DESERT STORM

Photos by Tenaya HillsCOACHELLA
EMPIRE POLO FIELDS, INDIO
SAT.-SUN., APRIL 30-MAY 1

Random Coachella VI memos scribbled on a pair of bunny ears tossed out by Gram Rabbit, who weren't nearly as good as we hoped and were actually kind of annoying . . .

They finally got it right: Goldenvoice (two drinking fountain spots where people could get free water—but why did the water taste like meat?) and God (bearable heat, cool evening breezes, painterly sunsets).

Best overhead airplane banner: "INDIE 103.1 WE'RE STILL HERE."

The Sexy Magazines' skinny-boy guitar-rock apes the Darkness, and the Darkness ape everybody.Still, okay rock & roll for the clueless, the history-deprived, and people born in the past 12 months.

Not liked: Nic Armstrong & the Thieves—too Beatle-y, to the point where they're almost a tribute act; Buck 65, an obnoxious Canadian who rapped about stupid shit in a voice like Mojo Nixon's while committing heinous acts with a turntable—he's the "funny" guy at a party, the one nobody laughs at; Radio 4—more dull, dressed-in-black, new-new-wave NYC guitar revivalists . . . but with congas!; the Kills—New Improved Disco.


Big baby on the grass

Finalists in the Say-Something-Political-For-Some- Cheap-Approving-Cheers-Even- Though-You're-Preaching-to- the-Converted contest: "FUCK GEORGE BUSH!" (k-os); "The pope is a Nazi!" (Sage Francis); "Here are some memories of your own cultural imperialism!" (Gang of Four, playing a tape of Native American tribal music).

We mostly enjoyed the Raveonettes and their updated Motown, plus we discovered that the shady area in the beer garden was the perfect locale for listening to bands on both the Coachella Stage and the Outdoor Theater without having to uproot a single ass-plant—left ear, one stage, right ear, other stage—perfectly underscoring the fact that it's not necessarily who you see at Coachella, but who you hear.

Rilo Kiley and their sweet, country-and-trumpet-tinged loveliness alone made Saturday worthwhile.

Razorlight, not so much. They only offered more dull revivalism, with a baboon of a lead singer: "This one's about motherfuckers, it's called 'Leave Me Alone'!" Combine them with the treacly piano of Keane—the new Coldplay, who are the new Radiohead—who were playing off in the distance, and the merged sounds put us to sleep beneath a food court picnic table.

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy: "We were supposed to play here last year, but I was too fucked up. Now we're really happy to be here! And I don't even like festivals!" They do what we like them to, a guitar-heavy, electronic-free set, though we're starting to miss the Woody Guthrie catalog tunes, as well as the Uncle Tupelo ones.

We like Weezer as much as any geek, but does Rivers Cuomo have to keep uttering things like "I can feel the magic!"? Their new tunes were fine, like "Peace" and "We Are All On Drugs" (at this fest, nothing could be truer). Also, love the "Do you think I'm a fascist pig?" line in "This Is Such a Pity."

Bauhaus! They began with "Bela Lugosi's Dead," which is all the Bauhaus anyone really needs to hear, and with ever-creepy Peter Murphy being hauled out to the stage while hanging upside down from a chain. With his frizzy white hair, Murphy's looking a lot like Doc Brown from BacktotheFuturethese days. Appropriately, the color video screens during Bauhaus' set switched to black-and-white mode.

The hipster douchebag force was out in full effect for Bloc Party inside the sweltering Mojave Tent, and everybody yelled and carried on as if the Brit band has a No. 1 record. Fuck thatshit. Instead, we hit up Amp Fiddler next door, a sweet amalgam of R&B, soul and funk that's a pleasant relief from the weekend barrage of never-ending guitars.

Danced our ass off with the Chemical Brothers and their sensory overload set, but what was that incessant, whiny drone we kept hearing as we hiked out to the parking lot Saturday night? Coldplay.

Shout Out Louds: another total yawner, and if you're going to take a name that suggests a Kiss song, you had better rock way harder than these ordinary Swedes.

Laguna Beach's Donavon Frankenreiter appealed to our inner Deadhead, with his laid-back, organ-soaked, blues/funk/soul beach tunes that more or less commanded, "Now's the time to smoke that pot you smuggled inside your shoe."

Everyone's going nutjobby over Sri Lankan dance diva M.I.A., but why? Everything she did sounded like a variation on Kelis' "Milkshake," just not nearly as memorable. And why doesn't the realM.I.A.—the old OC punk band—sue her for trademark infringement?

Even morelame redunda-rock with the Futureheads and Kasabian, especially when the former are getting by with bad Police/Clash retreads and then making it even worse by raping Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love." With luck, Coachella will be as big as they get.

It's hard to pay attention to Tegan and Sara—the next generation's Indigo Girls—when a giant mechanical claw is noisily crunching down on a pile of supermarket shopping carts not far behind you.

Gang of Four were okay, filling in this year's sonic artifact slot—the band from whence all sad imitators in their wake came. And a lot of those forgeries, intriguingly, were also playing Coachella.

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