Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2013

The Snail creeping it's way through the festival
It's May 4 here in Anchorage as I sit down to recount my trip to Coachella, I cannot escape the irony of having playoff hockey on the television and a steady spring snow coming down outside while I tell you all of my trip to the desserts of Southern California. As most of you know I make an annual trip to a different music festival every year. Usually this trip is in the fall, but this time I chose a spring festival as a way to thaw out after a long winter up in Alaska.
The other difference between this and other festivals that I've gone to in the past was that this time I went by myself. In the past, I've always had my trusted compatriot, Bird, along for the ride as well as usually a few other characters as well. While the presence of my friends was of course missed, it did make this a more focused music experience. I was free to roam around not worrying about where anyone else was or if they could find me, or having to periodically meet up with anyone; I could just go and explore and take in all there was to see and do.

The Lineup

Blur, The Stone Roses, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jurassic 5, Modest Mouse, Grinderman, Bassnectar, Dog Blood, How to Destroy Angels, Passion Pit, Tegan and Sara, Band of Horses, Beach House, Metric, Phoenix, The XX, The Postal Service, Sigur Ros, New Order, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, Knife Party, Benny Benassi, Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club, Moby, The Decendants, Yeasayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Vampire Weekend, Social Distortion, Wu Tang Clan, Pretty Lights, Eric Prydz, Tame Impala, The Lumineers, Dead Can Dance, La Roux,
James Blake, Excision Grimes, Local Natives, Of Monsters and Men, Infected Mushroom, The Japandroids, Divine Fits, Luciano, Stars, Johnny Marr, FOALS, Seth Troxler, Wolfgang Gartner, Nicky Romero, Modestep, Tommy Trash, Thomas Gold, The Shouting Matches, Dillon Francis, Four Tet, Aesop Rock, Alt-J, TNGHT, Jake Bugg, Earl Sweatshirt, Polica, Sparks, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Purty Ring, Youth Lagoon, Lee Scratch Perry, Dam-Funk, DJ Harvey, Jamie xx, Deathfix, C2C, Beardyman, Lord Huron, Palma Violets, Skinny Lister, James McCartney, The Neighborhood, Raymond Roker, Mario Cotto, Violent Femmes, Simian Mobile Disco, Spiritualized, Pucifer, Cafe Tacvba, Portugal. the Man, The Make-Up,
Bat for Lashes, Richie Hawtin, Major Lazer, Freddie Le Grand, Dropkick Murphys, Ben Howard, 2 Chainz, Janelle Monae, Danny Brown, Wild Nothing, Booka Shade, Trash Talk, Julio Bashmore, Bingo Players, Allen Stone, El-P, The Selector, Pusha T, Kill the Noise, The Evens, Biffy Clyro, Theophilious London, Baauer, Zane Lowe, Birdy Nam Nam, Action Bronson, Jason Bentley, The Wombats, Guards, Mona, Savages, Shovels and Rope, Reignwolf, Cassy, Kids These Days, The Colorist, Vintage Trouble, Been Trill, The Gaslight Anthem, The Faint, Hardwell, Paul Okenford, Dinosaur Jr, Raider Clan, OMD, Roni Size and Dynamite MC, Kurt Vile and the Violators, The Airborne Toxic Event, Father John Misty, Tanlines, Rodriguez, Alex Claire, Paul Kalkbrenner, Jessie Ware, Loco Dice, Jamie Jones, The Three O'Clock Disclosure, Mimosa, Cloud Nothings, Thee Oh Sees, Dub FX, Maya Jane Coles, Jeff the Brotherhood, Smith Westerns, Dirtyphonics, Joris Voorn, Danny Avila, Ghost BC, DIIV, Little Green Cars, Mord Fustang, Robert DeLong, White Arrows, Deap Valley, Wild Belle, Adrian Lux, Ladies Night, JDH and DAVE P

