted). I had thought it was funny, but after seeing her live, I was laughing for other reasons. Most of the other people watching her set thought it was cute that she couldn't remember the words to her brand new song and she had to stop to pull up her notes on her laptop. I thought it was amateurish and very unprofessional. I would certainly not boycott her music and would still probably buy her new album, but I was still disappointed.
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley: Wow! I mean, just...wow! A breathtaking performance enhanced by the beautiful sunset...absolutely unforgettable! I had to make a tough decision for this one. Sigur Ros was performing at the same time, but I had seen them earlier this year down in Philly. I had only seen Marley perform on TV and I did not want to miss this opportunity, so I got a great position at the Outdoor Theater and waited for him to come out. The Outdoor Theater is kind of like the second main stage. It is just a bit smaller than the Coachella Stage, but has a great system just like all of the other stages and tents.
I was utterly impressed by Marley's performance. It was a bit more refined than I was expecting, but his voice still had that raw, gritty sound that makes his music so good. His voice is really deep - not really low in tone, but deep and powerful. He spoke a lot...something else that I didn't expect. He spoke about his music and issues that are important to him. He performed all of his great songs off of his latest two albums that I absolutely love, including my favorite "Road to Zion." I was hoping that Nas would come out on stage during that song or Black Thought would make an appearance. No such luck, but I was not disappointed in the slightest. He even covered two of his father's songs - "Exodus" (which is modernized into an actual song off one of Damian's albums) and "Could You Be Loved" (which I don't remember appearing on any album, but he morphed it into a modern masterpiece.)
Marley had a full band on stage that knew how to rock out. I was surprised at how rock the band sounded with the guitar player taking a couple of solos that sounded almost metal. There were also dancers up on stage, two female dancers/back-up singers and a guy who had the job of waving a flag over Damian Marley's head throughout the entire performance.
Who could ask for better performances for the sunset? My choices were the dreamy and artsy Icelandic Sigur Ros or the Rasta sounds of Marley. One of the coolest things that I saw all weekend was just after the sun set when Marley told everyone to take out a lighter, cell phone, or anything else that would glow and light it up in the sky. At this point, the crowd had exponentially grown and there were tens of thousands of people behind me. I had never seen anything like it...so many lighters - it looked like some sort of sea of flames. As soon as the Marley walked off stage, I called up Di to tell her that we were getting tickets to see him open up for Ben Harper in September.
Franz Ferdinand: At this point, I was absolutely exhausted. My feet hurt and I had really worked up an appetite. For the first time all day, I decided to sit down and take a break. I liked Franz Ferdinand's first album (I have not heard the whole second album yet), so I found a spot in the grass by the main stage and sat down to rest up a bit. It is truly amazing how good the systems at Coachella sound. I was ridiculously far away from the stage, but the music sounded great. The Coachella stage has absolutely gimungous video screens, so I really able to enjoy the show from afar. After a few minutes, I grew restless and got up to get some food. I spent some time walking around some of the merchandise tents, while FF finished up their set. In an absolutely perfect world, I would have heard more, but I was happy and I really enjoyed what I did hear. FF are great performers and I'd love to see them again.
I wandered into this igloo type structure that turned out to be some sort of dance tent. I believe it was called the Oasis Tent. The music was pretty intense - kind of house-like, but there was an mc who was rapping over the beats. It was actually pretty good. Even better was the set-up in the tent. There was a huge tree with vines that wrapped up throughout the ceiling and walls. There were waterfalls and other vibrant details that made this igloo a highlight of the weekend, even if I only spent a few minutes inside.
Atmosphere: After a nice break, I headed back over to the Outdoor Theater. It was about 9:30, so I had just enough time to get a good spot for Atmosphere. I have to admit that I just really started getting into these guys about a year ago, so this was my first time catching them live. I was pleasantly surprised with their talent. Slug, the MC, and Ant, the DJ, both put on a great performance and Slug has a great stage personality. He has a very nice, soothing voice that somehow maintains a smooth vibe while pumping up the crowd at the same time. He is one of those artists that you can just tell loves his job and his fans. The group was backed by Brother Ali, who had opened the festival at 12:00. He was one of the artists that I was hoping to catch early on, so I was thrilled when he performed one of his own songs during Atmosphere's set.
