Sunday at Coachella. Day 3 of an epic weekend that featured only one shower (it took waaaaaaaay too fucking long to get a shower this year. I waited in line for three hours Saturday morning. When everyone else at the festival smelled like hangover and weed, it quickly became clear that I needn’t smell my best all weekend. Also, I’m engaged and my fiancee was back in Los Angeles, so it’s not like I had to impress anyone).
Tim and I made it to the festival with a lot of time to kill on Sunday because the first group we cared about seeing was De La Soul and they weren’t on until about 3 in the afternoon (if memory serves). So, to kill time, we were filmed for a “documentary” about band t-shirts (Tim was wearing a Beatles t-shirt and I was sporting a My Morning Jacket shirt). We were told that the “documentary” will show up on H&M’s website sometime in the near future. And we had to sign model release forms. That’s right: officially, Tim and I are fucking models. So I guess I can cross “model for H&M” off the list of Shit There is No Way the Universe Will Ever Let Me Do.
Anyway, De La Soul… they were awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I couldn’t help but feel they’d been ripped off. De La Soul’s live show was pretty much the only worthwhile hip-hop show of the weekend. I know someone’s gonna ask, “What about Jay-Z?” Well, fuck Jay-Z. De La Soul should’ve headlined Friday night. They turned the main stage area into a big ol’ hip-hop party and embodied to the letter one of Matt’s Main Rules for Awesome Live Hip-Hop: they had live instruments. I understand that some hip-hop performers, especially those that can be painted with that skinny “indie” brush, sometimes have to rap over their I-Pods while they’re doing those “paying our dues” shows. But if you come to Coachella, you’ve got to bring a band. De La Soul brought a band that was positively jumping and they delivered one of the most entertaining sets of the festival.
But one of my very favorite sets of Coachella 2010 had to be Yo La Tengo. I complained in my Saturday recap about the “greatest hits” set that a lot of bands cough up when they play festivals, but Yo La Tengo might be the exception that proves the rule. If I had proposed a set-list to them, it would’ve matched what they performed right down to the letter (except the show closing “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.” Bold choice for a closer, but I would’ve preferred something else. Even their cover of “Nuclear War”). They started with “Big Day Coming,” included “Sugarcube,” and didn’t leave out my favorite Yo La Tengo song, “Mr. Tough,” off of 2006’s excellent I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Yo La Tengo clearly alienated some of the kids in the crowd, but that was also something I wanted them to do, so it’s another point in their favor.
Can I talk to you about Spoon? I like Spoon’s albums, of the three that I own. I really do. But their live show was at times literally flat and for the most part underwhelming. “Underdog” was about the only moment of excitement. “I Turn My Camera On” was ruined by Britt Daniel being unable to do the falsetto vocal part and the rest of the set was about as exciting as bath tub full of dirty water (I’m assuming that’s unexciting to most of you and strangely arousing to at least one of you. Hi, Dad!).
Then it was time for the big “historical” moment of Coachella 2010 (other than Sly Stone still being alive. I’m really sorry I missed his set. I hope it was awesome): Pavement’s return. I only own Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and wasn’t really sure what to expect from Pavement. Add to that the fact that a lot of bands basically do the shitty reunion thing for buckets of money (looking at pretty much every crap 80’s metal band ever, but especially Motley Crue). And, after Spoon’s lackluster set, I was kinda ready for disappointment. But I’m happy to report that Pavement really kicked ass live. Like Yo La Tengo, they played pretty much every song I wanted to hear and the songs I didn’t know sounded awesome. Stephen Malkmus is a kickass guitar player. I spent the bulk of their set watching him with slack-jawed amazement. And envy. And a smattering of lust.
I’m going to briefly step in a big ol’ pile of internet shit here when I tell you that Thom Yorke‘s set was not just bad, it was embarrassingly awful. I didn’t like The Eraser and those songs didn’t improve with the help of his new band (featuring Flea and I think ten thousand laptops*). But the “new” stuff was even worse. It was a sea of tinny drums and mashed keyboards upon which Yorke wailed and whined for a little over an hour. It was literally embarrassed for the guy and a little bit offended. As if to remind us all that he was once capable of writing songs, he “treated” us to a mopey acoustic version of “Airbag” that was the “highlight” of his set because it was the only song he played that didn’t “send me into a violent rage.”
Gorillaz got to close out Sunday. Now, I’ve bitched plenty about Plastic Beach, but I wasn’t going to miss seeing Gorillaz live, if only to see how they did it. How the did it: Damon Albarn, a few video screens, and a shitload of musicians. My eyes are pretty good and from where I stood, I spotted Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (they were in the Clash, a.k.a. the Best Band Ever) on stage. Needless to say, I was very very excited. The highlight of the set was still “Feel Good, Inc.” due in large part to the fact that De La Soul was there to perform it live. Overall, though, the set was impressive (Albarn is really an amazing singer) and I’m happy to say that the songs from Plastic Beach sounded really good live. Don’t expect a full retraction of anything I said about it earlier, but I’m less weary now of giving it another chance or two to grow on me.
Overall, Coachella 2010 was a fucking blast. Will I be going next year? Signs point to “probably.” It’s a good time, if you like sunburns and awesome music. I would like to give a very special Bollocks! shout out to my good friend Tim O’Brien who done sprang for the tickets this year. And I’d like to give a very special Bollocks! “Go fuck yourself” to the asswipe in the red shirt who spilled his fucking Heineken on my crotch at the Gorillaz show. I hope you get herpes, sir. Giant herpes that become sentient and tell you to set your house on fire.
*some uber-serious Thom Yorke acolyte will undoubtedly point out that there were no laptops visible on stage. That’s not the point. I was using exaggeration to make a funny. The point is, no amount of computers or musicians could save Yorke’s Coachella set from begin anything other than a goddamn train wreck.