The Fiery Furnaces
Bobby was the winner of the game. It was one we played in the car while gliding through the somehow-nonexistent line of traffic outside the Empire Polo Field. The object: be the first to spot one of the inevitably present hipsters clinging steadfastly to a black sweater, in the middle of a California desert. Hoodies and pullovers both counted. It took about a minute. There he was, hunched over with greasy blond hair falling out of his hood (oh yes, it was up), black pants, black Adidas soccer sneakers; he was scalping tickets on the side of the road. It was the first ridiculous thing I saw at Coachella.
The second followed shortly thereafter. We’d barely put the car into park when a wild-eyed man pressed himself up against the front passenger-side window, hawking a Buddhist pamphlet. For a small donation, Enlightenment was ours. “We’re showing these to the cool people,” he assured us. And he was accepting Visa. As much as the sound of turning over our major cards to this man on the side of the road appealed to us, we hadn’t come to Indio that weekend to be saved; no, the only truth we were seeking was that of rock and roll debauchery.
And who better to shower us with it than the Kills. M83 one tent over was awesome, but they couldn’t outlast the sex-drenched onstage drama between Hotel and VV. While our friends were swaying to Snow Patrol and Keane’s anthems for the pussy-whipped, Hotel was doing the whipping on guitar, pleasuring VV with waves of furious noise that culminated with her spasming uncontrollably on the floor. After the feedback subsided, my friend and I exchanged half-embarrassed sideways glances and we left the Mojave Tent, flushed. The Kills: the first ridiculously good band of the weekend.
Mercury Rev later that night was just ridiculous. If I had closed my eyes, maybe smoked a bowl, perhaps it might have been stunning. But the band’s space rock really could’ve done without the visual aids. The projection screen overhead flashed corny celestial images and inspirational quotes: “Don’t give up just give.” And to top it off (very over the top) frontman Jonathan Donahue punctuated every single musical climax with dramatic hand flourishes. The sideways glances between me and my friend were now out of comic amazement, and when she told me that Donahue’s theatrics reminded her of magician Gob Bluth from Fox’s Arrested Development, I lost it. At least it was entertaining; unlike Weezer, who were just miserable.
The drummer for the Fiery Furnaces was skilled at improvising. After an incredible sound check, nearly an entire song, siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, backed by their full band, charged nonstop through fifty minutes of material spanning the group’s entire discography. Throughout the set, the drummer screwed up his face and flailed his arms more than he needed to but still never missed a beat while every song bled together without a pause. It was easily the best thing that happened all weekend, followed by booing Coldplay and cheering when Spoon’s Britt Daniel drowned out Chris Martin’s whining.
And oh yes, while posing as a VIP backstage, my friend Rich had a Gwyneth sighting! Apparently, Apple was not present. It made me think: three years of summer festivals and it never occurred to me to sneak into the VIP area?! Goddamn celebrities getting all the special treatment. If only I were a cast member of The O.C. Sigh. Maybe next year.