They played a very nice well-rounded set, chock-full of oldies and new songs. I only have two of Atmosphere's albums and they've been around for quite some time, so I am not familiar with their full repertoire. However, I have what some consider to be their best album ("Seven's Travels") and their newest, which I personally prefer. It was clear that the crowd was digging the set. I was hanging on every syllable, as Slug weaved stories through the beats and instrumentation from the live band. Atmosphere definitely proved to me that they are one of the top groups in underground hip-hop.
It took a while before they played my favorite song, "Pour Me Another," but it was well worth the wait. Unfortunately, as the group was getting to the end of the song, an incident cut the music short. Slug yelled for everyone to stop and pointed towards someone passed out in the crowd. I think the person ended up being fine, but I'm not sure exactly what happened. My guess is dehydration. Slug brought the person up on stage and let him watch the rest of the show from behind.
After Atmosphere finished, I took my time getting over to the Sahara tent. I was absolutely beat and I kept getting distracted by all of the cool art exhibits. Walking around the polo grounds at night was a completely different experience than doing the same when the sun was out. Not only were colored lights used as accents throughout the grounds, but the whole feeling of the festival changed as well. There were also exhibits that were created for the darkness. For example, there is this really cool electricity thing called the Tesla Coil. It is this pyramid thing with a coil on its peak and four runners of water spread out at its base. Every few minutes, it sends out these electric currents and makes this funky shock noise. This exhibit reminded me of those balls that you may have seen in science museums or class or a store like the Sharper Image, where the lightning bolt things move to where your hand touches the side of the sphere. A crowd circled around the exhibit every time the shock things come out. It's pretty cool.
Daft Punk: I wish I wasn't so tired. It was already 11:00 and I knew my drive back was going to be tough. I'm not a huge Daft Punk fan. In fact, with a few exceptions, I haven't really listened much to dance music at all over the past few years. I knew the bigger Daft Punk songs, such as "Da Funk" and "One More Time" and I remember partying down to "Around the World" quite a bit back in college (thank you Kyle). I continued to take my time, as I wandered down to the largest tent on the grounds. As I walked into the Sahara Tent's musical radius, I felt the pulsating beats.
I didn't know the song being played, but it sounded really good. I was surprised how emotional the music felt, especially considering the heavy house beats. And then I heard a voice through the loudspeakers say, "around the world." The crowd cheered with delight. The song didn't change yet. In fact, the first song kept going for a few more minutes, but just mixing in that hook completely energized me. I put down my bag and started to dance. It was a little strange to dance all by myself, but after looking around and seeing everyone else doing the same thing, I felt better and started to get into the music. I looked up towards the booth and saw the two DJs standing above a pyramid of lit-up triangles. I pulled a double-take and couldn't believe my eyes. The DJs were dressed up in robot suits (either that or someone had dropped something in my Gatorade earlier that night.) A few minutes later, the song morphed into "Around the World," which made me very happy.
I fully enjoyed that song, but my feet were starting to ache and I was starting to feel a little sleepy. I walked out to the right of the tent to the little blacklight area and sat down for a minute. I took a few pictures and amped myself up for the walk back to my car.
There was still a big portion of Daft Punk's set left, but I really wanted to get into my car before everyone else decided to leave. I was all the way on the opposite side of the grounds from the entrance, but the walk back led me past some food which completely reenergized me. I wasn't exactly sure how to get back to my car, but I knew that I was parked really far away. I decided to follow the crowd and figured I'd run into the horses at some point. Nope...
