Rocktoberfest Acht

So yeah, my friends and I, in a bout of total unoriginality, started this annual party called Rocktoberfest back in 2002. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of beer and friendship and meat and rocking until you break yourself. If that sounds childish and/or unimportant to you, maybe you should attend Rocktoberfest before you go judging things you don’t understand. Or maybe you’re humorless California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who doesn’t seem to like anything at all, especially if it has ever a) been in a union or b) been poor. But I digress.

This year was the 8th annual Rocktoberfest (Rocktoberfest Acht in German. So Achtoberfest, as my pal Jom pointed out while quite drunk) and we held it at my friend Badier’s mostly former house in Menlo Park, which is dangerously close to Stanford University. Having a massive party in a house that is mostly empty is definitely the way to go. Less shit to break.

I’d like to think that everyone who attends  our Rocktoberfest recognizes that, like Hold Steady albums and good beers, the most recent one is always the best one ever. This year was no exception.

Somewhere in the haze of music, drunk, and smoke, I realized why Rocktoberfest feels like a holiday to those who attend it and, as a sort of bonus realization, why rock ‘n’ roll is not a terrible substitute for a religion (when it doesn’t suck, of course). Let’s deal with the last thing first: at its best, rock ‘n’ roll creates community. When you go to see your favorite band, you share in the pure joy of music with a roomful of strangers. The audience and the band are all plugged in to something much bigger than the sum of its parts. The potential exists in that moment to meet new people and make new friends. You don’t have to do that, of course, but you totally can. And maybe you should. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of an ever-expanding community that started with five guys in a house. Those five guys didn’t always get along by any means, but Rocktoberfest creates a unique present in which the past is mostly obliterated while people sing along to songs like “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand (modified by us so that the chorus is now, “This beer is out of control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer”) and “Holy Diver” by Dio (we poured one out for Ronnie James Dio this year). Sure, it’s silly. But what’s wrong with being silly?

What happened at Rocktoberfest this year was what I  imagine happened around Joe Strummer’s famous campfires at Glastonbury. Old friends met new friends, some of us had wives to bring, others had kids to leave at home. But for several hours of a Saturday, everyone was cool with everyone. For my part, I was deliriously happy. You can do this anytime you want, and you should. Gather your friends and some drinks and some great music, and celebrate your personal community. Rocktoberfest Acht was a reminder of why I love music and – more important – why I literally love a majority of the people I know. It’s not prayer and it won’t save you from much besides boredom, but it could provide you with one helluva a great night.

So, in the great words of Mr. Craig Finn, “Let this be my annual reminder/ that we can all be something bigger.” Go forward, kids, be awesome to each other, and rock the fuck on.

Coachella Recap: Saturday

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All the shitty rules behind us, Tim and I dove into Coachella on Saturday at the asscrack of dawn. If you’ve never camped at Coachella before, here’s a tip: the showers open at six in the morning so get up early and get in there before the lines get too long there are no long lines for the showers, ever,  so you just sleep right on in there, soldier. No hurry at all.

For those of you who don’t know, Coachella is in the fucking desert (to quote Craig Finn, “I think I might’ve mentioned that before”). So it gets hot. I made it through half of Saturday before I decided my shirt had to go. Bring sunscreen.

The first thing I did was hit the record store they set up on site, Zia Records. The 18th being Record Store Day, I had to go score the new live Wilco DVD. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but the news that TV on the Radio would be doing a signing at 2:30? Fucking awesome. Now outfitted with 3 bracelets (one to camp, one for the beer garden, and one to meet Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek), Tim and I hit the Ida Maria show. Ida (pronounced “EE-da” according to the internet, who has no reason at all to lie to you) is a totally raucous Swedish chick who performs live like the long lost daughter of Iggy Pop. She’s a whirlwind on stage and, while none of her songs quite reach the staggering heights of “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” her album Fortress Around My Heart translates pretty well live and is definitely worth checking out. “I Like You So Much Better” will be the theme song of my summer.

From Ida Maria’s set, I bounced over to the Record Store Day signing tent to get a copy of Return to Cookie Mountain signed by two of the dudes from TV on the Radio. Dave Sitek signed, “Matt rocks on and on.” From his lips to your ears, readers of Bollocks!

