Day 2: Coachella's WINs and FAILs (featuring Gossip, MGMT, Dead Weather, and Tiesto!)
On Saturday the "organizers" got some of their act together -- plus most people already had their wristbands after the clusterfuck of Day 1 -- so it was relatively painless to access the festival grounds. People were noticeably more chill throughout the day, which is what happens when you haven't had to sit for hours in traffic only to be forced to reenact the climactic scene from Day of the Locust once you reach the entrance.
Once things got going inside, though, the most notable thing about the festival was the presence of over 75,000 people (possibly 80 - 90 thousand actually -- rumor has it over 10,000 more wristbands were oversold and/or comped). Crowds everywhere roaming the fields and proving you can't argue with success with their tectonic movements from venue to venue.
Here are some WINs and FAILs for Day 2:
FAIL: Sure, the chaos of the previous day (the total, dangerous chaos that made the festival temporarily a free for all) was tackled by the festival organizers, but what price comfort? Word around the volunteers/security people/Indio cops/yellow-jackets was that there had been a mad scramble on Friday to draft every large, burly guy from Palm Springs and environs to beef up "security." This last-minute solution, of course, is a TERRIBLE idea (remember what happened in Altamont when the Rolling Stones' organization decided to draft untrained burly local guys?).
FAIL: One more thing about cops/security. Some female festivalgoers who had lost a male friend (because phone reception and texting are spotty at best all around) Friday night went up to uniformed personnel to ask if they could check if the guy had been picked up by the cops. They were dismissed with smirks, told their friend "was probably fucking some chick in some tent," and then questioned about themselves being "high" or "49/51" (apparently weird copspeak for "bipolar"). Sure, this is anecdotal, but given the general mess, the overburdened staff, and the clear lack of proper training, it reinforces the impression that Coachella 2010 was an accident (or worse) waiting to happen.
WIN: John Waters Storytime. Last year we had Henry Rollins as a hardcore motivational speaker. This year it was Waters' turn, who regaled the early risers (1 pm counts as early rising around these parts) with stories of camp, decadence, and mustachery. We've seen his speaking act before and a lot of the stories are a little more than shopworn, but there's always a new crowd to be told about Divine and the turd, serial killers, and Patty Hearst.
WIN: Shooter Jennings' balls. Dude has just made a kind-of-carwreck "concept album" (with Stephen King!), which sounds like a hamfisted version of Pink Floyd's The Wall retold to Tea Party anti-government paranoids. (The album was planned during the Bush years, but it plays really well to the fears of the anti-Obama crowd). He unleashed this and his Skynyrd-infused country rock onto an early Saturday crowd of LA trendies. Props to balls.
FAIL: Whoever put Tokyo Police Club on the main stage and Gossip in one of the tents. Seriously? Beth Ditto is absolutely ready to be large and in charge of the largest venue at Coachella, and has been now for a couple of years (bitch could headline, easily). Tokyo Police Club (aka, Band of Ginger) fessed up to being overwhelmed by the huge crowd and their visually drab, Hold-Steadyesque act is not quite there yet. Meanwhile, Ditto was kicking ass and taking names at the Gobi tent, which didn't stop jumping for her entire set.
WIN: Gossip. See upcoming post. Wow. Just wow.
FAIL: the XX before nighttime. Another scheduling SNAFU. XX at 6:25 was the first HUGE crowd of the many through the evening. But their textured, dreamy music looked superweird against the afternoon heat and the sunlight. Adding to the absurdity, the screens kept showing peppy sorority girls trying to dance to the heady night music of the group.
WIN: the XX's music. Give it a post-sunset slot on Sunday and it'd be gold, ok?
WIN: Edward Sharpe + Magnetic Zeros. Many were skeptical when the former Ima Robot frontman switched drugs of choice and decided to become Devendra Banhart II and His Polyphonic Spree. But he and his bunch showed they could pull off the festival thing and every festival needs a bunch of faux hippie mascots. Mission accomplished.
