|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
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One could easily bellyache about the logistical nightmares of Coachella: exorbitant prices for tasteless food, the daunting exodus from the parking lot and subsequent gridlock, will-call purgatory, the downwind stench from the Port-o-Pottys around 6 p.m. after the feces reached critical mass. But those minor aggravations have nothing to do with Coachella's mission: great music -- loads of it.
Whatever foothold the MCs had on Saturday, they blew it. Pharcyde were so late they ended up playing only seven minutes to a sardine-packed Sahara Tent. "It wasn't our fault, y'all, it was all this shit with the airlines," a contrite J-Swift pleaded. The fans were too hot to be pissed off. Good ol' Chris Parker, the mad oracle known as KRS-One, got with head-nodding boom-bap and b-boys flipping off trampolines so he could drop black mysticism: "When they killed Frederick Douglass, I came back as Marcus Garvey/I used to be Malcolm X, before I came back as KRS." To the ladies: "You aren't a bitch, you're a goddess." But Parker grew progressively like an interpreter for the hearing-impaired: "I'm an MC -- rapping is something you do; hip-hop is something you live!" Yo, Chris, ix-nay on the ecture-lay. A different stage and eight hours later, Jurassic 5 crooned their G-rated rhymes like a barbershop quartet. Babu's velvety deep voice alone was worth the wait, but the mid-gig scratch battle was all speed and no inspiration -- welcome to the new drum solo. Cursed be the promoters giving the acid-tongued, ultrawitty Princess Superstar an early-bird time slot of 12:30. What a way to bury the freshest new voice in the game.
Balls-to-the-wall rawk is alive and well, but not with the usual suspects: Sweden's The (International) Noise Conspiracy, together with Aussies the Vines, constituted a mini non-English invasion. Lassoing his mike cord, gyrating his pelvis and leaping from a stack of amps, T(I)NC's Dennis Lyxzén has more rock-star panache in his little finger than Sunday's great white hype, the Strokes, will ever have. Someone yelled "Bullshit!" when he began the story of a 19-year-old gunned down by the police. "No, this happened," he said, suddenly grave. Keyboardist Sara Almgren and crazed four-stringer Inge Johanssen took the edge off Lyxzén's Marxist diatribe with a druggy '60s groove.
Earlier in the Mojave Tent, all hailed Kosheen vocalist Sian Evans, the Scottish Diana Ross: "Do you want to hear some drum & fucking bass?" she yelled. The sexy chanteuse shouldn't have pigeonholed herself, because Resist is one of the best dance albums this year regardless of genre. With a live drummer, an electric cellist and Evans' piercing pipes, the Glaswegian trio had soul to spare. Sasha and Digweed held sway later with a dexterous balance between happy hypnosis and bad trip. That other English duo, Groove Armada, went for the hip shakes, not so much head games; it didn't help that their Laserium-caliber visuals were wasted on samey amoebas.
Now she's in purple, now she's a turtle: Siouxsie Sioux looked dapper in a gray business suit before stripping down three songs into the Banshees' set, which began on the main stage just after dark. She seemed bitter: "We're seven for seven in the seven-year itch -- we have no sponsor, no label, no radio, it's just us." The band favored the obscure stuff as Sioux's drummer husband, Budgie, flailed precisely against Steve Severin's enormous bass throbs and Jon Klein's lovely/forbidding walls of guitar. Old punks never die, they just get more goth.
To all who attended Coachella, give yourselves a hand. You were sensibly dressed and attractive. And polite. Both communal and disconnected, the vibe was pleasant but unnecessarily tame. Where were all the freaks?
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A raver, his white Adidas visor reversed, awkwardly danced to Blonde Redhead's mournful "Hated Because of Great Qualities." A duo of gothed-out girls gaped, awestruck, as Mos Def assaulted them with his foxy "ghetto rock." These were a few of the juxtapositional joys to be had at the Coachella fest, one of the few events this side of the Atlantic to offer such a diverse and dynamic cross section of the music universe. Under a monumental desert sky, the festival reveled in its hybrid vivacity: Ozomotli warming up a crowd for Belle and Sebastian? Jurassic 5 taking the stage from the Beta Band?