When I think about Coachella, I cringe. It has everything I hate: crowds, port-a-potties, really hot weather, lines, frat bros who remind me of those who threw bottles at me while I was delivering pizzas on a bike in college, and loads of people yelling “WOO.” Although, when I look at the line-up for this year, I see some bands that I really like and loved like Madness, Jeff Magnum, Black Lips, Oberhofer (everything I’ve heard is great), and none more so than Pulp. Man, to see Pulp live has been a dream of mine for about 20 years!
With that said, Coachella isn’t the place to do it.
I attended the festival once–in 2001. I’m old. I ﬂew down from San Francisco excited to see many bands I’d seen often such as The Orb, Aphex Twin, Roni Size, and Mos Def as well as seeing bands like St. Germain (remember how good that Tourist album was back in the day?), Souls of Mischief and Kruder & Dorfmeister for the ﬁrst time. The idea of seeing all of these amazing artists in the desert at sunrise and under the stars seemed like the best of both worlds. On paper, it is. But, in reality, it’s not.
I kept thinking and hoping the show would be somewhat similar to the Oasis Live at Knebworth album from the mid nineties. Aspects of that live album still give me chills. Sadly, it wasn’t even close. There are many obvious reasons why it’s not–I could go on about the endless line to get into the parking lot or the nightmare scenario of waiting to get through the ticket gate or even the fact that many bands get scheduled to play at the same time, but it’s really a poor experience to see a band in that environment. There is something about that venue and location that just lacks any sort of intimacy. Remember that video that was going around of Bon Iver playing a sunrise show in the cemetery here in LA? That looked incredible, moving and beautiful, everything I feel Coachella is not. (Check it out below.)
I would say the performances (across the board) at Coachella were the poorest performances of any of the bands I had previously seen. There is a huge disconnect between the audience and the artists. If you’re up front, the stages are so high and the security/photographer pit is so deep you still feel far away. In the back, you feel like you’re watching it on TV or online (which you can do now). The majority of people are there to “party” and not to listen to the bands. So, your experience is trying to ﬁlter out conversations about things you don’t care about while trying to listen to something you do care about. I can’t imagine how much worse this is now that most conversations include “…on Facebook.”
The bottom line is? I do want to experience music I love in beautiful places I don’t usually ﬁnd myself such as the desert at night. Thank god for iPhones/iPods and headphones! I can even bring my own beer. My trip to Coachella made me create my “one-time only” rule when it comes to bands: if I see a band that’s great, I won’t go see them again. That last time will be my lasting impression. All those bands I saw at Coachella I haven’t seen again and sadly that Coachella experience is my deﬁning memory for them. I can remember seeing The Orb at the Warﬁeld in SF, but I can’t remember it as well as Coachella and when I think about it I think about the annoyance of being there and the three hours it took to get out of the parking lot. Again, the poor experience of being there trumps any of the music and that experience is nothing I’d want to be a part of. There is one exception to all of this: if The Smiths reformed, played only one show and played Coachella, I would go.
Other than that, I look forward to some quiet weekends in Los Angeles in mid-April.