After walking for what seemed like a long time, I decided that I should probably ask someone if I was heading in the right direction. My feet were killing me at this point and I really wanted to get into the Mustang. I noticed a few guys in a golf cart, so I asked them if there were knew of any horses in the area. A dude laughed and replied, "Not you too. You're surrounded by horses...they're everywhere." I felt something inside sink a bit, as I realized that it was going to take a long time to find the car. I wandered down a dirt road next to a "parking field" for a while, searching for the spot where I had stopped to take a leak on the way in. I thought I recognized a fork where the road me the main driveway. I followed the driveway towards the main road and hooked a left across another field. I started to feel like I was moving against the grain, as all the people were walking in the opposite direction. I had found some horses, but all the cars were parked parallel and I knew that my car was parked perpendicular, so I kept walking. Finally, I found my car and I felt so relieved! I had to take another leak and it hit me that I hadn't used the facilities since I first arrived and I had drunk so much that day.
As I was pulling out of the lot, cops directed me in a different direction from the way I entered. I pulled my map out and quickly tried to figure out the best way to get back to the highway. I hit some traffic and I really wanted to get home quickly. I pulled off the directed route and found a detour. I drove out of the way, but saved myself a lot of time.
Driving back was a little scary. I was exhausted, so I blasted the music. It was too cold to drive with the top down. I couldn't see the great scenery that I had enjoyed so much on the way in. In fact, I didn't even notice those windy roads through the hills.
It was 2:45 when I finally walked in my room. I hit the shower, which quickly became one of the day's highlights. At that moment, I was so happy that I was not camping. I had dirt up my ankles and lotion in my eyes. Plus, I felt my muscles relax just by standing under the hot water. I flipped on ESPN to catch up on the draft. It's so bizarre because I usually make Di watch the first six rounds with me, yet I didn't even know who the Jets picked with their second first-rounder this year until Sunday. Anyway, I tried to figure out my Sunday schedule a bit, but grew too tired. I was already a little concerned about how late it had gotten, so I hit the sack. It was about 3:45 and I was beat.
I couldn't find that breakfast room service hangy thing, so there was not food waiting for me when I woke up at 11 or so. I decided to do room service anyway, so I ordered my food, flipped on the draft and got caught up watching the analysis...rather, I got a bit sucked in to the draft. I tried to keep my mind on the concert, spread all of my Sunday material on my bed and started to set up my day. My body was still not fully recovered from the previous day, so I figured it was probably a good idea if I took my time resting and recharging, rather than rushing out the door.
I had wanted to catch a film (Punk Like Me) at 11:45, but after getting back so late the night before, I had given up on that idea. Time ticked away and I was still lying on my bed in the hotel room. I had already given up on seeing Murs at 1:30 and I was a bit concerned about making it in time to catch Los Amigos Invisibles at 2:15. It's kind of ridiculous how I can have hours to kill, yet I end up running out of time and rushing out anyway. It's a part of me that I've grown to love!
I hopped in the Mustang, dropped the hood, cranked some tunes, and hit the road. It is really nice when you can be so excited about a two hour ride. I was really running late and I realized that Los Amigos Invisibles just wasn't going to happen. In fact, I started to stress that I was going to miss Matisyahu, who didn't hit the stage until 4:45. I had a good time cruising towards Indio and actually made decent time. I was cutting it fairly close, so I opted to get off at a later exit to take the route I found on my home the day before. I hit some traffic, but it was significantly lighter than on Saturday and I pulled into a much better lot. Not only was it closer, but it was also much more unique looking. There was a whole wall of beautiful white flowers that laced a fence bordering the lot. I parked the car and followed the crowd up through a hallway of the flowers and around the bend. I made mental notes of every significant landmark along my path, particularly when I turned.
When I reached the main entrance, I was a bit disappointed to see that the lines were moving slower than they had on the first day. The security guards were being much more careful in their searches of the concertgoers. I had not seen any incidents worth mentioning on the first day, so maybe they were supposed to check bags and pat down individuals the whole time. After I scanned my ticket, I made my way through the gates.
I didn't have much time to spare, but I couldn't help to stop and take some time to look at an exhibit that either was not set up or I completely missed on Saturday. Ten outhouses were set up, each designed by a different artist to represent a decade of music of the last century. After taking a few pictures, I hustled down to the main stage without taking the time to get any drinks.
