The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Coachella 2009: Part 2

Written by: Carl Johnson, Special to CC2K

CC2K's Carl Johnson regales us with his experience at days two and three of Coachella.

ImageMy Saturday Coachella story is a total different one. I had to be at the polo grounds by 2:00 because I was in a group photo for a group I belong to. My friends still had to do the sunscreen and stuff like that so I went in while they were at the car. Made my way in, took a photo and then went to Joss Stone.

Joss Stone, simply put, is a black soul singer stuck in a white woman’s body. She was the last addition to the Coachella poster and was one I really was intrigued to see. I am glad I caught her set because that was all I got to see Saturday.

My friends had been sold faux tickets for the festival that day. They were hard tickets, like the kind Ticketmaster send you, not the print at home type. I found out that I guess you can receive your tickets, say you lost them, and then Ticketmaster will reprint your tickets.

So my friends were sold real tickets that had been voided. There is no way to tell this happened until you get to the event.

This happened to a ton of people as I watched countless people getting turned away at the front gate. I also watched person after person try to make a run for it through security. Unfortunately for the gatecrashers, there were military guys stationed throughout the front part of the fields and these guys would tackle anyone trying to make a run for it.

I saw one hipster kid get taken out by three marines.

While watching people get tackled with no pads on makes for some smiles, there was a damper to the day as my friends were not going to shell out another $120 each to see a day headlined by The Killers.

We ended up leaving and having the tickets we were to use for the next day scanned. They were not scanning so they issued my friends new tickets. At least we knew we were good for Sunday.

We got to the show extra early on Sunday to make sure we were not going to be denied entrance.

Sunday: Vivian Girls, No Age*, Friendly Fires, The Gaslight Anthem*, Lykke Li, Peter, Bjorn and John*, Perry Farrell*, Yeah Yeah Yeahs*, My Bloody Valentine, Throbbing Gristle, The Cure*

Being glad the tickets scanned I already had my entire day planned out. There were a few acts I knew I wanted to see the full sets for, plus I had snuck my camera in (as security was very lax on checking people this year with no pat down) so there were some groups I wanted a good spot for to take some pics.

My morning started off with Vivian Girls. They are post pop-punk style group. I am sure for younger kids this would be a cool group to be into. The girls all looked the part of the 15-year-old mantra of what a thrift store hipster should look like.

They did all switch instruments on the last song, which was kinda cool. Actually it was a ton of cool. While the drummer was still playing the bassist came over with one drumstick and slowly took over. The guitarist and bassist ended up switching instruments too until each one of the 3 members had switched.

It was gimmicky but sometimes a gimmick sells your show. It sold their show to me.

Staying in the tent after their set brought the noise duo of No Age. If you are into losing your hearing at a young age, go see this group. It is just loud, noisy guitar layered over crashing drums. The drummer seemed to sing all the songs I watched and it is hard to tell if he was a good singer over all the noise.

Either way I enjoyed what I saw but I had to run over to the next tent to get a good spot for Friendly Fires.

I can already say I am a bit of a fan of the group. I have already caught them 3 times, once headlining and twice opening for groups I had wanted to see (The Virgins and Lykke Li).

I pushed my way up to the front for this dance-rock group. They are a mixture of !!! and MGMT but with more guitar and less sampling.

On record the songs all tend to blend together, but in their live show you get a whole different sound for the group.

The singer would slam the mic into his head for moments of the songs. They would all be switching off instruments and jumping around. They were fun to watch and got the crowd bouncing on “Jump In the Pool”.

With an early afternoon time slot it is a tough sell to a crowd starting their day in the heat. It is even harder in a stuffy tent filled with people. Friendly Fires got the crowd shaking the butts at an early time.

The group won over the huge crowd that had come in to see what all the buzz was about. I am sure a few people went home with this set being one of the highlights of the weekend.

