Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Coachella Music Festival - Day Two

Friday was a good warm-up for the more anticipated moments of the festival. While on the first day I spent most of my time in the the Gobi, Mojave and Saraha tents, Saturday was all about positioning myself in a prime spot for the Kraftwerk-Portishead-Prince trifecta that was to close out the main stage.

Now, in order to convey my experiences of the day accurately it is important to understand one important thing. Each band I saw fell into one of three categories: those who rocked it, those who sucked, and Prince. Yes, Mr. Nelson's performance was so special that it deserved its own special category. If you were there, then you know such hyperbole is totally within reason. If you weren't, then there's some nice videos at the end of this post to give you an idea.

The day got off to a wonderful start with a high energy set from Carbon/Silicon. Mick Jones was the center of everyone's attention as he posed and paraded around the stage with his trademark guitar punk style and gabbed with the crowd in his incomprehensible cockney accent. I was borderline giddy seeing one of my musical heroes (the dude was in THE ONLY BAND THAT MATTERED people!) in the flesh, and even more excited when they closed their performance with a cover of "Police and Theives." Since Mick and the boys refuse to cover Clash songs, covers of songs the Clash covered are good enough for me.

Next up was perennial Coachella favorite Cafe Tacuba. I have seen these guys at least 10 times previously, but I am always game to watch them again. And with Coachella always drawing a significant Latino following, their crowd was sure to be full of enthusiasm. The band played many favorites like "Chica Banda", "Chilanga Banda" and "La Ingrata" while also integrating some material off their newest album Sino. The crowd went wild as they waved flags, danced around, "heckled" the band (a playful show of respect) and sang every word. What surprised me the most was seeing a decent amount of gringos who knew all the words. Thank you very much, KCRW.

From there it was off to the Sahara tent to see nerd dance superstars Hot Chip. While they certainly blew away the crowd with their beats and electronic gizmos, the crowd was so damn big that I could only hang out way in the back. No matter, as there was plenty of entertaining people dancing on the grass to keep me interested (see the picture of the dancing scarf guy).

Afterwards it was time to make my move to the main stage. I knew Kraftwerk would have a sizable, but not enormous, crowd so making my way straight to the front wasn't a problem. I had one goal and it was to get up close photos of German robots, followed by some great shots of Portishead and Prince.

Kraftwerk played a wonderful set, which isn't hard for them since 99% of everything they do on stage is pre-programmed anyway. Nonetheless, the crowd was treated to a history lesson of the origins of modern dance and early hip hop in the form "Trans-Europe Express," "The Model," "Computer Love" and many more favorites. As is to be expected, ze Germans treated us with wonderful video screen visuals and even an appearance by real German robots. As many people who know me can attest, I have a soft spot for robots.

After Kraftwerk's dazzling set, the second most anticipated moment of the weekend was finally here, the first US performance by Portishead in over 10 years. Playing half old material and half selections from their new album Third, the Bristol trio seemed very comfortable on stage and sounded exactly as good as I hoped they would. Beth Gibbons showered us with her amazing voice, all the while looking as if she would cry at any moment(yes, she is every bit as sad in person as her lyrics suggest). Geoff Barrow worked on the Mini Moog, drum machines and turntables like the mad scientist we all think he is; and Adrian Utley strummed away on his guitar creating a lethal combo of understated melodies and metallic noise. The performance proved to me that Portishead deserves every bit of praise that critics bestow upon them.

Speaking of deserving high praise, the Main Event of the Coachella Music Festival came about 50 minutes after Portishead exited the stage in the form of Prince. To say this man is talented performer is and understatement. The man is Sly Stone, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix all rolled into one.

From the large cast of characters that joined him on stage (including Morris Day, Sheila E, a full brass section and backup singers), to the theatrical guitar solos and the epic song medleys, every second of Prince's performance was a spectacle. On top of that, he managed to play well past the festival's curfew (he ended at 1AM, curfew is midnight) and even covered Radiohead's "Creep" and the Beatles' "Come Together." Also, did I mention he played "Purple Rain"? PURPLE FREAKING RAIN!

In the end, after everyones' faces had melted from the memorable performance, it seemed like the consensus was that the night Prince played Coachella was among the seminal moments of the festival's history. For me, it ranks as the best I had ever seen (and I've never missed a Coachella), just ahead of the legendary Daft Punk and Pixies performances.

Kraftwerk "The Robots" - Coachella 2008 from Ivan Juarez-Mrazek on Vimeo.

Portishead "Glory Box" - Coachella 2008 from Ivan Juarez-Mrazek on Vimeo.

Prince covers "Creep" - Coachella 2008 from Ivan Juarez-Mrazek on Vimeo.

Prince "Purple Rain" guitar solo - Coachella 2008 from Ivan Juarez-Mrazek on Vimeo.

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