The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Coachella 2007-Day 2

Pharoahe Monch-Coachella Stage (1:30-2:15)
I was depressed when I found out that Pharoahe Monch, a 13 year veteran of the rap world was slotted to play the main stage at 1:30 smack dab in the middle of the searing desert heat, a time typically given to rookies playing their first festival ever, and certainly not
fitting for one of the greatest MC's ever. Had the Coachella organizers never heard Internal Affairs, or Stress: The Extinction Level Agenda? Obviously not, because anyone who has ever heard Pharoahe and his unmatched lyrical skills, soulful cadence and mad preacher charisma would've known better than to let him languish in the dregs of the day.

But what I saw was anything but depressing. Braving the sweltering weather, a large and rowdy crowd of die-hard hip-hop heads turned out to watch Pharoahe turn in the best hip-hop set of the festival. Backed by a two guitarists, a keyboardist, two back-up singers and a drummer delivering massive snare hits, Pharoahe's set wildly exceeded my already high expectations, as he brilliantly ran through cuts from his long-awaited Desire, Internal Affairs and singles like "Agent Orange" and a Mos Def-less "Oh No." Closing with the Godzilla stomp of "Simon Says," the crowd went ape-shit and Pharoahe proved once again that he really does blow shows like afros.

MP3: Pharoahe Monch-"Desire"

Roky Erickson & The Explosives-Gobi Tent (3:50-4:40)
Chances are if you aren't a huge music dork you don't know who Roky Erickson is. But that's not entirely your fault, because at some point in the late 60s, Erickson, the man who practically invented American psychedelia with the trippy guitar freak-outs of 13th Floor Elevators, went crazy. Oft-compared to Syd Barret, Erickson was America's premiere acid casualty and sadly, his subsequent work never reached the brilliance of Easter Everywhere and Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

So watching Erickson deliver intensely gorgeous bursts of psychedelic guitar into the hot afternoon sun in the year 2007, felt a little bit like watching a ghost. Albeit a ghost that was rocking the fuck out. With new band, The Explosives in tow, Erickson was flat-out fantastic, rivaling Neil Young and CSNY as America's premiere grandpa rock n' rool band. In fact, the 60-year old Erickson sort of reminded me of Neil Young's weird younger brother, with a similar falsetto voice, unmatched guitar skills and wispy gray hair. If you get the opportunity, see Roky Erickson live while you have the chance. You won't regret it. I'd planned 0n catching just the first 20 minutes of his set before wandering over to Hot Chip, but he was so impressive that I had to stay for its entirety.

MP3: 13th Floor Elevators-"You're Gonna' Miss Me"

Hot Chip-Mojave Tent (4:10-5:00)
Hot Chip really didn't have a right to turn in as good of a set as they did. The picture above pretty much accurately captured their performance. The dudes are practically frozen on-stage, hiding behind a bunch of keyboards, electronic gizmos and one guy with a guitar. Somehow, their live set was awesome. I'm still not sure how exactly. They sounded great and by time they played the last song of the set, "Over and Over," the crowd was in a frenzy, dancing like maniacs, flailing every which way. It once again proved my theory that British people are just way more funky than Americans. Between Fujiya & Miyagi and Hot Chip, Great Britain has it on lock down for funky white boys. Plus, on their forthcoming DJ Kicks mixtape, Hot Chip included Positive K's "I Got a Man." How can you not like these guys?

MP3: Hot Chip-"And I Was A Boy From School"

The New Pornographers-Outdoor Theater (5:05-5:55)

The New Pornographers are one of the most consistent acts in indie rock. You'll never get a brilliant, I just-saw Jesus type of set from AC Newman and the gang but every time I see them, I walk away with a smile on my face. They just don't have a bad song in their catalogue and while it might be a little lame that they have a full-time Neko Case stand-in (Newman's sister), they are guaranteed to be a fun time. However, I only saw about 20 minutes of their set because Peter, Bjorn & John were on simultaneously and....

