Flower of the Desert

Another Coachella. Another bug-juice-on-the-windshield excursion out to godforsaken Indio. Another run of the NO VACANCY sign gauntlet because you were too late making reservations—again. Another pair of afternoons slow-roasting beneath the hellish Mojave sun. Another quest for a friendly shirt sleeve to wipe your nose on as you wrestle with wind-borne allergies. Another dance of the where-the-fuck-did-we-park-our-car tango. Another go-round with half-naked, Ecstacy-addled college girls who want to show you their moist vaginas (yes, this actually happened to us last year; no, it wasn't nearly as exciting as you'd think).

So why do we go back every year? Well, there's the music, usually a myriad of styles and artists so rich and deep that we'd gladly buy tickets if we weren't getting in free already. And this year's lineup looks particularly robust—certainly better than Coachella '02, headlined by the likes of boring old Bjrk and the ultra-talentless Prodigy. We're hoping for decent sets from the Beastie Boys—while we like them now, we'll never forget that the original title of Licensed to Ill was Don't Be a Faggot, but these days the Beasties are grown-up and Buddhist and anti-war, so we forgive them. Jack Johnson should be hippie-rific in his stoney-surfer jam-rock way. The Donnas are eternally groovy, even though it's the same damn song over and over. Iggy & the Stooges should satiate our nostalgia jones. Sonic Youth are a guaranteed grand time. The unofficial Ben Fest—that would be Kweller, Folds and Harper—could be fun.

Spearhead's Michael Franti should have some conspiratorial things to say about George W. He told the San Francisco Bay Guardian two weeks ago that a pair of Army intelligence operatives recently spent several hours interrogating the mother of a Spearhead band member; that they presented the mother with a thick file on Spearhead, including photos of the band playing anti-war rallies; and that they referred to Spearhead as "part of the resistance" and described the band member as "unpatriotic and un-American." Even though Franti could produce no evidence for his claims, this at least adds the exciting possibility of John Ashcroft-controlled spooks infiltrating the Coachella crowd.

What else? The White Stripes, the Hives and Badly Drawn Boy are all well and good, though each of them are notorious pets of Robert Hilburn, so we warn you to be on the lookout for Bob's superlative-spraying Bic. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been deathly dull every time we've seen them (were they ever listenable?), but at least they ought to provide decent walking-out-to-the-parking-lot noise on Sunday night. We're certain hordes of bodies will turn out for Johnny Marr just in case Morrissey shows up, which he won't. We're intrigued to see if Dirty Vegas is more than just a car commercial, but our expectations aren't terribly high. Ian MacKaye is apparently doing some spoken-word-type stuff, which sounds a bit odd. And something tells us that Wildchild is probably not the same Doors tribute act that has been gigging around in local clubs and bars for the past two decades.

Regardless, Coachella is always a big, sweaty, stinky, sonic supermarket, one where you're bound to find something worth your $75. Also, we have it on good authority that many celebrities will be staying at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells. Stalk with courtesy, please.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field, 81-800 Ave. 51, Indio, (714) 740-2000; www.coachella.com. Sat.-Sun., noon-midnight. $75 per day; two-day passes, $140. All ages.


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