Coachella 2011

From one Bro to another: Observations about Coachella 2011

Hello Coachella!!  It was that time again, and now it’s the time between times again. But for a little while it was here, and boy was some of it good! Real, real, really good. You’re reading this because you were either there and are wanting to confirm with a trusted publication that you had as good a time as you thought, or you weren’t there and you’re reading this to find out that you’ve hopefully not missed the greatest festival of your lifetime. But I will say out of my 11 Coachellas, this one ranks pretty high, but to find out exactly how high, you’ll have to read this entire article. This is my daily account of being at a festival, with lots of weird stuff going on.

I must first point out that the transformation from indie arts festival to indie top 40 fest is pretty much complete. This was the first year that two extremely important bands on the bill who reach legendary status either had no audience, or only filled up half their tent. The days of challenging art bands at Coachella are gone, and now we’re moving fully into the new goliath fest that it has become, and makes so many more happy every year. The ticket prices and lack of single day admission have killed interest for people who want to come and see the small handful of artsy bands who they seem to tack on the bill and stick in smaller tents. There’s just too much mainstream music on the bill for a fan who would like to see Wire, or maybe Suede, to pay $350. So the people who are plunking down the money are those getting the most out of it, and they my friends have come to bro down and rave.


Grabbed Levon from the Airport, beat all sorts of traffic and got into Palm Springs around 12:30. We ate at Islands, and I think the waitresses thought that one of us was hot. She let us order the children’s sized burgers, and didn’t charge us for our sodas. We check in with the filter party, which was great this year, half the attendance of the last one I went to, and a wide variety of beverages to choose from. We got free backpacks courtesy of Jansport to ensure our brand loyalty. We danced the living crap out of the dance floor, and if you’ve seen us work, you’ll know this to be true. Thought about love for a while, and drank 6 beverages, real real drunk now. Once a year I let loose, and I get loose.


We try Panera Bread. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, had some kind of pesto sandwich. I’d go there if you want to spend $10 on a sandwich and feel ok about it. Nice relaxing music.

Showed up for the end of !!!’s set, I know I wasn’t there for the whole thing, but they can’t seem to recapture the magic of their 2007 Coachella set. Seen them a bunch now, always solid, always working hard, dancing hard, playing hard, but no magic. Lightening strikes maybe once, maybe twice, but for !!! it strikes one out of five times so far.

Cold Cave
Their name says it all, Cold Cave. They blew out an impressive set of darkwave, really fun, danced in a hot tent. They dressed the part, the singer had on several layers of black sweaters, and some mesh kind of thing. The Synth player was hot, in the hot in the tent way and also in the regular way. In a festival that’s becoming more and more about ass, she wasn’t showing any. A risky but classy choice.

Kinda good, I don’t know if I want to call it very good. I definitely don’t. They played well, just wasn’t exciting to watch or listen to. Lots of ladies seemed to really enjoy this, so I’m beginning to think they write jams ladies relate to better than bros. I could relate to how hot lots of those ladies were in the audience, in both ways again. So I guess I will say they were ladies first, musicians second.

Ariel Pink
So, a lot gets written about this as being something new. He played some music and then got upset about something. That seems to happen quite a bit, but at least he didn’t let ladies from other bands who don’t know his songs get up on stage and just bang around for an hour. It’s probably too many drugs or he might just want to deprive the world of beauty. He got kicked out of a recording studio for getting ice cream all over the sound board at one point in his career, so I guess he’s only taking shit half-assed. His wife or partner lady who had his baby is hot, so what does he care.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
This band has somehow hit paydirt and have morphed into a really expensivey kind of deal. Hearing them play sounds like it should have cost a few extra ticket-upgrade dollars, like when you get a shrimp item at Panda. They sound good, but we had to rock it out of there to see Ariel mess things up for us, sorry for the chronological fuck up, I’m not into any type of editing or I’d fix it.

Lets continue dancing to some naive electro dance group. Funner than I thought, a lot funner than Warpaint, ladies take some funness lessons. They announced they were just signed by DFA during their set for their next record, and I thought immediately that they were too fun of a band for DFA, but I guess that’s for the lawyers to sort out now.

Part of me loves Interpol, a lot more than I should love Interpol, but “Turn On The Bright Lights” is a masterpiece from the first decade of this millennium. However I’m just not in the mood to sit through the extremely dreary sounds tonight and we bolt. 