MP3: The New Pornographers-"Use It"

Peter, Bjorn & John-Mojave Tent (5:25-6:15)
When I arrived at Peter, Bjorn and John, the Mojave Tent was swarmed in a crush of people sweating in the blistering heat. No fun. Further compounding our misery was PB&J, who for reasons known only to themselves decided to go acoustic mid-set. Numbers like "Amsterdam" and "Paris 2004" that sounded crisp and perfect on the album, wilted dead in the inferno. It was pretty awful, though it did give me time to think of the possibilities of a sketch called Peter, Bjorn & John Candy. Uncle Buck meets the Swedish chef. Golden.

Then something clicked and the band decided to jettison the acoustic approach. Bringing Shout Out Louds keyboardist Bebban Stenborg on-stage to perform "Young Folks" the crowd lost it, erupting into deafening applause. You could almost see the Grey's Anatomy producers smiling. And then one of the lamest things in Coachella history occurred, something that spoke volumes about the new Hollywood nature of Coachella, as "Young Folks'" conclusion brought a mass exodus from the tent. Five minutes earlier, I'd had my head plastered to its white walls, barely able to see the stage. Suddenly, I was 15 feet from the Swedish trio, watching Peter, Bjorn & John finally loosen up to deliver blisteringly brilliant psychedelic versions of "Up Against the Wall" and "Objects of my Affection," as though to punish the festival-goers for having the gall to desert them for Kings of Fucking Leon who were about to begin a typically mediocre set on the main stage.

MP3: Peter, Bjorn & John-"Let's Call it Off"

Ghostface Killah-Outdoor Theater (7:30-8:20)

Somebody really needs to tell Ghost that the whole ending your set with a dance party thing is getting old. Honestly, he's been doing this since before Sun God was born and quite frankly it looks a little lame. At least, he could change the last song of his set or something. Fuck ending things with "Cherchez La Ghost," he needs to throw a dance party to "Wildflower" or maybe "It's Over." If the girls still want to dance after Ghost delivers the line, "Yo bitch, I fucked your friend, yeah yo stank ho, I seen her on the elevator honey grabbed my kangol," then those are some real ride or die chicks. Respect.

Either way, despite the fact that Ghost delivered an abbreviated version of the set that he delivered in February, any time that I can hear live versions of "The Forrest," "The Juks""Biscuits" "Run" and Ghost's verse from "4th Chamber" is a good time. Plus, he played "Fish," a nod to the old school heads. Even better? Shawn Wiggs was nowhere to be found. Stellar.

MP3: Ghostface Killah-"The Forrest"

The Arcade Fire-Coachella Stage (7:30-8:40)
I have a confession to make. I've been thinking it for a long time and well, it's not the easiest thing in the world to say, because quite frankly, you might think differently of me. But it's who I am and I have to be honest with myself. But the truth is.... I really don't like The Arcade Fire. Yeah, sure I loved Funeral. Everyone loved Funeral. But I really don't care for the pretentions and smug self-righteousness of Neon Bible. Sure, has it has its moments, "Ocean of Noise" is a pretty great song and I can't deny that they're a talented objectively "good" band, but there's just something about Win Butler's lyrics that rub me the wrong way.

I couldn't exactly put my finger on it before watching them live at Coachella this year, but it all become clear during his funereal, dead-serious performance, where Butler reminded me all too much of famed wrestling manager, Paul Bearer. Is it too much to crack a smile? Make a joke? Avoid dropping lines like "when I was your age, I was working for minimum wage." Yup, just like the rest of Exeter and Sarah Lawrence, Butler's alma maters. Fight the powers that be, yo! Certainly their bombastic live set has power, but it felt so forced. And when at the end of the set, Butler rushed into the crowd, it feel contrived, just like that silly guitar smashing on SNL, as though Butler only did it because he was supposed to to be a "rock star." As though he did, what would Bono do, tatted on his wrist. I don't begrudge anyone liking The Arcade Fire. But they aren't the best band of this generation, they're its most overrated.

MP3: Arcade Fire: "No Cars Go"

LCD Soundsystem-Sahara Tent (9:30-10:20)
Hands down the set of the festival. Proof positive that hipsters might have something right after all, James Murphy absolutely positively destroyed the competition. To quote Deck: he left the mic in body bags. And all this despite looking like Francis from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The moment the set began, the entire Sahara Tent erupted into a crazy dance party. You had no choice, it was either get move or get out.