Day 1

My biggest concern about Coachella was the sun. I have the pasty white skin of an Alaskan at the end of winter and stepping out into the California dessert for 12 hours, I had the potential to get dangerously sunburned. I of course took precautions with the strongest sunscreen that I could find, but I still had to worry. I wanted to make an effort to spend the early part of the day in the covered tents as opposed to standing outside at the two main stages during the heat of the day. With that in mind, I made my way to the Sahara Tent, which would feature EDM acts all weekend, to watch C2C.
Here's my thing with EDM, I enjoy listening to it, but I don't necessarily enjoy seeing it live. It always has cool light shows, but is not otherwise all that interesting and the crowds that they draw generally annoy me. The fact is that at a festival I want to see a rock concert not go to a night club. I understand the appeal, but it's just not for me. That is why I wanted to make a point of getting to one of the early shows at the Sahara Tent, before the crowds got too out of hand. And I'm glad that I did. The French turntable quartet was an early crowdpleaser. Lost in the whole EDM explosion in recent years has been the efforts of DJ's who still actually scratch records, which is why it was so unique to see four DJ's step up and do what they do best, which is get crowds jumping.
The silhouette of The Shouting Matches in front of a beautiful backdrop
After C2C finished up I was killing off some time before Jake Bugg started, I purchased a frozen lemonade and wandered into the Gobi Tent to gave a listen to The Shouting Matches. They were playing an easy groove that just sounded like California, and for the first time the thought finally set in that I had arrived.
As I listened, I noticed a guy sitting crosslegged in the grass and hopelessly scratching away at his copy of the festival lineup and trying to plan his day. There is an inherent flaw in trying to bring order to your day at these things, believe me I've tried. The fact is that maybe you see the band you want, maybe you don't, maybe you get there and get there and can't see shit, maybe you get distracted along the way. It's better to live in the moment and keep your plans loose. The only planning that I did was to find two or three bands per day that I really wanted to see and let everything else just happen.
I applauded for The Shouting Matches and then walked over to the next tent to hear Jake Bugg, who I have heard a lot about. He has a folksy rock sound and a truly distinctive voice.There is no denying Jake Bugg's singular talent as a songwriter and on guitar as well, but I have to say that he is not the most entertaining showman. That's probably the only chink in his armor, because other then that Jake Bugg is an impressive rising talent.
Now it was time for one of the bands that I was really looking forward to, Metric. It was interesting that the band that preceded Metric was a great example of a band for whom the main stage was just too big. They may have been good on a smaller stage, or a more intimate setting, and to be followed by Metric made their poor booking all the more obvious. Emily Haines dominates the stage in a way that only headliners can, she had more stage presence than anyone I had seen all day. Their music is infectious and their show was awesome.
The Palma Violets
Throughout the day I spent most of my time at the Mojave Tent which had a stellar lineup, and whenever I didn't know which way to turn, the Mojave was my crutch.
"Chilli" Jesson takes the plunge into the crowd
That is how I found myself hanging out near the front of the stage for a band that I had only vaguely heard of, The Palma Violets. In the Darwinian world of music, some bands succeed because of their musicianship, their performance skills, their dance moves or what have you... But some bands are able to survive through sheer force of will. Such is the case with the Palma Violets, who possess a bruising intensity that announces in no uncertain terms, "we are unstoppable." This was without a doubt the best show of the day which included the headliners. "Chilli" Jesson thundered through their set like a pissed off Matt Smith and whipped the crowd up into a frenzy with his unbelievable intensity. It was a unexpected treasure of a show. I only bought one t-shirt at the merch stand at this festival, and it was the Palma Violets, what else can I say?
Nick Cave of Grinderman
As far as headliners go, I decided to stick around the Mojave Tent for the headliners, as that I was just more interested in them as opposed to the larger Main Stage or the Outdoor Stage. So I just hung out where I was and got to the front row for Grinderman. This weekend was to be a Nick Cave double feature, with his band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds playing as a headliner on the third night and his dirty little side project band, Grinderman, playing on this first night, with me in the front row! I'll tell you this much, there are few entertainers as energetic on stage as Nick Cave, and this was a rawkus and furious paced show, the highlight of which being "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)" which I posted a video of above.
How To Destroy Angels
The final show of the evening was one that I had been very curious about for some time. The side project of Trent Reznor, How To Destroy Angels had only performed live on two other occasions and their fantastic show had been much buzzed about.
How To Destroy Angels
The majority of the performance featured the band, fronted by Trent Reznor's wife, Mariqueen Maandig, behind a semitransparent screen to an awesome effect. It was less like a rock concert and more like a performance art piece. The whole show seemed like watching an exhibit in some alien menagerie. Even when the screen was pulled to the sides the lighting intentionally avoided emphasizing the band members, which was an effect that I found fascinating. Mariqueen Maandig is a striking figure, and Trent Reznor is a musical genius, but I simply could not get past this performance on the stagecraft level which was absolutely brilliant. This was a perfect way to cap off a wonderful first day of the festival.