Wanting to get a good spot for Lykke Li, I arrived at the Outdoor Theatre early enough to catch 5 songs by The Gaslight Anthem.


At a festival you are sure to eventually walk into a group you are just totally not into. Well this was one for me.

The group is a modern rockabilly band. They don’t try to hide it, with the sleeved tattoos and white t-shirts with black pants. It is very basic and something I didn’t know new bands were trying to emulate.

Maybe there is a market for the modern day rockabilly bands, but man, this is just something I never have or plan on getting into. Even the classic stuff is a no go.

They did have a rather big crowd so maybe I am wrong, but there were a ton of people pushing their way up once they walked off the stage to get closer to the Swedish dancer turned singer, Lykke Li.

I already am a fan of the girl and I felt her set wasn’t as interesting as smaller shows.

“Are you guys ready for some Swedish techno,” was all she would say before starting into the song “Dance, Dance, Dance”.

Oh, she is not techno in any way but has worked with the dance pop master from Sweden, Robyn. She also was on the side of the stage singing along with her fellow Swede.

She went through a normal set of songs but skipped out on some of the quirky things I have seen her do at smaller shows. There was no toy trumpet or giant staff being hit onto the stage.

There was a black megaphone she pulled out to accompany a song. There was also her left boob, which kept popping out as she jumped up and down. I am sure if you search for it on the internet you can find it.

She also decided the audience was hot and kept splashing water on the first few rows. It was delightful in the heat, and she was delightful to watch.

As soon as she was done I ran over to the Main Stage to catch Peter, Bjorn and John. Bjorn produced the Lykke Li album and has performed with her before. I figured she might be joining the band for a song as well.

Peter Moran I had caught on his solo tour, twice, and was impressed with him each time so I was stoked to see PB&J.

They let me down in a big way. It just was not that exciting on stage. Even when they brought Lykke on stage the song just wasn’t very good. I think because most of their songs are so slow, they would have been better in a tent, or maybe seeing them at a small show. Something just wasn’t great about their performance on the Main Stage.

I would give them a second chance, but the first impression wasn’t good.

Just because he was there I had to make my way to the only person that has performed at every Coachella since 1999 in some capacity. The man, the myth, the legend that is Perry Farrell was doing a dance set in the Sahara Tent.

Sure it was nice to see Perry, but man, his dance stuff is awful. I mean he is in Jane’s Addiction, and he had another great group in Porno for Pyros. This dance stuff, not to be confused with his alter ego DJ Peretz, is just horrendous. I mean the Sahara Tent is packed all weekend, but when Perry came onstage it emptied out and was filled with people like myself that just wanted to see what his 10th performance was going to be like.

It was like listening to a bad mix tape. That is how I will put it. He should have just brought Dave and Eric on stage and just did a surprise Jane’s Addiction warm up. That would have packed the crowd in.

It was from the tent back to the main stage to catch the tail end of Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. They had a cool inflatable eyeball onstage with a blue sparkling spiral around it. Karen-O had a weird gold metallic dress and the overdone makeup look she normally sports.

I just don’t like them. Sorry.

Watching them I just kept looking at when their set was going to end. There was nothing spectacular or really noteworthy to write about the performance.

Everyone sang along with “Maps” and everyone cheered when they were finished. I just clapped and started weaving my way closer to the stage, closer to the speakers, to catch the band I was most excited for the entire weekend, My Bloody Valentine.

If you have never heard the group, I suggest you stop reading and go buy the album “Loveless” right now. They are the group that created the shoegaze style of music and have influenced thousands of groups.

I knew what I was getting myself into as I caught the group when they did their 5 city tour last year, marking their first shows in the states since the early 90s. I am sure many of The Cure fans around me did not.

A simple “Hello Coachella people,” is all Kevin Shields would mumble to the audience through the set.

A mix of guitar waves over airy, almost inaudible, vocals filled the polo grounds this Sunday evening. Knowing the noise factor of the group, the Outdoor Theatre and first tent were not in use.

