Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I mentioned in an earlier Coachella post about the times during the festival when the music matched the desert surroundings, and the Calexico set was definitely one of those times. We were unsure of what we were going to see at this time slot, and if I'm not mistaken we had something else chosen, but somehow we wound up finding a place on the grass to stretch out and take in this band. Prior to this experience the most I'd known of Calexico is the things I'd heard off those friends I'd known who'd seen the co-tour they did with Iron and Wine, and a song that had landed itself on a mix given to me once, featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg (their cover of Bob Dylan's Just Like a Woman, for the film I'm Not There). This was a set that I did not feel driven to give my constant attention to, yet their music sunk into my skin like the rays of the late afternoon sun did. I experienced them casually, leaning back in the grass, and taking in the day around me. The one sight that still revolves in my memory bank was of this group of young people who were dancing, often dramatically, to the music together - and with each other. There was one girl in particular, strikingly beautiful, dressed in a sarong and bikini top, with a deep scar that snaked up her torso. What struck me the most about this girl is how she spun around, in complete abandon, not hiding this mark on her that some might label a flaw. It was amazing to watch, and hit me right there how much power music has, and how deeply I'm affected by being among music fans. Calexico has stayed around with me, too - like a postcard I sent home to myself - as I've found myself seeking more of their music, playing it over and again, and feeling transported back to the desert, and that day.
The beauty and magic continued on to the main Coachella stage, as we made our way over to watch Thievery Corporation. Again, the music and the desert matched up perfectly, and as the night sky turned dark, and the bright array of lights turned on, I felt transported by the music. This was a set impossible not to dance to, to sway back and forth to, and to feel lifted by - even if you sat on the grass in wonderment. The only weak moment was when they asked Perry Farrell to join them on-stage to sing Revolution Solution. I know he was featured on the released version of this song, but his voice really detracted from the over-arching sound of the set to me. The rest though was brilliant, truly an unforgettable. Warning Shots and Exilio were my favourites, as was Lebanese Blonde. I am grateful that I did not miss the swirling magic of this set.
Lebanese Blonde (live, Coachella 2009) ~ Thievery Corporation
Thank you, Mr. Flowers, for making me feel 15 again. And yes, my crush on you is still going strong.
All These Things That I've Done (live, Coachella 2009) ~ The Killers
Read My Mind (live, Coachella 2009) ~ The Killers
Friday, April 24, 2009
Second day in and the first set we saw was Ida Maria. I was not all that familiar with her music beyond the one song that had made its rounds via the music blogs that I follow, I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked. She was much more than that catchy tune, though that was a fun song to take in live (and the stickers that were getting passed around, with the retro Sex Pistols font, was quite fun). She reminded me a lot of a more pop-infused Bjork (think Debut, or perhaps a little less surreal Sugarcubes). Andi did mention that she reminded her of Nena, and I see that comparison, too; a matter of fact I think we mused on her doing a cover of 99 Luft Balloons while discussing her. She gave a high energy performance that was hard not to be caught up in, and I enjoyed the intro she gave to my personal favourite song of the set, Stella. My only real criticism would be that I would have preferred they turned up her vocals a bit more, and that there had been a bit more sound balance between the rest of the band, and her voice. I also really loved the song that she introduced as a "desert song", Keep Me Warm, especially the lyrics "Pour myself a cup of coffee full of sober nights, cos nicotine and coffee are my friends in this fight".
Keep Me Warm (live, Coachella 2009) ~ Ida Maria
Hüsker Dü was one of those bands that I'd heard of, but not heard, until I found myself working for years at various record stores. I'll admit, though, that I heard Bob Mould first in Sugar before I ever heard an album of the former, and I think my musical heart was always more moved by the latter (I loved Copper Blue so much). He gave an amazing performance, full of power pop energy that I had first loved in those first moments of hearing him. Hoover Dam was my favourite of the set, as I mentioned before a song coming from the album I loved the most from his various incarnations, and musical body of work. I also enjoyed one of his new songs, Life and Times, whose lyrics hit me hard - in a good way. I hadn't actually planned on checking out his band when I'd originally set-up my Coachella plan-to-see list, but I am glad I stumbled into the Gobi tent and gave a listen.