Day 2

Fire up the Tesla coils!
The second day of Coachella was a lot more up and down. The highs were higher and the lows were lower; the bands that were good were crazy good, but the bands that were not crazy good were thoroughly mediocre. The weather was the same, the sky was clear and the sun warm, but the grounds where the festival was held were becoming overly trampled and the dust was beginning to get out of hand. Every time the crowd began to dance, every time a mosh pit broke out, it kicked up a dust cloud that made the venue look like a stockyard. My lungs were so caked with dust that I felt like I did when I used to smoke, though, I suppose, it's good to have a reminder about why I quit.
The day started off with a bang... or rather a savage, bluesy snarl. Most bands that play early in the day have the chore of cajoling the crowds out of their hangovers and back to life. But not Reignwolf, they were not there to stoke the embers, they were there to light the fuse. Jordan Cook took the stage alone, with nothing but his gritty, growling guitar and a kick drum, and opened an explosive set that left the crowd howling for more. Make no mistake about it, this band is the genuine article. If this band happens to be traveling through your town (especially my Seattle friends where the band hails from) don't walk, run, to get tickets. Reignwolf is a rising talent and a worthy show to see at any venue.
Unfortunately such a pace could not be sustained and the next couple bands that I went to were really average. I don't want to say that they were bad, because they were definitely talented, but I just felt like I had seen dozens of bands just like them before, or maybe it was the high number of bands that I had already seen that made them look plain, or maybe it was the heat.
Whatever it was, I found myself walking aimlessly around the festival grounds feeling unsatisfied, so I made my way over to the Main Stage a little earlier than I had planned. Again the old adage proved true that it is better to be lucky than good, because I had managed to bumble into maybe the better stage performances of the festival.
Vintage Trouble
The music scene has seen a resurgence of neo-soul acts in recent years, and while Vintage Trouble may fit into that category it is terribly unfair to pidgeonhole an act this talented. Their lead singer, Ty Taylor, whose vocal stylings brought to mind the memory of Wilson Pickett, managed to dance his way right out of his pants...literally. Approriatly enough, he managed to rip his pants from knee to crotch during the performance of their song "Pelvis Pusher."
Dropkick Murphys
As soon as Vintage Trouble wrapped up their set, the front of the Main Stage began to fill up with sweaty, thick necked hoodlums clad in Celtics jerseys who were getting themselves juiced up for the huge mosh pit that would be generated by veteran brawlers, The Dropkick Murphys. There is nothing like some good natured thuggery to stir the Irishman in us all. By the end of their set a fog of dust had settled in on the festival grounds so thick that I expected to see Hunter Thompson wander through the cloud covering the Mint 500, and searching for Horatio Alger.
The heat, the dust, the mosh pit all got to be a bit much for me and I had to retreat to a shady spot to listen to the next band, The Violent Femmes, from a distance, which was a terrible disappointment to me because I was really looking forward to seeing them.
The Make-Up
How lucky for me though that Coachella is full of great options, while I was let down about the Femmes, it did allow me to bumble into one of the most unique bands that I saw all weekend, The Make-Up. I'm not really sure how to describe the performance of D.C. post-punk legend Ian Svenonius other than to say that he's like a kooky, confused, microphone swallowing prophet. The Make-Up stands as a good reminder to us all that music doesn't always have to be technically superior, and it doesn't always need to speak to your soul. Hell, it doesn't even have to make sense, it just needs to be fun. That's it. That's all that matters.
The Selector
After that little gem, I watched the sun go down with the ska band, The Selector. I'm not going to say that The Selector was particularly outstanding as far as ska bands go, but I will say that of all the live shows that I've ever seen, ska shows are always my favorite. The crowds there are positively infectious. You can't see any ska act and leave upset. It's just too much fun.
From there I went over to the Mojave Tent and watched the EDM act, Simian Mobile Disco. Which, while not the most entertaining performance, I did like their sound. But more importantly I went to that show so that I could get a choice spot to see headliner, Franz Ferdinand, from.
Franz Ferdinand was always one of those white whale bands for me. It seems like I always just missed out on seeing them, or there was a scheduling conflict or something always just came up and I just couldn't make it happen.
Franz Ferdinand
Which is why I was so excited, and made such a special point to see them this time. And I was not let down. My original plan was to get from Franz Ferdinand back to the Main Stage to catch Phoenix, but it just wasn't to be. The oppressive heat and the dust had taken too much of a toll on me for the day, and I had to call it quits a little early. What can I say, I felt like I had inhaled an entire sand dune.

