Coachella Music and Arts Festival 04/13/12
Empire Polo Fields – Indio, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
There was a reason I have always avoided Coachella and that reason is the sun. Fact is my white ass doesn’t do so well out in the middle of the desert. So it is fitting that my first trip to Coachella felt more like my hometown of San Francisco versus the Palm Desert. Strong winds, sporadic showers and thick fog were a downer for everyone but me. But enough about the weather, let’s discuss the first Friday of Coachella 2012.
I have a pal, his name is James and the album title Get Laid by James has always made us laugh. So to pop my Coachella cherry I decided to start off with this long running Manchester band’s main stage set. I honestly couldn’t name a single song they played, I didn’t get to hear the song Laid, but I did run into my pal Brian so that was pretty sweet.
Gary Clark Jr.
I ran across the Polo Fields from the main stage to the Gobi Tent for the first act I was truly excited to see. With the wind blowing hard through the tent, Gary Clark Jr. hit the stage with a fantastic set of rock/blues revival. Song like “When The Trains Pull In” and “Don’t Owe You A Thang” felt more like Bonnaroo as the crowd danced under the tent. I ended up sneaking off right after he teased some “Third Stone From The Sun” action as I decided to check in on another hippie heavy act.
As I have shared in the past, I have been trying to see Grouplove since last summer. I still need to see Grouplove. With hurricane strength winds and extremely douchie fans assembled under the Mojave Tent I only lasted two songs. Sadly the band sounded terrible and I am not sure if it was the wind, the fact they are blowing up before they have the time to grow as a live act or a combo of both. I am sure Hannah Hooper is a lovely gal but someone should mention to her that when winds are whipping she may want to actually sing into the mic when she dances around instead of projecting from eight feet away. I split after “Itchin on a Photograph” with the thoughts in my mind that perhaps the third time is the charm.
In my pre-Coachella YouTube session, Death Grips caught me off guard. I have a thing for noisy bands and I am always down to check out any act who call Northern California home. With their road crew rocking San Francisco Giants hats, the band hit the stage to a very small crowd. I lasted about ½ the set and I have very mixed emotions on the band. Unaware of how long they have been performing live, you can tell the group needs some work on their stage presence, especially lead vocalist MC Ride. What I do like about this group is they are a new wave of acts that are the evolution of heavy music. I like the combo of aggressive beats matched with a hip hop meets DC hardcore vocal flair. It’s unique it’s refreshing and God damn did it make me feel old.
If you have followed this site for a while you know I love Girls. I showed up about ½ way into their Outdoor Stage set and was delighted to see bassist Chet White rocking an old school San Francisco 49ers jacket. The part of the set I saw was heavy on last year’s outstanding release Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Highlights included Saying I Love You, Alex and the set closing Vomit. Towards the end as the song gets heavy and lead singer Christopher Owens is singing “looking for love” with the help of backup singers, the rain began to fall heavily upon the crowd. It was as if it was in synch with the San Francisco based group and the first truly magical Coachella moment I was lucky enough to experience.
After catching up with some pals, I caught my third Arctic Monkeys show from the beer tent. Shockingly, while I was not exactly watching them it was the best I have heard this band play. Highlights included “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and the track recorded with Mr. Josh Homme just a few miles away “Crying Lightning.” The perfect dinner band, even if dinner is two quickly pounded cups of Heineken.
Hey look it’s Madness. Cross them off the list of bands I have never seen.
As I mentioned sarcastically in my Coachella preview, I know “Common People” and that’s about it. Yet despite not knowing much about the band they were the highlight of day one. The Jarvis Cocker lead act sounded incredible and he is a helluva front man. I love his rambling banter on everything from learning how to have sex to the admission that Coachella wanted them last year and it simply didn’t happen. Oh and Cocker hit me with a grape before performing “Babies” that was pretty awesome. I went to see Pulp knowing they don’t make it across the pond to the states very often, and I left their set as a fan. Oh and just to make assholes like me happy, you know they closed with “Common People” and it was all I had dreamed of and more.
The Black Keys
I knew this band was ready for headline status when I tried to catch them at Outside Lands and was at least two football fields back. Thankfully I was much closer on this evening and enjoyed most of the Akron duos set. Opening up with the 1-2 punch of “Howlin’ For You” and “Next Girl” the massive crowd erupted for the main stage headliners. Some of the background videos seemed to be glitching but no one really cared as the duo were bringing it hard. Other highlights included the duo ditching their back up band to go at it alone on older songs like “I’ll Be Your Man” and “Your Touch.” One of my favorites from their stellar new record El Camino, “Little Black Submarines” was the perfect way to close out my first proper show by The Black Keys in order to get a quick beer and a slice of pizza before ending my night at the Outiside Stage.
Explosions In The Sky
Granted most of the set was watched from the beer garden as I ate the earlier mention pizza and drank the earlier mentioned beer but I really liked what I heard from this Texas based post rock instrumental act. The music was beautiful and with no lyrics found a way to bring out emotions I wasn’t expecting to feel. By the time I finally got to the field, they were unfortunately just wrapping up their set. There is going to have to be a next time for these guys.
I never thought I would see these fine Swedes live. But there it was just past 11pm with the rain coming down rather hard. Opening with The Shape of Punk To Come my arms were forming goose bumps while the younger generation were forming circle pits. The band sounded amazing as if they had not been broken up for the past decade plus. In between rants of how the band has moved on from trying to overthrow our government, the band was crushing us with classics including “The Refused Party Program,” “Rather Be Dead” and “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine.” What I thought was most interesting was how the band discussed their reunion. They explained how it would be wrong of them not to do it since so many fans wanted it. The band was humble (their last US gig was in a basement to 40 people) and appreciate of the fan as they rewarded the crowd to a balls to the wall set closing “New Noise.” As I sit here today, I still don’t believe it happened. Refused are alive and well and I saw it with my own two eyes.
In closing day one of Coachella was a blast. I am out in about 90 minutes for round two with the likes of Kasabian, Grace Potter and those pussy farting wastes of talent known as Radiohead.