Despite getting here later than the other two days, we find ourselves in the closest parking lot yet ’cause yeah, that’s about how much sense some of the logistics of this place are. For example, let’s talk alcohol, which is behind a fenced in area to the sides of the stages such that the sound is bad and you can barely hear the band, of if you do, you are also hearing the band on the stage on the other side as well. I don’t get this, how horrible would it be for someone to be walking around with a beer in their hand? It seems to work just fine at ACL and Lollapalooza and at – oh – every concert in Los Angeles I’ve ever been to. And that’s not just clubs, that’s huge places like the Greek and the Hollywood bowl? What are they preventing other than crowd enjoyment and their own revenue? And if it’s the morality police I might be more inclined to believe it if I wasn’t surrounded by sixteen-year-old kids smoking pot all day long? Okay, rant over.

2:00 the day starts with FISHBONE who bring a much needed energy to the main stage on this Sunday afternoon, “Skankin’ to the Beat” and covering Sublime’s “Date Rape Song” with a theremin solo. Unfortunately, Coachella pulls the plug on them when they go 30 seconds over their set time, about four measures before their song would have ended naturally. That was really anticlimactic as long as borderline offensive considering the importance of this band as well as the number of other sets that have gone a few minutes over. I get it, but I think you could atleast let the band finish thier current song. It’s not like this is Emerson, Lake, and Palmer launching into Tarkus (but wouldn’t that be amazing at a fest like this).

2:50 Stop two finds us discovering shade in the Gobi for a set from Melbourne singer-songwriter COURTNEY BARNETT who sounds a bit like Jenny Lewis as trained by Patti Smith. Her delivery is droll and I get the sense that she is a few witty songs away from really being memorable. Right now she’s a singer with a consistent take on the world, which seems contained to her own relationships.

3:35 The synth pop duo CLASSIXX seems to have guest vocalists on the Mohave stage with them for practically every song, which creates sort of an identity problem for them. They have a strong sense of danceable hooks but are right now lacking in presence. My wife and I have a discussion after about the appropriateness of their name – what is classic? I guess if Debbie Gibson now serves as the benchmark for the era, then fine. But I was thinking more old school Stylistics and the O’Jays.

4:15 FRANK TURNER leads the crowd in singalongs and coordinated hand-clap, jumping-jacks during his Gobi tent performance, which features some damn catchy folk punk and a keen sense of purpose. This is an artist that has been working at this for over ten years and it really shows. He reminds me a bit of an angry Colin Hay. Albums will be purchased, as soon as I figure out what songs he played and track them down.

4:45 Back to the Mohave for RUDIMENTAL who have drawn an overflowing crowd of supporters who seem to know every word despite their album not really having a US release. It’s very melodic drum and bass but again suffers from their biggest hits featuring guest vocalists (one of whom will be playing tonight – John Newman) who are not here. The only time I’ve seen this work at Coachella was Teddybears who just had one singer do it all and who have such a distinctive sound the vocals are really an afterthought. [post-script: later that night John Newman told the crowd he was at the Rudimental set, I guess we blew that one, having left before that time.]

5:20 BLOOD ORANGE brings an interesting mix of indie pop-tronica and smooth R&B to the outdoor stage. The set is so diverse it’s hard to get a read on what Dev Hynes wants to do with his band but it’s fun nonetheless. A particular highlight is “Alway Let You Down” which apparentlly is about the New York Mets (side note, the Mets lost today 14-2).

6:05 So we’re not getting up but Coachella does not pull the silliness where they play music over the speakers when there is no one on the stage (at least not today) so we are able to perfectly hear THE NAKED AND FAMOUS but cannot see if they are in fact, naked. They sound great and I notice my wife is singing along to half these songs. I always forget that she often discovers and dives in to tons of bands on Pandora while I’m still stuck in the stone age of buying CDs so I can read the linear notes and look at the pretty pictures.

6:35 The next band on the Outdoor Stage is NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL which I discovered years after they existed through intense study of the roots of Of Montreal. Much like everyone else on Earth I was convinced I would never see them play live but ah the pied piper of payment and the opportunity to sell t-shirts and a rather shockingly large tour has followed. Still, they sound amazing and play through exactly what I would want to hear in 45 minutes. We’ll see if after this is all over they finally get back to making music together. It took the pixies 9 years of reunion shows.

7:30 CALVIN HARRIS ‘performs’ on the main stage, and again, it’s pretty obvious he just pushes buttons to the music. I get a bit bored and start researching ‘just exactly what does a DJ do during a live performance’ and find this amazing blog by Deadmau5 where he basically admits that any moron could do what he does live. [http://deadmau5.tumblr.com/post/25690507284/we-all-hit-play]. The music is great but of course his best song we saw Ellie Goulding do on Friday, and she did it live.

8:15 I actually had only one ‘must-see-no-matter-what-they-are-up-against’ act this year and that is LANA DEL REY. I found LDR when she just had an EP out of three tracks and her name was Lizzie Grant (the EP was called AKA Lana Del Ray – yes that was the spelling) and I stuck with her as the internet discovered her, lifted her up to impossible heights, called her a fraud, and left her to sell millions of albums as a pop artist. I love everything she does and I actually cried for her after she blew her SNL debut. Yeah, that’s how I feel. In two hours I’ll be at Motorhead but right now I’m singing along to “Blue Jean” and “The Body Electric” like a thirteen-year-old girl. Fortunately, she sounds fantastic and the band is powerful and almost heavy, especially on the new song Lana recorded for Malificent. The set is short but strong. I’m not sure this is the venue for her – I really want to see her in a ballroom with an orchestra behind her – but this was definitely a highlight of the fest for me.

9:05 If Lana Del Rey had a bit of temerity, nothing like that could be said of JOHN NEWMAN who put on a clinic of blue-eyed soul (this was that ‘classic’ sound I was searching for earlier). The boy can flat out sing and also he’s got Michael Jackson calibre dance moves and James Brown showmanship. He works the crowd with uptempo dance numbers and heart-wrenching ballads before closing with possibly the best one-song performance of the festival, “Love Me Again.” This was the set of the day.

9:50 But the biggest competition came from a band that didn’t really fit in much with the rest of the acts over the three days, New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts MOTORHEAD. Lemmy, he of the mutton shops and Victorian copper hat, sounds as good as he has in years and lays down the blistering bass that propels the band through a monster set of metal. Although they may not have played their most recognizable songs, they do close out the set with the greatly named “Killed By Death” before bringing out special guest guitarist SLASH to jam on “Ace of Spades” and Overkill.” It is probably the best guest spot of the fest, so we decide to quit on that highpoint and head out to the car.

Top Sets of Each Day:

Friday: HAIM
Saturday: CAPITAL CITIES (best of weekend)

Best Cover: Haim covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”

Best Surprise Guest: Slash with Motorhead

Best Audience Participation: Frank Turner

Best Reunion/Return: Queens of the Stone Age

Breakout Set: White Lies

Biggest Career Turn: Mogwai

So tickets for ACL Fest go on sale April 22nd…


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