Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Coachella 2006 - Day One

How to cover a concert event that spans two 12+ hour-long days?

Having attended my first weekend Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in 2005, I was definitely more prepared for the 2006 event. It is impossible for any person to catch all the action at the fest, which played out at the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California on Saturday and Sunday, April 29 and 30. But, unlike many of the hipsters who hang out in the V.I.P. area and only take in an occasional glance from the huge shady outdoor bar positioned overlooking the main Coachella Stage, I bravely fought off the heat (drank more water than a fish) and attempted to catch as much music as possible over both days this year.
I took notes when I could, wanting to jot down notable moments as they sprang up. Here is my account of day one.

Saturday, April 29, 2006
12:15 p.m.
The Section Quartet performed at the Coachella Stage, performing their Bach-to-basics baroque meets rock material. Of the 15 minutes I caught, I enjoyed the vigorous version of the Clash’s “London Calling” best; I thought versions of material penned by Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand were not as strong. Great musicians, but ultimately still a novelty-styled act.

12:38 p.m.
Walked over to the Sahara Tent to catch part of the set from Melbourne, Australia’s Infusion. A three-member ensemble with an electronic vibe; very enticing and had many in the crowd nodding their heads to the band. An extended version of a song that was performed while the words “Drop Down There” flashed on a large screen was really good; the trio’s sound often reminded me of New Order. Not a bad thing.

1 p.m.
Walked nearby to the Mojave Tent to catch an excellent set from Rob Dickinson. One of the highlights of Saturday. Performing songs off his 2005 solo disc, “Fresh Wine for the Horses,” as well as his work with Catherine Wheel, his entire 33-minute set was required, must-see stuff. Highlights ranged from his opening remarks (“You rock, hopefully I do”) to the wonderful songs themselves: a beautiful falsetto-anchored “My Name Is Love,” the gorgeous “Oceans” and a raw version of the Catherine Wheel gem “Crank.” And he closed out his amazing set with that band’s classic “Black Metallic.” Even performing solo with just a guitar, this was a powerful and memorable set.

1:38 p.m.
I high-tailed it back to the Coachella Stage (the sweltering afternoon sun be damned) to catch the already-rocking New Amsterdams. Being a Gram Parsons lover, the four or so songs I caught impressed me with an authentic solid alt-country vibe. I enjoyed “Bad Liar,” “Proceed with Caution” and several other songs performed by the quintet.

2:05 p.m.
Being from Orange County, Matt Costa was on my list of artists I absolutely had to catch. His set, played out on the Outdoor Theatre stage, kicked off with a solo stint performing accompanied by his guitar and harmonica before his band joined him to play material such as “Yellow Taxi” off his 2006 commercial debut, “Songs We Sing.” Costa has an appealing, laid back approach. Although his songs often lack punch, he provided a good change of pace to some of the high octane artists that came before and after him. He would be killer in a coffee shop or small venue.

2:43 p.m.
Back to the Coachella Stage. I tuned into the Walkmen to catch a few of their songs. The highlight of the portion of their set I caught was “Good For You’s Good For Me,” a song from their forthcoming album “A Hundred Miles Off.” Strong indie rock and I hope to catch a full-length set from the band sometime soon.

3:25 p.m.
Back and forth I went, seeing as much as I could despite the heat. Sometime around 3:25 I made it to the Outdoor Theatre to check out the Zutons, a band out of Liverpool (so I’ve read). Infectious, indie-styled alt rock. Faves I caught included the hard rocking “It’s the Little Things We Do,” vocal harmonies-anchored “Oh Stacey (Look What You’ve Done)” and 70s sing-along “You Will You Won’t.”

3:51 p.m.
I arrived at the Coachella Stage just after 3:50 p.m. to catch The Duke Spirit already in sonic motion. A very energetic and spirited performance, based on the 20 or so minutes I caught. Frontwoman Liela Moss is often compared to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith and I can confirm that struck me as pretty accurate.

5:09 p.m.
After a quick refreshment break, I was off and running across the grasslands to the Mojave Tent to catch Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (I love that band name!). It was packed and I honestly couldn’t get close enough to get a good look or listen at the band. Damn! What I can report is that the crowd loved them.

5:35 p.m.
Another long walk back to the Coachella Stage, this time to catch Common. Cliches aplenty, despite his being championed by Kanye West. It might have been the setting, or my mood, but I just didn’t even feel like listening. After a couple of songs, I was off to…

5:56 p.m.
Wow! I had heard of My Morning Jacket, but I admit to being clueless about this great band out of Kentucky until I heard ‘em in Cochella. The quintet floored me and I watched the Louisville-spawned outfit’s entire eight song set. I kept thinking they reminded me a bit of Neil Young & Crazy Horse meets the Replacements meets the Velvet Underground or something. I went out on Monday (the day after Cochella ended) and purchased the group’s 2005 album “Z.” I’ll be picking up My Morning Jacket’s other discs soon.

6:38 p.m.
Kanye West. A very popular artist who attracted huge crowd to the Coachella Stage. I still don’t get why he was at the fest. Especially after seeing his performance. Because he is such a big act or something, he went on late messing up everyone else’s set times to come, including Sigur Ros…

7:15 p.m.
Sigur Ros was set to take the stage at 7 p.m., but because of Kanye and that fall-out, the Icelandic troupe didn’t get to play until 7:15 and wound up only getting to play 45 minutes (instead of the before-promised 50 minutes). I have grown to love Sigur Ros over the past six or so months and the group definitely delivered in the precious time when the sun dropped and temps began to thankfully cool. Performing with string and horn players, my favorite chills came when they lifted the sky with a great song from “Takk..” (I think it was “Glosoli” – the Icelandic language is definitely foreign to yours truly). Like on CD, the group’s music is vast and otherworldly, and the setting of Coachella enhanced the sound. “Hoppipolla” also blew me away. Sigur Ros ranks with the Cocteau Twins and late-1980s U2 as having produced some of the most beautiful rock soundscapes ever.

8:30 p.m.
It has been a long day. I got up at 6 a.m. to drive out from Orange County to Coachella. So after the heat and all that, I’m at the point where I’m going to hang out by the Coachella Stage to catch the headliners for a bit and rest my burning, blistered feet. I’m glad I did. I had never seen Franz Ferdinand and they rocked. I loved the band, their youthful and loose energy. Rousing versions of “Take Me Out,” “Walk Away” and “Do You Want to,” as well as pretty much everything the Scotland band played worked on this night.

9:45 p.m.
Depeche Mode’s headlining set was strong, with the only “exception” being that frontman Dave Gahan sounded a bit weary in the vocal department. He hit the notes, but his voice lacked the punch when I saw him last year when the group first went on tour in support of “Playing the Angel.” But no doubt, the group was energetic and tight in performances of new gems such as “Precious” (as good as anything they’ve done), as well as many of their hits. I didn’t take many notes during the band’s set; I was too busy dancing to the groove.

11:30 and after
I ended the night catching a few minutes of She Wants Revenge and Daft Punk. It was a great way to cap a memorable day. Can anyone truly resist “One More Time”? It’s not likely, based that even right around midnight, it was impossible to get close to the Sahara Tent and I had to watch the performance projected on a big screen outside the tent.

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