Got to the polo grounds early to meet some folks for lunch. Then went and caught about 20 minutes of Abe Vigoda’s set. They sounded good and energetic but you know how the first set of the day is.
Didn’t really have anyone I wanted to see in the next time slot so I went and listened to the Sheepdogs at the outdoor. These guys play a sort of southern rock that’s not as funky as the Allmans and doesn’t rock as hard as Skynyrd, they’re more in the Marshall Tucker Band range. I don’t think I’d ever listen to their records much but lying in the sun – it was still warm and sunny – and listening to their mellowish 70s southern tunes was very relaxing. (Southern Canada, it turns out).
Picture meetup, then a beer with Josh, then caught most of Givers, who had packed the Mojave with enthusiastic fans. They played a nice energetic but (to me at least) sort of forgettable set.
Left early and headed to the Gobi to listen to EMA. I was torn between EMA and Yuck, but I decided my mood fit EMA better, and man I’m glad I stayed. This was the first really great set of Coachella for me. She has a great stage presence and an amazing voice live. Watching her I was trying to draw comparisons to describe her to people who haven’t seen her – the best I can do, from my point of reference, is she’s sort of a cross between Laurie Anderson and Janis Joplin. Which doesn’t make any sense, I know.
Hurried from EMA to see James on the big stage and they were really great. They sounded wonderful and Tim Booth has a sort of calm and assured enthusiasm that really came off well. The ‘come on thunder, come on thunder’ bit was fabulous. This made two sets in a row of seriously good stuff.
Rushed from James to see Gary Clark Jr who was fucking awesome. The Gobi was packed and he was loud and he ripped up his guitar and sang with this seriously soulful voice that just had everyone going ‘holy shit’. Third consecutive great set! This is what Coachella is supposed to be. Wow.
And then hurried to see Jimmy Cliff, who started a little late so I caught the whole set. Hardly anyone was there, I got close quite easily, which is a shame because he was amazing. I’d seen him before but this set blew the doors off my expectations. FOUR IN A ROW!!
So then I had to rest and meet some geezers and have a beer, but most of the geezers didn’t show or couldn’t find us or something.
Went to Madness and they were really fun. They are a great party band and skilled showmen. Two thumbs up, though not at the seriously great level of the four-in-a-row I’d witnessed in the afternoon.
I went and had dinner and sat for a while in the rose garden down by the Sahara. As you all know this is not my thing, but as I told some folks later even I could tell that the music in the Sahara sounded different this year from previous years. A lot more poppish or something. Paint-by-number. But I did get to check the baseball scores on my phone.
Next was the Rapture, got there a little late just as they were starting and the Mojave was packed, but was able to get a spot directly behind the sound board and mostly watch them on the screens. They started out sort of ‘just ok’ but built up a head of steam and somewhere around 20 minutes into the set they were really cooking. They’re sort of like Madness in that they’re a fun party band and the party was really rocking. The problem is their fans seem to contain a significantly high concentration of douchebags, fucktards, and assholes. I saw more shoving bro-chains here than anywhere else, by far.
So then I went and had a beer and waited for the Black Keys. This is the third time I’ve seen them (all at festivals) and while I really like their albums, they always seem to fall a little flat for me live, especially the parts when it’s just Dan and Patrick. So I listened for half an hour or so, but lying in the grass I was getting seriously cold, despite having a jacket, a sweatshirt, and a mesh jersey on. So I decided to get up and walk around, ran into Cara and Zach in the beer garden, talked with them a bit, and then went to catch the Black Angels.
The Black Angels’ heavy psychedelic blues was really cool and I hung out and got hypnotized for a while and they also had a pretty interesting video display involving at one point a glowing nipple.
I was pretty close to dead by this time, had been on the polo grounds for 12 hours, but went to see Refused, not sure what to expect. They sounded really great. I mean, the sound quality, was amazing, loud and clear and sharp. Reminded me very much of the Public Image Ltd set a few years ago – iconic band playing a late night slot on the Outdoor and sounding great and just killing it. Unlike PiL though I was too beat to really get into it so I left around 11:45.
All in all a very good Coachella day. I will remember the EMA->James->Gary Clark Jr->Jimmy Cliff run in particular for a very long time. There were a few minor (for me) logistical issues, though I understand it took some people 2 hours to get in.
Side note: I have mentioned before that I have a VIP pass for the first time this year (it was a gift). VIP parking is nice, and the Rose Garden was a good place to relax and recharge. But the VIP area by the main stage, late at night, was packed full of douchebags. I mean it’s like you’re not even at Coachella any more, you’re at some other event where pushy rich boys with bad but very expensive haircuts gather with more of their kind and just take up air. Look, dude, you may think it’s a significant accomplishment, but I really am not all that impressed by the fact that you were once in a Mazda commercial.