Coachella Day 3: The Kills Kill It, Throbbing Gristle Force Me Into The Fetal Position, and The Clipse Cancel
Slowly, my brain is slinking its way towards sensible shape. Three days of Coachella are not for the faint of heart -- if nothing else it requires a quarter-ounce of weed, an array of narcotic edibles from potcorn to cannabis cakes, several brightly colored pills of indiscriminate origin, copious spending money for wine, water, and whiskey, plus the heart of a three year-old Labrador to handle the strain.
So who am I to knock Coachella? It puts you in a position to win, and that's all you can really ask of a coach or a festival. Even if the Clipse cancelled at the last second, that's the brothers Thorton's bad. Abandoning throngs of people waiting for Pitchfork-approved trap-rap is an unwise move. Is Lupe Fiasco supposed to provide the kids with minimalist nihilism?
Or maybe Clipse know that no matter how many new bad puns they devise involving the word, "brick," they can't match the freak show promised by Throbbing Gristle. After all, lead singer Genesis P-Orridge wears gold grills. She used to be a he. He once nailed piercings through his dick. That's either the most incredibly hardcore gesture possible, or the dumbest. Either way, Genesis is a better rapper than Paul Wall.
Having heard the advance notice, but possessing no prior Gristle familiarity, I couldn't fathom a fraction of what went down. It sort of felt like wiccan industrial rock -- not adorable Neve Campbell The Craft wiccan, but "I will use your blood to gargle," wiccan. Strangely, there were none of the violent histrionics associated with past live shows. Genesis now wears a Little Red Riding Hood bob and seems vaguely matronly. That didn't change the fact that after about five minutes, I was slumped against the white awning of the tent, typing tangled gibberish into my notepad. I think I can make out the words, "black cat."
Thankfully, Weekly staffer Siran Babayan stumbled onto me, and soberly recommended that the Cure might be a wiser move. I'm not sure why the thought hadn't crossed my mind,* but I'm pretty sure that if you're turning to The Cure to buoy your spirits, you're in a very strange place.
Robert Smith's work -- the garden sculptures, hairstyles and so forth - - indicate that he's a highly imaginative... uh... character
The Cure were The Cure. At this point, they're so iconic that describing their set is pointless. Randall Roberts covered their December Troubadour date, and if you're curious to know what a current Cure show is like, head there. Essentially, Robert Smith looks like the fat father of Edward Scissorhands, and further strengthens my hypothesis that no rock star worth their alimony check loses their hair.
Between, Smith, Moz and McCartney, you could make Cy Sperling cry into his near beer. Keith Richards: great hair. Mick Jagger: greater hair. Brian Eno: Bald Eagle. Bryan Ferry: a magnificent coif. Pete Townsend: Brazilian bald. Roger Daltrey: a scalp so fertile it could grow alfafa. Rock star.
Throbbing Gristling aside, Sunday was also voted, "Day least likely to induce anxiety attacks." The crowd seemed about 25 percent less crowded than the previous two days, and the VIP section had contracted to a manageable malignance--less Vigo the Carpathian, more Viggo the Mortensen. ** Unfortunately, the lineup was underwhelming. Peter, Bjorn & John have apparently discovered a philosopher's stone allowing them to alchemize great songs into hopeleslly dull ones. A pasty Antony battled bad sound and an ill-fitting time slot. Devendra Banhart attempted to squander all the goodwill hippies have built up since I discovered marijuana and the Dead.
If you can't find at least a few spectacular moments each day at Coachella, you're either David Haselhoff strutting around the VIP in an Ed Hardy camo jacket (bacdafucup), more sober than Tara Reid (really?), or a huge fan of Travis Barker and DJ AM. Not to senselessly hate on those two, they seem decent enough, but since when did "music," constitute DJ's making fuck-faces and tapping the space bar to the sound of Bloc Party, while the drummer bashes his kit like Animal hooked on salvia. Plus, they had the nerve to end with "Bohemian Rhapsody." Shit was shittier than the Shitty Beatles. Look guys, you can cake off the under-18 and Paris Hilton crowd, you can date or not date Nicole "Wrong Way" Ritchie all you want, but don't fuck with my Wayne's World nostalgia.
So with all due respect to Public Enemy, Okkervil River, and My Bloody Valentine (who were phenomenal, but essentially played the same set they did in Santa Monica) the Kills owned the third day. I reviewed them last May, so I'll spare the redundancies. What matters is that when singer/guitarist VV is on-stage, it's impossible to take anything but a heliocentric view.
It's no surprise that she and Jack White joined forces. After all, they're minimalist mirror images -- pale and preternatural cynosures leading two-person groups with mostly silent partners. Both brilliant eccentrics in their own right. I can't imagine White's wife is too happy about this arrangement.
Her and Hotel played "Kissy Kissy," from debut Keep On Your Mean Side. Despite its fairly dumb name, the sexual tension was so obscene that the voltage practically singed your hair into a Cosmo Kramer verticality. They played "Black Balloon," with the crowd writhing under the opalescent light and grape smoke. VV took puffs of her cigarette and exhaled bitter, vulnerable vocals. It was as haunting as Throbbing Gristle, but rather than reflecting on the ugly underbelly, the Kills focus on that narrow isthmus spanning lust, love, and loss. Themes that don't necessarily pop off the page, but it's all in the telling.
It's reductive and arrogant to claim that one was better than the other. They're different bands from different eras, drawing from different influences, aiming at discrete targets. And ultimately, that's the wonderful thing about Coachella, even if you think that Travis Barker and DJ Am are better than the Beatle(s), you can choose your own adventure like it was the Cave of Time. Unless you're David Hasselhoff, and then you just need to change, or at least leave the VIP.
*Well, I do know why, but I'm shooting more for discursive diatribe, not pharmacology report.
* By all acounts Viggo Mortensen is a decent, up-standing individual. But judging from the Jewel-like quality of his poetry books, it is hard not to argue that he is at least slightly evil.
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