Posted by: martinworster | May 1, 2008

108. COACHELLA MUSIC FESTIVAL – FRIDAY

It’s that time of year again, time for the West Coast equivalent of Glastonbury – yet in the desert and with designated drinking areas. Before I start on the music, let’s get some of the customary moans out of the way. It was hot. Stinking hot. Not as hot as last year but still a lethargy inducing, bone numbing heat. Certainly not good for traipsing around a dusty valley watching the latest screechy indie whippersnappers. Not good for sleeping in a sauna come tent. Not good for plastic portaloos overflowing with effluent and flies by sundown on Friday. And also like saunas.

Sixty thousand Southern Californians and, judging by the accents, not a shabby amount of Brits and other nationalities descend to the valley which is near Palm Springs. It’s a funny mix of LA rich kids, faux punks, American crusties (not very crusty at all and certainly minus dogs on strings), tatto’d bros, hipsters, OC misfits, bohos, dad rockers (like me) and everything in between. I was amazed at how well a lot of the girls were turned out, especially considering the heat, as they didn’t seem to sweat at all, make up all in place and they smelt of daisys. A lot skipped around in skimpy bikinis – not that I was looking.

The great thing about Coachella is the line up. It’s really good programming. You also get to see a lot of up and coming British bands, in fact, the programmers seem to really like English music, or maybe it’s just because it’s the best in the world.

Here’s a list of who I saw sequentially day by day:

FRIDAY
Battles

New York post punk  – rabid instrumentals with one foot firmly in the dance camp with textured builds and funky grooves. One to investigate.

Vampire Weekend
East Coast art school, sunny ska with African rhythms and a great pop sensibility. Only one album to play with, but still sunny vibes on the Outdoor Theatre stage.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
UK hip hop. Sounds like an oxymoron. Dan is no moron. I loved his song ‘Thou Shalt Kill’ which I first heard on the Rob Da Bank show. At Coachella Dan and Scroobius were more like a comedy duo novelty act – funny but ultimately cursory. They did a whole song about Tommy Cooper – which went right over most peoples heads. Another song samples Radiohead. New material needed.

Aphex Twin
Cornish electronica maverick who I have followed closely throughout his career and was excited to see. Only managed to catch about twenty minutes of his DJ set. Physically the most unenergetic DJ I have seen – he didn’t move a muscle. The section I saw him play was a circa 92 London jungle set, big basslines and military snares. The music of my youth.

The Verve
For me perhaps the best show of the weekend. I’d never seen them live – and now I know why Richard Ashcroft is such a revered indie God. He’s one of the best front men of the 90s. Enigmatic performer, mesmerising face even though it’s largely expressionless. He reminded me of a cross between an E’d up Bez and a snarling Liam Gallagher. Northern Soul as done by Northerners. Baggy beats and amazing guitar playing. All the hits – Sonnet, Drugs Don’t Work and Bittersweet Symphony – where there, plus some new material all of which was great; ‘I Sat And Wondered’ springs to mind. Knockout set. 

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