Well, nuts. Here it is, 1am on Sunday night, and I’m all proud of myself because I’ve returned from the last day of Coachella– where the crowds were not quite as pathetic as Friday, but certainly more comfortable than yesterday’s soccer-riot-esque conditions– to write up my blog post so you kids on the east coast can have it nice and early. And what do I discover? That the Whitney of Thursday told her photo editor she’d like a picture of Justice (left) embedded in her Sunday night blog post, because she would obviously be seeing the French DJs as they closed out the fest. But here’s the embarrassing part, PopWatchers: The exhausted Whitney of Sunday didn’t make it to that show, which means I’ve now missed Justice something like four times because they insist upon playing after my elderly bedtime. Tonight, they weren’t going on until 11– basically sunrise by the festival clock, even if they had started on time, which I doubt. Besides, at 11, mainstage headliner Roger Waters was still only like four songs into playing the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon, despite the fact that Roger Waters had already played a good two and a half hours of other stuff. Bored, filthy, out of water, and out of patience, I couldn’t take it anymore, and totally bailed. So that picture of Justice over there? Useless to me– and to you, the PopWatchers I so lovingly serve. I’m sorry.
I wish instead that I had a picture of the Shout Out Louds, or Stars, or Gogol Bordello, or, ideally, My Morning Jacket. Instead, all I have to give are the memories of those four bands, each one simply terrific on this final Coaafternoon, compensating for another generally lackluster lineup by providing sets I watched from start to finish. All this– plus Swervedriver, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Manchester Orchestra, Metric, Sean Penn, and my discovery of the world’s most perfect food item– after the jump. And I promise to keep it short. This is something I learned while watching Roger Waters.
Bounded through security to the danceably rich rhythms of the Shout Out Louds, rolling up just as the poppy Swedes launched into “Impossible.” Frontman Adam Olenius has a voice that’s more than a little bit Morrissean, if Morrissey ever employed a cowbell as Olenius does for the catchy bop of “Tonight I Have to Leave It.” The group also receives today’s Best Guest Star award for bringing out James Fearnley of the Pogues to leap about with his accordion during “Very Loud.” Then a quick sampler platter of appetizers (or Jacketeasers, as I think I shall now call them): Manchester Orchestra, a group out of Atlanta that circles the emo county line, and the Field, who– oh. Right. The Field cancelled, something to do with visas.
So back to the mainstage we went for Broken Social Scene Side Project #1, Stars, where Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan festooned the keyboards with roses which they tossed out to the crowd along with some serious reasons to call B.S.S. Nation the most vital collaborative family working in music today. Not sure what it is about Montreal that breeds such talent, but as Stars cranked their lush, romantic volume up to fill the empty field, I definitely wished more people were around to appreciate it. “Prince said this was the coolest place on earth,” said Campbell. “And if he said it, I believe it. Thanks for having us.” Then Millan dedicated “Midnight Coward” to the swingers in the tents, yelled, “We’ll see you at Metric!” and the two launched into a “Take Me To the Riot” so harmonically golden it’s still stuck in my head.
More Jacketeasers: The reunited Swervedriver, whose shoegazey sound Josh best summed up as “Why don’t girls like me as much as I like staring at my guitar pedals?”, and today’s most unexpected surprise, current hype-darlings Does It Offend You, Yeah?. A very nice man in VIP would later refer to them as “Do You Find It Offensive, Right?” but whatever, I totally knew who he meant, and it turns out we both liked those space punks and their furiously hyper video game rock a whole lot, especialy after they dedicated “Let’s Make Out” to Elliot Spitzer. Also, further research has informed me that their band name is a quote from the British Office, so now I have to buy their album, I suppose.
