|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Indio Polo Fields, April 26 & 27
THE REAL ROCK ACTION
Sunday at Coachella: Night was falling, and the spotlights pointing skyward from the festival grounds' periphery were now fully visible, forming a dome enclosure by vector light. Wind hit the main stage's unmanned microphones, so that the sound of air itself was audible via the gargantuan speaker system. And then there they were: at left, Stooges enthusiast/bassist Mike Watt, arguably the prime mover behind this most extraordinary and unlikely reunion, in uncustomary T-shirt and studded wristband; at center, of course, drummer Scott "Rock Action" Asheton; and at right, Scott's brother Ron, the stoic guitarist in black. These three we had seen last year at UCLA's Ackerman Ballroom with J Mascis and a parade of demistar vocalists in a Stooges revue that was both credible and powerful. Still, no matter how much the music at Ackerman roared and dirged and just generally aggressed, the central fact remained that none of those singers was named Iggy Pop.
Queens of the Stone Age
For the length of a perfectly built set of Stooges barechestnuts (opening with "Loose," taking on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" just three songs in!), solidly rhythmed by "newcomer Mike" and Scotty, outlined and elaborated on and fuzzed up by the unfortunately underamplified guitarist Ron, there Iggy was, singing and whooping and snaking and pogoing and shaking and leaping and strutting and undulating in ways that elude humans one-third his age. He pushed against the warm air; he did spells and tricks against time. He mounted the speakers, his androgynous humping motions writ large in silhoutte and shadow. Yes, this was the desert palm trees and rusty mountains on the horizon, dust in your mouth and your nose and your eyes, merchants selling you 12 ounces of water for two dollars but this was no hallucination, not even when saxophonist Steve Mackay surprise-appeared to reprise his hotwork for the Stooges' closing "1970/Funhouse/L.A. Blues." As Iggy sang, "We've been separated for far too long . . . I came to play/Let me in!," the lyrics had an obvious added significance: He was back with his old playmates, his anti-dignified elder statesmen, and somehow, together, in giving this collective no-mind middle-finger against decay, they had done something every bit as defiant and remarkable as anything these guys did three decades ago. Unbelievable, unforgettable, untoppable . . . The fuckin' Stooges! (Jay Babcock)
I thought it'd be cute to open a review of Coachella '03 by playing on Forrest Gump's famous saying. You know, Rock festivals are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. This was certainly the case on Saturday as 41 acts performed on multiple stages. Excited about an introduction to the music of U.K. bands Idlewild and South? Sorry, you'll wait out their back-to-back sets in the parking lot on a disgraceful two-hour queue. Interested in the prospect of seeing Queens of the Stone Age in their native high desert? Whoops, the group's massive rock will be rendered indistinguishable by the booming sound system. Psyched to hear the irresistible post-punk pop of Hot Hot Heat? Nope, they'll be too trebly for the sound engineers to handle. The best bet was to go a-wandering, treating the festival as a kind of See's Valentine Sampler for left-of-center pop.