Music

COACHELLA 2005

Andrew Phillips and Peter Joseph

drew PopMatters’s concert crew out faster than an Arcade Fire instore. Now it's time to reminisce.

Two days? 685,000 acts? Our writers have been clamoring for months to cover this one -- Coachella 2005 drew PopMatters's concert crew out faster than an Arcade Fire instore. Of course, the concert editors were too busy arguing the particular merits of Stephin Merritt and thinking up ways to refashion "aural" descriptions of "sonic soundscapes" to actually attend the Indio, CA event. Instead, we asked our writers to lay out the highlights of the landmark weekend so that you, like their esteemed editors, can lament your poor fortune and lack of Frequent Flyer miles.

The Arcade Fire / Bauhaus / Blood Brothers / Bright Eyes / The Chemical Brothers / Fantomas / Gang of Four / New Order / Nine Inch Nails / Radio Four / Rilo Kiley / Weezer

THE EXPERIENCE
By Kristie Macris

I bought cute little outfits, charged an entire condo on my credit card, and rented a Jeep Liberty so my motley gang of five could trek into the forsaken desert of California and see some bands. Well, there would have been six of us, but one stayed home with his seven-month pregnant wife who needed him more than us in the final moments of April.

Saturday, a Coachella uninitiated tried to get us all up early to catch Boom Bip. We actually would have made it, had the guys not been forced to stand in line for over an hour. That gave us girls a chance to use the facilities and smoke a few (too many) cigarettes. By the time the guys made it in, it was way past beer o'clock, and so we made a straight path to the beer garden. Why Americans segregate us booze hounds, forcing us to miss band after band at festivals, I'll never know. Still, I handed over my nine bucks and had me a Margarita!

We all somehow made it to Radio 4, still intact as group. From way in the way back of the tent, I think I saw bongos on stage. The music was spirited and, from what I could see, the band was energetic. Still I could only think, "Hey this is boring. This shouldn't be so boring, but it's boring." (Perhaps the sweltering heat was the cause of my redundancy.)

I managed to make it all the way through Radio 4 before succumbing to hunger. I had only eaten breakfast a couple of hours ago, but the pesto garlic pizza was calling, "Hey Kristie, you need some carbs to keep your rump shakin'."

While enjoying my giant pizza slice near the rave tent, I was taken by the urge to dance. Instead we all headed off to see M83, an amazing band. They played an amazing set. Yet, somehow I was still bored. At this point the group split into two--the drinkers and the non-drinkers. The drinkers, including me, headed off to the beer garden near the main stage so we could hear Bloc Party and funnel more Margaritas.

By the time our group reformed the drinkers were, well, drunk. It didn't take long to annoy the non-drinkers by asking obnoxious questions, talking too loud to hear any band, and using the "quote-hands." I drank my way through Razorlight, who I had been hoping to see. About the moment that I realized we had missed all of the afternoon bands, I realized that it was food time again.

We ate, we drank some more, and then I herded everyone over to Bauhaus. Being what I am, a goth girl in denial, I pulled all five of us up front. But then, we had a sick one, so I pulled all five us to the back, trampling many girls who couldn't be bothered to stand up.

After Bauhaus, the non-drinkers and I headed to Fantomas, while the other two drinkers went drinking. Fantomas skipped San Diego on their tour, so I'd been looking forward to this set all day. They did not disappoint. When the lushes met up with us halfway during the set thanks to some handy text messaging not even their antics could distract me from the Mike Patton.

Then Saturday was over, and it was back to the condo. I vowed that Sunday would be more productive and less drunken.

On Sunday, we all slept late, barely making it to the Polo Ground in time to catch Autolux. Again, great band, great set, but not such a great setting for them. Being one-day smarter, we all split up, seeing the bands and drinking the drinks we wanted to for the day. We met up as one for the Fiery Furnaces, and almost whole for some margaritas after New Order. All-in-all, Sunday saw no one annoyed by anyone's drunken antics. Okay, well maybe the trip to the rave tent to dance to Roni Size annoyed one person, but I was too drunk to care!

The highlight of Sunday was New Order. As they opened the set with "Atmosphere" (yeah, that's a Joy Division song if I ever heard one), I dialed Phoenix so our missing sixth gun would not be forgotten. As he listened from hundreds of miles away, I danced and danced, and so did about four other people in the crowd of thousands.

They played their hits. They played new songs, which were well received by the three people who had heard the album, but probably most amazing they played "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Again, the goth girl in me cried a single black tear from my grey stone heart, which immediately fell on my orange shirt.

After New Order, nothing could compare. British Sea Power was boring. Trying to dance to the MC-laden Roni Size set did not quell the feverish dancing fool inside of me. The Blood Brothers were great, but I wanted to scream myself. Instead I sat down, exhausted and broken after two days of music and friends.

For me, this Coachella didn't have the memorable moments of years previous. I didn't meet any of the bands or sneak into VIP. Hell, the only star sighting I had all weekend was Rob Crow from Pinback and I see him while I'm walking my dog. Still, I saw New Order, completing the cycle of bands I liked in High School -- the Smiths, New Order, and the Cure. I can now say I saw the entire trinity!

