Coachella 2004

By theajaysharma

Coachella 2004 was my fifth Coachella. I have gone every year, and as the crowds grow, the festival gets more and more organized. Last year's big complaint was the three hours it took getting inside. Security was so tight and understaffed that you missed a bunch of early bands if you didn't get there before 11:00am. This year, however, they vowed to fix many of the problems with the previous festivals. With both nights sold out, let's see how they did...

Typically, I'm the anal guy in my group who has the schedule all printed out and my day planned. The friends that I go with usually have one or two headliners that they can't miss and I'm the one who can't miss a band that goes on at 12:45pm. Basically, that means we're pretty much there all day. The group this year consisted of: Albert (my best friend who flew in from Colorado), Amber (dental student from Philadelphia), Cheryl (flight attendant from New York), Alicia (flight attendant from the good ol' Inland Empire) and me.

Day 1

The first band that I had to see was The Stills, who came on at 2:45pm. So, we left around 10:00 to make sure that Amber got a ticket since she didn't buy one before they sold out. We arrived around 11:30. The parking wasn't too bad. Amber bought a ticket from a scalper, and we were inside by 12:30.

The first act I caught was Section Quartet, and I enjoyed the little bit of it I heard. These guys are covering Radiohead, Led Zepplin and a bunch of other bands with a string quartet. Very odd, but very interesting. I heard Radiohead's "Electioneering," which was cool, and as I was walking away they were doing a Led Zepplin track. The main guy even did the guitar solo on the violin.

Everyone wanted to get their shirts early before they sold out, so my friends spent an insane amount of time at the merchandise booth. In the meantime, I listened to Howie Day from afar, he's... average.

The Stills kicked ass. The lead singer used a lot of profanity: "Oh fuck it's hot out there, do you want some fuckin' water, fuck, by the way, we're the Stills!" They played a bunch of songs from their debut album, Logic Will Break Your Heart: "Lola Stars and Stripes", "Gender Bombs", "Changes are No Good", "Allison Krausse," and they closed with "Yesterday Never Tomorrow." No surprises; just some good fuckin' tunes from their fuckin' album.

During the Stills we lost Alicia and Albert, who weren't really interested in getting up close during their set. Before Trail of Dead came on we got a voicemail saying to meet them on the other side of the field because Alicia might have a hookup for some backstage passes. So Amber, Cheryl and I took off to the other side and eventually found Alicia and Albert. We hung out for a bit; her hookup fell through, so we turn around and headed back. It was freakin' hot, and there was no breeze. Amber, Cheryl, and Albert headed back to the stage while Alicia and I just hung back for a little while to find some shade.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead played mostly new stuff that really rocked! They were having a hard time with the heat and ran into some technical problems but still kept the set going. This was my second time seeing them, and they still didn't play "Relative Ways." You cannot make one of the greatest songs in the world and refuse to play it!

Death Cab For Cutie were cool. They were all dressed in white, and the crowd was *massive*. I mean, it was bigger then I have ever seen at the second stage. This was the first time I felt that Coachella had sold-out. When you have 65,000 people, they have to go somewhere right? I think the large crowd at Death Cab was due to the fact that there really wasn't anywhere else for the indie kids to go. Their set had a bunch of songs from their last album, "Transatlanticism", "The New Year", "Title and Registration", "The Sound of Settling", and "We Looked Like Giants." They also played a song about our neighbors to the west, "Why You'd Want To Live Here." Before they finished, they expressed their excitement to see Kraftwerk headline, then played "Transatlanticism."

I had seen Sander Kleinenberg spin last year, and it was a lot of fun. So I figured I'd get some rest in the Sahara Dance tent before the Pixies and Radiohead. He was playing some Depeche Mode mix when we got there. It was nice, and I went to the back and lay down trying to cool off a bit. It was only 6pm but it had already been a very long hot day, and the BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM of the dance tent certainly wasn't helping my headache.

Pixies were fantastic. I never thought of myself as being a huge Pixies fan, but I knew most of the songs they played and really enjoyed their set. I've been wanting to see them since the early nineties after my brother started buying their records (he saw them open up for Janes Addiction in '91). They opened their set with "Bone Machine" and blasted through a bunch of of the classics: "Wave of Mutilitation", "Caribou", "No. 13 Baby", "Tame", "Monkey Gone To Heaven" (the hair on the back of my neck was standing up during this), "Debaser", "Veloria", "Gigantic", "Here Comes Your Man" and "Where Is My Mind". They closed their set with "Into the White" and then Kim Deal said, "Thanks, see you in the Kraftwerk tent!" They played just a few minutes over an hour and their set was very tight, there ws hardly any talking between the 21-song set. I bought one of those DiscLive CD's, and sure enough, it's the show I just heard in perfect soundboard quality EVERY band should do this! The best 25 bucks I spent. The only weird thing is that they stuck it onto 2 CD's even though their set was only an hour.

Radiohead were Radiohead. I think this was my eighth time seeing them, and my eighth time being blown away. The set was pretty similar to all the others on this tour minus a few tracks, but they did manage to play "Planet Telex," which I haven't heard in forever.

Radiohead ended about the same time that Kraftwerk started, which was very cool. So you could easily watch Pixies, Radiohead AND Kraftwerk without any scheudle conflicts (unlike Sunday where everyone steps on each other at the end). As the bulk of the people went to the exit, we headed to Kraftwerk. Albert is a big industrial fan and thought they were brilliant, I thought they were cool and respected the fact that they were making this music 20 years ago! Amber, Alicia, and Cheryl were pretty much done by this point so we bolted after about thirty minutes.


