Hella Coachella

When it comes to the annual desert festival, Nightranger’s no minor-leaguer. We’ve been every year except the first, and while we admit to spending a good amount of time enjoying shade with the privileged in the VIP section and Artists Compound, we also put in hard, hot time exploring the polo field with the masses and checking out new artists in each and every tent. But the addition of an extra day this year was almost too much, even for us. Friday, we battled traffic for six hours and arrived, drained and discombobulated, just in time to see Interpol, Björk and some of DJ Shadow’s set — all of whom sounded fine but felt more like a warm-up than a main event. We missed The Jesus and Mary Chain and much-talked-about guest Scarlett Johansson. Could the band’s presence on the Lost in Translation soundtrack have forged their connection? we wondered. Forgot to ask JAMC’s William Reid when we met him later, but he did give us a great idea about how to get into Coachella carousing mode — down drinks just like honey, of course.

Field of Dreams

Freebie-filled parties and celeb sightings and bitings aside, Coachella’s real magic moments are rarely found backstage or within the confines of a mansion or fenced-off VIP area. This year, we were both satisfied and surprised by several performances in the tents. Dance masher Girl Talk incited a frenzy in the Gobi tent, with hordes of long-haired hotties (more of those damned headbands!) jumping the stage to boogie amid balloons and crazy visuals to his ebullient beat blends of rock, pop and hip-hop. (Tag Team’s “Whoop There It Is” mixed with Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son”? Yes, he went there.) Placebo, on the second outdoor stage, turned in a shimmering, near-perfect show — both urgent and melodic. Happy Mondays, introduced by Factory Records’ Tony Wilson in the Gobi dance tent, were funky fun, with a laid-back attitude and rhythmic fire. The Black Keys and Amos Lee both turned in blues-infused grooves that offered respite from the monotonous thump of the Burning Man–like environs through­out the grounds. Our favorite set? Other than Rage’s fierce call to arms, it’d have to be the quirky costumed dance rock of the Teddybears on Sunday. With their oversize amusement-park-character heads, video that superimposed said heads on the characters in films such as Taxi Driver and The Shining, and guest singers such as The Start’s Aimee Echo (who more than holds her own on the Bears’ Iggy Pop collab, “Punk Rocker”), their funky electro rock spectacle was catchy, campy and primal. More importantly, despite our throbbing feet and head, it made us feel good, beary, beary good.

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