Lessons Learned Day One: Don't be a hero and fuck fashion.
I'm in flip-flops. Fuck it, that half inch of high density foam is better than having to trod barefoot, through discarded food and spit, s I flippity-floppity my way to the main stage.
3:55 p.m. Regina Spektor, has all the red-hair, milky skin, and voluminous breasts of a Jane Austen heroine. I am mesmerized by her heaving bosom larger than life on the screens. “It's so fuckin' hot, I'm sorry !” she offered her condolences. Spektor is like a humorous Joni Mitchell, in a way, a softer Liz Phair, but with a good voice, and there's a touch of Tori Amos, though that's an easy comparison, red-hair, piano, but where Amos is fragile, Spektor is tough, less like a fairy and more like a hearty barmaid. In her song “Bobbing For Apples” she sings “someone next door is fucking to my songs” and then there was the crowd-rousing Mariane is a Bitch, about a girl who doesn't put out. I decide being on your feet for over 12 hours is misery and try to sit often. This is the perfect mellow sun soaked set to lounge on the grass and listen to.
5:00 p.m. Travis. “Hell is tuning a 12-string for ever and ever,” says the lead singer frustrated with his instrument. I'm not that familiar with this late 90s band, but the crowd seems to adore them. “Y'all look so attractive,” the lead singer says in his thick Scottish brogue. Flattery always works. And then there's water. The group up front is dancing so much, the singer worries about their hydration and has the security guards toss them some bottles of water. Apparently the bassist's classic move is a little hip swing that looks as if he's screwing his instrument. That was fun to watch. Their sound is hard to describe, Brit pop, a little folky, a little pop-y but not as shiny as most pop, there's a little more nutrition in the songs than the high fructose pop we're used to nowadays.
5:45 p.m. Panasian. Ok, I get the food court thing sort of, I found three distinct eating areas named after different cuisines, European, Panasian, and Americana, though once you get inside, there's basically all the same stuff. Eating now turns out to be a bad decision. DON'T EAT AT DINNER TIME. I was salivating watching all the Hawaiian BBQ roasting on large pits. I had paid for a plate, and went to stand in line, but after 15 minutes I noticed the Gobi Tent filling up fast. My eyes shifted from barbecued meats to the now crowded tent. I abandon the crazy idea of eating, got my money back, and ran to try and nab a spot to see Andrew Bird.
6:03 p.m. Andrew Bird , the jazzy violinist, is playing inside my head. That's because I'm standing two feet from the tower of speakers in front of the stage. There's a weird two sided phonograph looking thing on a red box, and another black and white striped phonograph on stage, kind of looks like sculpture but I hear they may actually be speakers. Bird, a skinny dude in jeans,and glasses and man-dals, trades back and forth between the violin and the guitar, swinging the latter behind his back while he picks up a bow to assault his violin. Two young girls in front of me record him on their digital cameras, then immediately share their pictures with each other. While they giggle, I notice every time Bird leans in toward the mike to sing, he kind of whips his head back and grimaces. I realize he's being shocked my the mike. After repeated shocks I can't watch it anymore. It's like watching someone being tortured for your enjoyment. And besides, the Decemberists just began their set across the field.
6:32 p.m. “Just so you know, seersucker is the perfect fabric for this type of weather,” says Colin Meloy, his band the Decemberists are playing Coachella for the first time. Somehow I knew he'd be in seersucker. The whole band look like they're at a Gatsby garden party, crisp white linen and fedoras. They play mostly songs off their new release Crane Wife, but you kind of never know what you're going to get at a Decemberist show. For this one, we carved huge circles into the crowd so that Meloy could host an impromptu dance contest. “You never thought you'd have a dance contest at a Decemberists show did you?” He asks. Fans have come to expect the audience participation, maybe even crave it, and clap rhythmically without any prompting from Meloy, “watch your tempo,” he warns when the claps quicken. He makes us wave our fingers during “The Perfect Crime #2,” he makes us jump up and down as if we were on pogo sticks. I know we are doing all of this in some reason to appease Meloy, but it is kind of fun, and gives even the uptight an excuse to bounce. For the last song, they play an oldie, off their first EP, the Mariner's Revenge, you know, back when they were drama nerds. And I think to not disappoint, Meloy instructs us to scream as if our lives were in danger, when Chris Funk, pretends to be a whale. They jig, and dance through the sea chanty, and the big pay off, a giant fake whale comes out on stage and swallows mellow while we screech in mock horror. And that might sound really dorky to a lot of people but it was actually the most engaged with a band I felt so far at Coachella, but I realize not everyone wants to be that engaged.
