Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coachella 2009 finale...

Ah, the home stretch, at last. Threads of an overwhelming theme are becoming more clear, as we wait in the tent for hometown (almost) heroes X. Hard to believe it’s been 30 plus years since they burst out of Los Angeles, providing an American answer to the British answer to the original punk explosion. X was a signpost band in their time, heralding a fusion, if not fission, of Chuck Berry licks and ragged male/female country harmonies with the oomph of a punk rhythm section, creating a sound that helped kick fill in the gap between punk and hardcore…Being a few years before the ‘college rock’ indie scene of the mid ‘80’s, they are sometimes unjustly overlooked…but their championing of roots and punk music has left a mark…
They’ve been touring recently with a reunited original lineup, and let the diehards pick today’s setlist on their website, so you know it will be weighted hard towards the first four albums.

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As their set progressed, it was just too good to leave, even having seen them countless times…X at their peak is a joy to behold. Another huge conflict ensued, missing the Kills entirely, (saw them last fall…great), and clipping the top of Paul Weller’s set on the outdoor stage.

We finally got down to see Mr. Weller, holding court with his particular brand of soul.heavy rock. He was in good form, passionate and in tune with his band, locked in with a set heavy on his lastest, but dipping into the Jam songbook for a rousing version of ‘Eton Rifles’…

Another highlight was the title track from ‘Wildwood’, heralding another fine Coachella sunset. He seemed to succumb to a touch of the Morrissey, complaining about the short set time...Is it an English thing? Surely these guys have played the festival circuit in the UK /Europe… Why would smelling barbeque or truncated sets be a great mystery?
Ah well, Weller certainly had the last laugh, bringing out former Smiths guitar hero Johnny Marr for a rough but right run through of ‘A Town Called Malice’, electrifying the outdoor stage audience. Interestingly, in all the post festival coverage, I found no mention of this…Truly fascinating, in that the Morrissey/Marr combine have allegedly left $5M on the table, refusing a Smiths reunion for the last few years…and up pops Mr. Marr at the end of the festival…cheeky.

Finally, the moment I was waiting for arrived…on the main stage, under the stars, louder than Hell could be, the one and only My Bloody Valentine…Now was the time when it became clear why they were handing out earplugs (insistently) at the gates of entry, earlier in the day.
I think I drooled sufficiently enough about last year’s comeback gig, certainly the finest show I saw all last year, so I’ll spare you for the most part, save to note semantic differences. As they’ve yet to put out an album since ‘Loveless’ in 1991, the set list was pretty similar…encompassing pretty much that and tracks from 1988’s ‘Isn’t Anything’, with a few treats thrown in…The big difference was the sound, clear as a bell (relative term), even amidst the feedback fireworks. The main stage allowed the sound to grow, and have more depth and clarity, as opposed to the concrete bunker that was the Santa Monica Civic Aud, where it was claustrophobic and overwhelming, (in a good way).
The band was given a hero’s welcome, and seemed to glow in the attention, culminating w/the de riguer noisebomb of ‘You Made Me Realize’, clocking in near the 20 minute mark, and scarring generations of festival goers…hee hee…

And for dessert, just to put a final exclamation point on the proceedings, Public Enemy presented, in it’s entirety, “A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”...a wonderful bookend to their run through this classic at last year's Pitchfork Festival in July...
Although lacking the special love of original DJ/noise technician Terminator X, Chuck D & Flavor Flav were more than capable of holding down the fort, and it being the Flavor's 50th birthday, he took occasion to stage dive multiple times. All hail to the audience, who forgave the rookie for going in feet first with a running start, and still caught him. And loved him. Chuck was moved to observe after the first attempt, "Hey, give my boy back now..."
It did not in any way break up the flow of the proceedings...P.E. gave an airtight rendition of the songs, strengthening them in some cases, and turning over Terminator X's showcase to his successor, DJ Lord, who acquitted himself admirably.
Flavor, whom over the years has become an amazing cartoon character, fell back into place in the group where he won his fame, rousing the crowd with his spotlight, 'Cold Lampin' w/Flavor', dexterously working the rhymes and imposing his own unique dynamic shift on the group.
As always though, the show belonged to Chuck D. Chuck dropped a nugget of trivia at the top, observing that a mixing error in fact reversed the intended running order of sides one and two...and throughout the night, he was in fine bark, on point with observations about the beauty of our last election, but not to drop our guard, and to continue to think and question.


Dragging ourselves across that field one final time w/Flavor Flav's exhortations ringing in our ears, we joined the many streaming for the exits...P.E. turned out to be an intense and a perfect capper for a weekend stuffed to the brim w/memories...what's interesting to remember that as solid an operation as this is now, the roots are humble...promoter Goldenvoice literally put together to put on the shows that no one else would do...
If there was an overarching theme, it seemed to be 'look how far we've come, and from what'. 'Don't forget the past and look forward to the future'...

1 comment:

  1. Nice job man. Sounds like you had a blast.

    ...evidently blogger doesn't like openID today.

    ReplyDelete