Today’s a big day, PopWatchers: It’s Saturday, the heat is overwhelming, and a bunch of my favorite bands are playing right in a row. The Coachella Math is getting hard — how to weigh the Rapture against the Black Keys? Or LCD Soundsystem against the Red Hot Chili Peppers? New Pornographers vs. Peter, Bjorn & John? What about Kings of Leon vs. the Decemberists?
That last one was easy — Colin Meloy and his merry band (pictured) released what was easily my favorite record of last year, The Crane Wife, and I hadn’t seen them play that stuff live yet. Was my confidence in the Portland songsmiths rewarded? Hell yeah. To quote Colin himself, it was a perfect, a perfect, a perfect, a perfect, a perfect, a perfect, a perfect, a perfect show. There’s always that Coachella moment, I think, when the sun is finally behind the mountains and everything starts turning from an endurance sport into sheer pleasure. Last year, I experienced it when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played “Maps” just as the first searchlights were shooting into the desert sky. That made me cry. This year, it came in the form of a man in a giant whale costume, and a thousand screaming strangers, and a show that made me feel like I was on a giant, pirate-ship-shaped rollercoaster.
After the jump, the results of all my Saturday Coa-Choices… plus Shirley Halperin does some more spotting of the famous, and Lori Majewski brings your attention to the trend that’s sweeping the faces of our nation.
So, I’m writing this from the VIP section, but only because I haven’t found reliable internet access anywhere else on the grounds, and I am committed to bringing you this action as it happens. I guess I learned my lesson yesterday: VIP is fine for working, not so fine for concert enjoyment.
Everyone learns a couple lessons on the first day of Coachella, whether it’s how not to get sunscreen in your eyes (still haven’t figured that out), the best way to collect 10 empty water bottles to cash in for one full bottle (let’s just say I haven’t seen too many lids actually on the recycling bins), or where to park. Thanks to figuring out that last aspect, Josh and I rolled in with plenty of time this morning, and found ourselves right back inside the sweat lodge better known as the Mojave tent, where Brit-rockers the Cribs were chanting to a packed house. We liked them… but we were melting, and Fountains of Wayne were calling us with promises of catchy harmonies and bar-band guitars. The sound of a car radio being tuned to a news station came across the speakers (“Traffic and weather on the 8s”), and like moths to a Jersey flame we came a-walking. They opened with “No Better Place,” played a jaunty “Hey Julie,” and had you been watching when Chris Collingwood sang the first lines of “Mexican Wine,” you would have seen me and my backpack go skipping across the field to whoop and cheer and jump up and down in front of the stage. This was the moment I was missing yesterday, that flash of total joy that made me forget the heat and the laptop in my backpack and the perfectly coiffed L.A. girls in their thousand-dollar dresses and heels cruising around VIP land. I just jumped up and down. Because of this thrill — and because they played “Radiation Vibe” — I will forgive Fountains of Wayne for omitting “Stacy’s Mom” from their set. I will only say, dude, come on. It’s a hundred degrees out here, and we’re still bouncing. Throw us a bone from the hit parade, can’t you?
Over at Hot Chip, I didn’t need to know the names of the songs to dance; the electro-pop outfit laid down INXS-worthy beats and had bodies spilling out of the Mojave, girls twirling on the grass, boys jiving in their track shorts (seriously, what is that trend). As they say, it was “going off.” Still, I couldn’t stay, for one of my sure things was about to begin across the grounds: Everyone’s favorite Canadians, the New Pornographers. Yes, that’s the choice I made, despite the buzziness of Peter, Bjorn & John, who I just saw at SXSW, anyway, and who were back in the sweat lodge. I don’t need to prove that I’m “cool” or “in the know.” At this point, I just needed to jump up and down some more, in the fresh, clean, dry air. And so I did, to “Twin Cinema” and “From Blown Speakers” and “Mass Romantic,” getting a little out of control on that last one and slamming into the dude behind me. (Sorry.) The rest of the crowd wasn’t nearly so active (except the people who were launching handfuls of red and white confetti), and I couldn’t tell if they were just hot, or bored, or what. Maybe the problem was starting with “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” which is nearly impossible to top. Maybe the problem was the slightly sloppy guitar work that marred the set. Maybe people just can’t cope without Neko Case (although, to her credit, cousin Kathryn is getting better). I can rule out one possibility: I don’t think people were upset to be missing Travis, based on the sarcastic laughter drummer Kurt Dahle got for singing along with “Why Does It Always Rain On Me,” which we could hear wafting across the field. This pretty much brought the show to a halt, as Carl Newman seemed inescapably distracted by the other band’s set. It was funny. Unless you didn’t think it was funny. I personally thought it was hilarious. Carl encouraged us to mope along with the other song, and some of us did, until we realized we knew no words beyond the title. (Best piece of dialogue: Carl: “Keep it down! We’re trying to play a show over here!” Kathryn: “Are we?”) Ah well. I did know the words to “Use It.” And used them.
This brings us to the Decemberists, one of those shows that was so special for me I almost hate to ruin it by attempting to put it into lame-ass words. Colin & Co. — in seersucker suits as opposed to the more practical t-shirts I’d seen them sporting in the press tent this morning — kicked off with “Crane Wife 3,” then performed the entire 12-minute operetta “The Island,” a master class in band choreography as they jumped from instrument to instrument without pausing the flow. They dipped back to the past for “July, July!” and then made my heart soar with “Oh, Valencia.” Next was the retro rock of “Perfect Crime #2,” which led to a (still unresolved) dance contest, which led to the entire crowd pogoing. Unbelievably, it was then already time for the last song (damn you, 12-minute operetta!): “The Mariner’s Revenge,” and the aforementioned whale costume. People who had been standing, stuck, sweltering, were suddenly waving their hands in the air, jiggling their fingers, singing “Find him! Find him!” in silly falsetto voices, and then, when the whale appeared, we wailed the lament of the dying as loud as we could as Colin danced a jig before us. It was, if you will please excuse me for getting cheesy for a second, the most entertaining spiritual awakening I have ever experienced.
Speaking of spiritual moments, the Arcade Fire are upon us. Check back in tomorrow morning for news of this, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and whoever wins the Rapture/Black Keys battle!
LORI MAJEWSKI’S ‘STACHE WATCH
“One of the most ubiquitous male accessories of the fest? A Sonny Bono ‘stache, most recently made cool again (or not) by Brandon Flowers from the Killers. Why would anyone want to look like (My Name Is) Earl, especially at Coachella, where the extra hair equals extra sweat? Well, the aforementioned Bono was the mayor of Palm Springs. And Cisco Adler — rocker son of producer/director Lou — has one and seemed to do quite well with the ladies in the VIP area (and Mischa Barton, for one, must not have found his not-quite-a-fu-manchu facial hair to be a turn-off). Coming soon: the throat-only beard made popular by Captain Ahab?!”
SHIRLEY HALPERIN WILL SPOT THE CELEBRITIES FOR YOU
”Friday night, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan made the scene at an ultra-exclusive after-hours party at Palm Springs’ Vicery hotel.”