Saturday, April 23, 2011

Golden Age of Girl Rock - Coachella '11

"VV" of the Kills at Coachella
With memories of Coachella '11 already blowing away on the trailing edge of the Santa Ana winds, I have got to get this post out before it's irrelevant.  So, let's get to it...Coachella this year was in one word: amazing.

And, all about the ladies!  Or at least the female-led bands.  Robyn and Alice Glass (aka 1/2 of Crystal Castles) stole the show Friday.  Arcade Fire was awesome Saturday, but it wasn't until after Régine Chassagne took the lead for Sprawl II that I lost it.  And don't even get me started on Sunday - Alison Mosshart from the Kills reminded all you dudes that she can rock harder than you, the Strokes had nothing on Phantogram's dance-friendly, trip-hoppy, dirty beats, and wow, PJ Harvey...the real closing headliner of Coachella...I've never had my mind blown so hard.

Call it progress, social evolution, whatever. Thank Patti Smith, Kim Gordan, Joan Jett, whoever. The point is when I think back to who made the biggest impact for me this year, and which act I still can't get out of my head, it's obvious Coachella '11 will go down in history as the Year of Girl Rock.

Okay, festival highlights:


Warpaint  I've touted the Silver Lake quartet on this blog before, so it shouldn't surprise you that I was front and center for the spacey, psych alt rock.  And the group definitely delivered, in all it's dark, transfixing glory.  For a weekend in which more than a few bands where plagued during sound checks, the tone was set from time zero, when the group sound checked for like .1 seconds and jumped right into it.

Ms. Lauryn Hill  Doo-wop, Fu-Gee-La, Ready or Not, Ex-Factor...a pretty good/nostalgic reminder of how awesome she was.  Please, a moment of silence for the Fugees.  May they rest in peace.

Interpol  Remember that part in Gladiator, when Russell Crowe just won a fight and the emperor comes out and puts his fist out, thumbs up, you live, thumbs down, donezo?  Yeah, this wannabe Roman emperor writer is deeming Interpol thumbs down, not good, so over it.  Okay, the light show was pretty cool though.

Cut Copy  Always a good time, synth-pop, dance friendly rock from Australian's.

Crystal Castles  Noise rock meets disco.  I'm in love.  Made all the better by how weird and feral front-woman Alice Glass is.  Um, yeah, she was writhing on stage, crawling around, and making those noises...I'm totally freaked out in such a good way.  It was a no brainer passing up Kings of Leon.

Robyn  Dance-pop Swedish princess.  Acts like this keep you going for another full year until the next festival swings around.  The set was full of catchy, unabashed techno pop.  I still have With Every Heartbeat bouncing around in my head.


Gogol Bordello  Watch Everything is Illuminated and you'll love everything Eugene Hutz does too, no matter how brazen and arrogant he probably is.  The group has added a bit a Rasta/Latin vibe since I've last seen them, and honestly I prefer the Gypsy punk Gogol Bordello, but how can you be disappointed with anything coming from the Ukrainian, especially after he removes his shirt and demands you Start Wearing Purple?

Glasser  Another of the women who ruled Coachella this year.  The show was out there, but listen to the band and you know their music is out there...twinges of the Knife, or a little like the weirder side of Goldfrapp.  The feel of the music was made all the more complete, when front-woman Cameron Mesirow came out in a full body bridal veil.

Bright Eyes  A healthy mix of classics and songs from their most recent album, made for an overall crowd pleasing set from Bright Eyes, and reminded me why I liked the whiny ballads in the first place.  I think it's time to bust those old albums out from the indie attic for another listen.

the Kills  Ah, where to begin??  I was floored.  Garage rock, lead by a girl, head banging and thrashing around, getting grimey, all under a full moon lit sky.  In my top 5 acts of the weekend.

Empire of the Sun  More Australians, even crazier the rest!  The electro rock music is only half the reason to see these guys.  The real treat is the stage show, it was like Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Star Trek.  The show featured some pretty intense visual aspects: sequined Hammer-pants, space mermaid costumes, swordfish horse costumes, some sort of strange commercial sex workers from space, feathers, rhinestones, square head-pieces...suffice it to say it was a head trip.  An alien circus dance troupe, all played out to the bands songs.

  Of the Britpop bands reuniting this year, Suede was not the band I wanted to see gracing the Coachella bill (ahem...Pulp...ahem).  But Suede it was, and a deep love for the 90's genre brought me into the Mojave tent to see these guys, the force that arguably launched the entire Britpop genre.  Wow, do I feel ridiculous for every hoping for something else.  Suede completely delivered.  A full hour of hip swivels, raw sexual energy, and glamorous androgynes.  It was definitely a highlight.  If you at all are into the genre, check this group out.

Arcade Fire  The Saturday headliner, with a killer new album.  They played hits, synchronized with the Creator's Projects' visually stunning additions to screens.  Pretty much just as great as you would imagine.  About two hours in, a massive black box opened above the audience releasing huge balloonish orbs that lit up and changed colors corresponding with the music.  It was pretty gd amazing.  And like I said, Régine Chassagne blew it away when she took the lead for Sprawl II, with the screen going nuts with an abstract visual to the already super amped up situation.  It. Was. Great.


Health  Noise rock at Coachella!  Woohoo!  Read a few posts on this blog and you know I'm one of those people, you know, one who consumes My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth like it's manna from heaven.  The LA based band Health offered a respectable amount of dissonance intertwined with its Coachella requisite electro.  Just the way I like it.

Phantogram  Warning: biased review ahead.  I love this group.  Bringing in influences from all over (trip-hop, acid jazz, Detroit hip-hop, and of course electronic), these guys had the Gobi tent moving.  It's hard to believe they've only got one album under their belt.  The show was great.  I can't wait to see what this group comes up with next.

PJ Harvey  The highlight of the entire festival.  The only performer I insisted on showing up early for and getting as close to the stage as possible (which meant we were pretty amazingly close).  The woman has a truly impressive stage presence, I was completely blown away - brought right back to my little 15 year old wide-eyed self unable to articulate just how I felt when I first heard her music.  She stood up there, a sort of a pagan princess, in a floor length white dress and feather headdress, bemused, probably mischievous.  It was pretty much agreed upon by all those who turned up for the show, which overlapped with Kanye West, that PJ Harvey was the real Coachella closing headliner - and when the cameras focused in on a fan-held sign saying exactly that, that total agreement was vocalized by thousands of booming cheers.  Mother Gaia seemed to feel the same, with the winds getting stronger and stronger as the show progressed, carrying the music across the field and keeping Kanye's blaring at bay.  Songs came from all throughout the singer's prolific twenty year career.  Great music from a great musician. And thanks to AudioPerv, we can all watch the show again and again.

Photo above from the LA Times

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