By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
On undersold Sunday, Blonde Redhead seduced a smallish crowd at the second stage with sexy tunes mostly from their latest album, Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. Kazu Makino's trembling voice acted as a siren's call across the grass, magnetically drawing people toward the stage. Unfortunately the mournful qualities of the performance seemed undercut by the early-afternoon sun; the act would have resonated deeper in the shaded confines of the Mojave Tent. Meanwhile, Mos Def and his bass-heavy blues/rock/rap outfit Black Jack Johnson riled the crowd to fever pitch with his seamless mixtures of musical styles and unbeatable stage charisma. The miracle of his act was that, even as he oscillated between blues, hip-hop shout-outs, punk rock and smooth reggae, Mos Def, an easy smile on his lips, made the audience intuitively grasp the underlying interplay between these varied musical forms. But this was no music-appreciation class; as he leapt onto the towering speakers and worked his magic on the crowd, Def was seizing black rock & roll back from Elvis (not to mention kicking pathetic Linkin Park and other cracker rap-rock acts to the pavement). After Def left the stage, his insanely talented band spiraled into a Sonic Youthworthy distortion session. (When a tall guy shoved his way forward and shouted for the Strokes, he barely escaped getting smacked down. "Man, you just won the stinky white motherfucker award for stupidity!" he was informed by a bristling fan.)
Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas took the stage in awe. "Mos Def is fucking cool, huh?" Perhaps Casablancas had been studying Def from the sidelines, because he seemed more at ease than usual, his rock-star histrionics less self-conscious. With guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. leading the way, the typically wooden Strokes managed to get over themselves and cut loose. As the riotous crowd screamed the lyrics even to the catchy new batch of songs, Casablancas threw himself into the masses, where he was gently held aloft. "In the sun, sun, having fun," Casablancas wailed during "The Modern Age." Indeed, indeed.
>> AN ARMY OF WE
Now 3 years old, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has passed through its infancy and entered its awkward phase. Is it a festival that exists as a quixotic model of genre harmony; a post-Lollapalooza, where an Intelligent Dance Music act can easily coexist with an emo band without the assistance, interference or inspiration of corporate sponsors; or is it a plain old fact that a music utopia simply cannot exist without huge Heineken banners and Virgin Megastore tents? Returning to the two-day format, Goldenvoice beefed up the sound quality and presented fewer experimental acts, thereby offering less opportunity to stumble onto something that'd truly blow one's mind. And while maybe thinking less is more, they're also getting big enough to invest in superlarge video-projection screens -- something we all wanted to avoid.
The polo fields were as trim and comfortable as a plush carpet; hours could be rolled away chilling out slurping on frozen lemonades, but if you wanted to hear Kosheen you were gonna have to move over to the Mojave Tent. Kosheen, an act that floats between electronica and jungle, served it up band-style, with singer Sian running around like an '80s pop star. With a tight version of "Hide You" (an old track that is surprisingly a new hit), Kosheen had the kids mashing up the floor.
Just when you thought you'd witnessed the most amazing vocal performance, there was another. Siouxsie, the original punk rock diva, was taking the stage, and she was about to show us that she was far from old hat. "They've got you packed in here like sar-fucking-dines, don't they?" she taunted, then ridiculed her audience for showing up like "a bunch of sheep." While asserting her punk rock cred, her songs got a successful make-over, and she remains the queen of darkness.
Whoever came up with the idea of having Björk follow Siouxsie gets an apple, because the transition couldn't have been better. You didn't have to be a major fan to feel the magnitude of her set, perhaps the most memorable performance of the year so far. With a full string section, harps and electronics, she was Cole PortermeetsJohn Cage and Goldie. After her ailing computer was rebooted, she performed "Army of Me," and closed out with a simply astounding Beatles cover, a baroque tribute to George Harrison's "Blue Jay Way" -- it was bliss. If nothing else, Coachella was a triumph for female vocalists (throw in Blonde Redhead and Zero 7).
Things weren't nearly as exciting on the breaks side, however. Yes, the Chemical Brothers are consummate professionals who assemble strong sequences and cosmic visuals (they even play from inside an orb that looks like the DJ booth in Thank God It's Friday), but there was something about their incessant "It began in Africa-ka-ka-ka-ka" vibe that got quite annoying. And then there was the "return of Prodigy." Where do you go after you've been a pyromaniac and a domestic abuser? Nowhere, really. Their brand of heavy metal/breaks doesn't work without the snickers. MC Maximum Reality reminded us over and over in between bad King Diamond screams, "I'm not here to play, I'm here to feel the pain!" Okay, sure. Though they kick out a lotta faux anarchy, the Prodigy didn't get gobbed on; instead a proliferation of glow-necklaces rained onto the stage. Perhaps that says it all.