We hit the beer garden after the signing, where we encountered my dear old friend Fucking Fascist Dickhead. But that’s not important. What is important is that I consumed some delicious food and powered up for Blitzen Trapper, one of Portland’s best kept secrets. They didn’t play any of their weird stuff, which led Tim to conclude that they were just a Band ripoff. I disagreed – their set was gorgeous, and the pot smoke hung heavy in the air. They didn’t play much off of Wild Mountain Nation, which was a bummer, but non-headliners only get 50 minutes at Coachella, so they packed their set with crowdpleasers. It was a good time, especially because there was stoned-as-hell frat dude in front of me, shirtless, who sang along with every song with – I shit you not – his eyes closed and his hand on his heart. Think he had a bit of crush on Blitzen Trapper.

Next came Henry Rollins and his mile-a-minute spoken-word set, in which he quite rightly pointed out that the real assholes in this country have a vested interest in dividing us little people. Rollins’ solution? Let’s get together, throw on some Parliament albums, and forget the petty shit that divides us. He also proposed to solve the Israel-Palestine problem with Ramones records. If the dude runs for President, he’s got my vote. But he won’t do that.

We caught the tail-end of a fairly enjoyable set by Michael Franti & Spearhead on the mainstage, waiting for TV on the Radio to come out and blow our minds. I haven’t much cared for Franti’s stuff since Stay Human, but he was working the crowd and playing some funky jams, so it was a nice time for the kiddies. But TV on the Radio came out and made a beautiful racket, complete with awesome baritone sax. Highlights were definitely “Wolf Like Me,” and opener “Golden Age.” I was a little sad they didn’t play “Lover’s Day,” because it’s my favorite of their songs, but I can’t complain about their set at all, which even featured a slow-burning version of  “Young Liars.” If you get the chance to see TV on the Radio live, go… fucking… see them.

It was time for more food and more beer after TV on the Radio – we had a bit of time to kill, so we decided to get some chow and booze and listen to the Fleet Foxes set (as they were going on before Band of Horse, whom I’ll discuss in a moment). Fleet Foxes put together great harmonies, but they don’t do much more than that and thus, they kinda bore the shit outta me. It was a nice enough background for some conversation though, and Tim and I had a nice chat and same shade before the Band of Horses set.

I’ve now seen Band of Horses four times and never been disappointed. Not only is Ben Bridwell an astounding singer, but their Coachella set was the epitome of “all killer, no filler.” They rocked through “The Great Salt Lake,” and “The General Specific,” and, of course, “The Funeral,” and left the crowd quite pleased. A girl from whom Tim bummed a smoke nodded along to “The Funeral,” and said, “It’s so true.” Poor girl was, in her defense, a bit inebriated.

This is where Tim became slightly romantically entangled with Cigarette Girl and the three of us took in a chunk of M.I.A.’s set, which I would’ve stayed for if the girl hadn’t been more excited than anyone should about a Chemcial Brothers DJ set. I quickly realized that, my duties as affianced wingman notwithstanding, I was gonna have to lay down some ground rules. I should mention, however, that M.I.A. was all over the place live, in a good way. The lady has intense energy and made the teenagers wait a long time for “Paper Planes,” which I deeply admire. I could get into some “Not only did I love that song first, but I know who she’s sampling” shit here, but I’ll take the high road.

I pulled Tim aside and said, very matter-of-factly, “Tim, Atmosphere goes on at 11. I’m going to the Atmosphere show.” Meaning, “I don’t care what you guys do, I’m going to Atmosphere.”

As it turned out, the part of the DJ set we heard was – no surprise – fuck-awful and we all went to Atmosphere where I rocked out completely and where Tim and the girl made out for serious. Atmosphere is probably one of the best sets I saw at Coachella because he transcended the sense of the thing as a giant crowd gathered at a great distance from the performer. He pulled the crowd in and made us feel like we were in a small club. It helps that he’s one of the best MCs in hip-hop right now, but still, his achievement was impressive. There was a point, probably during “Guarantees”, where I realized that I don’t usually feel like that unless I’m at a Hold Steady show. I don’t know why anyone bothered seeing the Killers on Saturday night when they could’ve seen Atmosphere.

Stumbled back to the tent and crashed for a few hours before waking up on Sunday to experience more awesome music and argue with humorless communist – all that and more when I wrap up this Coachella recap silliness.

P.S. Not only did I love M.I.A. before anyone heard “Paper Planes,” I loved that song before anyone else and I know she’s sampling “Straight to Hell” by the Clash.