Speaking of loud and hyper, Gogol Bordello! So, this was the point where logic unravelled– maybe in a good way– and I kind of stopped working and focused on enjoying myself instead, as the day had begun to feel like a wonderfully weird musical desert oasis that only we could see. Josh and I grabbed a beer to better appreciate the Bordellos’ gypsy mindset, and we retreated to VIP where, in the press area, a group of journalists were very intently interviewing a man wearing a giant red expressionless mouse head. Out on the picnic tables a woman wearing the lady equivalent of a Borat swimsuit and a Native American headdress was making sure every last one of us saw her ass cleavage. Behind the mainstage, a giant white pig balloon was being spraypainted with graffiti that read, “Don’t Be Led to Slaughter,” complete with a man in an Uncle Sam hat wielding a pair of bloody cleavers. And in the field, Eugene Hütz was whipping the crowd into a frenzy, everybody jumping up and down to the Eastern European party vibe. I decided that Gogol Bordello are the world’s most perfect festival band: They are bouncy, they are encouraging, they do funny things on stage, and you don’t have to know their music or understand a single thing they’re saying in order to have a blast.
Jacketeaser: Broken Social Scene Side Project #2, Metric, where the lovely Emily Haines and her silver short-suit were plagued by technical difficulties, even though she got the crowd to shout “I LOVE YOU, PRO-ONE” at her cranky synth. Then someone’s guitar went nuts and she sighed, “It wouldn’t be a Metric show unless we were f—ed.” We stayed in earshot to grab some dinner– might I recommend the Burgerito? It’s nothing special, just a cheeseburger and fries wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life— then warily meandered over to the last thing keeping us from My Morning Jacket: Oscar winner Sean Penn, who was “playing” his second “set” of the day. Seems Mr. Penn is worried about the direction in which our world is going, and during a short, rather scattered speech, he attempted to enlist Coachella attendees to leave their cars here in Indio and immediately join him on The Dirty Hands Caravan, a six-day “awareness-raising” bus trip to New Orleans complete with free food, free lodging, and campfire songs from Ben Harper. There were about a million and a half things to be snarky about in Sean Penn’s short, rather scattered speech, but I don’t want to go to hell for mocking someone who’s trying to help, even if he can’t remember the URL for his own website when he’s speaking in front of thousands of people. Needless to say, however, I am not currently on a bus to New Orleans.
How on earth did this get so bloody long already? Um… MY MORNING JACKET WERE AWESOME. Things that were awesome about My Morning Jacket: The new, funked-up material (like “Highly Suspicious”); the new contemplative material (like “Smokin’ from Shootin'” and “I’m Amazed”); Jim James’ no-longer-shy rock star antics; his space boots; his omnichord; his propensity to wear a scarf on his head and walk around the stage crying like a histronic elderly Russian woman; “Off the Record”; Patrick Hallahan’s hair; “Gideon” (so awesome it gave me chills). Show of the Day™ x 1000000000. I have to stop there or I’ll write you all to sleep with the sonic crush I have on this band.
Plus, we want to save room for Roger Waters! Um… You know what? I’m outsourcing this one to my estimable colleage, Chris “Handles the Headliner” Willman, because I didn’t get it, and I didn’t try all that hard, and were it not for the aforementioned giant pig balloon, I might still be sitting, dazed, on a picnic table somewhere. Yes, in what I have recently learned is a long-standing Pink Floyd tradition, that pig went soaring over the heads of the crowd at the end of Waters’ first set, while a small plane dispensed a stream of what appeared to be confetti that never hit the ground. (Josh and I are both banking on the fact that it was confetti and not some sort of biological warfare, though I can’t stop thinking of that old Onion headline about the Yo La Tengo concert.) Angry political piggy then went floating perilously close to the stage, where extravagant pyrotechnics were lighting the chilly sky on fire; he was eventually released to rise up, up, up into the heavens and flirt with the searchlights until he flew out of sight. I can’t help but wonder what that giant pig balloon was made of, and where it’s going to come down, and what will happen to it when it does. Meanwhile, it also seems I still can’t listen to Dark Side of the Moon all the way through.
Aaaaand it’s time for the big finish! PopWatchers, it has been an honor and a privilege to once again have you all in my pocket for this year’s Coachella Music and Questionable Behavior Festival. I hope I have in some small way managed to give you a glimpse of what it was like out here, and I hope if I botched it, those of you who attended will let me know. Tune in next weekend for my coverage of Coachella’s country cousin, Stagecoach, which has been expanded to three days this year because Goldenvoice is trying to kill me. TTFN!