Sunday required a much more leisurely pace after Saturday’s sunbaked shenanigans, so Tim and I tooled ’round in the shade after I picked up my wristband for yet another awesome signing: this one by Okkervil River, whose name I’ve been mispronouncing for years. Sorry, Okkervil River. Whilst napping in the early afternoon heat (pretty sure we got over 100 degrees that day), Tim and I heard a really terrible set by a hip-hop group called Themselves. I don’t know if any of you fistful of Bollocks! readers have their album, but let me know if it’s any good. They’re crap live and made me really really wish they were Grand Buffet.
It was, finally, time to head over to the main stage for Okkervil River. This is when I discovered an odd phenomenon at Coachella. Tim and I, who I would describe as Okkvervil River enthusiasts, worked our way quite near the stage. As Will Sheff and company tore into “The Plus Ones”, some girl standing next to me asked what band was playing. I thought this was ludicrous for two reasons: 1) I’m pretty sure Sheff introduced them before they started playing and 2) why would you pay hundreds of dollars, come out to the desert in the middle of fucking nowhere, cook like bacon in the sun, and not know who you were seeing? It came to me that this girl must’ve decided to just see all the mainstage acts, no matter who they were. The good news is, she seemd to be pretty into Okkervil River by the end.
As well she should’ve been. They tore through a set that was pound-for-pound awesome, playing every single song I wanted to hear, including a truly kickass version of “John Allyn Smith Sails”, which is, I submit to you, their best song. I was hoping they’d dig into some of the stuff from Black Sheep Boy, and they did not disappoint – we heard “Black” and a dizzying rendition of “For Real,” which really highlighted the brilliance of adding Lauren Gurgiolo as a permanent member. Her guitar playing was flawless and I was especially impressed by her wielding of an electric lap steel on “A Girl in Port.”
There wasn’t much time after Okkervil’s set before it was time to head to their signing. Tim and I swung by the Sebastian Tellier set long enough to confirm that Sebastian Tellier trades in the kind of glammish retro bullshit that makes me wish I’d been (slightly) nicer to the Scissor Sisters. From there, we thought it’d be worth a laugh to scope out the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s set. And I know I’ve been pretty hard on Anton Newcombe on this site in the past, but I’ve gotta tell you, after seeing BJM’s set at Coachella…
Nah, they still fucking suck. I mean really bad. They didn’t do much from their last shitty album, which meant that at its best, their set made me realize that I really like Exile on Main Street and almost everything by the Velvet Underground and that I still think Anton Newcombe is a self-mythologizing fuckup who stumbles around songs like a blind person in a blackout, occasionally bumping up against something tolerable, but mostly falling into a puddle of his own filth and whining about how nobody understands his art. Anton Newcombe, that is, not the blind guy.
Meeting Okkervil River was awesome – they were all very cool, funny people and I told Will Sheff that I really love the way he writes and he was very appreciative and it all felt good until I got out of line and Tim brought up the point that I might’ve made the rest of the band feel shitty by saying more complimentary things to their singer than to the rest of them. So then I felt like kind of an asshole. So, to the other folks in Okkervil River, you’re pretty awesome, all of you. For real, you kicked ass at Coachella (which I believe I did tell you) and I hope to see you again soon.
I assuaged my guilt with a pulled-pork sandwich which I will hereby retroactively name Morrissey in honor of the Whinest Limey of them all. Then it was time to amble on over to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set, which started kinda late but did not disappoint. Karen O, in addition to being one of the best singers in rock today, is nothing if not completely entertaining on stage. She came out in this weird-ass outfit that you might describe as “sequined” as long as you can handle the fact that said sequins are more like giant, shiny panels. It was awesome. She ran around the stage, laughed her way through some lyrics, almost came in at the wrong time on “Cheated Hearts,” laughed about that, and just generally helped the audience have one hell of a good time. I think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were probably the best main stage act at Coachella (not to mention one of the finest pop bands in America), especially considering the utter humorlessness that was to follow them.
You know what band can just go fuck themselves? My Bloody Valentine. I know they’re kinda icons of some sort or whatever, but 1) they haven’t made anything new in 18 years and 2) their songs consist of distorted guitars strumming the same chord over and over and over and over and over and over and over again while the drummer beats the drums in whatever way he wants and the two vocalists mumble some shit that you can’t make out anyway over all that goddamn stupid racket they’re making on their guitars (Kevin Shields literally strummed every chord while wanking the whammy-bar too – “Oh goodie,” I thought, “it’s the same chord over and over and now it can be out of tune too! Well, fuck my face and call me Nancy!”). The audience seemed to applaud after every song, but My Bloody Valentine were so grim-faced and silent that it didn’t strike me as appropriate for the audience to enjoy their music. They didn’t enjoy it, why should I? So I went ahead and didn’t enjoy their music and I will move them to the top of my list of sacred musical cows that need to be ground into fucking hamburger and force-fed to Morrissey.
As My Bloody Valentine’s final chord of their final stupid fucking song droned on for (not joking here) 8 minutes, Public Enemy started up their set on the Outdoor stage. They wisely opted to celebrate the 21st anniversary of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by performing that great album in its entirety. It was quite entertaining; Chuck D still delivers rhymes like Muhammed Ali delivered his fists and Flava Flav is still the most ridiculous human cartoon on the planet. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
We split before the Cure took the stage, fearing that their set would tilt too heavily toward 4:13 Dream and not nearly enough toward their old songs that we actually liked. And we both had to work very early the next morning. And so we returned to Los Angeles, sunbaked and exhausted, but quite happy with the music we heard over the weekend. Coachella is worth attending if enough bands that you love are playing there – but they have stupid fucking rules and should get some better beer. So write the Coachella people (I think it’s info@Coachella.com) and tell ’em to let Ninkasi come to the desert next year!