Coachella 2013 | April 12-14 | Sunday

IMG_0886

Continued from Coachella 2013 | April 12-13 | Saturday

I woke up Sunday morning from the couch, wiped the sleep from my eyes to notice bodies strewn across the floor.  In the corner, there appeared to be what looked like a pillow fort… and a feet protruding from its cushioned walls. Interesting I thought … it would turn out that those feet belonged to either the bassist or drummer of Father John Misty’s band. The morning was definitely starting out rock-and-roll.

IMG_1035I had a friend who happened to be in Palm Springs that weekend for work, so I ditched the group to head out to where she was to grab a late breakfast/early lunch.  We met at a Hard Rock Hotel sponsored “party” and I given a “media pass” so that I could dine from the special menu.  I get that lot of people forego a lot of the music at Coachella to attend these parties, but it’s really not for me.  A bunch of people dancing in a pool to a DJ playing some innocuous dub-step music. I suppose the “perks” (massages, hair braiding, etc.) may make it worthwhile, but there are bands from across the world performing half an hour away, and you’re listening to dub-step from some no-name DJ?  It was great seeing an old friend, but I had to be curt and hightail it back to the festival. Plus, the food was pretty bad… but that’s besides the point. Lol.

When I got the festival, I walked by the stages and tents where Jessie Ware and Kurt Vile, respectively, were performing. Jessie Ware sounded decent enough, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to her music in the first place, and Kurt Vile just didn’t sound very good.  It reminded me of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks from a few years ago, and I left that set early too.

There was a singer that I was interested in by the name of Alex Clare.  From the United Kingdom, his biggest hit to date was his single, “Too Close” which, ironically enough, is a rock song with dubstep and soul influences.  Now, I know I was just complaining about bad dubstep music, but when it’s produced by Diplo and Switch, it gets a pass.

IMG_3123

Alex Clare blew my mind. That dude has some serious pipes.  I wasn’t too familiar with his entire catalogue of music, but whatever he sang, I was feeling. He may have hit the stage five minutes past his starting time, but I’m not going to blame him for anything.  His voice had a soulful rasp to it, and boomed.

Not only did he kill his set vocally, but he was extremely humble.  When he addressed the audience half way through his set, he went out of his way say, “This is my dream right now.”  I wish I new more of his catalogue, and I’ll probably buy his CD at some point in the near future, but what I do remember from the set was that his cover of Prince’s when “Dove’s Cry” was a pleasant surprise and perhaps the most impressive part of his set was when he sang sans accompaniment, a cappella.  His crowd, which was particularly sizable, knew all the songs that I didn’t and the sang choruses quite pleasantly.

After Alex Clare’s set, I decided to wait around for Rodriguez. I hadn’t seen the documentary “Searching for Sugarman”, but I did have a copy of “Cold Fact” on CD. I knew about his legend, and I was really anticipating seeing him perform.

As I waited in the tent for his set to start, I noted that there were many others, like me, who wanted to get there early for a good spot. Some girl gave the stage manager a note on a napkin.  He looked at it, and then pointed to his wedding ring. You can only speculate what was on that napkin.

IMG_3136When Rodriguez took the stage, he had to be escorted. It was at that moment that I felt like I was having a bucket-list moment. It took a moment for him to get set up, and you could feel the anticipation in the tent. Then the music started … are at least, I thought the music started.  The levels across the board were a little off. The bass was to loud and the vocals were to low. In between the first couple songs, the crowd chanted, “Turn it up!”  It wasn’t until “I Wonder” that I thought that the levels were correctly set, and that was about a third of the way into the set. “I Wonder” was perhaps the highlight of the set as everyone knew the lyrics and sang along.

Though I wish that the sound was perfect from start to finish, I’ll take what I got and appreciate it.  Half an amazing set is better than none at all.

Another band that I had seen before at Coachella was Vampire Weekend. IMG_3158The last time I saw them, they were playing the Outdoor Stage. This year they were on the main stage. I had a good time then, so I knew I’d have a good time now. I didn’t get as far up as I would have liked, but it really didn’t matter.  I just got lost to their music and danced with the other free souls in the area.

  1. Cousins
  2. White Sky
  3. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  4. Diane Young (New Song)
  5. Step
  6. Holiday
  7. Unbelievers
  8. A-Punk
  9. Ya Hey (New Song)
  10. Campus
  11. Oxford Comma
  12. Giving Up the Gun
  13. Walcott

At this point I was hungry, so I decided to eat between the Outdoor Stage where Pretty Lights was performing, and the Mojave tend where Father John Misty.  The whole time I was eating, I was thinking, “Some dude on stage made a pillow fort next to the couch I was sleeping on,” …

After eating, I headed back to the Main Stage to get as far up front as I could for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.IMG_3205

I have a friend who had kicked it with Nick back in the day. She told me a few stories about him, and I can say- if those stories are true- Nick Cave is the living embodiment of punk. I’ll be honest with you, I have a few of his albums, but they’ve always been more mood music to me than anything. His performance at Coachella changed my perception of him.IMG_3190

It was a relatively dark set, heavy on mood, but pure rock-and-roll. It was almost chilling when he brough up the Silverlake Conservatory children’s choir to sing the refrain of “Keep On Pushing”.  Having watched him perform, I actually regretted not catching his other band, Grinderman”, perform the other day.