In the end, we came, we saw, we bought too much beer at the grocery store, and only I lost my sunglasses.


THE ARCADE FIRE
If a group titles it's CD Funeral, it would make perfect sense for them to perform the songs while wearing black. But then again, only blindly loyal goth fans should dress so darkly in Indio's desert heat. And while the temperatures weren't quite so stifling this year, the Arcade Fire's wardrobe choice still revealed a lot of guts. Although nothing this group played was as celebratory as, say, fiddle tunes at an Irish wake, the song "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" nevertheless put out a strangely positive vibe. It's odd to call an act with two violinists and an accordionist a "rock band," but whatever it is, this audience connected with the Arcade Fire's music. The players never stopped moving and at one point a couple of its percussionists even climbed on the stage's metal frame and proceeded to bang on it. Clearly, this band was hot in every sense of the word.
-- Dan Macantosh / back to top


BAUHAUS
Wrapped in ribbons, suspended in mid-air like a majestic, gothic bat, Peter Murphy and his trademark bleached hair opened Bauhaus' set with their best known hit, "Bela Lugosi's Dead". The only word to describe the song is hypnotic, with the rest of the set following the mood and the band hardly missing a single, trance inducing beat.

Daniel Ash strutted in platform boots, David J plucked his bass with ambivalence equal to that of any whiny, teenage, goth girl, and Kevin Haskins managed to add a disco beat to my personal favorite, "She's in Parties". They may all be old -- their first album came out long before most of the audience was born -- but Bauhaus managed to enthrall the crowd to the last few notes. The 21-year-old, country lover in my group probably summed it up best: "That was fun, friend."
-- Kristie Macris / back to top


BLOOD BROTHERS
Most of Coachella was spent crammed between a sweaty weed-smoking 15-year-old and a barely dressed 16-year-old, neither one dancing. The Blood Brothers took the stage as Nine Inch Nails was finishing up and as Prodigy was getting started -- thus they were the alternative choice to two of the biggest draws of the weekend. So the swaggering and screaming of keyboardist/singer Johnny Whitney and co-screamer Jordan Blilie was not only enjoyed, but also seen by a fairly intimate audience.

Having never caught The Blood Brothers live, I welcomed their energetic stage spasms, a vigor that was missing from most of the Coachella line up. At times, there was the semblance of melody, sung over the music's chaotic time signatures. More than anything the dueling vocalists flounced around the stage to what someone once described to me as math rock, but I don't want to try to break down for the uninitiated. Just go out and buy Burn Piano Island, Burn or the newer Crimes and try to catch this band live sometime very soon. As the crowd swelled toward the Prodigy in a surreal trek, the Blood Brothers left the stage in the same fierce confusion that defined their set.
-- Kristie Macris / back to top


BRIGHT EYES
Towards the end of Bright Eyes's outdoor-stage closing set, you could have shot a cannonball through the crowd and not hit a soul -- revelers left in droves before Conor Oberst cracked his last note. Was it festival fatigue? Or was the audience miffed that Oberst and his collective--which included members of the Faint, having had performed in full just previous to Bright Eyes--had kept the setlist almost purely focused on material from Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, the electronically-oriented (and least fawned-over) of this year's two Bright Eyes releases? Whatever you make of Digital Ash, the band's performance was spot-on and focused, whether deploying bittersweet synth melancholy or rousing (and sometimes bombastic) indie anthemry. Oberst, who kept the chatter to a minimum, held the onlookers with more stamina rapt with his earnest, poetic, and often forceful delivery.
-- Mike Prevatt / back to top


THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
Unless you were a diehard, electronic music fan, choosing the Chems's closing set at the dance tent was not an easy one -- two other exceptional acts, Coldplay and Spoon, were to perform during the same time slot. But those who took the gamble were tremendously rewarded with the English duo's best Coachella offering to date, which is saying something given that the boys have played the festival four times. Surrounded by video screens and a plethora of lighting and laser effects, the Chems complimented the stimulating vibe with a 90-minute-plus performance that not only drew from their long career, but reflected the world's current socio-political atmosphere in newer selections such as "Believe" and the hit single "Galvanise". One gripe: With no less than three of its past guest vocalists on the same festival grounds, a collaboration would have made the showing even more spectacular. Still, an exhilarating time was had from start to finish.
-- Mike Prevatt / back to top


FANTOMAS
Who's more of a cartoon caricature? Mike Patton (yeah, yeah Faith No More), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle's bassist), guitarist Buzz Osborne (of Melvins fame), or (Slayer drummer) Dave Lombardo? Well, with Fantomas, you don't have to choose, as all of them perform in one very Zorn-esque noise explosion. While it may sound cliché, Fantomas is anything but: they've got cartoon and opera sound snippets, often violent jumbles of percussion and, well, sound effects--both recorded and straight from Patton's amazing voice.

