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It Is The 21st Century – Coachella 2012 April 27, 2012

Posted by greatbloginthesky in Music - Other.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(this post best experienced with Spotify – if you’re not using it, it’s free, it’s awesome and how did we live without this?)

As I listened to Thom Yorke belt this line out to the ~65,000 adoring fans amassed facing the main stage on Saturday night, I felt it more than adequately represented how the Coachella festival made me marvel at the state of the world and how far things have come. And by “things” I don’t just mean the crazy music these damn kids listen to. I also mean the tastes, attitudes, fashion, litter, and drugs that are on display when you invite all manner of humanity to an experience like Coachella. It would make our parents cringe and our grandparents stroke. Yeah, it was fun as hell.

Our theme begins immediately with the impressive feat of the festival selling out in a few days. It’s really amazing that 150,000 tickets can be snapped up in a few blinks of the eye thanks to (scalpers/bots) the internet and the voracious appetites of the present-day consumer. It is the 21st century.


Aside from the obvious common clamoring for the big-name headliners that tour that particular year, I’ve decided that the three big music festivals (in the US) all have their own identities. Bonnaroo is nestled among the fields and forests of idyllic Tennessee. The humid heat in June there is impressively stifling; imagine trying to breath that liquid oxygen like Ed Harris did in The Abyss. The combination of these factors lends itself well to the default music the old Bonnaroo guard prefer: cajun, zydeco, bluegrass, a little country. Festival goers also reflect the geography of the Midwest and South as a whole, and the fact that hotels are not an option. Throngs of dirty 18 year-olds double-fisting warm Busch Lights, puking by 8pm, and screaming their love for Kings of Leon into the wee hours of dawn.

Lollapalooza, inching for breathing room right in the middle of one of the biggest cities on the planet, is more of a mixed bag catering to the urban restlessness inherent in the hustle and bustle of such a metropolis. I felt there wasn’t really a common thread permeating its lineup, until I likened it to the scattershot variety of capitalism one might easily find three blocks away on the four corners of any Chicago intersection (Starbucks, Caribou, CVS, McDonalds, etc). In this way, Lolla does reflect its surroundings.

Coachella is the festival incarnation of southern California. After weekend 1 (Apr 13-15) I couldn’t resist trolling the interwebs for useful tips and tricks that might aid me in making those minor act decisions (The Weeknd or Nero, hmmmm…). Instead I encountered pages upon pages of celeb photos and style guides: Paris on some bodyguard’s shoulders, Kesha (I refuse that $) on some bodyguard’s shoulders, Emma Stone with beau, Emma Watson with beau, etc. There were photographers from major retailers there (Target took a particular interest in my wife) snapping pics of uniquely-dressed patrons, hoping to weave knock-offs for next year’s parties. Hearing from several friends that this was a high-fashion event, my wife spent hours making sure she fit in with the cute long-skirted/headbanded crowd (she considerably outdid them). Thankfully, us gents didn’t have it as time-consuming. A music tee and shorts seemed a stress-free choice, but I admit, I did make sure to choose bands that are (perplexingly/unfortunately) unknown and unsung like Black Moth Super Rainbow and Boards of Canada (not one comment about the former, and only one comment on the latter – god help us…). In that sea of strutting peacocks, I couldn’t help but think that these kids each spent around a thousand dollars to come just to have no idea who Flying Lotus is (let alone Thundercat), but couldn’t wait to model that new feather headdress. It is the 21st century.


Apparently there was some grumbling about the clouds and mild temperatures after weekend 1. It dipped into the 60’s during the early morning hours… Well, the weather gods must not have taken kindly to the whining because the average high temp for weekend 2 (Apr 20-22) was 105 and I saw 3 (tiny piddly) clouds the whole time. The sun was relentless and in case you were unaware, the Coachella valley is the eastern-most populated area of the Sonoran desert of CA (after Indio, heading east on I-10 (“the 10″) you get to, well, Phoenix). We were over 100 feet below sea level. Any geographers out there know what I’m getting at? We arrived on the polo grounds at 1pm on Friday and spent most of the day seeking the shady spots, like every other crisping human there. If you saw a trash can, you saw two people huddled in its shadow. By the end of our day (and in the wake of few trees and even fewer chairs) I was spent. We made a group decision to forego the peak heat the next two days; in doing so, we also missed 30% of the shows. I asked some locals if this was normal for late April: “no”. It doesn’t typically hit consecutive 100-degree days until a month later, and this was apparently “a little weird”. It is the 21st century.