And backed by a full band, it was nearly impossible not to get down to Murphy's wry, impossibly rhythmic jams, like "Us and Them," "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," and "North American Scum." Unlike most electronic kingpins, Murphy's music isn't tailor-made for the rave set, his music is equally at home for the stoners in the back of the tent, nodding along to his propulsive skittering beats. Closing with anti Frank Sinatra ballad, "New York I Love You," Murphy made a strong case for Sound of Silver being the album of 2007, and Murphy, one of the most important artists to emerge in this century.

MP3: LCD Soundsystem-"North American Scum" (left-click)


At 7:58 AM, Anonymous floodwatch said...

This wrap-up was all kinds of awesome, Weiss. Great work.

I'm with you on the Arcade Fire. Expect a critical lashing from my pen in the near future.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Commish CH said...

Nice review on the rap acts. Good to see a cat like Monch get the crowd a bit amped. Hearing 'SimonSays' can do that to even the most uptight heads. Did any of the crowd know his music?

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Thanks Flood, good to hear I'm not the only one.

Commish: Surprsingly, a lot of the crowd knew Pharoahe's stuff. I was shocked. Because it was so early in the day, only the die-hards were there. Same with Lupe on Sunday. Same with Ghost going on opposite Arcade Fire. I don't know why the promoters dont book more hip hop, a sizable portion of the non-VIP fan base is surprisingly knowledgeable.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

LCD was great, but I think you missed the set of the day when Justice turned the Sahara tent into a Slayer show. Even the hip kids in their ironic early 90s gear were throwing their fists up.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also with you on the Arcade Fire. I never even got into Funeral.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Funny how all of the scenesters left the Peter Bjorn and John set after they performed Young Folks...How typical. It's sad how L.A. scenster Coachella has become...

Did Madonna Ruin Coachella or what?

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous silawe said...

Peter Bjorn and John Candy, funny.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Shorty said...

I'm Jealous...i always wanted to see Ghostface live...

10 worst famous rappers?

At 12:15 PM, Blogger katherine said...

I love Arcade Fire, but I respect your opinion on them. That said, I don't think the lyrics of "(Antichrist Television Blues)" can really be used as an example of Butler's pretension. The song is intended to be ironic, from the skewed perspective of Joe Simpson, not Butler himself.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I actually think it can be. First of all, he uses the "I". If he really wanted to be a storyteller, he could've used third person. Secondly, the whole album is a mish-mash of Butler trying on different lyrical pretensions. Whether he's trying to be a Springsteen-esque social commentator, a Bono-esque arena rock shaman or ripping off Billy Corgan's trite introspection "My Body is a Cage," every song is an attempt by Butler both lyrically and musically, to strive for grandeur. The only song I like "Ocean of Noise" is their most simple. It's the sound of them not trying to be "important" and just writing a song. Like the first album.

I don't doubt that Butler has it in him to make another good album but Neon Bible to me is basically a more talented version of Sam's Town. A song-writer not yet ready for the bigs openly aping greats of the past. Granted, "Sam's Town" is a total piece of shit and "Neon Bible " is a listenable but irritating (to me) record, but still, instead of finding his own voice, Butler clearly is still just searching to others for his inspiration.

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous mjrc said...

i am dying to see lcd soundsystem. sound of silver is definitely one of the contenders for album of the year so far. but holy moly, that is one bad picture of james! : )

and i really, really, really wanted to like neon bible. i mean, i loved funeral. but as you say, there's just something too damn serious and "important" about the tone. could be, too, that expectations were so high that they couldn't possibly be lived up to. i dunno.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yo, i just saw this review, and i am so relieved. i feel like a big hag for not like the arcade fire that much, but they are so macabre it annoys me. what about win butler's life was so hard that he became such a toolbox? was it his sweet-ass phillips exeter education? was it growing up in a rich suburb of texas? was it selling "dutch wooden clogs" to harvard kids (who does that?)? i mean, are the weird get-ups really necessary? alright, now i'm really just being a hag. i so wanted to like them because will went to northwestern with me... yeah, but i don't. their songs are too unreachable for me. anyway, thanks for articulating it in a non-hag way. props.


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