Like a welcome second date, arriving to the latter half of Coachella allows for just a smidgen of breathing room. By this time, one is well-versed in what sorts of lines to expect, how much dough will be thrown around and how to negotiate around a field the size of Goleta with five simultaneous musical stages. Whether it was because too many people had crawled home from the beer gardens or sustained third-degree sunburns, the arguably better portion of the festival offered plenty of sonic taste-testing.
Ian MacKaye, lead singer of legendary punk bands Fugazi and Minor Threat, held his second Q&A, while fans lazed under the tent’s shade. Notoriously picky about public speaking, as well as stridently outspoken, MacKaye shared opinions on everything from running his own record label (Discord) to commercial music (“Fuck MTV. I don’t give a fuck about that stuff. When I got involved in underground music, I decided that’s where my ears were going to live.”). Along with fervent political banter, MacKaye shared a delightful and unexpected story about his first timid kiss at twelve years old when his girlfriend demanded a smooch within 30 seconds. Awww…
The Mars Volta moved up this year from the smaller tent to the main stage in the mid-afternoon. Though their music felt almost like an overwhelming wall of sound, Cedric and Omar shook their tiny hip-hugging rumps all across the stage, played lasso with the mic and let the desert wind inhabit their monstrously oversized afros.
Sonic Youth caused a simultaneous indie rock orgasm as they charged the main stage. Kim Gordon and Co. made sweet, sweet lovin’ to their instruments and, more importantly, looked like they were having a damn good time while doing it. It must be noted, though, that a man standing next to Artsweek was wearing overalls made out of a Star Wars bedsheet. Hey, just food for thought. No judgement being passed.
Over to the second stage, Primal Scream accomplished what seemed like the impossible: making hipsters get down with their bad, overly fashionable selves. Lead singer Bobby Gillespie and posse charged the crowd with hits like “Swastika Eyes” that caused all sorts of hideously deformed L.A. mullets to bob excitedly among the crowd.
With more than a half hour until Jack n’ Meg were scheduled to perform, a mass exodus began from the other four corners of Empire Polo Field toward the main stage. It was at this point that Artsweek finagled a way past the wristband checker being bombarded at the main stage and arrived in the VIP holy land that is backstage. Here, lone Artsweek eyed a cornucopia of celebs including – ahem – the Hives, Rivers Cuomo, Johnny Knoxville, Rick Rubin, Rachel Hunter, Sonic Youth, Michelle Rodriguez and that goofy lead singer from Puddle of Mudd. As much fun as ogling the rich and famous can be, it got lonely and the Stripey ones had the stage. The red and white duo knocked out most of their recent album, Elephant, including the darling “In the Cold, Cold Night” where Meg meekly sings solo. There was also no shortage of guitar shredding to be had, courtesy of Mr. White, who managed to school all of Coachella in roughly 25 minutes.
With celebs carefully herded out of sight, Artsweek returned to the common folk to check out Iggy and the Stooges. Though they sounded ferocious while performing songs like “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” Iggy’s sinewy body thrusting about the stage bordered on visually displeasing.
Next, the hip hop tent played host to current favorites, the Definitive Jux crew. Mr. Lif, Aesop Rock, Rjd2 and entourage stole much of the show as they livened up a heavily blunted crowd. Aesop even challenged his cohorts to a posing contest where the three emcees struck Madonna-esque poses for an adoring crowd before bursting into verbal battle.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined the final night of the festival, rattling off classics from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, much of Californication and several hits from last year’s By the Way. Though no tube socks and/or lightbulb hats were donned, their energy was frenetic and had much of Coachella salivating for more. Solos by bassist Flea and shaggy guitarist John Frusciante also broke up their set neatly before launching into yet another crowd pleaser.
It seemed only fitting that current electroclash titans Fischerspooner would close off the night for Artsweek, as they performed their dance floor hurricane “Emerge” before a much-excited crowd. Known for the visual spectacle they bring to a live show, a bevy of faux Vegas showgirls wearing fishnet suits (and black underwear) gyrated around Casey Spooner as he barked lyrics. In the last verse, clouds of white confetti exploded above the crowd. Pretty. Artsweek like. In fact, it was so much damn fun, the dancers got back in position and Fischerspooner did the entire song all over again. If only the same could be done with all 48 infectiously enjoyable hours of Coachella. *sigh*