And so it begins...another weekend in the desert. Weather is uniformly beautiful, mid to high 80's, truly a best case scenario. Friday was full of nice surprises...nothing i really had my heart set on except for the Specials reunion that night, so it was just stroll and dig.
Came in on the very end of Kate Miller-Heidke, who kicked the weekend off in style, following her partner's solo with an operatic high note...would like to have caught more of the set.
Programming notes: changes to this year's fest included dropping one day tickets in favor of three day only passes. Interesting swim against economic trends, but it worked for them, culminating in a complete sell out. Another change was allowing car camping and in and outs for the first time. Sources in the camping area report growing pains in the car camping concept, first not allowing cars in an ancillary area, then relenting. As for in and outs, the number of gates was not increased, and the subsequent backup of traffic caused lines by mid.day of up to 1000 people, and waits in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. This was mostly due faulty scanners, and they were back on line later in the day. High tension on the first day, but soon it was just a memory as the festival kicked into gear.
Cruised sets by Pablo Hassan in the dj tent, Jets Overhead, a young band from Vancouver, and Alana Grace on the outdoor stage (pictured above).
There's always that lull moment when you think 'nothing's really happening', and before you know it, some band steps up and smacks you in the face...First happy discovery of the day was Deer Tick, who opened with a drunken monologue that ended with the point that nothing in punk has improved since the second Meat Puppets record. Touche!
They went on to bash out an inspired set of shambolic roots punk.
Headed over to the main festival stage to catch the highly anticipated rapper Wale. He remained highly anticipated for half an hour after his scheduled start time, at which point, beside myself with what else i was missing, voted with my feet. I could hear that he did come on, from the rumble, and I clocked from my phone that he did a twenty minute set...wow. Campers told me that he'd soundchecked the night before, so what exactly was the problem? Not like anyone was onstage fiddling with the equipment. People need to learn, this isn't the Key Club...it's professional time, especially if you're honored with a main stage spot.
Hid out in the mojave tent, and salved my bitterness with a rocking set from 'As Tall As Lions', (pic above)...
Hustled back to catch the Avett Brothers, graduated to the outdoor stage after a raucous tent appearance in '07.
This set marked the first instance of major sound issues that randomly plagued the festival throughout the weekend. I'm not an engineer, so i won't speak as to cause, but i can certainly speak to effect...eww!
The Bros soldiered on, showing no signs of discontent, simply bailing on malfunctioning instruments and working harder to make up for it. Set built up to a rousing climax, then ended with a really touching sing a long. Never count out the Avett Brothers...
With a little trepidation, I headed back to the main stage for Calle 13 from Puerto Rico, and this time i wasn't disappointed...Party Time with a capital P! The brother/sister led combo held the crowd rapt. Special shout out to the relentless horn section that underscored the drive & kept things moving.
First volcano related scrub of the day was the Cribs, who now feature former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Was quite looking forward to them.
Back to the tents for Brooklyn's much heralded Yeasayer, fresh off their second album, and Syracuse's own Ra Ra Riot. (both pictured below) Yeasayer had a hugely packed tent, and their new material held up better live.
Ra Ra Riot didn't have the crowd, but played with a lot of heart...
Next up was the controlled chaos that could only be the Dillinger Escape Plan, (pict left), easily the loudest band to this point, who laid down an ecstatic barrage. Amazing energy, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Pictures don't even begin to suggest what went down, I really should have shot some video of these guys.
Just four songs left me absolutely drained, at which point it was back to the main stage to stake out a front and center spot...
Which ended up being a front left spot, but who am i to quibble...the moment i'd been waiting 30 years for was here...the legendary Specials, (above) reunited for a brief 30th anniversary tour, (with everyone but founder Jerry Dammers), and took the coveted sunset slot and turned the main stage into a whirling dance party. Losing none of their energy, they rarely stopped moving, and worked their way through an impressive catalog of hits. All the favourites were there, 'Monkey Man', 'Too Much Too Soon', 'Night Klub', and more.
Now totally totally drained, drifted back to the tents for another 'always wanted to see..', the one and only Gil Scott-Heron, backed with a full band, which proved to be the perfect antidote to the frenzied day...didn't even try to fight the packed Gobi tent, just layed back on the grass and soaked the goodness in...his set ranged all over, touching on the new record, and running the gamut of his storied career...
Thus restored, i staked out a space next door in the Mojave tent for the triumphant return of Grizzly Bear, fresh off last years 'Veckatimest', and a followup to their '07 appearance here.
Grizzly Bear didn't disappoint, bringing the intricate record to life, and adding a lot more oomph to the songs in a live setting.
Finished off a long day with another reunion, Echo & the Bunnymen on the outdoor stage. Their majestic tunes fared well, and some well picked covers, (Doors 'Roadhouse Blues'), helped save the day for them.