Upon arrival to the Empire polo grounds from our shuttle each day, we lazily sauntered past rows upon rows of stables and partitions, meant mostly to keep us from sullying the host’s bread and butter (horsies). The last thing Goldenvoice (or whomever keeps the prize animals) needed was some kid tossing his lunch up in the day’s feed trough, but the grounds themselves were unexpectedly inviting. The grass, a derelict species of flora in such a forbidding environment and packed neatly by the previous week’s festivities, seemed clean and willing to transpire if we would graciously part with our CO2. The set-up of the area was in that of a large upside-down “L”, the main (Coachella) stage occupying the short arm with the “Outdoor” stage at the corner. The three massive metal tents were aligned along the long axis in alphabetical order: Gobi, Mojave, Sahara (the latter was the biggest of the 3 and the furthest from everything else because it was primarily reserved for those acts interested in skull-shattering bass drops).

First thing’s first: ID check / beer. Coachella is not interested in having anyone get very drunk. There were 3 beer “tents”, 2 of which were at the ends of the “L” legs, and none of which allowed any beer (or opened water bottles) past its borders into the common areas. This was significantly unlike Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza which somehow managed to allow enjoyment of beer anywhere. The three beers available: Heineken, Heine Light, and Newcastle. Not quite the Green Flash or Stone I was for some reason expecting (Bonnaroo’s beer tents were craft/micro-Xanadu comparatively). The indirect fallout of this was that Camelbaks were not allowed inside the festival; if you held onto your 12oz $2 water bottle, you had the privilege of standing in the blazing sun for 20 minutes to refill if for free. We went the Earth-unfriendly route and just bought water 18 times each day. Sorry, but it is the 21st century.


Music (format: band – # songs enjoyed – rating/10 – comments)

Day 1 (or: just waitin’, just waitin’)

Other Lives – 3 – 7 – lively bunch; couldn’t believe the singer’s hair length and matted sweat; bonus for catching “Tamer Animals”

Breakbot – 5 – 6 – 70’s break-funk; heavy bonus for not resorting to wobble; a bit repetitive after 3 songs

Neon Indian – whole set – 8 – album-perfect; Alan Palomo is a great front-man/performer; not scored a 10 due to it being at the outdoor stage w/ NO shade; highly enjoyed the company of my mates concurrently from the corner of a beer tent

Madeon – 3 – 3 – don’t recall much of this/wobble got old

Beer tent with bar as the sun went down – 10/10

The Rapture – whole set – 9 – heavy on the first (best) album; energetic/volume perfect; M83 next at the same tent

M83 – whole set – 6 – not loud enough; 70% of song choices slower/didn’t mesh well w/ 10pm slot; “Steve McQueen” anti-climactic, absolutely crushed because of it; ended show w/ a CLASSIC 10-minute rendition of “Couleurs” which mostly made up for the disappointment of the previous 50 minutes; I’m getting goosebumps again listening to it now

Swedish House Mafia – whole set – 9 – as interesting and experimental as Amon Tobin’s show was purported to be, we’d heard SHM was the show not to be missed; I’m embarrassed to say they were right; best light show and pacing/drops of the whole weekend; opened with that new tune “Greyhound” launching everyone into the stratosphere; even almost enjoyed “Save The World” at the end but anthemic/formulaic song structure won out; wow…

120 minute shuffling exodus/shuttle ride while needing a pee; “Rumble In The Bronx” on bus screens; home to Palm Springs at 2:45am – 1/10

Sacrificed: Givers, Girls, Frank Ocean, Mazzy Star, Explosions In The Sky, The Horrors, Amon Tobin

Day 2 (or: in your arms (don’t hurt me))

