If I’ve been lazy about recounting my Coachella adventures this year, it’s because I’ve been working a lot and am still recovering from it. Without further ado, here’s what happened on Saturday.
Frightened Rabbit’s set was one of the real highlights of Coachella this year. Balancing songs from 2008’s stellar The Midnight Organ Fight with choice cuts from this year’s also-stellar The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit got our Saturday off to a great start. I had been really excited to see these mighty Scots live and they did not disappoint.
Okay, that’s all lies. Frightened Rabbit didn’t get to play at Coachella because of a fucking volcano in Iceland, that spewed it’s stupid fucking ash over the stupid fucking United Kingdom. Thanks, volcano. Thanks for nothing.
Despite firm internet word that Frightened Rabbit would not be coming, Tim and I set about trying to find a Coachella staffer who could confirm the rumors (I had heard that Frightened Rabbit was frantically trying to get over to Indio to play the festival) and caught part of the hopefully ironically religious Almighty Defenders set. It was pretty good stuff, if highly gimmicky. The dudes play in priestly robes and sing mostly pleasant gospel rock. Highlight: they dedicated a traditional gospel tune called “He Touched Me” to Pope Benedict. That won them a healthy dose of my respect.
We were told to head to the Outdoor Theatre to await an announcement about Frightened Rabbit. This is how we ended up listening to a whole lot more of Porcupine Tree than is really healthy for any human being. If you don’t know (you lucky bastard), Porcupine Tree is a really shitty emo band from England. Their songs contain every possible broody rock cliche you can imagine, including references to darkness, time, and times of darkness. Seriously, Porcupine Tree is one of the worst bands I heard all weekend. I found myself wishing the volcano had grounded Porcupine Tree instead of Frightened Rabbit.
Instead of Frightened Rabbit, we caught a show by Old Crow Medicine Show. I had never heard this band before and Tim pretty much knew one song. But what the hell, right? Old Crow Medicine Show is a bluegrass/folk band, which was a pretty significant deviation from the litter of rock bands and electronic groups and DJs that made up the rest of the festival. They had no drums and sometimes as many as two banjos. And they were a lot of fucking fun – they got the crowd dancing around like drunken fools (which many of us undoubtedly were) to their awesome harmonies and songs about, well, being drunken fools, among other things. It was a good time, and it helped lift my spirits after not being able to see Frightened Rabbit.
I think we went to see Beach House after that and they were… boring. Not bad. Just boring. After seeing Old Crow Medicine Show, who did an amazing job of pulling the audience into what they were doing, Beach House was like a trip to the library. There was no connection to the audience and I felt like I could’ve read a book through the set, which is not why one generally goes to festivals like Coachella. You might as well read this paragraph again and apply it to the XX, because their set struck a similar chord with me. I enjoy the albums I’ve heard by both Beach House and the XX, but their Coachella sets were barely noticeable.
We abandoned Beach House and went over to catch the Raveonettes set. I am officially giving the Spirit Award to the Raveonettes and here’s why: the two main Raveonettes, Sune Wagner and Sharin Foo, made it to the festival. The rest of their band did not. Not wanting to cancel the gig, Wagner and Foo proceeded to play the whole gig with bass, guitar, and a very spare drum set-up. It lacked the energy that they might’ve had as a full band, but it was still a pretty winning effort on their part.
On our way to the XX set, we heard part of the Band of Skulls show. If you asked me to give you an example of “fairly standard” guitar rock, I’d tell you to listen Band of Skulls. Not bad, but I’ve got too many records in my collection that fill that niche already.
Having only heard One Life Stand the previous week, I convinced Tim to roll the dice on the Hot Chip set. I ended up really enjoying their energetic dance-pop, but it wasn’t really Tim’s cup of tea. His criticism was valid, though: he pointed out that a lot of the songs sounded the same, which caused me to ruminate on how a lot of bands play “greatest hits” sets at Coachella because you only get fifty minutes unless you’re a headliner. So, while Hot Chip’s set was fun, it didn’t display the dynamic skill that they have on record.
Then it was time for MGMT, which also meant it was time for all the kids who were doing E all day to come and chew their plastic glow sticks in front of us. MGMT bravely played a lot of their new album, which made me very happy because I think Congratulations is a really great record that maybe not that many people will buy. The songs really came to life in concert though and they felt right at home next to old cuts like “Weekend Wars,” “Electric Feel,” and, of course, “Time to Pretend.” When they played that one, there was an almost palpable sense of relief from some sectors of the audience, which kinda made me laugh. I don’t want to take anything away from that song because it is an awesome pop tune, but I’m happy as hell that MGMT decided not to just keep making it over and over again.
We didn’t see Muse because I don’t like Muse and I know a ton of very awesome people who adore Muse and that’s fine. They just don’t do anything for me and the snippets of their live set continued to not do anything for me. Let’s leave it at that.
We left the concert grounds in search of adventure, which mostly consisted of me utterly failing as Tim’s wing man (it’s really a good thing I’m getting married soon because not only do I lack game, I actually drain game from those who have it. I’m a game vacuum). One more day to recap and then I’ll get back to actually reviewing actual albums (and not a minute to soon, because there’s a lot of cool shit coming out in May).