Matisyahu: By the time I reached the Coachella Stage, the crowd was already a bit packed. I was pretty happy with my spot though, as I was fairly close and had a good view of the entire stage. After some waiting, the sound check finished and the band picked up their instruments and began to play. The crowd cheered when Matisyahu walked on stage. I could sense that the majority of the crowd was not overly familiar with his music and I knew from reading the Coachella message boards that some people doubted his talents and some were ready to label him a gimmick. There were still a number of fans mixed in the crowd, who looked like they were getting into the music and ready to sing along to the words.
What a great performance. I had taken my parents, Becks, and Di to see Matisyahu up at Killington back in December. That was a pretty good show and I really liked his new music. However, his set at Coachella was amazing. It was so powerful that I actually felt my body completely cool itself about 2/3 the way through his set (during one of his eyes closed, higher-pitched singing/chanting freestyle type things.) This was fairly impressive considering how hot it got on Sunday. The sun was strong, yet I was shivering.
By the second song, the entire crowd was into the music. Everyone was either singing, dancing or nodding their heads. I was kind of expecting an almost Kanye-like crowd for Matisyahu, as he's been getting some major airplay recently...maybe he's just getting that type of love on the east coast. At this point the crowd had filled in and there were literally thousands of people behind me. However, the people surrounding me mostly either knew lyrics to the majority of the songs or not at all. I didn't notice any single-lovers in the crowd.
Overall, I was very happy with Matisyahu's selection for his setlist. He played most of his best songs, including my favorite two songs off of the new album, "Time of Your Song" and "Jerusalem". On the other hand, he didn't perform his best song ever, "Warriors", but you can't win the all.
I cannot decide why Matisyahu sounded so good. The crowd definitely helped. It was very different from the all-white, hippie teenagers of Vermont and, as I said, everyone was getting down to the music. Perhaps the environment helped fuel the passion for Matisyahu and his band, as well as the crowd. Maybe the super-powerful system helped transfer the emotions of the songs. It could have been the fact that Matisyahu's new album had been out for a few weeks and it is so good. I mean, you've got to love lyrics that rhyme "shtetl" with "pedal to the metal". Regardless, I couldn't help but think about what a positive role model Matisyahu has become for the young people of our country - obviously, especially the Jews. Whether or not you agree with his image, it is hard to deny the positive messages in his music. He is a cool, ultra-religious Jew, directly involved with popular culture. I wish he was around when I was growing up and developing into who I am today. It is highly likely that I would have found more of a connection with my religion.
If I was tired at all before Matisyahu, I had completely woken up at this point. I was hungry and thirsty, but I felt like I had just seen something special. I wandered through the intermeshing crowd. Many were dispersing out, while others were coming in for Sleater-Kinney. I grabbed some food, stocked up on drinks, found a seat to eat my food and relaxed. I was sitting against a fence, directly across from this giant fan structure. It was extremely hot out at this point, so there was a small crowd formed under this thing. A girl would come out every once in a while and wind this lever thing, which turned the fan - pretty cool stuff if you ask me.
Bloc Party: I finished up my grub and walked down towards the Outdoor Theater. It was a bit past 6 already and I was planning to jet out of Bloc Party a bit early anyway to get to Gnarls Barkley early. After all I'd heard about their last Coachella performance (I guess they blew away the crowd), I was really excited for them. I absolutely love one of their songs...I call it the Beasty dance song, because it makes me want to dance in the way Beasty wiggles his butt when he's excited to see someone.
I could not believe how big the crowd was for Bloc Party. Granted, I had arrived late, but the only way I could get even remotely close was if I positioned myself behind the giant PA system - which obviously made a clear view difficult. The crowd was definitely one of the largest that I saw all weekend (besides Kanye and Madonna).
I was disappointed with the band's sound. They just didn't sound that good. It sounded like the levels were a bit off and the lead singer was out of breath. Maybe they had issues with the sound system...I don't know. I did get to hear the Beasty dance song, which made me happy and I dropped my bag to wiggle my ass...I just couldn't resist.