Decision to skip peak heat and arrive at 6pm/sacrificed early shows – 5/10

Sebastian Ingrosso – 4 – 6 – began set with same 3 songs as SHM previous night; devolved into nondescript house; we still have 2 days to go and Radiohead is tonight

St. Vincent – 5 – 9 – engaging performer and absolute shredder on guitar; “Cruel” was a lone angular rock song in a weekend of synth and it killed; night falls…

Flying Lotus – 15 – 7 – kids didn’t know what to do for really pretty experimental portions; some rapper ruined 2nd 1/3 of show, he doesn’t need that; huge smile on his face the whole time, diggin the scene; passing a blunt to the crew on the side on and off; fantastic visuals (unknown if correlated); Thundercat beating the bass

SBTRKT – 2 – 5 – couldn’t concentrate, need to leave to get a decent spot for Radiohead

Radiohead – whole set (21 including 2 encores; played longest show of weekend, rightly so) – 10 – opener “Bloom” was loud and crystal clear, upping the excitement exponentially; “Kid A” live!!!!!!; 65K people all singing “Karma Police” and “Exit Music (for a film)” in unison = teared up; screaming “for a minute there, I lost myself” louder than I have in a long time = bonus tears; could hear a pin drop for “Giving Up The Ghost”‘s solo Thom Yorke acoustic w/ loop pedal performance = goosebumps; “it is the 21st century”

Sacrificed: Destroyer (ouch), Azealia Banks, Andrew Bird, The Shins, Godspeed! You Black Emperor (ouch), Bon Iver, SBTRKT (realistically), SubFocus

Day 3 (or: audio, video, disco)

Real Estate – 5 – 8 – a relaxing beachy sound to start the day (later arrival again); pitch-perfect, little variance from album; the only show I was able to catch that I had planned on catching because I was/am unable to see them in CLE (see also: SBTRKT, Destroyer, Santigold)

Beats Antique – 4 – 4 – a novelty act with a drummer/violinist/programmer cashing in on wobble, this time (as opposed to their set at Lolla last year) with dancers dressed in horse/chicken heads with Super-Soakers and pool rafts; belly dancer still hot/still looks silly moshing when bass drops

Thundercat – 2 – 6 – unapologetically slapped his 6-string bass with lightning speed (very difficult I hear) to the sounds of thick Hancock-ian jazz-funk; 3 wonderful backup singers; frenetic free-form fusion improv solos that spun the head; MUST see Araabmuzik

Araabmuzik – 9 – 5 – got dizzy watching his hands pummel the poor MPC; great studio album, but here relied WAY TOO MUCH on wobble/bass drops = WHY????; you are now listening to Araabmuzik

Nero – 2 there, 5 from the beer tent – meh – but at least it’s UK-style wobble (….)

Justice – whole set – 9 – excellent reproduction/improv set from an excellent and WAY underrated album; first chords of “Genesis” whipped crowd into psychosis; “Civilization”: is that Daft Punk?!; “Canon”: is that Queen?!; lights, energy, last show of Coachella (forever?) 2012

Leaving 4 hours before everyone else/missing Snoop/Dre/HoloPac; in LA by midnight – 10/10

Sacrificed: Gardens & Villas, Fanfarlo, NOISIA, Metronomy, Santigold (ouch), Flux Pavilion, Gaslamp Killer, the Weeknd (ouch), Modeselektor, DJ Shadow


3 days of unbelievable music, all in one place, with friends, sights, sounds and safety making our weekend yet another unforgettable one. I’m alive. It is the 21st century.

Thanks to my beautiful wife for reversing my aging process, and thanks to our gracious, wonderful and endlessly entertaining hosts/organizers/friends Todd and Natalie (you too JB!): We love you sooo much and miss you already – get on those Burning Man tix stat


Has the light gone out for you? Because the light’s gone out for me. It is the 21st century. It is the 21st century.

I’ve seen it comin’



1. Natalie Neiman - April 27, 2012

Awwww…we miss you guys so much! Thanks for filling in the gaps for me…great write up. xoxoxoxo. See you at Burning Man.

2. Frank - April 28, 2012

Thanks for describing this. I’m enjoying the music. The whole thing sounds awesome.

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