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Loved-up in Indio

Wednesday, Oct 13 1999
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COACHELLA MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVALAt the Empire Polo Field, October 9-10

It is rumored that the Coachella Music Festival lost a million dollars, despite the pricey admission fee of $50 per day, because of the organizers‘ unwillingness to be tainted by corporate sponsorship. But after watching droves of Nike-shod, Stussy-clad, Black Flys--shaded little monsters descend on Indio’s Empire Polo Field for two days, it‘s hard to believe anyone gave a shit about keeping it pure.

If Coachella has any negatives -- and it’s a good kind of negative -- it would have to be the festival‘s comprehensiveness: There are just too many great people playing at once. For example, you could see Medeski, Martin & Wood, but only at the expense of quirky Welsh popsters Super Furry Animals. And because Northwestern punkers Modest Mouse tore it up so good, we only caught the last five minutes of circuitry experimentalist U-Ziq; the beat science of 4-Hero was mandatory, but we couldn’t ditch Pavement five minutes into their set. Worst of all, DJ Shadow‘s mind-blowing mixology was abandoned midway for the whimsical sampling and strains of Fantastic Plastic Machine.

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It’s fair to say that Saturday night belonged to the Chemical Brothers, whose studio-perfect sound was enhanced by eye-popping visuals that made the crowd bounce like one big silicone titty. What a drag following up electronica‘s big-beat gods, but Beck pulled it off. Even though our knees were ready to give, the rosy-cheeked ham shimmied, sashayed and space-walked like James Brown, Elvis and Michael Jackson rolled into one -- who cared if he ended the set with that god-awful Eddie Grant tune, ”Electric Avenue.“

On Sunday, the pharmaceutical-gobbling club kids didn’t have quite the same enthusiasm they did on Saturday, considering most of them went sleepless, pepping up only after Money Mark fastened a blown-up balloon to a sax to let blow some flatulent notes in tribute to Art Farmer. And in a consummate act of treachery, my hysterical companions refused to be in the vicinity of the dishonorable discharges and wife-beaters who came to see personal favorites Tool and Rage Against the Machine. But this wasn‘t Ozzfest -- the overall vibe was synergistic, network-friendly and loved-up.

If there are any truths to be told in this age of entertainment overkill, one of them is that it sucks to be joined at the hip at a major musical happening with a couple of star fuckers. Sure, it was a thrill to see Sean Lennon, Timothy Olyphant (the virile drug dealer from Go) and Jared Leto, but what did these people have to do with the bands? VIP passes have other perks besides celeb ogling, though, like an endless stream of Red Hook on tap, giant misting fans and bathrooms that weren’t Port-O-Lets -- not bad things after being on your feet for 12 hours in 100-degree sun. But come late Sunday night, as we padded over the sewer-scented landfill-type parking lot toward our car, skin red as lobsters, eardrums buzzing, eyes still dilated, we realized the Grateful Dead were right: Too much is just enough.

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