Gnarls Barkley: Finally! I swear, whoever was responsible for marketing Gnarls Barkley gets a huge gold star on my chart. The single, "Crazy", was the first song to ever hit #1 in the UK just from downloads (the album and single were not released yet). If you have not heard this song yet, march down to your local record shop and pick it up...sooooo good! Coachella was supposed to be the first appearance of the duo, but I guess they had some secret show out in LA on that Friday night. I was still getting to seem them second, so I still felt special.
When I made my way over to the Gobi Tent, a sizable crowd had already formed. I was impressed with how many people were psyched for these guys...I mean, no album yet and they had only performed once. After a long wait, some people dressed like hotel doormen walked on to the stage with violins. Next, three witches entered. I was extremely confused and looked around the crowd to see if anyone else was as perplexed. The musicians picked up their instruments and started to play. It was "Darkside of the Moon." Awesome! I didn't care if I was at the wrong stage, as I was not about to walk away to miss this. Two Dorothys walked on stage, followed by a wobbling scarecrow...then another scarecrow. WEIRD! Next, it was the Tinman and the Lion. But wait a second, it was Dangermouse and Cee-Lo. I was at the right place and this was freaking crazy! The crowd absolutely erupted with cheers. At this point, it didn't matter if these guys sucked...we were all hooked on Gnarls Barkley!
Cee-Lo announced that Gnarls Barkley couldn't make it today and instead we were going to see "Me-Lo and the Hearts." They jumped right into a few of the songs that had also leaked, as untitleds. The crowd knew so much of the music, it was really a bit ridiculous. What a fun set! The musicians eventually began taking off their costumes and looked more normal. The crowd was dancing and clapping along with the music, as red hard balloons bounced around. The sound was just ok, if not below average, but the performance was on point. The violinists added a lot to the performance and the back-up singers had great voices. Cee-Lo is also an amazing front man and he kept us really into the show. Finally, about 25 minutes into the set, the band began the notes to "Crazy". The crowd went off. This may have been the best song of the weekend for me - at least, as far as pure fun. The applause was so large afterwards that Cee-Lo had to inform the crowd that there was still more music. Great show!
Digable Planets: Next, it was back to the Outdoor Theater for Digable Planets. I kind of missed them on their first time around. I was listening to some hip hop when their first album came out, but it was not my music of choice and some how let it slip past me. As a result, I only knew a couple of songs well, but it was great to hear them live. Their voices are so smooth and they had a really nice, jazzy vibe. Too bad that they saved their biggest hits for the end b/c sadly, much of the crowd cleared out for Madonna...anyone who stayed will definitely attest to our reward!
I read a disgraceful review of Coachella, claiming that there were not enough performers in the hip hop genre. What a joke, especially considering the fact that this writer included acts such as Damian Marley and Matisyahu. More than half of the acts that I caught can be considered hip hop: Lyrics Born, Common, Kanye West, Damian Marley, Atmosphere, Matisyahu, Gnarls Barkley (arguable), and Digable Planets. There were other artists that I missed, including Murs featuring 9th Wonder, Brother Ali, Platinum Pied Pipers, Lady Sovereign and others that are also in the genre. This festival really has music for everybody and the set times were really planned out well, so that similar artists do not perform at the same time.
Madonna: I walked over to the Madonna tent. I thought I had missed my chance to see her b/c I stayed at Digable so late and I had to see Coheed (especially if I was not going to see Massive Attack). When I was getting close to the Sahara Tent, where she was performing, I felt like I was walking towards a NYC subway at rush hour. There were thousands of people walking in the opposite direction. I quickly realized why - when I was finally close to the stage - the rest of the grounds had seemed so quiet. I bet 85% of the attendees were forcing themselves under the tent to see the Queen of Pop or whatever she calls herself. I moved towards the side of the stage, so I'd be somewhat close to the next tent, where Coheed & Cambria was going to be performing. I don't remember what song she was performing, but I did hear her say that this was her first festival ever and then everybody cheered. I had seen enough and headed towards the Mojave Tent for the first time that weekend to see Coheed.
