“COACHELLA! FRI-DAAY NIGHT!” Karen O wailed scratchily to her legion of fans before her, who naturally responded with (those who weren’t stoned out of their minds anyway) shrieks of enthusiasm.
We screamed too.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman was werque-ing her outfit, a questionable ensemble of a shiny purple suit, holographic cape and matching mitre-like thing (you know the thingy the Pope wears.) Her turquoise eyeliner and crosses leapt out at you whenever she closed her eyes, transforming her into a cartoony marionette with unforgettable vocals.
Alan and I looked at each other and said, almost at the same time, “This woman is freaking weird.” Heck, she was weirder than the last time I saw the band in Singapore in 2008. In between her water-spitting fountain acts, microphone-swallowing and wire-wrapping, we loved her.
The band opened with “Sacrilege,” a haunting, rousing number that got everyone metaphorically on their feet (cos we were already on our feet) when the ironically-included Hollywood Gospel Choir appeared to lend their rich vocals to the already-textured soundscape.
WOW did that last sentence make me sound like a pretentious music twat or what? That’s it for any attempt at music reviews — I can’t write them, I just enjoy them. And boy was Coachella an enjoyable experience.
In spite of the less star-studded / not-as-mainstream line-up this year (as compared to 2011’s Kings of Leons, Arcade Fire, Kanye West & the Strokes), Coachella 2013 was a jaw-dropping virgin experience that has left me wanting more.
Honestly, I’m surprised. With temperatures that soared up to 37 deg C (99 deg F) and 80,000 sweaty people trampling the grounds at Empire Polo Club, I thought I was inevitably gonna get mad at some point of time.
But things went smoothly, more than I could ever ask for. Here’s a couple of reasons why I think it went great.
1. It was a melodic blast from the past.
Not only had I seen most of the bands I watched on Day 1, I also discovered their music when I was trying super hard to be cool and indie. Because my best friends listened to obscure, who-hear-before-one kind of bands like Xiu Xiu, 14-year-old me felt the pressure to Discover New Bands. So I did what every girls’-school-going girl did — scour Livejournal for not-on-the-radiowaves-yet songs.
That’s how I came across Stars & The Postal Service! Both of these bands stand out for me because their lyrics always kill you from the inside out.
Stars‘ lead singer Torquil Campbell introduced my favorite heartbreak song, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”, with “This song is for the person you hate the most.”
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of that time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name
Even in the blistering heat, I could still imagine a rainy, sombre night. It’s a song I loved when I was 15. It’s a song I still love today.
The Postal Service easily played my favoritest set of the weekend (easy, when you know all the songs :P). Ben Gibbard thanked us all for indulging his “imaginary band”, backed up by Rilo Kiley (also another fave)’s astonishingly beautiful Jenny Lewis.
Alan, who had dismissed the band in our listening prep the week before, admitted they were indeed awesome. They were brilliant live and I hope somehow, somewhen they make another album soon. They played the entire Give Up album (with one or two switches) — “Nothing Better” (esp with Lewis’ vocals) was quite the tearjerker, and the entire crowd singing “Such Great Heights” is probably a memory I won’t forget anytime soon.
Philly friends: Postal Service is playing with Ra Ra Riot in June! You’re welcome. :p
2. We discovered new music!
You’d think this would be a duh statement at a music festival but there were precisely so many unrecognizable names I thought I would be overwhelmed. Plus the sun could be so unforgiving at times that the last thing I wanted to do was watch a band and increase my chances of getting skin cancer. Still, miracles happen.
Hiphop outfit Jurassic 5 was crazy good, as attested by the, what, 10,000 people gathered in front of their stage. FIVE MEN RAPPING, not about bitches and hos and Patron, but like, real things. And so super catchy. Go listen to them on Spotify — now that it’s in Singapore, everyone back home has no excuse!
Jo & I loved Allen Stone too, who will no doubt be 100x bigger than he already is in the next couple of months. His falsetto on “Unaware” was so ridiculously sexy it got everyone screaming. Thanks Marcus for the rec!
3. Super fun art installations
4. Recycling exchanges for the kiasu, competitive Singaporeans
Don’t wanna pay $2 for a bottle of mineral water? Find 10 empty bottles and get a cold, full one for free! But with the water stations around, we didn’t think it made sense. There were some pretty good exchanges, like 1,500 bottles for a VIP upgrade. We weren’t that crazy, but we liked free stuff. So we lugged around a giant trashbag (which we got from Starbucks) and dipped into trashcans (gross, I know) to collect… a total of 300 bottles for 4 passes on the Ferris Wheel.
