Oh where to begin???? I just came back this afternoon about 4 (I left Coachella at 6:30am) feeling like the festival was a marathon which I thoroughly enjoyed but which was a lot physically like Burning Man–but without the freedom to drink and carouse at will–Don’t ask me today if I will repeat the pleasure!!!
So I’ll tell you the challenges first and then the great stuff.
–The drive down took 11 hours–6 freeway stalls near LA and two full hours crawling through Indio (three miles???) getting into the site. With the help of a master scam king I managed to park near the campground saving me at least an hour of carrying my gear inside.
–There were 16,000 people camped, cars anywhere from a block to a mile away–you do the math on the process of moving tents, food etc from car to site.
–The campsite’s being without cars and RVs was nice, a sort of a polychromed fabric-domed suburbia with “streets” and “blocks”–the only problem really was that there were about 40 shower stalls to serve all 16,000 of us–and showers were closed half the day and seemingly randomly at night which was less than stellar after 12 hours in the 103 degree heat–
–The other serious bummer was that you couldn’t bring either water or food or alcohol into the music site and there were no ins and outs either so you were therefore required to buy buy buy everything on site–pizza slice $6, Haagen Daz $6, frozen Lemonade $5, BBQ beef $10-12, burger $6, water $2, beer or wine $7–It was hot–over 100 every day so one had to drink a lot of water–and subsist really on junk food–by the end of the three days I craved a real fruit smoothie and a salad. In fact the best deal I found was Sunday morning’s Bloody Mary–which I had because they had run out of breakfast burritos (eggs in a wrap–$5)–that included an amazing condiment bar of carrots, asparagus, string beans, jicama, olives, and celery that I made a meal out of –yum I felt healthy all day despite a number of glasses of cheap white wine
As for the great stuff
–the SITE first of all is drop dead gorgeous–green lawn–soft real grass, lovely–surrounded by palm trees and mountains–blue and bluer into the distance. And at night the nearly full moon and stars covered the sky.
–The interior lawn was filled with all sorts of Burning Man-like art and a whimsical array of shade structures–silk on bamboo, pod-like organic places to chill out of the blazing sun, one of which housed a dj booth where some excellent djs (Bassnectar among them and Pocket) spun house music throughout the festival. This is the site too where water jets sprayed us with a fine sweet cool mist and a silver-bodied wild woman sprayed a rocket-load of water at whomever she targetted from her platform near the dj booth–There was also a geodesic dome where I think amateurs found a stage and strange bicycle driven merry-go-rounds and steam locomotive driven amusement park rides. At night the site was alive with lights and motion everywhere you looked
–All this was backup to the music which was FABULOUS–5 stages all more or less reachable in time to see whomever you chose–that is if you held up in the heat. I was knocked down by it by still managed to see maybe 30 bands in the three days and I LOVED so many bands, I feel embarrassed like a teenager–who can’t say whom she loves best.
So with this caveat– here were my favorites:
–INTERPOL–their ecstatic drone and beat–I’ve loved them for a while now
–JESUS AND MARY CHAIN–who would’ve guessed–I never heard them when they were big but loved them here–harsh, hard driving
–STEPHEN MARLEY–I thought I was DONE with Reggae but here comes another Marley with a great range from old skool reggae to something Celtic to hard reggae–he was great
–OF MONTREAL–kind of BritPop, Indie, incredible sound, their own, brilliant
SATURDAY–oh my, a day I was dragging from the heat and hardly any sleep and wanting to see bands from one end of the venue to another–a mile or so– and heat heat heat heat but the music ROCKED:
–the CHILIS playing more of the old stuff (unlike last year’s Lolla which was so esoteric jazzy that I spaced on their whole set)
–ARCADE FIRE–this band is about epiphany, ecstacy, all the songs like a graduation or funeral anthem–strings, chanting, hallelujah real–what can I say–you have to have seen the Fire live to know what it feels like to see God or someone like him/her
–TIESTO–late, I was tired but this dj made me stay–hard beats, electric lights–I wished I’d spent more time here as the Good the Bad and the Queen were thin (I’d had great hopes–Blur, Clash and Verve meets someone great–) compared to this Ibiza quality dj who the crowd was too tired and hot to really appreciate
–DECEMBERISTS–I’d never even heard of them but their hard-rocking and sometimes sweet Celtic songs were a delight to my soul
–RAPTURE–electronic, electric, got me dancing while nearly heat-dead
–HOT CHIP– an quintet of geeks playing synthesizers, drum machines and thumping their bodies to their computer generated beats–this group is amazing–I’ve seen them 5-6 times, from Iceland Airwaves (an October Indie hard rock fest that’s the deal of the decade–$600 for 3 day rock fest, hotel and airfare) where NOONE in the USA had ever heard of them to a big Mezzanine gig now Coachella–they rock big time
DAMIEN RICE—David Gray crossed with some happy rock energy, still potic and romantic—a sleeper for me
–MANO CHAO–Latin, reggae high energy renegades best seen live—I danced though their set, nearly heat-dead, singing along, wildly dancing the salsa-regsae-son they played, while th3e band played on in wild abandon
–PLACEBO–the band ecstatic, the lead singer like he was chanting his heart out loud, hallelujah like Arcade Fire but different–compelling, beautiful
–WILLIE NELSON and CROWDED HOUSE–both sounding good, but both really and obviously dated, done, singing the old stuff but relics we must pay tribute to–not entirely unlike the punk driven stars of the whole show—
–the RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE– I met so many people here from Australia, Scotland, England, Virginia, North Dakota, everywhere, here to see RAGE as if they’d come to see God. The band WAS driven, hard, a passion I needed to hear but since they’d never rocked my world, this was my first go round with the band. They felt like what you’d HAVE to listen to after you’d ended a passionate but doomed love affair and needed to bang your head against something hard –in the end I loved Rage like everyone of their die-hard fans
So there you have it–Coachella 2007–from a single point of view–written at full moon midnight after a ten hour drive home and a few hours to assimilate and wind down to regular life at a mild 75 with tap water free but no wild bands chafing at the gate to be heard. I could see myself there next year….