Coachella, Day One

It was hard to watch, honestly. There was blood all over the place. The security guys kept pulling Jack White off of Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, but White kept coming, veins popping, eyes way gone and spiraling, guitar sound set to “pummel,” prowling on the main stage of the 2008 Coachella Valley Art and Music Festival in Indio, California. He absolutely ruined Koenig's pink shorts – and on day one, no less. Hopefully Vampire Weekend's designer is on the case and they can overnight a new pair or something.

nice pink shorts, dude, but not very rock & roll.

Photos by Timothy Norris

The kids of the preppy northeast combo Vampire Weekend, who played on the Outdoor Theatre stage just prior to Detroit's Raconteurs played on the main stage next door, delivered a tight little set of Afro-indie pop – adorable numbers about youth and alienation among the privileged set, who have feelings too, you know, some of which are difficult. Koenig, truly at home up on that little stage walking in circles and enjoying witty banter with the crowd, led the fans on virtual ride in a schooner up the coast of the upper Atlantic, us eating delicious chowder while the band kicked out quirky West African rhythms. Good thing we were all wearing Sperrys! He even engaged in a little sing-along fun, calling-and-responding “Blake's Got a New Face.”

Jack White in black: very rock & roll. Black hides the blood that pink reveals.

Meanwhile, backstage as Vampire Weekend danced and sang, anonymous sources report that White ate a shovelful of coal and glass right before he went onstage, bit the heads off of a few chickadees then stomped up with indigestion and anger and delivered hearty, straight from the bowls-of-hell roar.

Deep, gutteral, where rock meets the blues, where the Midwest sound of workers from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis and Chicago to Detroit, made hard by twelve hour bullshit days of sweat and heat and layoffs and recession, the erstwhile White Stripes kingpin channeled that reality into music. “Cape Cod my ass,” White seemed to say as he moved from guitar to piano and back again. It was a huge performance.

And then — AND THEN! — Sharon Jones stomps up onto the stage in the Mohave tent a few doors down KNOCKS JACK WHITE TO THE FLOOR! It was like the fucking Thrilla in Manilla, this primal, epoch defining performance from Jones and her Dap Kings. “Feeling!??” Jones seemed to say. “You want to talk about Feeling, Mr. Jack White? I'll show you feeling.”

Sharon Jones taught the prep set a thing or two about performance on day one of Coachella.

How can I express to you the feeling that came through the tent? It was the spirit, whatever that is. It blew through the tassels on Jones' black flapper dress, and emanated out like the barbs of electricity from a Tesla coil, jabbing people in the hearts and heads and lifting the volume in the room to a fever pitch. When Jones started doing her West African ancestor's dance, half of us melted and the other half promised that we'd live betters lives from here on out. Vampire Weekend seemed like a little gnat next to this; maybe they should go whole hog and form a barbershop quartet instead. When Jones did her Indian dance — her other ancestral lineage — my heart nearly popped. When she combined the two and humped all of Coachella at once, we all felt the love, felt a little bit sticky and totally spent.

LA Weekly