Better than the intense musical energy that spun dizzily from the PA was Patton's bug-eyed expression as he literally conducted Slayer's drummer (I mean Slayer, come on). The maniacal looks, along with the speaking in tongues, only further demonstrated that Fantomas is a work of a mad, but beautifully genius, man. The most intelligible thing Patton said all night proved to be the most memorable quote of the entire weekend, "I'd rather be backstage over there butt fucking Gwyneth Paltrow." Well, okay, but at least finish the set first.
-- Kristie Macris / back to top

GANG OF FOUR
Why don't people dance? In the heat of the dying desert sun, after a long and sweaty day, impeccably trashy outfits and perfectly coiffed, messy hair still aren't a valid excuse. If anything they're a license to let loose. Everyone looked terrible and there they stood, still and quiet. Meanwhile the newly reformed Gang of Four played their freakin' hearts out in a performance better than the fabled Urgh! 1981 concert tape. They still champion the sound of rhythmic punk, different and fresher with their 25-year-old music than any of the current new wave fluff bands. Yet no one moved aside from me, two obviously British guys, and a lone goth. We alone understood that Gang of Four, while one of the most politically charged bands at Coachella, also produce a hell of a great dance tune.
-- Kristie Macris / back to top

New Order
Between vocalist/guitarist Bernard Sumner repeatedly complaining about his busted foot and bassist Peter Hook cursing those in the photographer well -- as well as by including four Joy Division songs in the hour long set -- New Order nearly brought the crowd down with gloom and grumpiness. However, by keeping the setlist uptempo and rocking -- especially with the four guitar-friendly tracks from the new Waiting for the Sirens' Call -- the Manchester legends overcame all obstacles. Their Sunday night was a good time, drawing two generations to the main stage. The band maintained a degree of freshness in even their most ubiquitous songs, especially as they closed their performance by mashing samples of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" with their seminal, "Blue Monday".
-- Mike Prevatt / back to top

NINE INCH NAILS
During Nine Inch Nails' de facto comeback performance on the Coachella main stage, a few things were quickly established. For one, Trent Reznor and company remain one of rock's most compelling live acts, a fact evidenced by the band's synergetic instincts and wholly earnest delivery. Secondly, the newer material from the recently released With Teeth holds up well against the most coveted selections of NIN's back catalog; the single "The Hand That Feeds" was sandwiched fantastically between "Hurt" and "Head Like a Hole", making for the most glorious setlist hat trick of the weekend. But, perhaps most notably, Trent Reznor is hotter than ever, his conviction enhanced by his newly muscular build and a facial glow that shows he has finally escaped his junkie-rocker atrophy.
-- Mike Prevatt / back to top

RADIO 4
Radio 4 provided both physical and aural links between the diverse worlds of rock and dance. The New York band provided a physical connection, playing in a centrally located tent between the two outdoor rock stages and the 'all dance, all the time' Sahara Tent. More importantly, however, the music immediately brought to mind the funkiness of another fine NY rock band, Talking Heads. Although bassist/vocalist Anthony Roman isn't quite the same as nerdy, psycho killer David Byrne, his group nevertheless served up an intoxicating beverage that incorporated the best ingredients of the T-Heads' influential Remain in Light brew. Aided by rumbling conga drums and keyboard coloring, it wasn't hard to fall willingly under this band's polyrhythmic spell. So when the group shouted out its song "Calling All Enthusiasts", it was clearly a case of a band preaching to the converted.
-- Dan Macantosh / back to top

RILO KILEY
Rilo Kiley just may be the best female-fronted rock band since The Pretenders, and it's all due to Jenny Lewis's smart, honest lyricism. Outfitted in a pretty summer dress -- something a hardened rock chick like Chrissie Hynde wouldn't be caught dead in -- Lewis led the band through a spirited set of eclectic rock.

Their aptitude for musical variety was best expressed with "Ripchord," which is a jazzy little number about suicide. Sung by guitarist Blake Sennet, rather than Lewis, the tune nicely swings and even includes a trumpet solo. Yet the single "Portions for Foxes" chugs along with straight ahead guitar rock. On its chorus, Lewis sings, "I'm bad news." But for anyone who is tired of oversexed female rock, overtly exhibited by the likes of Courtney Love, the arrival of Rilo Kiley's smart girl rock is a wonderful headline indeed.
-- Dan Macantosh / back to top

WEEZER
As he stood on the main stage in a loud, plaid suit jacket, Rivers Cuomo looked like a dishonest used car salesman (really, is there any other kind?). Yet many of his new songs were saturated with a brutal honesty. Cuomo is the vocal/focal symbol of Weezer's outsider persona, and the group's new "Beverly Hills" single neatly sums up this act's low self-esteemed reputation. Its lyrics describe a wealthy lifestyle that can be seen but not touched. Ironically, when the band played the tune tonight, there were countless real life Beverly Hills "insiders" singing along with him. In truth, Cuomo is now rich enough to afford a pad in celebrity-ville. But all the money in the world cannot replace the kind of necessary physical touch he yearns for with the words of "Hold Me", another new song. Even though he dressed like a huckster, tonight Cuomo was the real deal.
-- Dan Macantosh / back to top

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