Day 3

For me, day 3 was the most intriguing lineup on the Main Stage and Outdoor Stage which would mean that I would have to brave the dessert heat for most if not all day. Fortunately they gave free water bottles for anyone along the front rows of the two main stages. So that is where I chose to camp out for the day. There was really only one band that mattered to me, The Airborne Toxic Event. To make sure that I got the best spot for them I made a point to show up early for the act that would precede them.
Ghost B.C.
That act was one of the most curious bands at the festival, Ghost B.C. They were curious because having a theatric , Swedish, goth metal band in the middle of a perfect summer day just seemed wrong somehow. I'm sure the festival promoters had a tough choice, either a) put them on a side stage after dark (where they would have been awesome) or b) putting them on the Main Stage during the day. They opted for the latter and for Ghost B.C.'s part they did fine, but I would have rather seen them light the braziers at night. But I do have to say that if my intent of attending a music festival was to experience music that I normally wouldn't, this band definitely filled that purpose for sure.
While I was amused by Ghost B.C., I was outright giddy for the next band. This would be the third time that I've seen The Airborne Toxic Event live, and the thought of seeing them again was like a much anticipated visit from an old friend.
This band is everything that I love about music: great musicianship, brilliant lyrics, and first class showmanship. The first time that I saw them was in Austin, Texas, at Austin City Limits Music Festival, and the second time I saw them was in Boston, Massachusetts  while they were on tour with a string quartet. I can honestly say that this is probably my favorite contemporary band touring today.

Once Airborne had wrapped up I picked up a quick lunch and some more water, then made my way to the Outdoor Stage to enjoy the remainder of it's lineup. And that lineup began with another band that I had previously seen, Dinosaur Jr. I saw them once in San Diego, where Henry Rollins did a live interview with them for his radio show before they took the stage. In that interview, Rollins said that the only way to listen to Dinosaur Jr is monstrously loud. And indeed, that it the way they prefer to listen to themselves, as they barricade themselves amongst a huge wall of deafening monitors.
As Dinosaur Jr thundered away I kept noticing these rough looking, band t-shirt and bandanna wearing, long haired roadies popping up out of the wings to snap a pic on their iphones. It happened so often that it begged the question: what does it say that you are the band that all the roadies make a point to see? I'm pretty sure that the guys in Dinosaur Jr would take that as the highest form of compliment.
Tame Impala
Following Dinosaur Jr was Tame Impala, who was the best band that I didn't know that I knew. Throughout the show, as I listened to the Australian jam rockers, it seemed like I kept saying to myself, "Oh, they wrote that one too?" The other thought that I had, according to a note to myself was, "this shit would be great to get stoned to." Take that for what it's worth.
Pretty Lights
Next up was an EDM act appropriately named Pretty Lights. Derek Vincent Smith, who performs under the name Pretty Lights has a stage show that is very comparable to a fireworks display set to music. My feelings about EDM as a live performance still applies however: I just have a hard time putting a computer generated audio beats and a pre-programmed laser/light show on the same level as a live musical performance. Sorry.
Wu Tang Clan
The final show of the festival was a reunion of the legendary rap group, Wu Tang Clan. I feel a certain journalistic responsibility here to confirm all previous reports that "Wu Tang ain't nuthing to fuck with."
I was a little bit surprised by this show as that it was up against the festival's main headliner, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I did not expect the crowd to be this big, or nearly this crazy. And make no mistake about it, this crowd was crazy! The crush at the front was unbelievable. And just in case nine of the illest MC's in the world throwing down on stage wasn't enough they topped off their show by having a full orchestra backing them up.