WIN: The crowds supporting Hot Chip, MGMT and Muse. Say what you will about these bands (and we've said plenty). Mock all you want (especially you olds). But you can't argue that the mainstream of 2010 rock/pop/whatever we're calling it these days passes through this kind of big, not very subtle, derivative acts. The under-25 crowd (remember these kids think Radiohead is an oldie but goldie) ate this shit up. Largest crowds we've seen at Coachella. ever.
FAIL: Coheed and Cambria. Underwhelming, especially against the XX, and opening for Faith No More, and compared to the Hot Chip, MGMT and Muse mob scenes.
WIN: Faith No More. Again, the youngs were voting with the bodies for Hot Chip, but Patton and company offered a reliable option to the over 25s and all the comb-over VIP daddies and tattoed cougars. Read more about it here later today.
WIN: Hot Chip's percussion. While Vampire Weekend, Fool's Gold and every other prep rock group go on and on about Afros and Beats and Fela Kuti this and Femi Kuti that, Hot Chip just gets down to the business of making irresistible dance music of the kind that can make a corpse do the shuffle. Even some of the nostalgia crowd pointed towards Faith No More in the beer garden had to keep rubbernecking to check out what Hot Chip was doing to that mass of people in front of the outdoor theatre.
FAIL: MGMT trying to broaden its fanbase's musical horizons. All the girlies were dancing away to "Weekend Warriors" and swooning to the pretty Kinks-meets-Small-Faces-in-Ween's-Ranch melodies of the "Management" boys (this is what we heard a few people calling them). But then they announced their tribute to UK cult pop band Television Personalities (aside: MGMT are Other Music nurds! Stars are just like us!) and they lost 1/3 of the massive crowd, who wandered off to Major Lazer and its puppet show. Memo to MGMT: More keeping telling the kids to "do what they want to do" and tell them to do fun drugs and that it's always "time to pretend." Less trying to teach them about Here Come the Warm Jets and Orange Juice. You'll be fine.
FAIL: Major Lazer, sadly. As our friend Pava always says, "I wanna like Major Lazer. But it just doesn't work. They sound like they should be my favorite music in the world, but it's not well put together." Diplo's Gorillaz sill need work.
WIN: Muse. Again, the crowds. Shit--the crowds. Memo to self: even if you don't get an act's appeal at all, that kind of crowd reaction can never be written off. Maybe the commenters will be kind enough to explain Muse to me. Is it the guitar noodling? Are they the new Steve Vai? Wait, no, the hot chicks dig them too. Sincerely, Confuse by Muse.
WIN: Flying Lotus. Right venue (a non-rave tent), right time slot (10:45), right crowd (tired and stoned). A perfect storm by this heir to the tradition of spiritual jazz, filtered through the world of beats. People were having pseudo-mystical experiences and swaying their bodies to the Low End Theory sound. Visually, guy-and-his-laptop, though. But close your eyes, take the blue pill, and you're up and going.
WIN: Die Antwoord. This couldn't fail. Expectations were high and low at the same time and they delivered, particularly Ninja with his white-man's-Twista speed-rapping. Shortest set ever. If you were still blissing out from the Flying Lotus mindtrip, you probably missed half of Die Antwoord's set.
WIN: Devo. Main stage in a couple of years? They brought in the props, the costumes, the visuals (have a word with Flying Lotus, please) and the current synth-irony heavy climate is perfect for their revival. The Gobi tent was packed, particularly after the end of Dead Weather's set when the mob moved down the central corridor just in time to whip it good.
WIN: Dead Weather. Jack White found the dirty chanteuse to match his fantasies. Beck might have Charlotte, but Jack's got himself a boozy Dietrich with a stage presence that can put him in his place. Never mind your racconteuring buddies, this is less a side-project than a wet dream for boys who prefer women over girls (Also, props for the ubiquitous, creepy-ass free hand-fans they gave away).
WIN: Tiesto. He makes the douchebags dance and keeps them away from the rest of us!
FAIL: Tiesto. But it's still piped through the whole venue and you can't escape his mind-crushing beat.