  1. Jubilee Street
  2. From Her To Eternity
  3. Red Right Hand
  4. Deanna
  5. Jack the Ripper
  6. Stagger Lee
  7. The Mercy Seat
  8. Push the Sky Away

After Nick Cave, I walked over to the Wu-Tang Clan to catch up with my friends. I came half way through their set, but I could hear them “bring the mutha-fuckin’ ruckus”. As tired as I no was from the three days of music, I pushed on to search for my friends. Once I found them, I sat down on the ground rest.  At that point in the evening, the wind was picking up, and dust was flying around everywhere.  Thankfully, I had purchased a bandana and used it to cover up my nose and mouth.  The sand storm was actually bad enough that Wu-Tang actually acknowledged it on stage.

They’re set was a greatest hits compilation, and I should have been more pumped for it, but I think my exhaustion, coupled with the fact that I saw Wu-Tang a few years back to the entire “Enter the 36 Chambers” album, kind of left a been there, done that vibe with me.

  1. Protect Ya Neck
  2. Bring da Ruckus
  3. Shame on a Nigga
  4. Clan in da Front
  5. Da Mystery of Chessboxin’
  6. Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing to F’Wit
  7. Can It Be All So Simple
  8. Method Man
  9. Tearz
  10. C.R.E.A.M.
  11. Bring the Pain (Method Man)
  12. All I Need (Method Man)
  13. Ice Cream (Raekwon)
  14. Winter Warz (Ghostface Killah)
  15. Duel of the Iron Mic (GZA/Genius)
  16. 4th Chamber
  17. Reunited
  18. For Heavens Sake
  19. Shimmy Shimmy
  20. Brooklyn Zoo (Ol’ Dirty Bastard)
  21. Da Rockwilder (Methodman and Redman)
  22. Gravel Pit
  23. Triumph

Before the Wu-Tang ended their set, I went to the main stage to check out The Red Hot Chili Peppers. My friend and I positioned ourselves toward the exits, with enough of a view that we could tell what was going on, and in line with speakers so we could hear everything clearly.

A this point, the sand storm was getting pretty intense.  People started to leave the festival grounds.  They started playing “Under the Bridge” and, for the first time all weekend, I lay on the sand covered grass.  My friend was absolutely beat, so I promised her that I wanted to hear two more songs, then we would leave.  The second song they played after “Under the Bridge” was “Higher Ground”. If you know me, you know that I love my Stevie.  It was a sign that it was time to go.

  1. Monarchy of Roses
  2. Dani California
  3. Otherside
  4. Look Around
  5. Can’t Stiop
  6. Snow (Hey Oh)
  7. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
  8. Tell Me Baby
  9. Parallel Universe
  10. Under the Bridge
  11. Ethiopia
  12. Higher Ground
  13. Californication
  14. By The Way
  15. Jam
  16. Around the World
  17. Give It Way.

And with that, my Coachella 2013 had concluded. Sandstorm notwithstanding, I’ll be back next year.

IMG_3165

Music That Means Something

IMG_2794

 

Today, January 15th, is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  He was an prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement and is probably “best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience” (quoted from Wikipedia’s entry on Dr. King).  But even before the activism in the 50s and 60s, there were other forms of non-violent civil rights activism that was already stirring the flame, and that was through music.

The other day, I stepped into a second-hand book store to pass some time and I stumbled upon a copy of the “Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and An Early  Cry For Civil Rights”.  It is a quick read, and gives a certain perspective on the origins and effect of the song made famous by the legendary singer Billie Holiday: “Strange Fruit”.  The lyrics of the composition are below for reference.

“Strange Fruit”

(Wiggins, Pearl, Allan)

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Strange Fruit lyrics (c) Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing

The way we, the consumer, take in media and entertainment today is so different than it was in the past.  In the book, I read accounts of when Billie Holiday performed at the Cafe Society, how patrons would stop in their tracks in the middle of the smoke filled room, rendered silent, to listen to the songstress croon this painful song, and how the venue would be silent for minutes after the conclusion because of how powerful the music was.  For some reason, I simply can’t imagine a song having that kind of effect on today’s audience. I mean, a song that carries so much weight that it simultaneously scares, enrages and  educates people all at the same time.

Maybe “Strange Fruit” is one of the anomalies.  Maybe it was the perfect song for the perfect time and place… a song that hits the musical trifecta…. Now THAT must have been something.  That’s a feeling I’d love to soak in.  I don’t think I’ve ever personally experienced it … and truth be told, I doubt I ever will get to experience something like it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great songwriters out there, and I want to be in an audience one night, in an intimate venue, where the lights are low, and the singer blows my mind with powerful lyrics that shake up and stir a deep societal pain.  I want to be there when a singer is singing to me some truth that can’t be denied … some truth that makes it uneasy for me to listen, but I can’t not listen to it because it’s verity.  But I just don’t know if music can do what it did back in 1939.  Music is powerful, but I don’t know if music can hit that kind of nerve anymore.  And if it does, how can it rise up from the hundreds of thousands of other songs that flood the internet?  Cream used to rise to the top, but does it anymore?

I can hope.  There seems to be so many problems in society these days, maybe some songwriter can bring it on home for me … write some lyrics that could stand alone as poetry … write some lyrics whose essence is coaxed out through the melodic and rhythmic flow of the music.  I’m looking for music that means something and speaks to a greater evil in our society that needs fixing…. something that everybody can related to, and gets people to start talking about ways to get it right…

You got something for me?