Coachella | 04.25-04.27 | Indio, CA

Saturday :: 04.26

Do Lab :: Coachella 2008 by Dave Vann
We woke up to a hot Saturday and sampled the showers and some food before heading back into the festival early to catch The Bird and The Bee, which featured a bevy of beauties on instruments led by Greg Kurstin and Inara George. A friend had suggested I check out Yoav, so we caught his set in the Gobi Tent and were enthralled by his use of a loop pedal, his finger tapping percussion on the guitar and his clear voice. He covered Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" and nailed it, making a great impression on those present.

We listened to a little of VHS or Beta at the Main Stage, but it was just too hot so we relaxed on the grass in the Mojave and Gobi Tents listening to The Teenagers and Carbon/Silicon waiting for Man Man. Carbon/Silicon played a great cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" that drew us in. It was a joy to see the legendary Mick Jones (The Clash) on guitar and the next two songs, "War On Culture" and "Soylent Green," were two vintage blasts of English rock.

Man Man was a bolt of energy. The band's equipment was set up in a tight formation, no doubt to maximize the space on stage in small clubs. As the name suggests, Man Man is a group of hyperactive bearded and mustachioed guys who beat their drums and keyboards with manic intensity. They energized the tent and it was a tough decision to leave the Mojave to catch a few minutes of Minus The Bear, who did their best in the stifling heat to engage the crowd and sounded just as nice on the huge speakers at Coachella as they do in theaters. The heat may have affected me, but it seemed like they jammed more than usual. At any rate, lead guitarist Jake Snider let his emotions out through his instrument as he relentlessly plowed through the set. His hair hung in his face and he had his guitar tech tuning his guitars, swapping them out after each song.

MGMT :: Coachella 2008 by F. Reda
MGMT surprised me with their youth and how well they sounded. "The Youth Is Starting To Change" and they dig MGMT. Look for them to push to the next level. The songs and skill are in place, and even playing against The Cold War Kids, the Mojave Tent was packed. Cold War Kids were a must-see for us and they didn't disappoint. Whatever expectations may have been laid out for them were more than exceeded by the first three songs. They played loud, frenetic, emotionally charged rock that sounded way too vintage to be coming from them. They are working class heroes for a new generation.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks droned that sweet white noise at the Outdoor Theatre and Kate Nash sang some sweet things in the Mojave Tent but our next destination was Hot Chip in the Sahara. By the time Hot Chip took the stage the tent was overflowing. For being synthesizer based, Hot Chip rocks, and the music is contagious. I'm now a full-on fan.

Death Cab For Cutie played to a field full of hipsters that swayed and sang as Ben Gibbard and company weaved through a beautiful set that was an ideal soundtrack for the waning sun. They even cheered for "Why You'd Want to Live Here," an unapologetic diss on living in Los Angeles, but the song of the set was "Soul Meets Body" with Gibbard on acoustic guitar and the crowd on vocals.

We sat for awhile in the back at Rilo Kiley, resting for the last segment before heading to the Sahara Tent for M.I.A The crowd for M.I.A. at Coachella was larger than Madonna's dance set from two years ago. We tried our best to weather the storm of humanity but it was too packed, too crazy, and we gave up and tried for Animal Collective, which was also packed. These guys make unique music that absolutely messes with your head and redefines traditional song structures into something new and exciting.

Next was Mark Ronson. After listening to Version for a year, and being a fan of his Amy Winehouse production, my expectations for his set were too high. He seemed a little nervous, and why not? He hasn't done a proper L.A. show before and here he was on the Outdoor Theatre going up against M.I.A., Animal Collective and Portishead. He took long drinks from a bottle of Jack Daniels and breathed in his cigarette. His set was a little bit too tricky to pull off – an evening in a theater would have been fine - but at Coachella it was too disjointed to dedicate one's self to. The version of "Back to Black" left me wanting the original, and inviting Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs on stage to steal back his song from Lily Allen didn't resonate nearly as much as the Kaiser Chief's set last year.

Portishead :: Coachella 2008 by Dave Vann
I left Ronson to catch Portishead. The music bathed the festival grounds with memories of a special time when the band set the groundwork for what would become trip-hop. However, the grandeur of the music wasn't nostalgia. It was relevant, magic and executed brilliantly.

I enjoyed every minute of Prince's set, and like everybody else, I danced, swayed and sang along. I'd seen Prince once before on his Musicology tour but this was the extended Prince Revue with Morris Day and the Time warming things up, Sheila E singing and banging on drums (still a knock-out) and the one and only Prince, a sexual dynamo unleashed, prowling the stage, throwing out guitar solos and basically making Coachella his own, large-scale funk party.

"Little Red Corvette" was special, but the most surreal moment of the set was a cover of Radiohead's "Creep." Prince made the song his own by switching the lyrics around to call someone else a creep, but the mere fact that Radiohead got the Prince treatment speaks volumes about Coachella, Radiohead and the Purple One himself. Prince also worked in The Beatles' "Come Together." Anyone who thought Prince was an odd choice for this festival underestimated both the artist and the festival. By the time "Purple Rain" and "Let's Go Crazy" dropped, memories were being made all over the place.

Continue reading for Sunday coverage...


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