Long distance never works
By Eric Solomon
Oh, Coachella, honey. It's only been a year since we rocked it in the desert last, but it feels like so much has changed.
We started seeing each other in '99. I remember watching the Skratch Piklz together, with Q-Bert and Mix Master Mike and A-Trak. I remember hearing Mike chop it up with someone and talk about how Tom Morello could play his guitar like a turntable. And as the Piklz played, as Q-Bert juggled "Rock the Bells," we could hear Rage playing the main stage. You remember that? We watched Beck do his Prince impersonation on his Midnite Vultures set and laughed as Cibo Matto tried to get the crowd to do some goofy dance.
Of course, it's hard being five hundred miles away. Now I'm in chilly San Francisco, and you're still in eternally sunny Southern Cali. I know you had it rough after I went away -- you were too sick to leave the house in 2000 -- but we kept in touch, and I heard about the amazing times you had with Bjork and Radiohead. Last year I scraped up some money (and my friend had the sweet hook-up on some free housing) and I got to see you again. And you know what? No matter how much time had passed, it was just as great as before. You were as down with the hip-hop as ever, with MF Doom and Roots Manuva, the Perceptionists and M.I.A., Jean Grae and Immortal Technique. We got our dance on with the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy; we rocked out with the Secret Machines and Bloc Party in the same damned tent, one after another. I thought we were gonna die with all the people in there for Bloc Party, you remember that? Of course, the most magical moment was just after Nine Inch Nails on the main stage, waiting for Black Star to come on and seeing the small intersection of people who wanted to check for both, it was just like we belonged there, you know? I knew at that moment I would have to come back again.
So I did. Sweetie, I still love you, but something just felt off this year. The setting was the same, but there was something different about you. You put Madonna on the mix? I thought my friends they were joking when they told me, but it was true. I can appreciate Madonna in a certain historical perspective, I guess, and sure, it's all dance music, but I couldn't believe you would go so, well, mainstream. There, I said it. Sure, you played a little Beastie Boys in your day, but who hasn't? True, you were jocking Coldplay last year, but I understand you can't just throw Arcade Fire on the main stage and expect all of Southern Cali to show up.
I just expect better from you. Don't give me that look -- I say that out of respect. This year, though, you brought in Massive Attack past its prime, you let the members of Depeche Mode drone on with their newer stuff to the point I had to go next door and check out Atmosphere rocking it with a live band, and you invited Kanye West at the last minute. Kanye? Don't get it twisted: I love his stuff. But something about hearing "Gold Digger" for the millionth time just made the whole experience feel cheap.
Look, I don't want to front like it was all bad. We still had a good time. Jamie Lidell did some crazy live multi-track beatbox and soul singing. Damian Marley brought some powerful vibes from Jamrock. We got to shake our thangs a bit to Carl Cox and Daft Punk, and you know when we were mixed in the overflowing crowd to hear Cee-Lo belt out his new Gnarls Barkley songs, when he busted out that "Crazy" jammie, I felt it all over again. I felt that moment that can only come from being out in the Mojave sun with you.
So where do we go from here? You know I have to go back north. I'm just not sure what to do. Things are still cool with us, but the future's so unclear. I hear you may lose your lease and get kicked out of your digs in the desert; I know you say it's just fools talking mess, but it makes me feel uneasy, all right?
I chopped it up with Murs a bit -- he did a great set, no hype-man, all stage presence. But, anyway, he was talking to me about how he gets when he's having trouble with the ladies, and he starts making depressing mixtapes, and he starts singing along to Coldplay. And he did it: He told his man 9th Wonder to drop a Coldplay record and he started lip syncing right then and there. Me, I like to get down with Tricky's Maxinquaye and a fifth of Jameson when I'm depressed over the females, but I could dig where he was coming from. I'll be drinking a bit of that Irish whiskey in the next couple months and thinking about things, but no matter what, I hope we can hook up again in '07.
A handful of Prefixers attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio California April 29 and 30. Here's what three of them -- Coachella first-timers Lee Fullington and Adrian Covert and festival veteran Eric Solomon -- had to say.
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