Coheed & Cambria: I can't say enough about these guys. I've seen them develop from a 3rd opener at CBGBs into superstar rockers in a few years. If you know me well then you may have heard my story about how I told this A&R guy at Island/Def Jam about this small NY band, Coheed & Cambria, during an informational/exploratory interview. He blew it off and claimed he didn't like the lead singer's voice. Well, sucks for him because they are pretty huge these days.
For those that don't know, Coheed is a band that emerged from the hardcore scene - although labeling them as a hardcore band (or punk or prog rock, etc.) does not do them justice. Their most recent album is my favorite album of last year, which should say a lot. It really reminds me of the best of most rock genres - it has some hard edge, but is really emotional and experimental. In fact, there are parts of the album that remind me of the best of Pink Floyd. It is one of those albums that is hard to imagine in a different order or having songs on a mix tape. The album is super long, but just so good! It is very complex with rich layers of strings and percussion. I think it is pure genius and should go down as a classic album on par with other influential rock albums, like (dare I say it) "IV" by Led Zeppelin. [Please don't rip into me too much!]
They are a concept band, in the sense that Claudio Sanchez (lead singer) writes the lyrics based on science fiction stories. The band is named after the two protagonists, Coheed and Cambria. Anyway, without getting too into it, let's just say that it is really cool and you would never know this from just listening to the music. If you are interested in hearing more, let me know and I'll explain more of the details - or check out their website. You can find some good explanations and descriptions if you look around.
This was my fifth or sixth time seeing them and they were as good as usual. There were more kids into them than I expected. They seemed to be the token emocore band of the year, following Thursday in 2004 and Thrice in 2005 (two other great bands). I kind of figured that they just throw one of these bands onto the lineup each year to give the music its due credit, but choose to keep more of a mellow vibe. I was wrong. The Mojave Tent is the middle-sized tent (bigger than where Gnarls Barkley performed, but smaller than Madonna) and Coheed filled it up with kids who knew the lyrics.
Claudio is a pretty sick musician. He pulls out the double-barreled guitar and always plays some solos, where he can show off his behind-the-head and teeth playing. I have to admit that I regretted choosing Coheed, only because I know that I'll see them again. I thought this would be my last chance to see Massive Attack, but I'd be able to catch the end of the set. Coheed went late and by the time I rushed down for Massive Attack, I only got to hear the last two minutes of the last song. I was very disappointed. Later I found out that Elizabeth Phair was among the many guest MCs and she performed "Teardrops," my favorite Massive Attack song. Bummer! Can't win 'em all!
Wandering around the grounds, I discovered the winter tent. Spread throughout the polo grounds were four tents, each representing a different season. They were all really cool, but the winter tent was my favorite. It was crazy that after all this time at the concert, I was still finding new things. The winter tent was insane. There was a huge pirate ship covered in what looked like snow. Plus, some stuff was constantly falling from the ceiling that really looked like snow.
Tool/The Scissor Sisters: By this time, I was tired. Two full days of music was playing its toll on my feet...which sounds weird, but it makes sense. My flight home was at 7:30 am the next morning, which meant I'd have to wake up at 5-5:30 to pack, drop the car off, and make it to the airport in time to check in. Based on the night before, I figured it would make sense for me to leave the show early...easier said than done.
I found myself wandering around, looking for an ATM, so I could buy a sweatshirt for Di. The great thing is with Coachella is that you can always hear music. I was mostly in front of the main stage, so I heard a lot of Tool. After I bought the shirt, I meandered back and forth between the Coachella Stage and Outdoor Theater, catching a couple of great Scissor Sister songs, including "Mary", one of the best. I didn't catch "Take Your Momma", which was a slight disappointment though. At 11:45, I decided it was time to leave. The final song of the weekend was Tool's "Sober" - a classic and Tool played it like it deserved to be played!
I found my car without many problems at all and drove home speedily...meaning fast, but not too fast. What a weekend...I can't wait until next time - and there will be a next time!
Bands that I would have liked to catch in an ideal world:
Eagles of Death Metal
Platinum Pied Pipers
Hybrid w/ Perry Farrell
Murs feat. 9th Wonder
Los Amigos Invisibles
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I'll have a full write-up of my weekend here by Friday evening.