OMG! EDM is taking over Coachella (and the World)!!
This was the whine of the New York Times Music Critic in his recent Coachella 2012 articles. Poor baby, maybe he was pissed because The Black Keys got bumped to an earlier spot, and Swedish House Mafia closed Friday night. My opinion? To quote the Great Philosopher Tim Lincecum, “Fuck Yeah!” You couldn’t pay me enough (plus you’d have to lash me to a pole) to make me listen to 100 mostly mediocre indie rock bands.
I’m not sure what his complaint was, since only one of the five stages was dedicated to EDM. Ah, wait – I do know. LA Riots started blasting at noon on Friday, for goodness sake, and there was a mad stampede to the EDM stage. They kept coming and coming, until half of the early Coachella population was jumping around. So yes, run-of- the-mill indie rock has big problems keeping an audience.
As the weekend progressed, DJs did multiply like bunnies, especially Sunday night. I tweeted that four out of the five stages had different variants of EDM going on, but I was wrong – some guys I never heard of, Modeselektor, were on the fifth stage. Plus a sixth, unofficial stage with low-rent DJs and water cannons which many times was more fun than most of the other five. To be fair, there were some interesting bands, especially the ones with a World Beat flavor and brass, accordion, Middle Eastern sound, etc. As well as some mediocre EDM – sorry, Mt. Eden, and the French dude with the screechy high notes over the bass. Maybe his ears are blown out and he doesn’t realize how bad it sounds. FYI, there is a dedicated Coachella YouTube channel, so roam around and see what you can find.
Play Age Card here: I’ve heard and seen Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Stones, ZZ Top, Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music (one of my personal faves), plus lots of great Bay Area groups you’ve never heard of, who were miles ahead of the current crop of bands. For instance The Tubes, the greatest visual rock band of all time. Pre MTV, every song was fully costumed, fully choreographed, absolute craziness – check ‘em out on the History Channel (that’s YouTube, gang).
In Ye Olde Days, festivals/concerts/happenings/be-ins were supposed to be spontaneous – the 60’s, remember? which usually was a synonym for disorganized and haphazard (unless Bill Graham was screaming at you). Security was the Hells Angels guarding the front rows, food and drinks were BYOB, just getting there was an adventure, concerts were supposed to be free or minimal cost. I went to Altamont for instance, listened to a lot of folk-rock, the precursor to CSN&Y and the Eagles, as well as The Stones and others, and lived to tell the tale. Lived up the street from the Jefferson Airplane and got to hear Grateful Dead rehearse (really, truly bad). Plus worked at the Avalon, the competitor to The Fillmore. Peace, love and weed, baby.
Going to Coachella is mighty different. There are huge sums of money involved now, $45-$50 million just in admissions. There’s security. More security. More security. Which is a good thing. While the audience is mostly SoCal, there were a lot of Aussies and folks from all over. The costs involved in attending self-select an audience that can afford the hundreds of bucks for the admit, plus travel, plus camping or hotels, plus shuttles, plus food, plus lots and lots of water at $2 a pop. All that creates a predominantly college-age audience who (or their parents) have money. And behave well. I think my Lincecum t-shirt was such a hit because the 20-somethings weren’t about to wear something so rude themselves. There was a bit of faux Burning Man flavor too, with huge, temporary sculptures and cautious costumes on some folks.
I hear most of my dance music on satellite radio (they recently added a second dance channel), so getting out to see a whole bunch of acts was great. I really liked Justice, an electronic rock band – if Hendrix were alive today, that’s what he’d be doing. There are some dudes who really are into visual arts, with a soundtrack, such as DJ Shadow and Flylng Lotus (who is part of a jazz royalty family, the Coltranes). There are innovative, cross-genre sounds such as Justice and Flying Lotus. Killer stage shows, such as Avicii DJing from the top of a giant skull. The really successful formula seems to be: sample or remix a lot of top 25 EDM hits with singers, play a line then cut the sound and let the audience sing the next line, then blast that pure bass. I liked Porter Robinson as well, purveyor of my all-time favorite dance song line, “You dropped me on Facebook, now you’re going to die.” And, of course, there are people I’d love to see here next year, such as Josh Wink and Metrojolt’s #1, Above & Beyond.
Finally, Phil has done a really thoughtful and perceptive piece for Metrojolt on the technological highlight of Coachella, the Tupac hologram. Read it– far more insightful than anything I’ve seen in the mainstream press.
1. All those bikinis
2. Timmy t-shirt was way more popular than buffed-out dudes, tattoos, etc.
1. Chubby guys with coconut shell bras. Really. Bad. Look.
2. Women with full-length dresses in 100+ degree heat. Ladies, if your body image is that poor, stay home and work out.
I’d kill for:
1. A chair – is that too much to ask? After 8-10 hours either milling around or sitting on the hard ground, a chair would be wonderful.
2. Two out of the five stages for EDM next year, all three days.