"WECOME TO COOOOACHEELLLA."
The congregation of twenty 20-somethings lustily applauds. It's Thursday night, a dozen hours before the festival officially begins, and the rules are being outlined in this corner of Lot 4.
"FOR THE NEXT THREE NIGHTS EVERYONE MUST DRINK AT ALL TIMES. WE MUST HAVE A FUN TIME. WE ARE HAPPY PEOPLE AND WE LOVE EACH OTHER!!!!"
Cue whoops, giggles, and several gurgles.
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"WE NEED TO GET THE MOST FUCKED UP I'VE EVER BEEN AT ANY COACHELLA IN THE WHOLE WORD."
"Hear that boys?!" a broman sipping a Bud Light booms from the corner.
"BOYS AND CHICKS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME."
High-fives are slapped. Beer is slurped.
"AND NOW WE WILL PLAY THE FIRST SONG OF THE ENTIRE WEEKEND: 'N-WORD IN PARIS'!!!!!"
Consider this lady, the anti-MC of last weekend. She unofficially kicked off Coachella 2013, a festival filled with excellence in the field of decadence. It's the closest we'll get to Harmony Korine's Woodstock: The Movie. There were winners, losers, and pretty lights, both the band and the optical phenomenon. If you're headed out for the second weekend today, consider one crucial bit of information: if you're still enjoying the silent disco, you're probably too fucked up to drive home.
Best Highway To HellBehold, the Molly Trail of Tears -- the serpentine dirt paths that take departing festival-goers into the campground and parking lots, roads stained by the MDMA-tinted tears of the turnt-up. If you don't write down the intersection of your campsite and the number of your parking lot, it will feel like the end of The Shining -- except that instead of a maze chase from a manic Jack, a man in a pink gorilla suit will stalk you, asking for spare bananas and artesian molly water. And the dust and wind can be apocalyptic.
The Steve Sanders Alternative Music Memorial Award
There's a formula to book a festival. Get the hottest acts of the present, those that popped eight years ago, and groups who emerged two decades prior (Wu-Tang, Blur). The reunion of the Stone Roses was sparsely attended, as were most '80s remnants, aside from New Order.
For 2013 Coachella, the sweet spot was the mid-aughts. It's a scientific fact that music never gets better than what you heard when you were 13. For current college seniors, their first Golden Era occurred with OC-style indie rock: Modest Mouse, The Postal Service, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When "Such Great Heights" played, glow sticks flew in the air, people wailed, and life briefly moved in maudlin slow-motion montage. The only thing missing was Sandy Cohen offering bagels.
None of those bands are in their creative primes, but judging from the response, The O.C.'s Bait Shop inherited the legacy of Beverly Hills 90210's Peace Pit on a hundred thousand trillion. Even Rooney and Phantom Planet probably could've packed out the Gobi Tent. Next year, they might also consider booking a Jade reunion -- it's been approximately 20 years.
The Get the Band Back Together Award
Props to Pusha T and Johnny Marr for pressing on with solo careers instead of being tethered to groups they formed as teenagers. It must be a singular torture to apathetically replay songs you wrote decades ago, and it's at least part of the reason why The Smiths and Clipse aren't performing together. (No) Malice has basically become a Christian rapper and Morrissey is busy making Hollywood High swoon.
But it's impossible not to watch Pusha or the former Smiths guitarist perform and wish that they were back with their de facto life partners. A reunion of The Smiths seems less likely than Morrissey eating meat, but Pusha needs to listen to his own lyrics and give the people a performance as live as Pac's was last year -- exclusively songs from Hell Hath No Fury, Lord Willin' and "Funeral." Pharrell guest spot requested but not contractually obligated.
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Given to Jello Biafra for being too old to understand the way the game's told. I respect the inclusion of the polemicist behind the Dead Kennedys. But the audience barely exceeded a hundred people and there is something sad about a 54-year old man in a tight shirt fake cutting his wrists on-stage while caterwauling about how "we keep getting the same flavor of Reagan and Thatcher all over again." If I want effective agit-prop, I'm going to listen to Killer Mike. If I want to watch a 54-year old man act the fool, I'm going to go to the Sahara Tent and watch rave dad.