For many music fans, Coachella is better than Christmas. So when I found out that the festival was expanding to three days, I was ecstatic. Then I got really upset when it sold out in February. I was lucky; I got a ticket eventually. But although this year isn’t a big mad rush to see as many bands possible in a 24-hour period, it is definitely way more crowded than any other I’ve been to. The camping area, for example, was populated by 15,000 people. Yikes.
There are pluses and minuses: there’s more art, I think, which takes up a lot of grass space. (That’s a good thing, though.) And of course, there are many more great bands. This is the first time every single headliner is a repeater (Rage Against the Machine in 1999, Bjork in 2002, Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2003).
Lastly I think that word-of-mouth has gotten so good that people just don’t want to miss it. I’m personally addicted to going to Coachella. I don’t know anyone who has been who would voluntarily forego it. So excuse me a moment, but I couldn’t help but get emotional more than a few times on Sunday.
I Cried During Rage’s Reunion If you are a true music fan, music that changes you will always mean a lot to you. Rage Against the Machine was the kind of band that stood for something important. They always put their money where their mouths were. They attended rallies, helped political prisoners, used their music for good. Hardly anyone does that now. (Also, “Killing in the Name Of” may not seem romantic, but that was my song for a boy I loved when I was 16. )
After I witnessed Chris Cornell tearing through “Sleep Now In the Fire” for Audioslave in 2005, I watched a Rage Against the Machine DVD. It was no contest; I missed them a lot. Apparently I wasn’t the only one; about 60,000 people saw Rage rage on on Sunday night. For me and many others, it was a return to childhood, a return to good music, a return to a time when you did something about issues that mattered to you.
Onstage, singer Zack dela Rocha said that if American presidents were tried like Nazi war criminals, all of them would be hung and shot. During “Killing in the Name Of,” everyone stood up and yelled along. The air was electric with anticipation before they came on; a lot of people were predicting riots and they were pulling people out of the mosh pit every second before Rage came on.
But in true Coachella fashion everything was chill and safe and it was one of the best moments of my life, musical or not. I wanted to share it with you, so here is Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” on video. (Press play when the new window launches.)
I also cried during … Explosions in the Sky. It was perfect; the sun on your back, lush, sweeping music that drove your soul without lyrics.
Boo to Rude Concertgoers It was supposed to be a joyous Crowded House reunion (on right), but on their first or second song the crowd was already chanting “We want Rage! We want Rage!” During “Don’t Dream It’s Over” someone threw a water bottle or something at lead singer Neil Finn.
I’m Glad I Didn’t See … Air. I have always loved Air, but I’ve seen them many times. Apparently, their set was 30 minutes late. Oh, and Paris Hilton was there, too. So I missed her as well.
Discoveries of the Day Mika was so cute, frolicking on the main stage in his paint-splattered jeans. His crew–blonde Asian bassist and kilted guitar player, was as androgynous as he was.
The Kooks, from Britain, were hot, too.
Best Cover Song of the Weekend The Roots played a phenomenal set, which included a funkified cover of “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan and setting the tone for the main stage’s political acts.
Here is a video of The Roots, singing a song I don’t know the title of. (Press play when the new window launches.)
The “I Didn’t Understand a Word of It, But it Was Great” Award Goes To Manu Chao, who played the best set ever. I don’t know why, but my Mexican friend said it was a big deal that they played a punk version of “Volver, Volver.”
The Rehab Rumors May Not Be True … But Lily Allen kept forgetting the words to her songs, even though it was a wickedly brash and fun set, which included a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”
Still Truckin’ It was Willie Nelson’s birthday on April 29, and it was cool to watch him before he expires. Lots of people lit up joints in honor of him being at Coachella; I made my way from the main stage through a cloud of marijuana smoke to watch Placebo.
I missed CSS, Grizzly Bear, Junior Boys, Damien Rice, the Lemonheads and Rodrigo Y Gabriela. But that was OK, because on Sunday my feet did hurt. And I was tired. But seeing Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello and co. embrace after their 13-song set meant more to me than aching knees or lack of sleep.
On our way back to the car, after Rage, people were so happy they kept sporadically cheering and clapping.
This year’s Coachella festival was probably the last time I was acutely aware of how happy I was, exactly at that moment. See you all next year, sunblock in hand.