Saturday was really tough, so when I woke up on Sunday, I threw down the schedule and asked the group, "Who's the *first* band that we cannot miss??" I wanted to see Section Quartet; Albert wanted to see Pretty Girls Make Graves. It came down to me (of course) having to see Muse at 3:45. I went back to bed, woke up a little later, went to breakfast and cruised on over to Coachella nice and easy. There was no rush, which is always good. Albert made it clear that he was not going to miss a single note of The Cure so the later we got there the better. Plus, the later we got there, the less time we would have to stand in the blistering hot sun.

We got inside right around 3, and Amber mentioned that she wanted to see Elefant in the Mojave tent. Outside the temprature was like 90-95 degrees; inside the tent it's well over 100. I walked in an was instantly drenched with sweat. I stood there for about one and a half songs and then bailed out. The music was okay; just your average band. They did pack the tent thought, which I always like to see for a small group. Elbow did it last year, except they were really good and worth risking a heat stroke.

We lost Amber inside the Mojave tent and headed over to the Main stage for Muse. Alicia hates big crowds, so Albert decided to stay back with her. Cheryl likes to be up front, so I went with her and we stood about 20 feet from the stage. Muse simply kicked ass. Most of the material was focused around their latest album, "Absolution," which is the only album that I've heard. They played "Time is Running Out," an amazing extended version of "Butterflies and Hurricanes" and closed with "Stockholm Syndrome" among others. Albert and Alicia thought they sucked while Cheryl and I thought they were fantastic. The lead singer had tons of energy and jumped from the guitars to keyboards several times. Later we went to the Virgin tent so Cheryl could buy their album, but it was sold out. (Note: I was telling everyone that the lead singer was related to Thom York, but I was getting them confused with Unbelievable Truth, doh!! The singer only *sounds* like Thom York; he's not related, and I'm an idiot... too much sun)

Amber stayed in the Mojave tent to catch the Thrills, and we met up with her afterwards and headed over to see 2 Many DJ's in the Sahara tent. The Sahara is much bigger than the Mojave tent, so it's nowhere near as hot, and it's *just* bearable if you stay close to the entrance. 2 Many DJ's threw on a bunch of cool stuff like Led Zepplin, Chemical Brothers, a weird Orbital sample...and as we were leaving, they threw on some crazy mix of the Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary." Very cool.

We hung out for the next part of the day and met up with some of Albert's friends who flew in from Colorado. We got some food, Amber got her Thrills CD signed, etc... I could hear Belle and Sebastian pretty clear from where we were at the Virgin tent, and I can honestly say that I don't like them.

So, the plan of the night was that Albert, Amber and Cheryl were going to head to the front of the Main stage to check out The Cure, and Alicia and I were just going to hang back. Alicia went to grab some food, and it was just me on the bench by the main stage. I quickly lost any energy and didn't feel like running from stage to stage to try to catch BRMC, Mogwai, Basement Jaxx, and Paul Van Dyk. So I sat there waiting for Air to come on...


I really like Air's last album, Talkie Walkie, but they are so damn boring live. They played 'Cherry Blossom Girl', 'Venus', 'Run' from the new album. Then they started to pick things up with 'Sexy Boy', 'Kelly Watch the Stars' and 'Talisman'. By this time, I was falling asleep and so pissed at how dull they were that I stormed off to see BRMC before my night was ruined.

BRMC sounded like shit. I've seen them a couple of times before, and it just sounded weak compared to what I remember. Sure enough they were having equipment problems, and they had to drop to acoustic after going through two bass guitars. After playing a few acoustic tracks, they went back to electric and belted out "Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n' Roll." Then they said, "This is 'In Like The Rose,'" but played a song that I didn't know. They had more problems and eventually just cut the set short by playing "Love Burns" acoustically.

I headed back to the main stage bench after that for Flaming Lips, which was another let down. I've seen these guys a couple of times, and their show is entertaining once or twice, but when you get up to the fourth and fifth time and *nothing* changes, it gets dull. Plus the *real* crap thing is that they only played like four songs!!! First, they came on late, then Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, came out in this giant bubble and walked on the crowd, and that chewed up some time. They finally started their set with "Race for the Prize," then went into "FlightTest", "The Gash" and I'm pretty sure they closed it with "Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots, Pt. 1." They also did a quick happy birthday song to Beck's kid(???) and left. I like the Flaming Lips; I think they're funny live, and it's a good show if you've never seen it before. But they have the same visuals that I saw back in 2000 on their Soft Bulletin tour. Oh, before I forget, one really kick-ass thing that they added was a live drummer!! Something that I've never seen happen with the Flaming Lips.

Since I hate waiting around, I left to check out Mogwai. By the time I got there they announced, "This is our last song" and played an amazing version of "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" from Rock Action. It sounded really good, and I wish I had seen their whole set. I was super tired by this point and walked real slow back to the main stage. I heard Basement Jaxx off in the distance but didn't feel like checking them out. I got back to the main stage and waited for The Cure...

I'm not a super Cure fan so, they were pretty boring to me. Albert, Amber and Cheryl had a *great* time up front and loved ever second of it. They did some of my favorites like "A Night Like This", "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea", "Love Song", "Boy's Don't Cry", "Love Cats", "Charlotte Sometimes" and of course they closed with "The Forest." The Cure played 'till about 12:30 in the morning, which was weird since I thought there was a strict 12:00am curfew. This is my third Cure show, and I probably won't ever see them again. There's just nothing exciting about watching a Cure show.

On the whole, Sunday was much weaker then Saturday for me. On Saturday things just seemed to click. There weren't any big schedule conflicts or technical problems The only big problem with Saturday was the weather. Sunday's schedule sucked because at 9:45, I wanted to be at every stage to see Flaming Lips, Basement Jaxx, Ferry Corsten, Mogwai and Danger Mouse. I would have to say that Muse was the real highlight for me, and the best act of the weekend hands down was The Pixies.