Monday, April 20, 2009

Coachella 2009: Reflections from Friday, April 17th

Sorry it's so delayed...Rinaldi, I hear you man! Been busy with school work and apartment hunting, so I recognize the posts are a bit delayed.

Let me just start by saying that of the now five years I've been to the Coachella Music and Arts festival, 2009 was my first year camping on the festival grounds. While sweaty, dirty, shiveringly cold at night and hot as hell by 9 AM, it was nothing short of a completely unique and surprisingly comfortable, amazing experience. My boyfriend (woo!) made the last minute decision on Thursday that instead of worrying about driving somewhere to sleep each night at 1 AM he would buy camping passes for us, as well as a tent, a lantern, a small flashlight, and a flat of water. My mom and stepfather were kind enough to loan out their air mattress, some pillows, a blanket, and their cooler, which added extremely to our level of comfort. The grounds had ample bathroom facilities and several shower trucks that skirted the edge of the campsite complete with sinks and mirrors along with multiple food and beverage locations, cell phone and computer charging stations, a general store, and a large tent under which one could consume bloody marys as early as 9 AM.

Some of aforementioned details will be included in this description, as I give you now a rough play by play of Friday's events:

Friday, April 17th

(Photograph Geoffrey Anderson, 2009)

4ish PM: After driving from Echo Park to La Habra Heights to the Indio Rite Aid for snacks and ice, Geoff and I arrive at the campsite with the things we need for the day, where we attempt to check in. Dude at the gate informs us that we can only check in with all our camping stuff as late as 8 PM that night. We trudge back to the car, where we run into Eric, his girlfriend, and Bryanna. Matty & Galina and Brook & Justine wander by Geoff's car as we are unloading the trunk with all the weekend's necessities. After we finally make it through security without getting anything taken away (including our lantern that was, indeed, made of glass, a material not supposed to be taken in to the campsite or festival) we find where Ken, Laura and Zach have set up their canopy (thanks to Zach's very accurate description) and set up the tent within 5 spaces of them. After everything is inside the tent and we have everything we'll need for the next 7 hours, we walk in to the festival.

6:25 PM: Geoff and I walk over to see a bit of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band at the Outdoor Stage. Oberst is wearing a ridiculously huge black hat, and we both agree that the man has lost something as he's matured. While the orchestration and sound were pretty nice, his angst-y-ness and soul have been kind of sucked out of his new project, leaving his performance and the songs a bit flat.

6:40 PM: We decide that since the weather isn't as hot as we'd both expected that we'd make a stop over at the beer garden by the Sahara tent before going in to see Crystal Castles. After swiftly polishing off two beers each, we run in to catch some of their set. While the music was a total electronic dance party, I have the extreme disadvantage of being a mere 5 feet and 4 inches tall, which left me standing in a sea of people questioning where this shrill yelling was coming from. I could see a miniature Alice Glass jumping around and passionately expressing herself into the mic, but maybe it was my low audio-vantage point that left her words muddled. I kind of wished she would stop shrieking for a little bit so I could just get lost in the music, which was just as spot-on as their record.

7:30 PM: While I'm not well-versed in Leonard Cohen's catalogue, Cohen was really the first performance of Coachella that left me feeling something. He performed during sunset, always a coveted time slot for the Coachella performer at the Outdoor or Main Stage. His voice was flawless, and at 74, that's saying something. Geoff, being over a foot taller than myself, graciously lifted me up a few times so I could see Cohen, who would occasionally break into a little grove under the low brim of his amazingly suave hat. Of course, he sang "Halleluah", and of course, persons of every generation sang along as the sky turned indigo behind the palm trees that border the grounds of the polo field. His lyricism was what impressed me the most, because, like I said, I'm fairly uneducated when it comes to Cohen. The image of him crooning into his mic is really the first that impressed me of the festival that day.

8:30 PM: Geoff and I wandered over to Beirut in the Mojave tent, where we try for the maybe fifth time that night to meet up with Ken, Laura and Zach. Not able to find the kids and figuring we'd just meet up with them at Girl Talk, we watch most of his set. Much like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who I'll talk about in my entry on Sunday), Zach Condon and gang played a delightful mix of old and new, and made me loose myself as I swayed along to "A Sunday Smile" and several other horn- and accordian-infused tunes. The dry heat had absolutely no effect on Condon's sweet, sophisticated vocals, and he sounded just like Prince Charming on a white horse even in the desert's 80 degrees. My only regret is that I wasn't a little closer for his set, since there's a certain intimacy that I think is required to fully appreciate what Beirut has to offer.

9:10 PM: After obtaining what proved again to be extremely accurate directions from Zach, Geoff and I enter through the side of the Sahara tent and meet up with everyone to see Girl Talk's set. While Gillis knew when to slow it down just a bit to give the crowd a much-needed dancing break, I had to forcefully stop myself from dancing until I fell over toward the end. The music definitely took control of my limbs, especially, and I say this with no regrets or qualms or embarrassment, when Beyonce's "Single Ladies" was mixed with ______ (I'm totally blanking right now). My sister would have been so proud. There were some amazing mash-ups, and maybe my brain will remember a few as time goes by. There was one mash-up that emplored the audience to "jump" repeatedly. It was because of this that half of my phone's front screen got totally cracked, and now I can only see who's calling me if it's someone with a very long name. Looks like it's time for a smartphone...

9:50 PM: Very wisely, all of eight of us slip out of the side of the tent and move toward the Main Stage to get a decent spot for Paul McCartney. Geoff and I wander off to get a beer quickly before Sir Paul takes the stage, and come back to the same spot in enough time to find Ken, Zach, Laura and Kelsey. McCartney took the stage, and to all of our surprise, wonder and wish fulfillment played only 5 post-Beatles tracks. All the rest were songs we all know and love from childhood, including "Eleanor Rigby", "Blackbird", "Hey Jude", "Baby You Can Drive My Car", "Yesterday", a ukulele version of "Something", "Live and Let Die", "Give Peace a Chance", "Back in the USSR", "Birthday", "Got to Get You Into My Life", and oh so many more. He did two encores, finishing his set around 1 in the morning. Look here for the full McCartney set list from this amazing, once in a lifetime performance.

1 AM: Geoff and I leave the festival grounds as just two individuals in the herd of people making a mass exodus. We discuss Sir Paul's performance, which Geoff described as "transcendent", as we schlep back to the car to hang our parking pass from the rear view mirror so as to avoid getting towed.

2 AM: Zach stumbles by our site, helps us secure the rain cover, then disappears into the sea of tents mumbling "I gotta find some fuckin' food." Geoff and I fall asleep with visions of music notes dancing in our heads, shivering from the damp cold air rising from the grassy ground below us. Reminder for next year: bring at least two blankets and pants, not shorts, for bedtime.

Check back soon for more details from Saturday and Sunday!

1 comment:

Geoff said...

Transcendent indeed.