Sleigh Bells
I couldn’t tell if the singer of this band was really hot or not. She wore a Michael Jordan jersey that said Sleigh Bells instead of Michael Jordan. I guess this was a good show, it was like this exactly: if you scream and try to duplicate what’s in the quotations  you might get it to sound the same “boom, boom boom, boom booom booommm, flash flash flash flash.” If you like booming and flashing this might be your thing, was expecting a little more musically from them, but not bad.

Cut Copy
Really good, but not as good as last time they were here. Set seemed kinda shortish, but I guess they played their full hour. Not as big a fan of the newer album, but all the old stuff sounded great. Seemed a little nostalgia-y even at this young point in their careers, 3 albums now I believe. Band lifespan is moving much quicker these days.

Crystal Castles
They also decided to do the booming and flashing thing, but they did it much much better than Sleigh Bells. The sound was good, had enough room to dance, played pretty much everything that I wanted to hear by them except for “Vanished.” But after Cold Cave this was the best thing to happen on Friday so far.

I work out, I work out everyday, hours, I have a personal trainer. And when you’re working out this hard music is important. Nothing gets you psyched to do your last 3 sets of lunges more than Robyn. She was hands down the best set of day 1 Coachella. She opened with “Fembot” and just powered through her set wearing an early 90s salt and pepper/fly girls inspired outfit with a brand new bowl cut. This was a nearly perfect set for her, and built up extremely nicely into one of the best pop songs from the last decade ‘Hang With Me.” Maybe this was a “you either get Robyn or you don’t” set cause I hear the “I don’t get it” reports quite a bit. But the emotion and melody on display during “Hang With Me” were a 10.


The Radio Dept.
We show up in time to catch RD, and they were good, they played good both times I’ve seen them. Only moderately engaging, should have been an epic sweeping tidal wave of magic. They didn’t bring it at their own show either, it sounded fine both places, better sound on their own of course, but just barely feeling anything in the old mechanical heart. Playing again at the Troub soon, might catch it, those boys are kind gentlemen who hung out with us for an hour after their El Rey show, just shooting the shit. Amazing band, one of my faves just for the record.

Would like to be Bjork, but more boring.

Broken Social Scene
Too much new material watering down the really passionate stuff. Sounds good, but blah now. I’ve seen Yelle before, and New Pornographers too many times to do it again so we take a break and just enjoy all of the hot ass strolling about.

They sound great, lots of newer material, but still the good stuff sounded great. There’s a hole in my neighborhood down which of late I cannot help but fall.

The Kills

Weakest set I’ve seen them do, they are usually channeling fire, and can shoot it out at the audience, but not tonight. They decided to tame it way the shit down, they played some good stuff, but maybe this is their mature coffee daddy tame tour.

2nd time seeing Wire, and it was good, but not blown away by them again, we saw 5 songs and then left to queue up for Suede. So here’s the issue, should have had a full tent, should have had more than the 100 or so people watching the band, blame Coachella for that, but on their end I don’t know who’s choosing their sets, but they need to bring in someone else to do this for them.

One Day As A Lion
I walked into this as everyone was leaving, but I’ve never seen so much repressed homosexual energy in my life. The sex-anger was just radiating from the violent un-gentlemen as they were leaving. This band should be called “I Need One Day To Experiment With My Sexuality Somewhere Safe Away From My Normal Life Because If I Don’t I Will One Day Kill Someone I’m Attracted To And Then Kill Myself As A Lion.”

The Swell Season
Sadly blew wire out of the water for passion and emotion, I know it’s an adult contemporary band, but he opened with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” where he just screamed and banged on his guitar, and then went immediately into a cover of Tim Buckley’s “Buzzin’ Fly.” Both I thought were really good, and they did the signature songs from their movie Once, liked those too, new stuff not so much, but they were a good band and played well. Bro’s got a great voice too, capable of some intense whaling. Nice enough set to wait through for Suede.

