I haven’t reviewed any of these yet, but for context I want to list my top five albums of 2007 so far:
1. The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
2. !!!, Myth Takes
3. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
4. Blonde Redhead, 23
5. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Living with the Living
Four of these bands played at Coachella this year; three of them were on Saturday. Throw in the New Pornographers and the Decemberists and this was easily my favorite day of the festival, even if I had to skip !!!’s set.
Sets I saw Saturday: Hot Chip, the New Pornographers, the Decemberists, the Arcade Fire, Blonde Redhead
Details below the fold:
It was really hot. The hottest day of the weekend, and the hours around noon were awful. I entered the festival a little later than the previous day since most of the shows I was interested in were in the evening, and I wanted to save my energy for that. So I started around 4 with
Hot Chip: A band I’d heard recommended numerous times, but never investigated. They’re a synth-rock band and, like Ladytron, just about every band member was in front of a synthesizer. (There was also a guitarist, and a set of bongos.) They were good! I’ll probably buy the album. After this, I went to see one of my favorite bands ever,
The New Pornographers: I have now officially seen them more often than any other band, although I’ve only seen the full lineup, with Dan Bejar and Neko Case, once. The absence of Neko Case at this performance was particularly hard-felt, since her powerful voice is basically irreplacable. (Keyboardist Kathryn Calder stood in for Case’s part and sang decently.) Frontman Carl Newman can always be counted on for entertaining banter, but Neko Case is an important foil here as well; Calder’s attempts to substitute in this department were less successful.
As I indicated earlier, they showed the new album cover (on the projection screen), but didn’t play any songs from it. Instead it was a good selection of songs from their earlier records, leading off with “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and then (in a different order than this) “Mass Romantic”, “From Blown Speakers”, “The Laws Have Changed”, “Testament To Youth In Verse”, “Miss Teen Wordpower”, “Twin Cinema”, “Use It”, “The Bleeding Heart Show”, “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras”, and (I think) “The Jessica Numbers”. They confiscated my pen last year, so this time I memorized the setlist! Take that, anal security guard guy!
Between songs Carl Newman kept trying to figure out who was playing on the main stage by listening to what we could hear of the music. At one point we heard the chorus to “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” and he realized it was the band Travis. So he started heckling them. “Hey Travis, we’re trying to play here!” Then he had us give them the slow clap. The band tried to sing along but none of them really knew the words.
Now, I had to make a decision: would I see !!! or the Decemberists? I had heard the Decemberists put on a good show, but I’d also heard that about !!!, whose new album I really like. In the end I went to the Decemberists because it allowed more time to get to the Arcade Fire set, and because I really wanted to hear “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” (which they apparently almost always play).
The Decemberists: The majority of the set was merely good, with selections mostly from The Crane Wife: “The Crane Wife 3″, “The Island / Come and See / The Landlord’s Daughter / You’ll Not Feel the Drowning”, a long version of “Perfect Crime #2″, and “O Valencia!” (also, an older song I didn’t know). Several of these are pretty epic so they had only played these five songs when they announced they only had time for one more. But there were nearly fifteen minutes left in the timeslot! Of course, the last one was “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, and after some trial runs for the audience participation component (we were to provide the screams during the whale attack), it commenced. As I had been told to expect, this song performed live is brilliant. The music combined with the theatrics of the band and the interaction with the audience made it easily the best single-song moment I saw at the festival.
Frontman Colin Meloy finished off the set with an exhortation to “Go see the Arcade Fire, for chrissakes!” So I did.
The Arcade Fire: I don’t need to tell you who they are, right? I mean, Neon Bible charted #2 in its first week. It’s the best album I’ve heard all year and you should all go listen to it if you haven’t already. They were in the sunset slot on the main stage, the most beautiful time of the festival, and perfectly suited to the most beautiful songs of the festival. I’d been told to expect a great, intense show from the Arcade Fire and this is exactly what they delivered. My only complaint is that I couldn’t get very close to the stage, and had to watch much of it on the video screen. This was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t see over the guys in front of me. Is there a fraternity that only admits seven-foot-tall dudes? Because I think they sent their entire membership to Coachella and conspired to stand directly in front of me all day Saturday. Anyway, this was the best set I saw that day and closely trails Of Montreal for best of the festival. They opened with “Keep the Car Running”, closed with “No Cars Go”, and in between played (not in this order): “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, “Neighborhood #3: (Power Out)”, “Wake Up”, “Haiti”, “Rebellion (Lies)”, “Black Mirror”, “Ocean of Noise”, “(Antichrist Television Blues)”, and “My Body Is A Cage”.
After this I was forced to swim upstream against the flood of people heading to the main stage for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Chili Peppers were to me the most appealing of the headliners, but I had other priorities back at the Outdoor Theater:
Blonde Redhead: Another of my favorite bands, and I really like their latest album 23. It’s a bit of a departure from earlier records, but in a direction I approve of: shoegaze! And, indeed, they did a lot of staring at the effects pedals, since they mostly played songs from the new album. There were also a couple from Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (generally considered their best). I don’t know the new songs so well as to be able to provide a setlist here, but they definitely sounded good live. I was gratified to hear the guys in front of me change their plans to skip out early for the Chili Peppers, as Blonde Redhead had turned out to be “fucking awesome”. Except for the fact that they were like seven feet tall and blocking my view.
I’d finished my long run of favorite bands, so it was time for a much-needed food break. I overheard a few RHCP songs from the food court (and then, beer garden): “Otherside”, “Californication”, “Give It Away”. I imagine they played some from the new album too, but I wouldn’t have recognized them (save “Dani California”, which I’ve heard on the radio).
I then located a spot in the beer garden where I could hear LCD Soundsystem from the Sahara Tent while drinking my beer. It was still a little indistinct though. Meanwhile, Tiësto was scheduled for after the Chili Peppers on the main stage. I had no idea what this was, so I dropped by: he’s a trance DJ. However, I was more curious about The Good, the Bad, and the Queen, which is a collaboration between the lead singer of Blur, the bassist from the Clash, the guitarist from Verve, and the drummer from Africa 70. The band certainly had an impressive resume, but the music didn’t grab me and I slipped away after a few songs. I found I was much less tired than on Friday, thanks to more sleep and better pacing. Which was good, because I still had to muster the energy for the final day, about which more tomorrow.