Coachella 2006 Concert review
We showed up early to watch duo Giant Drag, and they were well worth the wake-up time. Despite continuous tech difficulties, lead singer Annie charmed the crowd with her droll wit, surprisingly naughty banter, and general adorableness. Admittedly, I was only familiar with their cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," but after seeing them live, I plan on getting their CD.
The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur a combination of catching a song here or there, and trying not to melt in the desert sun. From our eating tent location near the not-huge outdoor stage, Mates of State sounded like a bit of fun, another girl/boy pop duo. Los Amigos Invisibles rocked the big stage with their Latin beats, emitting an energy that seemed almost unearthly in the heat.
We returned to the eating tent to listen to the full Ted Leo & the Pharmacists set. From there, we braved the heat for a peek at unlikely indie sensation and Hasidic Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu. I enjoyed the reggae beats as Coachella always brings out my inner I'll-dance-to-anything nature, but it was an odd show. As my friend astutely noted as Matisyahu closed his eyes and sang low, mewling notes acapella for a few minutes, "How weird is it that we're watching him pray?"
I took off before Matisyahu broke out with "King Without a Crown" because I wanted to see Minus the Bear, a band with noodly rhythms reminiscent of The Sea and the Cake. They're the sort of pure indie rock that reminds you of the days when indie was called college music; it makes you feel smarter just listening to them.
We broke for dinner during the Sleater-Kinney/Bloc Party/Paul Oakenfold six o'clock hour, and our meal fortified us for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My secret shame was having yet to see Karen O. in all her glory, but it was well worth the wait. The gigantic screens helped everyone in the crowd be privy to her every facial expression, thematic motions, and dance moves. Karen O. mentioned that they were playing to their largest crowd ever, but I would've never guessed it. Their performance was stadium-ready (though I hope they continue to play smaller venues).
After the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I took off with tens of thousands of other people to attempt to check out the Madonna show. When I arrived at the big dance tent and found the crowd packed a dozen deep outside the tent, I left. Later, finding out that she went on about a half-hour late, I'm not sorry I left.
On the way back across the field to see Mogwai, I stopped in for a song by The Editors and Brazilian singer Seu Jorge (of City of God and The Life Aquatic). He offered my only moment of disappointment for the day: That I didn't see more of his set. The drum solo and final song I witnessed got me moving more than anyone yet that day.
Mogwai, to sound like stoned high school kid, rocked my world. Their quiet-loud-quiet intensity was the perfect antidote for the day's heat. I parked myself on the grass, shut my eyes, and just let their wall of sound and the light desert breeze take me to another place. (And by the smell of ganja in the air, lots of people were in lots of other places as well.)
Back to the main stage for Massive Attack. I, like just about everyone else in the late '90s, practically wore out my Mezzanine CD, so it was incredible to hear so many of the songs played again. When it was announced that Elizabeth Fraser would be there to sing the seminal single "Teardrop" (now heard as the theme to Fox's House), I jumped up and down like a little kid. Seeing reggae legend Horace Andy do vocals on his songs felt legendary as well. But all told, there was something missing in the performances. Fraser's vocals were whispery and low-she didn't have the power needed for this huge outdoor venue. Every time I prepared myself for a driving, intense beat that I knew so well from Mezzanine, the music flat-lined.
Finally, I planted myself firmly in the outer right side of the main stage for the comeback performance of Tool. The hippie love feeling that accompanies outdoor festivals had dissipated and it was time to get aggro. The opening bass line of "Stinkfist" reverberated through the crowd, while Tool's signature disturbing visuals flickered on the big screens. It seemed that every last person knew every last word of that song, and it was intense.
I stayed for a few more songs, but out of the corner of my eye, a siren was calling me. I love Scissor Sisters, and you couldn't have a more opposite band playing against Tool. I left Testosterone Central and ran over the most fabulous disco dance party of the day. I thought, oh, I'll leave after two songs. Six songs later (including my namesake "Laura"), I was still shaking it as if I hadn't been hanging around the desert for 12 straight hours. My modus operandi was to run between the two stages, and that way I got to hear both "Sober" and "Aenima" (the final song) for Tool, and still dance my ass off to Scissor Sisters.
The music ended around 12:20, and I won't talk about the terrifying traffic jam that occurred just walking out of the place. Nor will I sully this wrap-up with talks of the traffic jam driving out. Let's just leave it at this: I got my money's worth; I found some good food (garlic pizza, vegan salad); $10 for two Gatorades and two waters isn't all that bad for a festival; and when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mogwai and Scissor Sisters come back to town, I am so there.
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Concert Backstage Passes
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