Coachella 2006: Best and Worst
By Adrian Covert
What an experience. And I'm not even talking about the music. This event was a spectacle chock-full of people trying to draw attention to themselves. Whether it was the sixteen-year-old girl carrying around a fake baby in a shoulder cradle or a guy dressed as a giant furry, irony seemed to be the running theme of Coachella. (Someone in the parking lot even said I looked godly after I used atheism as a copout for rejecting some of their Hindu literature. Does it get more ironic?) I learned from eavesdropping on festival attendees that Gnarls Barkley and Franz Ferdinand were actual people in their respective bands, and that Madonna wants us to all fellate the president (it was the only ten seconds of her show I caught). Like I said, what an experience. And here's a rundown of the best and worst.
Five favorite shows
· Daft Punk: This set was downright mind-blowing for those familiar with the Daft Punk catalog. Much like the did for their Alive 1997 live release, the members took their entire musical history, smashed it to pieces with a hammer, and put it back together in one jumbled glorious mess. Combined with one crazy light show, it was one of the best musical sets I've seen in years.
· Seu Jorge: What made his appearance memorable is there was nothing else like it that weekend. Moving between mellow bossa and samba funk, it gave Coachella a breath of fresh air.
· Platinum Pied Pipers: They had a similar set up to Gnarls Barkley with the live band/deejay combo, but the Platinum Pied Pipers had the better catalogue to work with, despite the androgynous female emcee Invincible trying way too hard. They had a great mix of hip-hop, soul, jazz and rock.
· Damian Marley: After hearing this guy at Coachella, I've concluded that I can listen to him sing or rap for hours on end. His live show is almost as good as his last album, Welcome to Jamrock, and it's just as entertaining. He paid a guy just to wave the Rastafarian flag throughout the entire set. I respect that (and I want that job).
· TV on the Radio: After hearing some of this band's upcoming album, there was nothing that was going to keep me from missing TV on the Radio. And these guys didn't disappoint. Tunde Adebimpe and company came through with a solid set that featured a mix of old and new songs and some music that rocked.
Five best shows I didn't see
I can't really comment on these since I didn't get a chance to see them, but from all accounts given to me, all of these acts earned their money at Coachella: The Go! Team, Mogwai, Murs, Atmosphere, the Walkmen.
Ranking the stages/tents
1. Gobi: The "little tent that could" probably had the strongest overall line up. Though mostly hip-hop-influenced, the Gobi tent still had some diversity to it. From the Platinum Pied Pipers to Devendra Banhart to Gnarls Barkley to Coldcut, not only did this tent offer some quality names, but some of the most entertaining sets occurred under the Gobi tent as well.
2. Sahara (a.k.a. the infamous Dance Tent that Madonna evidently built): Some people scoffed at the dance tent, but I embraced it. Not only were all the eccentricities of Coachella gathered under it, but also people were encouraged to move around and act a little crazy. In addition to Daft Punk's awe-inspiring set, artists such as Carl Cox, Louie Vega (Masters At Work), Kaskade, Mylo, and Michael Mayer came through to spin.
T3. Mojave: The home to many of the indie acts. TV on the Radio, Cat Power, and Wolf Parade could have carried this tent on its back alone, but it featured other solid shows, such as Ladytron, Art Brut, and the Editors. Its only mistake (and a costly one at that) was James Blunt.
T3. Outdoor Theatre: I was not a fan of the big stages at Coachella, but the Outdoor Theatre had some great shows regardless. More diverse than the tents, the Outdoor's tents featured standout sets from Mogwai, the Go! Team, Bloc Party, and Damian Marley. But, sadly, I couldn't see what was going on half the time.
5. Coachella Stage: Is it ironic that I found the main stage to be the most unspectacular? Not only was the stage a football field away from me at all times, but sets by Depeche Mode, Massive Attack and Common also all had a "ZZZ" factor to them. Despite the best efforts of Franz Ferdinand, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Kanye's dancing to A-Ha, this was the worst stage at Coachella this year.
Five worst/most disappointing moments
5. Depeche Mode: I like Depeche Mode, but this was boring. I felt like the band played one continuous, hour-long song that felt like it wouldn't end. Even the band's more well-known songs, such as "Personal Jesus" or last year's lead single, "Precious," didn't manage to differentiate themselves.
4. Scissor Sisters: I came into Coachella hearing a bit of hype about the Scissor Sisters, but I was completely unimpressed with their show. Not only did I consider their music to have an extreme '80s cheese factor (this coming from someone who loves Tears For Fears), but they were way too image-conscious as well (this coming from someone who loves Daft Punk and Interpol).
3. Lady Sovereign: I actually was not disappointed with Lady Sovereign's performance at all. You see, I've decided that in order to erase any doubt over my financial future -- I am going to become a trophy husband. Since Lady Sovereign has a freshly inked deal with Def Jam and is the supposed next big thing in hip-hop, I decided I would go to Coachella to scheme my way to her love. Sadly, at no point during the weekend did I get within a hundred feet of her.
2. She Wants Revenge: I avoided this show completely. I feel I don't need to defend my placement of this band on this list.
1. James Blunt: True story: On my way to catch Louie Vega in the dance tent, I had to walk past the Mojave tent while James Blunt was performing. I figured it was a statistical improbability I would have to suffer through him singing "You're Beautiful" as I walked by. I was wrong. The second I came within earshot of the tent was the second he began the song. I considered running to the dance tent to escape that creepy accent of his, but I didn't want to look like the token kid who took one too many hits of acid and couldn't cope with the desert mayhem. I power-walked instead.
Five suggestions for Coachella '07
· Same location: Supposedly, Coachella's lease is up with the owners of the Polo Grounds and its future is still up in the air. I think the best move would be to keep the event where it is. Despite the heat (which actually didn't bother me that much), it really is a great location to hold a festival like this. But if that falls through
· Cooler location: Geographically speaking. As much as I enjoy heat, it doesn't make standing and walking around all day any easier. If they move Coachella, they should consider something more westward where the weather is still nice but not crippling.
· World/jazz/down-tempo tent: One thing Coachella really lacks is a place to go and chill out. My idea here is that Coachella should offer a tent where people are actually encouraged to sit down and relax for a minute. The back of the dance tent served this purpose by default, but it's still hard to unwind with music coming at 120 bpm. I imagine a place where Gilberto Gil, McCoy Tyner or Zero 7 could come through and drop a mellow set of good music.
· Hyphy tent: Other Prefixers at Coachella laughed at me when discussing this idea. But I'm convinced if they created a tent where artists and deejays offer nothing but hyphy (and maybe a little crunk for good measure), it would add a whole new dimension to Coachella. I'm pretty sure I would devote an entire day to going dumb in the hyphy tent, but I'd have to pass on the thizz.
· No James Blunt: Seriously. How in the hell did this happen. I kind of understood the inclusion of She Wants Revenge on the card, but James Blunt? This may be the low point of Coachella's seven-year history. They can atone for this next year by not inviting James Blunt and having a headliner of Radiohead and Daft Punk.
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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