Thursday, April 30, 2009

day too two.

Phoenix for the most part remains a mystery. From the airplane window you could see a seemingly endless sprawl of the city's white-roofed domains. But who or what inhabited those buildings? And perhaps more mysterous: why and how is there grass here? We don't really know. Kyle and I busted outta there as soon as we finished our pies.

Driving directly at the sun for a good couple of hours, we finally arrived in the Indio/Coachella/Joshua Tree area around 10:00 pm, deciding to take our chances with a national park camp ground. The park's south entrance only led to group camp sites, in which, thanks to our national park's honor system of reservations and payment, we had no problem finding space for our two-person tent.

Kyle, having never been further west than Lexington, Kentucky woke up with the sun and frolicked in the desert while I stirred in my sleeping bag. We were on the road by 9:30, headed to conquer Coachella's Saturday lineup, killing some time before the afternoon start by scavenging a breakfast at Target (a banana, orange juice, and banana-nut muffin for me) and picking up some forgotten supplies.

Then it was off to search for parking, which despite somewhat excessive signage seemed to elude us for quite a while. There appeared to be a number of event parking lots dotting the path to festival, but none of them were populated by concert goers and most of them were mostly empty and closed off. It turns out that parking was located to the right of an intersection with an impromptu no right turn sign, which had a police officer idling next to it. This didn't seem to deter other attendees from making a right, so we followed them with crossed fingers. No trouble.

We arrived at the festival, were interviewed by a local radio station (top five favorite bands? i froze. what makes a good concert? who am i listening to right now?). Entering the grounds, security made me dump out my water bottle ("It could be Vodka for all we know!"), were accosted by a couple minors looking for beer bracelets ("I don't think drinking in this heat's a good idea. You'll end up in the medical tent dehydrated and covered in vomit." The thanks I got in reply I'm pretty sure was a mispronounced "fuck you.")

P.O.S. kicked off our Coachella experience ("It's 1:30. You're at a hip-hop show in the desert. Fuck it. Throw your hands in the air. No. Like this. Up. Like this!"). If the crowd had known what to make of it (i.e., not been full of what can only be described in this context as a bunch of honkeys), it would've been an excellent set.

P.O.S. was followed by what turned out to be hands-down the best set of the day with Ida Maria, a Scandinavian outfit with a very earnest and blond backing band that tore through straight to the core of rock's definition—dynamism, youth, sex, rebellion, and spontaneity—all made easily digestible with catchy hooks.

From there it was mostly downhill: Joss Stone played a too polished set on the main stage (that had a rigging system roughly a million stories tall and completely dwarfed every act it hosted); Henry Rollins offered a pandering rant about the evils of war, being frustrated with the Bush administration, and airport security; the tail-end of Amanda Palmer's set was a rousing ukulele cover of Radiohead's Creep, and seemed to be the only occurrence that day of an audience really singing along; Tinariwen worked the crowd with the clever use of not speaking English and looking foreign, which was completely charming and effortless on their part as they are from Mali and do not actually speak English or seem to be inclined to wear t-shirts and bermuda shorts; Fleet Foxes offered very tight harmonies in a solid set that I can only really describe as gently raucous; M.I.A.'s performance was completely seizure inducing, a clinic in pop art replete awful video collages, dancers in neon piping, and incoherent rambling ("I didn't sell out. I played the Grammy's, but I turned the Oscars down! I just had a baby.").

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