Ten Great Cover Songs from Coachella 2009 (and a few extras)

Even the machinery was flashing the horns.
Even the machinery was flashing the horns.
Timothy Norris

Nothing says "I love you" like a cover song. Artists at Coachella like to acknowledge their influences, love to thrill the crowd with a surprise singalong. This year bands drew from music of many genres, from ragtime to post punk to hip hop. Here were ten to remember:

Everyone loves a good cover song.
Everyone loves a good cover song.
Timothy Norris

1. Los Campesinos! --> Pavement's "Box Elder."

British band crafts joyful, uber-poppy, driving version of this early Pavement track. A shocked crowd sings along with every word.

2. The Killers --> Joy Division, "Shadowplay."

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Other than adding an entire melody line not found in the original (leave it to Las Vegans to over-adorn a classic), the Killers' version of the Joy Division dirge was hard, strong and confident. The band played excerpts of the Ian Curtis biopic Control on the big screen behind them.

3. Paul McCartney --> John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."

Truth be told, we're a little luke warm about McCartney covering a solo John Lennon song. It's cool that he did George Harrison's "Something," which is a Beatles song. But heading over to Lennon solo material feels a little like he's consolidating power, assuming authority over the Beatles' collected solo oeuvre. No, it's not like he did Lennon's "Mother" or anything, but I'm not sure how Lennon would feel about this. Then again, all he was saying was give peace a chance. Who's to argue with that?

4. M. Ward --> Scott Joplin, "The Entertainer."

Leave it to M. Ward to draw from an early 20th century rag. How do you transform a piano ditty into an electric guitar song? With confidence, a throw-caution-to-the-wind freedom and a little bit of chutzpah.

5. Molotov --> The Misfits, "I Turned Into Martian."

When Mexican punk/rap collective Molotov kicked out that classic punk rock riff of the Misfits' "I Turned Into a Zombie Martian," the crowd bellowed out "Ooooh-oooh-oooooh" part on cue. The band sang it in Spanish, but even the English-speakers got it immediately. Classic.

X in the Mojave Tent: This punk rock outfit has a future.
X in the Mojave Tent: This punk rock outfit has a future.
Randall Roberts

6. X --> Jerry Lee Lewis, "Breathless."

John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, DJ Bonebreak = Triumph on the Polo Field. Amazing set of classic Los Angeles punk rock. Bonebreak's pound on "Hungry Wolf" bounced with galloping menace. Zoom smiled and riffed on his Les Paul. John Doe played like he was fifteen and just figuring this shit out (but with an expert's musicianship). Exene Cervenka stood there staring at the mountains, and the crowd, and moaned, "you, you leave me ... breathless."

Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer
Timothy Norris

7. Amanda Palmer --> Radiohead's "Creep and --> Muse, "Time is Running Out."

At the end of Dresden Dolls singer Palmer's 5 p.m. Gobi Tent gig, Palmer crowd-surfed to the back of the tent, where a ukulele was waiting for her. She then led her fans on a singalong version of Radiohead's "Creep." (She did Muse's Britpop classic, "Time Is Running Out," too.)

Joey Burns of Calexico
Joey Burns of Calexico
Timothy Norris

8. Calexico --> Love's "Alone Again Or."

We missed this performance, but have seen Tusconese (Tusconites? Tusconians?) band Calexico do this great cover, in which the band draws out one of LA's classic songs. (For the record, Calexico's long played a great version of the Minutemen's "Corona.")

9. Booker T and the DBTs --> Outkast, "Hey Ya!"

Apparently half the crowd didn't recognize it, and the other half couldn't frickin' believe it.

Fucked Up's Pink Eye: About to have a nervous breakdown -- his head really hurts.
Fucked Up's Pink Eye: About to have a nervous breakdown -- his head really hurts.
Timothy Norris

10. Fucked Up --> Black Flag, "Nervous Breakdown" (No Age's Randy Randall cameo).

Usually when Fucked Up covers Black Flag in Southern California, Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks jumps up onstage. At the Mojave Stage on Sunday, Randy Randall of No Age did the honors.

Surely we missed a bunch. Feel free to add more covers you witnessed at this year's Coachella to the comments section.

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