There was a bit of a break between acts we had planned to see, and Jules and I wandered about a bit, finally deciding to find a nice spot on the grass and listen to Joss Stone. She gave an enjoyable performance, and has quite a voice. I especially enjoyed her nearly unrecognizable cover of The White Stripes' Fell In Love With A Girl (Boy). Though I personally prefer the original, this was a refreshing take on the song, and it was a nice showcase for her bluesy voice. She interracted with the audience in a playful way, and her enjoyment with the day, and performing was infectious, and we both found ourselves tapping our toes and smiling a lot (even in the heat of the late desert afternoon).
This was one of Jules' can't miss picks, this and the next set (though the next one we were both determined not to miss). Unfortunately Paolo's set ran into the next one, so we only stayed for a few songs. What we did see was best described as charming and fun. I would like to see a full set with him someday, and both of us agreed to checking him out again if, or when, he comes to Los Angeles. The one thing that stuck out for me, as well as his charm and fun persona, was how his accent comes out so thick in his songs. I'd heard New Shoes on a mix Jules made for our drive to Coachella, and then heard it again this morning on the same mix, and realized that the album version is very produced, and that his accent is nearly erased on the recorded version. I prefer the live Paolo, thick Scottish accent, and all.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Just thinking about the set, and seeing the man in person, I get tears in my eyes. There are moments in life where you realize, without a moment of doubt, that you are glad to be alive - and watching Mr. Cohen sing was one of those moments for me. I stood there watching, with my beautiful daughter beside me, one of my good friends standing close by, and a few other good friends spread through the crowd, and felt amazed, lucky, and healed. Though I wish he had played my all-time favourite song, he did sing Bird On A Wire and Everybody Knows, and of course, Hallelujah. When everyone in the crowd sang along to the chorus, with him, as the sun began to set in the desert, tears were streaming down my face. It was truly my most favourite moments of the entire festival, and one of those unforgettable moments in my life. Mr. Cohen himself was so humble, genuine, and truly a beautiful soul. I still do not have the proper words to describe seeing him play, nor the coherent thoughts to describe what the experience was like. I just know that, as my friend Dale has said about the experience, my heart felt healed.
We missed the first half, or so, of Morrissey's set because of Leonard Cohen, so I am not sure my assessment of this is all-together fair. That said, we did arrive at the very moment he was stating that the smell of burning flesh he was experiencing, how he hoped it was human. Then Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others started up, and he was visibly annoyed, and would go from singing loudly to mumbling the lyrics half-heartedly, as if he was grumbling, or struggling to remember the words. He seemed overall to be put upon being there, and perhaps he was. The highlight of the set for me was hearing him play How Soon Is Now, and I was also cheering him on when he took his shirt off, as I'd always heard he did back in the days of the Smiths, as I'm all for being proud of your body at any age. I wanted to like him, I wanted to enjoy the set, and I wanted to feel something more than let down by him. Maybe it was not fair, as well, for me to react to him right after Leonard Cohen, but it happened the way it did. He ended his set and I was disappointed in the experience, that is just how it felt for me.
I was born into a Beatles family. There is not a moment of my life where I do not remember knowing who the Beatles were, or having their music around in my life somehow. They were the first albums I remember memorizing the lyrics to. They were the music my Mom listened to that changed her expression, that lifted her up when she was down, and that brought her to tears sometimes, too. I learned what it looked like to love a band, and would remember it later when I fell for bands myself. I remember the stories my Mom told me about the music, and her memories she had attached to their songs. And, after awhile, I started building my own memories to their music.
Julia's Dad grew up in a Beatles family, too, and he loved them as much as I did, and as much as our families did. We had every album in that first tiny apartment we shared, and when I found out for sure I was having a daughter we both agreed that Julia (named after the song, and John Lennon's Mother), was perfect. Her father sang her Blackbird when she was a baby, and we both sang Hey Jude to her on long car rides. Standing next to her singing along to both songs, and so many others, was incredible.
He played for three hours. He was amazing and emotional, and seemed to give so much to all of us. He spoke about Linda (the day he was there playing was the 11th year anniversary of her passing). He spoke about John (and played a song I hadn't heard since I was much younger, from a Paul McCartney album that I would take for days on end from my Mom and sing along to). He spoke about George (and played Something on the ukelele). He came out for three encores, and I truly believe he would have stuck around and played further into the night if the venue would have allowed it. This was the closest I'll ever come to seeing The Beatles, and I'm grateful for the experience. It was an unforgettable night, and really the best way to end my very first day at Coachella.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
We arrrived and were waiting in line as We Are Scientists were already on-stage. I could hear 'After Hours' while my backpack was being checked, and had that anxious feeling of wanting to be inside already twisting around inside. We made our way over to the main stage and found a spot on the grass. We only were around for the last song and a half, but they seemed good. They are going on my list of "catch at a later date".
