Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coachella Music Festival - Day One

There's no weekend quite like Coachella weekend. You spend so much time getting familiar with the obscure bands on the lineup, immersing yourself in the music of your favorites and planning which ones you must see and which ones you can skip. Then, the last weekend in April finally arrives and everything happens so quickly that it takes a few extra days to realize what you just saw. That's where I am today, finally ready to recount the events of the weekend in a coherent manner.

The first day of Coachella started at 2PM, when I arrived into the security line at the Empire Polo Field and realized that it was balls hot outside. The misery of the heat was compounded by the fact that the security screener at the head of the line was taking his job WAY too seriously. This dude made people take their shoes off and patted me down so thoroughly that I should have filed a harassment lawsuit.

Once inside, I made a b-line to the Sahara tent to see Midnight Juggernauts, who had started 15 minutes ago. I ended up catching four songs, all off their debut album Dystopia, and was impressed enough with their performance to want to see them again. Hopefully it won't be too long before they make it to LA again.

Next up it was one of the more anticipated performances of the day, the much-hyped Black Kids from Jacksonville. Me, my brother and his girlfriend made a point of getting a good spot for this set since we heard so many good things about how well these guys play live. In just 45 minutes the Black Kids played a high energy set consisting of songs from their debut EP Wizard of Ahhhs and previously unreleased material that I assume will end up on their debut LP, whenever it gets a title and release date. After whipping the crowd into a frenzy, included a group of people that were a little too excited, Black Kids proved their reputation for great live shows is completely deserved.

Another highlight of the day was the midday performance of Australian dance pop outfit Cut Copy. For one, it was obvious that the festival organizers underestimated the size of the crowd Cut Copy would attract because the Gobi tent was simply not big enough to hold everyone inside. Secondly, their set was nothing short of amazing as pulsating synth beats and pop guitar hooks turned the tent into one big dance party. I definitely want to see these guys again when the come to town in mid May.

After catching a few songs from the National's lackluster set (they sounded fine, but not as good as in times past), I decided to catch the all-out dance-a-thon that was Diplo's DJ set. I got in there just in time to catch him throw down some "Paper Planes" action, which prompted MIA to jump on stage and dance for a few moments. Having met my quota for electro dance, my next order of business was heading over to the main stage to watch The Verve.

Now don't get me wrong, Richard Ashcroft and company played a very tight (albeit a little too by-the-book) setlist of old favorites and new songs, but circumstances beyond my control forced me to bail early. What happened you ask? About five songs into the show the foulest shit smell (as in, literally, feces) began to waft through the section of the crowd me and my cousin we standing in. This smell was so bad that Ashcroft actually felt the need to announce that the smell wasn't coming from the stage. We tried to tough it out, but after 10 minutes we had to get the fuck out of dodge.

The rancid smell ended up being a blessing in disguise since we might have missed the magic that is Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. I had seen the Dap Kings in action last year when they backed Amy Winehouse, but that was nothing in comparison to watching them with Ms. Sharon Jones. Her stage presence and bombastic attitude make her a force to behold as she channels her inner Aretha and James Brown. Oh yeah, and the lady can dance like nobody's business. Check out the clip below to see what I mean.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Coachella 2008 from Ivan Juarez-Mrazek on Vimeo.

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