Greetings from Coachella, PopWatchers! I’m back here in the deserts of Indio, California, sitting on a picnic table while Tegan and Sara reenact a veritable Grey’s Anatomy episode in front of me, and a hot air balloon soars overhead. I’m type type typing away to bring you all the hot rock n’ roll action– how hot is it? It’s so hot, you can take my wife! Please! Oh! I’ll be here all weekend! Try the veal!
Slightly underattended this year is the Coachella, with many people apparently looking at the lineup and Coachoosing not to partake. It’s a little weird, like those old British Airways commercials where the man ran down the empty streets screaming, “Where is everybody?!?”– though we’ll see how things pick up for late-addition superstar Prince tomorrow night. At the same time, I gotta admit that from a non-organizer perspective, this shindig doesn’t need to ever host any more bodies than this. My festival buddy Josh and I have been able to roam free and clear across the grounds this afternoon, untouched by sweaty, unfortunate-tattoo-sporting masses, and as such, we’ve seen some pretty great acts already. After the jump, Rogue Wave, Battles, Black Kids, Dan Deacon, Jens Lekman, and two sets of sisters (including that girl to the left) have this polo field poppin’. Poppin’? Sure!
We rolled in super early today to catch the Bay Area stylings of my darling friends Rogue Wave, who get the Dear God I Can’t Believe You Live Like This Gold Star Award for playing a show in Phoenix last night, then tackling the 1:30 slot here today. That is too early for the rock music, and too sunny for people, but the field filled to a respectable level as my boys ran through a very pleasant set. Word on the street is that Zach Rogue is deathly ill and shooting himself full of steroids just to produce sound, but you wouldn’t have known it to listen to the guy. “Welcome to Coachella 08!” he said. “I would just come to watch, but now we gotta play.” The set was heavy on the oldies: After a feisty “Love’s Lost Guarantee,” they called an audible and threw out “Publish My Love” (whose lyric “the sun beats down upon the brain of confusion” might as well be put on festival t-shirts) and then the new, tom-heavy “Bird on a Wire,” which segues perfectly into the clapping waves of “Lake Michigan.” Best part? Hearing the crowd cheer upon recognizing “Michigan,” then looking up to see the Rogue Wavers projected big on the rock star screens beside the stage. I want this band to be huge, and in that moment, they totally were.
Had a little computer breakdown here, just long enough for Josh to take in some of the John Butler Trio, who apparently dedicated a song to the “native peoples” whose land we stole. Issue solved and guilt firmly in hand, we were off to Battles, where rumor has it the math rock inspired actual noodle dancing (umm, no). Next door, the Black Kids got their merry multi-ethnic synth rock going– I would have sworn they were British if they weren’t from Florida– and the 80’s-fueled “oh-eee-oh”s of “I Wanna Be Your Limousine” bled into “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” as the crowd kept it going in a call-and-response with frontwoman Dawn Watley. “That’s sexy!” Watley purred. Also sexy: Dan Deacon’s up-close-and-personal dance show, as he brought his mixer thingy down into the front of house and let the kids rub up against him, bouncing and thrashing and pounding him on the back with glee. Then he tried an experiment, backing the crowd into a massive circle (“You paid like what, $100?” he asked. “Trust me on this.”) and telling a fantastical story about how we’d all been poisoned and therefore banished to this place to live out our “poisonous, rotting death.” Then he stuck one of the kids that had been gripping him tightest in the center of the circle, told us that kid had the antidote, and it would be transmitted via high-fiving. And then the entire crowd started to run in a circle. From the unused stage, where I’d climbed to get a better view, it was indeed as promised a human whirlpool, and when it at last collapsed to a stop, Deacon was back on the mic. “Did anyone get hurt?” “NO!” the crowd yelled. “We’re gonna live forever!!” Deacon crowed.
Bit of a switch over to the friendly guitars n’ strings of Jens Lekman, who Alias fans might say looks like Sark and had the ladies drooling and calling out proclamations of love; then I hoofed it across the field to make it into the photo pit for the Breeders. Things were rocky at the beginning: Kim started and stopped the first song (“What do you think this is, American Idol?” some dude yelled), and matters seemed sloppish, but the Deal sisters soon found their groove and by the time they cannonballed into the Last Splash hits, I was on my traditional VIP area table, bouncing merrily and reliving freshman year of college, when we used to try to get adults to buy us booze and then go back to our dorm rooms and listen to that album on repeat. Throw in a Kelley-fronted cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” and it adds up to a reunion tour I was initially apprehensive about but am now thoroughly glad I saw…
And that brings us to now, the second set of sisters– who have also just started and stopped “Back in Your Head,” because Sara was out of tune. She is telling a story about whooping cough now… and now they’ve started an entirely different song. Bummer. I liked that other one. I suppose she wasn’t lying when she said she was nervous. “I’ll never get used to playing outdoors, I’ll never get used to playing in the desert, and I’ll never get used to playing after the Breeders,” she admitted. Then she told us to wear sunblock under our clothes. Those Canadians are so helpful. And happily, the twins have just thundered through “Nineteen” and restarted “Back in Your Head” and now they are rollicking into “Hop a Plane,” and my night’s been made before the sun even set.
So that’s it from here for now– I’m prepping for the Raconteurs, Swell Season, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the Verve, and tonight’s big mainstage closer, Jack Johnson, who is just going to surf his way right into our little hearts, I can feel it. Anyway, hope this gave you a nice first taste of the weekend; I’m trying to keep these blogs a little less expansive than last year’s, mostly because I always hear this sort of rushing empty wind noise come about paragraph twelve. Meanwhile, here on the picnic table, there is discussion about what in the hell Roger Waters is going to do for two and a half hours on Sunday, and if it might by any chance involve the Wizard of Oz. Stay tuned!