The Great Escape (live, Coachella 2009) ~ We Are Scientists
We moved up flush with a barrier wall to watch the next band on the main stage, Airborne Toxic Event. This was one of the bands I was very excited to see, especially since I was too ill to make it to their show at the Glass House. They were fantastic. All of the members had tremendous stage presence, especially the violinist (Anna Bulbrook) and singer/guitarist (Mikel Jollett). They opened with my favourite track from their self-titled album, 'Wishing Well', which soared and far exceeded the sound I'd grown to love on their album. Their cover of 'Goodbye Horses' was phenomenal, and 'Gasoline' blew me away. 'Does This Mean You're Moving On?' pulsed with a rockabilly feel reminiscent of mod/ska events I went to in the mid-to-late eighties, and had the crowd bouncing in the sun. Jollett announced after the song that the song was "fun to perform, but fucked up when it happened". I will definitely not miss them the next time they play here in Los Angeles, which hopefully won't be too long a wait since they are Echo Park/Los Feliz locals.
Goodbye Horses (live, Coachella 2009) ~ Airborne Toxic Event
For years I have held a special place in my heart for Conor Oberst, a feeling of adoration that began back when I first heard the song "Lua" on a now somewhat legendary Valentine's Day music mix that a dear friend of mine made. His work under the name/guise of Bright Eyes has been well-loved by me, especially the albums 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning' and 'Cassadaga'. That said, I was a bit hesitent in regards to expectations of what his live performance would be like as the last time I'd seen him, on a second night of his Los Angeles leg of the 'Cassadaga' tour he was in a foul mood, and took his disposition out on the audience (though, I have to admit he sounded amazing, even then). I had nothing to fret over this past Friday, though, as he was brilliant - and his new band (who he has been recently quoted as saying he "to Tepoztlan, Mexico to make a solo record – he accidentally formed a band.” - were incredible. My favourite of the set, the song 'Cape Canaveral', was breathtakingly beautiful, and impossible not to shed tears over. I would love to catch him live with this band again - soon - I hope.
Cape Canaveral (live, Coachella 2009) ~ Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band
...More to come from Day One soon...
Monday, April 20, 2009
Ampersand (video) ~ Amanda Palmer
"And I may be romantic,
and I may risk my life for it,
but I ain't gonna die for you,
you know I ain't no Juliet.
And I'm not gonna watch you wanna burn yourself out baby,
no I'm not gonna stop you,
cause I'm not the one that's crazy."
There is so much I want to write about my three days at the Coachella festival, but I need to sift through the memories, and the short notes I jotted down along the way. I need to re-visit some of the music, and the emotions that still cling on my skin, and on my insides. And some of the feelings I want to keep to myself because I feel so changed right now, and so healed, yet some of that feels so deeply personal that I fear bleeding all of it out in words - as I'm known to do - may take too much from it, and I really need the healing, I do.
This song, though, is playing over and over again in my memory. It is as if there is a loop unspooling, recoiling, rewinding itself up, and then playing again. I know that I stood there in that tent, close to the stage, watching her play this on the piano, and sing in what seemed like was her heart out. She seemed to be bleeding in the way that I do in words that I type, or scratch out in composition books, and I was following along with ever turn of phrase, with every lyric, and I stood there with tears running down my face, feeling so much.
I am tired of the hurting that comes from my own issues, my own pain, and my own broken hearted pieces. But, even more, I am tired of being hurt from other people's pain and broken hearted pieces. My instincts push me to try to heal the other, to understand, to rip myself open if it means they will find something soothing in anything I have to give, even when what they need, or what they have to say, slays me and slashes at me in ways that are near impossible to recover from. So, why do I do it? Why do I let my voice and wants and needs be lost to someone else's voice and wants and needs? Why do I chalk it all up to love, as if that makes all the pain okay?
I don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to lose myself completely. I don't want it anymore, not like this. I want to keep healing, and for my heart and words to matter.