Coachella 2009

Living in LA, it’s hard not to be inundated with the hype about Coachella. It’s everywhere from all of the “alternative” weekly papers, to local “indie” radio (ok, that’s just KCRW now) to all of the blogs based here, it’s hard to escape the gravity of the festival. Now, I’ve been to my fair share of big-ass music festivals, and while they are a fun way to burn a weekend, for me it’s not the best way to experience live music. With that being said, this year’s Coachella was a very nice surprise.

With only Saturday to take in as much as I could, I hit the Palm Desert on a mission to soak up as much music as I could in the 11 hours I had. At my last count, I saw 20 bands. This is what stood out from the chaos.

TV on the Radio

Photo credit: LA Times

Since “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes,” TVOTR has consistently climbed the ranks in the independent music world, much like earlier contemporaries Depeche Mode and the Cure. Like these two bands, TVOTR has cultivated a fan-base from city-to-city proving that their live performances are as powerful as their studio offerings. Their Cochella performance, on the main stage, was fantastic.

Performing “Staring at the Sun” as the sun was setting was perfect. Not even a hint of irony there.


Photo credit: Mike Orlosky

There have been some mixed reviews about MIA’s performance on the main stage, replacing Amy Winehouse, who clearly went MIA herself. I’ve seen MIA 3 times now, and with each performance her stage show becomes more and more elaborate. Her performance included a dance troupe, a LCD video back drop that U2 might use and a DJ who’s constant use of the airhorn gave the performance about as much street-cred as you can have performing in front of 20,000 people.

Chemical Brothers

My inner teenage raver couldn’t help checking out the CB’s at the dance tent. It’s strange to see thousands of folks watching concert style what should be a dance party, but the energy couldn’t be denied. After 15+ years of banging out the dance hits, the Brothers show no sign of stopping.

Bob Mould

Photo from

Now, to go a little further back in the way-back machine, I stopped in to see the Bob Mould Band. Now, Husker Du is an old-school punk favorite of mine. Going on 30+ years of making music, Bob has done more than his fair share. Starting Husker Du, forming the band Sugar, and even making dance music, it’s fair to say that he’s left his mark.

Unfortunately, unlike musicians his age that seem to evolve and try new things (think Wayne Coyne of the Flamming Lips), Bob has stuck with the 3 cord template that propelled him in the first place. His performance was solid and energetic, but nothing new.

Kode 9

Photo Credit: Matthew Trentacoste

I can’t say enough good things about Kode 9. Kode 9, aka Steve Goodman, is founder of the Hyperdub Label, has a Ph.D in philosophy and lectures in addition to producing and performing. His set was in the “dome” area, which on this 2nd night of the festival was being hosted by the Pure Filth Sound System, who have one of the most incredible sound set ups I’ve ever seen.

Kode 9 is on my top 10 performers and producers for 2009, not doubt.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

For those of you not familiar with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, it’s kind of difficult to explain without hearing. Imagine 1970’s radio, twisted through the filter of effects, with a healthy dose of pure freak-out noise pop. (See, I told you it would be difficult.)

As a live show, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So much of what makes APHG so interesting is figuring out just how in the world the songs were recorded. It’s either very low-fi (and recorded in the 1970’s) or so over-processed that it could never be reproduced live. Or so I thought…

The live performance was great. Ariel Pink looked every bit the junkie that you’d expect him to, and the band played every weird note like it was a recording session. The only difference between the live performance and the records was the fact that the live version sounded better!

If you’re not familiar, just check this out:

Drop The Lime

Luca Venezia, aka Drop The Lime and Curses!, has been a force in the underground dance community of NYC for more than a few years now. Starting out as a Breakcore producer and DJ (you can here a snipet of his earlier material here), DTL has steadily evolved into a performer who now commands the main room at the party. Along with his Trouble & Bass crew in NYC, he’s helped push 4-to-the floor bass music to it’s logical extreme. He’ll be performing with a live band this year, touring with Fisherspooner.

His Coachella DJ set was sick! He played at 2:30 in the afternoon, and somehow managed to get 10,000 folks on their feet and dancing with hands up. So, what’s new Luca?

Other highlights:

  • Surkin day-rave business…
  • Fleet Foxes
  • Folks not realizing who “Perry Ferrel” was when introduced by the Thievery Corporation
  • The Liars
  • Superchunk being as awesome as ever
  • Falling asleep while the Killers were playing

    Until next year…