Pavement / all photos by David Greenwald
Like a busted bar forced to start carding, the media (and Rawkblog) outcry over Coachella’s delinquent ticket-taking seemed to have made an impact on Sunday. My ticket was scanned, finally, my bag was checked, and I hear would-be attendees with fake wristbands had them sliced off at the gate and were sent packing. To which I say: great! After two days of claustrophobic crowds, the polo fields finally felt expansive, the tents more welcoming. Also great: the lack of crackdown on public drug use, which left the entire five-stage venue smelling like Lil Wayne on a rough night. I’m glad Goldenvoice set its priorities straight, if a little late. My priority, of course, was seeing Pavement’s reunion — and did they ever deliver. My notes and photos after the jump.
After a failed attempt to lunch at the Yelp-favored Sherman’s Deli (packed for Sunday brunch, natch), we made do with Quizno’s and discovered the sub chain’s latest item: the Toasty Bullet. Or as I like to call it, the Breadstick with Stuff In It. In this case, it was $3 well spent, but for the record, Palm Desert Quizno’s, you gotta step your register game up. Once at the festival, here’s what I saw:
* Local Natives: I’ve gone back and forth on these guys since seeing them briefly at SXSW. They have the stage presence and power of a hungry young band with just enough touring under their belts — a sweet spot that they’re making the most of as their star continues to rise. But do they have the songs? On record, only sometimes, but on Sunday, everything sounded hotter than the murderous afternoon temperature.
* Owen Pallett: See my review on BuzzBands.la today — Pallett, in a dress shirt and slacks, must’ve let the heat get to him judging by the frequent giggles. Otherwise, a similar set to when I saw him in November.
* Deerhunter: In 2007, I called listening to Cryptograms “like getting half a handjob.” The band I saw on Sunday was like getting the whole thing, and some tongue. In the last few years, their songs have acquired the pop focus lacking on their early work without sacrificing the noise explorations that first made them fascinating. They were the only band I saw all weekend that made me want to run home and order their vinyl. (For the record, you’ll remember I did come around to them and singer Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound project in a big way last year.)
* Yo La Tengo: At this point, the heat was taking a toll and my friends and I needed a break, but even across the field from the indie veterans, the “Stockholm Syndrome” guitar solo burst forth like Old Faithful.
* Spoon: Rested up with dinner in our bellies (Whitney Port’s favorite: Spicy Pizza, which lived up to its name), the girlfriend and I managed to get deep into the left wing of Spoon’s main stage set. (With Pavement up after, the prospect of running back and forth to Phoenix suddenly became moot.) Spoon were Spoon, which is to say, fiery and dependable. The setlist had a surprise or two (“Small Stakes!”) but having seen them four times previously and as recently as last month, I got what I was expecting.
(One note to add here — one thing that was vastly improved at Coachella from my last go-round was the really excellent filmmaking being done on the main stage and Outdoor Theatre. What was seen on the video screens to the sides of the stage for any given set was a live multi-camera feed shot with gorgeously shallow depths of field and edited as dramatically as any labored-over concert film — you almost wanted to turn from bands on the stages themselves to watch it. If they simply stuck the footage on a DVD as I saw it play out, I’d buy it tomorrow; serious kudos, guys.)
* Pavement: In the 20 or so minutes after Spoon left the stage, the crowd emptied out for other stages and we somehow wound up basically first row for what, to any reasonable rock fan, should’ve been the festival’s most anticipated set. Apparently Coachella-goers under 20 didn’t feel the same way, which was just fine by me (though things did fill in, at times belligerently, as the band took the stage). Frontman Stephen Malkmus may be ambivalent in the press about the whole reunion thing, but on stage, he looked like he was having the time of his life — striking poses, accenting syllables, even stepping back from the banter to let his bandmates relish their moment in the spotlight. It was a beautiful thing, as was the mouth-watering setlist: my highlights were “Gold Soundz” halfway through and “Summer Babe” and “Cut Your Hair” to close things out. Joyful noise, and a reminder to modern indie rockers that you can, and should, take a guitar solo because they are awesome. Assuming you can play half as well as Malkmus.
* Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace: I was lucky enough to see the Radiohead frontman’s then-unnamed new band at the Orpheum last year from a good football field or two closer, so I knew the drill here — an intense take on The Eraser followed by a few new songs. Intense is one way to put it — Flea’s bass lines were earth-rattling. If Yorke doesn’t put out a live album from one of these gigs, it’d be a terrible mistake: this band, with the muscle of three percussionists and the aforementioned Flea (!) on the low end, is the way The Eraser, a bit frail on record, was meant to be heard. With his solo album satisfyingly run through, the singer took the stage solo and surprised with an acoustic “Airbag” as well as “Everything In Its Right Place” before bringing back the band and turning again to his solo material.
During the second half of Yorke’s set, the crowd started pouring over to the main stage for Gorillaz, a band I’m sure played well but couldn’t possibly justify the hour in the parking lot we’d be sure to suffer after. Apparently no one else agreed with me — when we got to the car, there wasn’t another soul exiting Lot 16. All the better. I returned from Coachella in record time, relatively awake and entirely pleased with a weekend of impressive performances and surreal desert hedonism. The Hebrew phrase goes, “Next year in Jerusalem”; I’m rooting for “Next year with a photo pass,” but I wouldn’t turn down a repeat of this one.
More: Coachella 2010: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | All Coachella Coverage