Coachella 2013

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand on the Mojave Stage.

So I made it to my sixth Coachella of the last seven.  Going into it, I was not nearly as excited as in past years, in large part because of the lack of a stellar headliner.  

Yes the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great band, but being an LA native going to see a local band at Coachella is just not as exciting as seeing legends like Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Prince and Leonard Cohen.

But in truth I had a great time – and the Red Hot Chili Peppers did not disappoint. In fact they rocked as hard as ever and managed to draw massive crowds, which did not always happen with other bands on the Main stage.  Among the headliners, Phoenix proved that French Rock is no longer an oxymoron and Sigur Rós show us that trance is not just relegated to the electronic tent.

Sixto Rodriguez (Searching for Sugar Man), Gobi Stage

Rodriguez (Searching for Sugar Man) on Gobi Stage

See photo galleries for
Day 1Day 2 & Day 3.


Perhaps the sentimental highlight of the weekend was getting to see Rodríguez, the subject of the documentary, "Searching for Sugar Man." Rodríguez played on Gobi Stage to a packed audience, who greeted him to the equivalent of a standing ovation (we were already standing, but you could tell the sentiment was high).  For a guy who's lived away from the spotlight all these years, Sixto Rodríguez put on a rousing performance, including energetic guitar playing. Comparisons to Dylan are apt.  He's a visionary a poet and authoritative story-teller who  lives up to his legendary status in South Africa.

Among the veteren bands with killer sets, were "Franz Ferdinand", whose infectious funky rock delivered some of the best moments of the weekend.  Veteren punk rocker "Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine" proved that punk rock is as relevant as ever, with his heavy political themes balance by his clowning persona. Biafra reminds us that we continue to need a court jester who speaks truth to power.  Other classic punks delivered as well, including "The Descendants," "Violent Femmes" and "Social Distortion." Alt Rockers "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds" resurrected the specter of Jim Morrison mixed into their post-punk gothic sound.  Brit pop rockers were well represented, with good performances by "Blur" and Manchester rockers "The Stone Roses". It's notable that these two swapped slots from weekend one to weekend two, perhaps due to weak turnout for the Roses in the first weekend.

Of Monsters and Men on the Outdoor Stage

Of Monsters and Men on the Outdoor Stage

Among newcomers who impressed me were two distinctly indie folk/pop: "The Lumineers" from Denver and "Of Monsters and Men" from Iceland.   Other impressive performances came rising Portland rockers, "Portugal, The Man" and local rockers "The Airborne Toxic Effect"  and "Band of Horses." Exciting discoveries for me, include "Kurt Vile and the Violators" who infused blues-rock with folk and psychedelic garage rockers, "Palma Violets."

Other highlights include and energetic set from ska rockers,"The Selector" and folk infused Mexican alt rockers "Café Tacvba."

I tried the shuttle service this time, which was a huge success.  It not only cuts down on driving time, but cuts walking distance from far away lots and next to eliminates the prospect of losing your car.  I highly recommend taking the shuttles there next year, if you're not camping.

You can't see everything and we missed many good performances, most notably "The Yeah Yeah Yeahs" (who I'd seen before), "Dead Can Dance", "New Order," "Tegan and Sara," and Moby's DJ set.

The big question for Coachella is whether or not they're about to jump the shark.  Last year they went from one weekend to two weekend.  This year they are adding a second set of two weekends in the fall. While the past two weekends sold-out, there were tickets listed in the aftermarket at below face value.

See photo galleries for Day 1Day 2 & Day 3.

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