All in we didn’t save that much (it was $8 per ticket), but aiyah, free is free right? We managed to catch the sunset (we timed our queuing up just right), and every time we reached the top, Portugal, the Man‘s music wafted up to us. So fun.
5. Amazing food.
I don’t know, I was surprised by this one. The food was ridiculously expensive — $12 for 2 fish tacos, $7 for strawberry lemonade, $5 for a corn dog, so on and so forth. BUT THEY WERE YUMMY.
6. Surprisingly chill people.
And this was perhaps the most unexpected thing at all. I know I’m a short-tempered person, but even adjusting for that, I’ve met a lot of assholes at concerts (remember the Metric one in London?) None of that here.
I’m surprised because if you look at the Coachella forums, the people on it seem mean. Ask a question and you get sarcasm for a reply, if you’re lucky. Ridicule seems to be the order of the day. When line-ups took a while to come out, people spammed Coachella’s Facebook with a variety of colorful comments like, “WE DON’T FUCKING CARE ABOUT FACT OF THE DAY WE WANT THE FUCKING LINE-UP.” Seriously, there was literally a hundred of such comments in a row.
And yet, at the Empire Polo Club itself, it was nice! No snarky comments from anyone, orderly lines, no pushing and shoving even when we were moshing.
Also, as you can see, very minimal cameras in the air, so it wasn’t one of those irritating things where everyone was busy uploading their photographs onto Facebook instead of immersing themselves in the music.
I think the startling amount of marijuana helped — as you can see, the guy above is not holding his camera the right way. The group of teens next to us were so stoned by the time Franz Ferdinand came on I was surprised they still managed to bop their heads in time to the music. Over the weekend, I learned that many a topless man hid their weed in shoes. Also saw a bunch of girls consuming Molly packed in tiny ziploc pouches stuffed in their bras.
(Not really related, but people on the West Coast are so much better looking. Alan and I both found many aesthetically pleasing individuals of our preferred sex. These were always followed up by affirmations of our undying love and commitment to each other.)
Photojournaling everything else:
I take back every mean thing I ever said about Passion Pit. They are lovely, know how to work a crowd and sing super depressing songs under the guise of upbeat tunes. I missed them at Penn’s Spring Fling concert last year but this more than made up for it. Favorite song: “Carried Away”. Go watch the music video!
Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand was deliciously theatrical. Favorites: “No You Girls”, “Right Thoughts! Right Words! Right Actions!” and “Outsiders” because of the uber-cool drum jam that had all the members banging away on one drum set. Man, the audience just rocking out under the tent was fantastic.
Not gonna lie, the blur song I’m most familiar with is “Girls and Boys”, (no) thanks to um Dance Central. Coachella has brought about an education worth its weight in gold: it was nice to go back to an era of deceptively simple rock songs. From “Tender”:
Tender is my heart
I’m screwing up my life
Lord I need to find
Someone who can heal my mind
Phoenix was fun, sure, especially because I have no idea how to describe the HORDE of fans who turned up. But truth be told, the coolest part of their set was when R Kelly came out to do a remixed version of “1901” and “Ignition”. Pretty freaking good — I know everyone (me included) thought Daft Punk was gonna show up, but TBH I would not know a Daft Punk song even if it hit me in the face. Can’t find a video that captures the strength of the crowd singing “BOOP BOOP!” and “BEEP BEEP!” but this will have to do (skip ahead to 0:30):
Not documented here: Metric, Modest Mouse (weird), FOALS, Bat for Lashes (not my cup of tea), Stone Roses (meh), Janelle Monae (alright). Missed a whole bunch of bands I would have caught if not for clashes like: Tegan & Sara, Band of Horses, Beach House, Two Door Cinema Club, Grizzly Bear, the xx, Of Monsters & Men, New Order, the whole of Sunday’s line-up since we had to go back to LA.
There’s just something magical about live music — electrifying energy in the air that can’t really be replicated in a studio recording. It makes me sad that I can’t click “play” on Spotify to relieve those moments, but I guess that’s why people shell out money to go for these things in the first place. I’m not even trying to hype it up, I promise! All in, a great weekend.
Highly tempted to buy the Coachella 2014 tickets when they go on pre-sale next month (yeah, you read that right). It’d be good motivation for work, no?