Ah. It’s that time of year again. Coachella time, Coachella being that huge-ass music festival in the middle of the Californian desert which reincarnates famous singers as holograms and where rich white kids dress like destitute hippies.
Father John Misty perfectly summed it up when he declared, “If you’re at Coachella this weekend, and you’re wearing some sort of headband with flowers on it or one of those shirts with tassels and knitting, don’t walk around with a face like a donkey’s ass!” and proceeded to pull the most unbecoming and borderline repulsive face he could muster.
But the rumours are true; Weekend Two rocks. Why? The weather’s marginally more bearable, there are more special guests, bands have more production resources, and the masses have the wonderful resources of the World Wide Web at their dispense to perfectly plan the Ultimate Festival Timetable. Weekend Two’s special guest numbers increased by a staggering 100% (Drink. a. double.). While Weekend One boasted Phoenix’s guest R. Kelly for an Ignition rendition, this weekend Purity Ring collaborated with Danny Brown, and 2 Chainz, for some reason unbeknownst to most of the crowd, brought out Fall Out Boy for a song.
The weekend was full of those small ‘moments’ that make you love life and music and humanity – and even car camping – and justifies spending a month’s rent on festival tickets. Like when Action Bronson got into the spirit of 4/20 Day (marijuana appreciation day) and threw a massive bag of weed into the crowd, and when Coachella’s illustrious giant snail art installation aptly crawled right in front of Of Monsters And Men as their set started… You just can’t make this stuff up!
Like this year’s US Golf Masters, the Australian representatives were modest in numbers yet still left an outstanding impression on all who witnessed them. Most notably was Coachella glutton Nick Cave who played to the smaller Mohave stage on Friday night with Grinderman and again at the main Coachella stage on Sunday night with The Bad Seeds. Grinderman, who haven’t played together since Meredith 2011, stirred the crowd with exploding stoner rock and their characteristic sleazy and discordant vocals, which had every eye on the room fixated on Nick’s filmy veil of artiface. The Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds set was more of a victory lap if anything on the Sunday night. Nick proved himself as a true performer by diving straight into the crowd to seduce and serenade the audience, a dark savior of the night in the blackness of infinity. With the aid of a backup orchestral band and the adorable Siverlake Children’s Choir, they pounded through oldies like Stagger Lee and Deanna before closing the show with Push The Sky Away, the title track off the latest album. Even the Chili Pepper fans that had lined up hours earlier for a good spot were moved.
Our other export, Tame Impala, proved to be equally as popular in the States as they are as home. The outdoor theatre was packed with hippies, gypsies, hipsters, and crowdsurfers to hear the Perth band’s psychedelic prog-rock. Tame Impala were a must-see for nearly everyone I talked to, and this is no surprise considering the ridiculous amount of success this band has had in the past couple of years both locally and internationally. The band have won a buttload of WAMI, ARIA, APRA, Rolling Stone and J Awards for their music and have only two albums and an EP under their belt. With such an enormous amount of success so early in their career it’s unsurprising the band constantly is compared to Led Zeppelin – a band that defined a generation. Their Coachella set was a prelude to a North American tour in May and June as well as headlining the Sasquatch festival later this year.
There are some things that are just expected at weekend-long festivals – rancid portaloos, poor hygiene, substandard food, chronic dehydration, and a questionable hickey on your neck, and also an inevitable timetable clash that leaves you questioning the rationality of the organisers. On Saturday night, festivalgoers were stumped with a grating Phoenix-Sigur Ros-New Order-Knife Party clash that closely followed a clash between the XX, Two Door Cinema Club and Franz Ferdinand. Those that went to Phoenix in the hopes they would bring out R. Kelly again were sorely disappointed, however Phoenix’s own merits are reason enough to see the band. And while on first thoughts you wouldn’t consider Sigur Ros as an ultimate festival-appropriate band, they provided a necessary wind-down for festivalgoers after a long and hot day on Saturday, with their weird Nordic ambient whale calls and Gregorian chanting music. They played tracks from their upcoming album Kveikur, to be released in June this year.
The highlight of the whole weekend was the freaky Canadian electro-pop internet goddess GRIMES. Playing to a packed out Mohave tent, Grimes aka Clare Boucher was full of life and gave excessive and equal attention to both her equipment and entertaining the crowd with her distinctively awesome dancing and performance. She proved herself to be more than a cutesy pixie meme but an outrageously talented musician and producer with a unique and unparalleled concept of creativity. Flanked by two bootylicious dancers, she played mainly tracks off last year’s Visions, sending the crowd into raptures with Oblivion and Genesis, and between songs would reiterate how grateful she was to be there.
Another unanimous crowd favourite of the weekend was The Postal Service. While they only put out one album 10 years ago, it seems they had reached so many people emotionally and gathered such a large cult following to propel them to one of the main headliners of the show. It was a privilege to watch Jenny Lewis and Ben Gibbard to perform together, two outrageously talented musicians in their own rights. There was a certain tone of veneration in the air when the band played From Great Heights – the audience was collectively living their 16-year-old self’s dreams to see it in the flesh, in all the band’s indie rock glory. The Postal Service also played two new songs, A Tattered Line of String and Turn Around, and while they don’t have plans to release any new albums in the future, they are playing a glory tour at a handful of international festivals in 2013.
Coachella is certainly one for the bucket list – a mecca for music lovers. However if you didn’t have the time or money to fly to the other side of the world and camp in a desert for it this year, rest assured, this year’s Splendour lineup is not too bad at all!