Hands down the greatest set I have ever seen any one play period. They just came out and ripped through some of their best material. Words can’t capture this. Front row, greatest front man of all time, one of the greatest songwriters of all time just giving everything he has. It was like being in the “The Drowners” video. Just so intense and everyone throwing themselves at Brett Anderson. He looked amazing, and he just dug the shit into every song they played. They opened with a “Coming Up” favorite “She” done at a little more than 3/4 of the speed, but it just made it so intense. I’ve never seen someone emote so much, and just strain with their entire body to just push beyond what his body is capable of. Intense, exciting, genius are all words I’d use to describe this set. He just didn’t quit, jumping, whiping his hair around, shaking his ass, and generally sassing it up. Perfect flow of songs, every song was perfection. Inclusion of one b-side was fantastic,  “The Killing of A Flash Boy” played even better than the recording, and the darkest of all Suede album tracks “The Asphalt World” from Dog Man Star were huge for fans. Even when they slowed it down to play “Pantomime Horse” they still were blowing minds. This concert broke the scale. Small audience, moderate sized stage = huge amazingness right up in your face. I would put a price that a ticket for this should go comparably to what other concert tickets cost, based on quality of show, this one should have been $17,864.33 per ticket.

To say I was exhausted after Suede was an understatement, he gave everything and we tried our damnedest to give it back. We ran out of there on a high like I’ve never experienced before. This is why we do this.


Sorry to all the afternoon bands that played before Health, I’d love to see you someday Twin Shadow so we can finally Twin our Shadows together simultaneously. But I’ve got to work out, and we had trouble finding a decent church nearby so we had to drive out to 29 Palms. God only seems to exist indoors inside specific buildings that are run by people who’d like to have money from you. I like costumes and shit, and pageantry.

Not just for noise lovers anymore, dancey shoegazy is their new business, and they were great. Really enjoyable stuff, covering Pictureplane’s “Gothstar” is a great choice, audience seemed basically happy, maybe just hot, but soaring dancey stuff is always going to get me to move my shit, fuck yes.

Best Coast
I’m new to music, I’m open to anything. This seems fun, simple enough to understand. Lady loves a deadbeat stoner, she needs to upgrade her shit and date one of those upscale trustfund stoners.

DFA 1979
I never understood the excitement for this band until I started working out every day, great band to bust heads to. Saw them at the echo in 2005 when the angry bitch drummer wasn’t wearing a stupid sun hat. I love love, and this band hates love. Unarguable.

They truly played at Coachella, and sounded like good soundtracky electronic music. I felt fine here.

We perused this set, saw them open for Interpol before, that seemed a lot more fun back then, years ago. I don’t think Interpol even had a 2nd album yet when that happened. I wish in retrospect I could have heard them play “Party With Children,” but I am not a superman and cannot be everywhere at once.

The National
They sound great, and instantly start channeling some pretty big emotion, big band for a reason.

Fun, pretty fun, partially rewarding. I think they sound pretty good, and I dance quite a bit, but I don’t know if I’m totally on board, but do you have to be? No.

Duran Duran
I felt like they limped through this, saw them attack with quite a bit more bite half a decade ago, but they continue to insist on the most embarrassing power-point presentation visuals I’ve maybe ever seen. Just clip art, I’ve seen real estate agencies with sexier and more refined visuals on their websites. Los Angeles what have you done to these men, or should I say Hollywood. Hey DD hit me up so we can tan together some time.

This guy is funny as shit, I enjoyed his jokes. They sound good as a band, nice to hear some of the old jams, new ones too, but I am not rocked as hard as I was back in 2002 by them on the same stage.

PJ Harvey
Usually she’s just pure swag, she invented lady swag, sound was off on her vocals, which are the star of her show for me. She played it tame this year instead of just roaring. 4 of the songs were great, the rest of the set was just probably a lot better seeing her where they had control over the sound.

We spend the next 3 days after the fest winding down, eating some of the finest food that the desert has to offer. Pampering our feet with pedicures to re-eroticise the seat of health on the human body. Reading magazines, watching films and enjoying the luxury that only a large condo in a country club can provide. If you ever go, please go in style, I highly recommend it.

Michael Cameron

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2 Responses to Coachella 2011

  1. Insect G says:

    Great review. Made me feel the experience minus having to shell out the $17,864.33 ticket.

  2. j-money says:

    alexis’ mock-up jordan jersey was ill! bells on the front instead of bulls?? clever. bass player from pains of being pure at heart also had a mock-up ramones shirt with the current starting 5 for the new york knicks. glad to see i wasn’t the only one excited about day 1 of the nba playoffs.

    great review like always mike.

    – jason

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