With any My Bloody Valentine show the guitars get louder and louder as the show goes on. Kevin and Belinda are known for blowing out amps. As the set got to the final song, “You Made Me Realize”, you knew they were getting cranked to the top.

I knew that this song would become a twenty-minute Holocaust but most were still unprepared.

Two minutes into the song the band breaks off into a white noise section. On the album version the noise goes for around 30 seconds, on a live version it always passes the 10-minute mark.

Some started to scream and yell when the noise started thinking this was the end. But no, this was just the start.

It is hard to describe what you feel when the noise has enveloped you. I just stood their with my eyes closed and my hands raised to the sky. You could feel the entire ground shaking and your clothes vibrating with the musical waves. The noise continued to gain intensity until all your brain can do is dissect the sounds. Pretty soon it feels like you are in a jet engine and you can here bells and whistles. Next thing you know an amp blows out on stage and it sounds like gunfire.

It’s almost 10 minutes into the noise as I finally open my eyes back up. Many people around were hopping over the barricade covering their ears, just trying to get away from the noise.

At 15 minutes there were people that had curled up into balls and just hugged themselves on the ground. Others just stood with their mouths wide open as the group finally went right back into the song.

It’s hard to explain the experience unless you have experienced it. What is known as the noise Holocaust is something that not everyone can endure. If you just go with it, you will experience music and sound in a way you never have before. You will leave the experience thinking My Bloody Valentine is one of the best groups ever, or what the fuck was that, were they just trying to kill peoples ears?

There were many that left that stage changed and many that left that stage pissed off. I left excited to share in the experience.

Really at this point I would have been fine leaving the festival. After that experience nothing else was going to come close, I just knew it. But there was one more group that I was equally as excited to see.

Throbbing Gristle was the last act on my schedule that I had to see. If you do not know Throbbing Gristle it wouldn’t surprise me. Forming in the mid 70s and breaking up in the early 80s this more of a performance troupe makes scary sounding songs to weird tape loops and manipulated voices.

One of their songs, “Hamburger Lady”, is the chilling story of a burn victim. The group consists of two females on vocals and string type instruments. At one point the blond singer on guitar with violin bow, Genesis P-Orridge, just sort of cackled into the mic.

This is a group where you just have to check them out. I can say that I felt creped out by the dark music they were playing. The voices on tape loops made it feel like you were at a Halloween party gone wrong.

I would lump them into the music is art category. I am sure this wouldn’t be great stuff to listen to in the car driving down the freeway, but seeing it live, or laying in a bathtub with no lights on hopped up on drugs, is probably the way to enjoy them.

As I walked out of the tent I needed something to lift my spirits up before the drive home. So what better than The Cure to lift ones spirits.

I know it’s a joke but some of their songs really make me smile.

I had already caught them headlining Sasquatch, caught a private performance at The Troubadour and even saw them at a Christmas radio show. I am all cured out and was just happy to hear them play “Wrong Number”.

I am sure the start of the set was just as good as the end I saw. Plus Robert Smith knows how to put on a show.

As they continued to play past curfew the power was cut on the group during, “Boys Don’t Cry”. This didn’t stop the cure faithful as the audience finished the track off for the band.

Being badass rock stars, they came back out and did another song, just through the stage PA’s. This must have been too much for the promoters of the festival as they proceeded to cut power to the stage and The Cure finally got the hint and walked off.

And this lead me to make the walk back out to the parking lot and end my Coachella experience.

If you went I am sure you have a whole different take on the festival than myself. I spend all my time at the music stages and do not venture out into the Dome (where they have DJs spinning at night) or over to the Do Lab (which has performance art and artists all day, as well as people spraying water).

Coachella is an entire festival that really has everything one could want. It continues to grow and prove what the elite festival in the United States is. If you went I would love to hear your experiences as well, as I am sure they are greatly different from mine.

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