The Playlist

1) Breezeblocks     Alt-J
2) Float On     Modest Mouse
3) Micky Mouse and the Goodbye Man     Grinderman
4) Welcome Oblivion     How to Destroy Angels
5) Becoming Insane     Infected Mushroom
6) Wu Tang Ain't Nuthin to Fuck With     Wu Tang Clan
7) Gimme Sympathy     Metric
8) Save Yourself     The Make-Up
9) Best of Friends     Palma Violets
10) Fields of Athenry     Dropkick Murphys
11) Lightning Bolt     Jake Bugg
12) Nobody Told Me     Vintage Trouble
13) Elephant     Tame Impala
14) No You Girls     Franz Ferdinand
15) There's No Other Way     Blur
16) Start Choppin     Dinosaur Jr.
17) Timeless     The Airborne Toxic Event
18) Happy (feat. Derek Martin)     c2c
19) End of the World     Deap Valley
20) Red Right Hand     Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. The people who did this will be reading this message.....I suggest they move on to other people now that I have a lot of proof I could use against them if I ever chose to go on Dr. Phil like the others......Jim I will give you all the necessary details accordingly....

    2. Colleen, thank you for your concern and for bringing that to my attention. I have solved the problem. Also, I deleted your original post to conceal your personal information.
      There is definitely something very creepy about looking somebody up on facebook only to see your own image staring back at you. If it was me, I would have chosen someone better looking.
      Thanks again,
      "The Real" Jim Davis

    3. I don't think you're the real Jim Davis.....I think you're in on this and you're likely in Nigeria, pretending to be in Liverpool, UK, but I can't change that, so ill give that to God to deal with for me......and pray that you learn from this, I realize you have all my personal information and I've taken action to protect my own identify going forward....PS They call you Jeff

  2. I'm sorry if you stepped into some kind of internet scam or something, but I can assure you that I have nothing to do with it, nor am I pretending to be in Liverpool or Nigeria (this blog has made very clear that I'm in Alaska).
    I wish you all the best in dealing with this issue, and I assure you that I find the whole matter as unsettling as you do. Thank you again for bringing it to my attention.

  3. PS
    Thanks for the insult to both of us....I actually fell in love with this man based on your awesome pictures....much more than the voice and conversation that came later....just so you know, I didn't bother to share this information with you just to be nice, but more because these assholes broke my heart and betrayed my trust and ill never trust men's much more than you'll ever know....he drank red wine every night, and he's still doing this to other women.... As You

  4. This all started because this man approached me on FB and asked if I wanted to chat......and he looks like YOU, so I did......I'm very sorry for this inconvenience, I will not bother you further and I thank you for your time :)

  5. Sorry.... The fucking bastards are setting up my name as a stolen identity on FB as we speak with my REAL Mr. Davis, why did you have to be so god damn attractive?? I think you should tell your wife that you are literally altering the universe with your amazing good looks and she should realize that many women likely have your picture as their screen saver on their iPhone.....hahaha....crazy world we live in....maybe just post couples pics from now on so bad strangers can't use ex figured all this out for me, or I'd still be in love with you thinking you were Frank Jefferson Gerald aka Jeff

  6. I can say this much: this whole experience has forever ruined for me the expression, "Let me be completely frank here..." Which is really sad because I always loved to preface a statement like that and now it will just be too weird. Haha.
    Thank you for the tip about the couples pic, and of course for the flattery (always appreciated)
    And yes, you're right, this IS a crazy world that we live in; sometimes cruel, sometimes callous, but also sometimes exhilarating, fascinating, and rewarding. I wish you all the best as you recover from the heartless actions of the people who were responsible for all of this.

  7. Hahaha....good one...I'm laughing out loud, no sarcasm for a change.....I appreciate your time and that you've managed to convince me that you're the guy in the pictures.....I believe that everything happens for a reason so this will have a purpose in our lives somehow.....even just as a life lesson, I think I'll be just fine as I know Jesus pretty well as He warned me this wasn't real and I chose not to believe him cuz you are so damn bad lol

  8. Oh ya.... You should be crying just a wee bit too cuz these assholes are likely misrepresenting the size of your us ladies, and since we love you anyway cuz of the pics, it doesn't really matter, but I think you'd be quite disappointed to know of the package they gave to Frank.....definitely not what any guy would say for himself anyway....hahaha....

  9. I have no interest in what someone who I have never met thinks about any part of me as a person or certainly commentary about my anatomy. Any comment they may have made says nothing about me but a great deal about themselves. Concern about this topic is, frankly, beneath me.

  10. Man, you're hilarious.....anyway thanks again for listening and trying to understand where I'm coming from just a bit, it helps..... This is the first and last time ill accept a friend request on FB..... That is unless you happen to have a twin brother, cuz then I might give him a chance lol
    Take care Jim..... Happy Trails :)