7:40 p.m. The Arcade Fire. I don't even know what to say. So far, if I had to write about only one band this would be it. They are a force, there was so much raw power coming off that stage, I felt that cars could be fueled in the future by Arcade Fire. And even if it weren't for the organ on stage, the religious sort of altar, it would still feel like going to church. Win Butler, the lead singer, was like a preacher singing to us. He was intensely focused on delivering the message of the song, and only that. The rest of the band looked like his disciples, they were enraptured, they looked possessed, speaking in tongues, taking on different instruments, trading one for another, running around the stage channeling the song like possessed musical mediums, but always getting to their part on time. The Napoleon Dynamite looking dude smashed a keyboard in his fervor. One of the girls squatted low and looked out to the crowd, put her hands up to her mouth in astonishment. It looked as if she were savoring the moment. They played a few songs off of their latest release, Neon Bible, which is getting great reviews, but the crowd really got into it when they played stuff off their last album, Funeral, I felt this unity in the crowd, the mass of moving bodies, without instruction, getting it. We were all getting it, and the power's out in the heart of man,” Butler sings, “take it from your heart, and put it in your hand.” It felt like a call to arms. And when he sang, “Scare your sons, scare your daughters…every time you close your eyes, lies, lies,” it felt like this band was speaking to my generation and for the moment we were all hearing it, feeling it, feeling empowered, and connected, like we have control in our uncertain days. At one moment, the energy of the crowd and the band, whose members sang and wailed, moved me to an ecstatic state, I'd never gotten high off a band before. I never felt so connected to my generation. The crowd became a congregation, and for a while in the desert we believed we can be saved, and more than that, we have the power to change. As I walked through the crowd, it was apparent , at least to me, everyone was feeling this. From the bare chested frat boys slapping five, to the indie kids, we walked around smiling at one another. To prove the unity was there, when a guy knocked over my wine, only a little spilled but he offered to buy me a new one.
9:00 p.m. We had a lull in our schedule, so we walked around all the art installations. There is sort of a big Burning Man feel to the festival this year, from the steam powered and bike powered rides, to iron fire breathing dragons. We walked through this fabric coiled snake, we walked into it not expecting much, we had passed it all day long, not realizing the tube hid a surprise, as we walked around the tunnel shrank, it felt like Alice in Wonderland, all of a sudden we were bent at the waist walking with our heads ducked until we actually had to get on our hands and knees and crawl for a while. The shrinking was hidden from the outside cause it coiled inside itself. It was a lesson in commitment, crawling through this tunnel, a line of people a head, a line behind, there was no turning back. Your expectations were fucked with, your commitment and trust, trust that there was a safe exist, was tested, At the end, there was a dome filled with people, talking and hanging out. But the experience left us excited to see what else was out there.
9:30 p.m. We went to go check out some music we ordinarily wouldn't listen, We checked out the DJ, dance party known as Girl Talk in the Gobi tent, it was cool to watch people having so much fun, dancing to their thing, but then the giant screen lit up with the words, “that's all I need to know about that” and it pretty much was how I felt, so we moved on to the dome to check out some live rapping, a battle between these two dudes. A couple of girls ran up on stage, looking pretty ecstatic, it may have been drugs, or it may have been that these guys were sort of their Arcade Fire.
10:00 p.m. Sparklehorse. We found a passive civil war inside the Mojave tent, half the crowd was sitting, the other standing as close as they could to the stage. Once we got inside we realized why, you could hear the Chili Peppers in the quiet spaces of songs. And depending where you were, the Peppers might be all you heard, we heard them from the other side of the festival. It was so hard for us to focus on the Ariel Pink like band, with all that Red Hot invading our sound space,h we threw in the towel and went to see them on the main stage.
10:15 p.m. We sat on the edge of the crowd, watching Anthony Keidis in a Dr. Spock hair-do do his thing, we caught Under The Bridge, and a pretty good cover of Donna Summer's I Feel Love. But if you've seen one Peppers show you've seen 'em all. All of a sudden a strong wind started picking up. You could see large dust clouds blowing.
11 p.m. Not really all that anxious to sit in the car again, we walked around, sat and watched the tesla coil, which I was surprised to hear, gets lots of applause. All of a sudden we heard this booming voice, and we followed it. It was Tiesto,I don't know anything about this guy, cause I'm not big on the Dj thing, but he was like a maestro, a conductor, leading a symphony of artists, cutting between Bjork and Moby. The crowd was huge, I had no idea so many people came out here for this sort of thing. We wound up dancing and I gained a whole new appreciation of this kind of music, it's sort of our modern day symphony.
12:30 a.m. We find the Jeep relatively easily, though I feel like I'm choking on the all the dust.
2:00 a.m. I fall asleep on the couch to Adult Swim, deciding to transcribe my notes, tomorrow.