There's not much that beats hanging out with friends on a weekend of sunny, 85-degree weather in Southern California, but add two days of music and you've got an unstoppable party. This was the sixth year of the Coachella Art and Music Festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio (near Palm Springs), and organizers say that more than 100,000 people passed through the festival gates on Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1. Tickets for the two days cost more than $150, but it was well worth the cost, as anyone who made it to the festival knows.
Going from stage to stage was a struggle in itself—with five outdoor stages it felt like EdgeFest on crack, and the musical timeline was structured much like the Alibi Crawls, so of course five of your favorite bands were playing at the same time, and choosing one was, sadly, a must. Besides being in the front row at the shows, the VIP tent was the place to be ... it was a virtual star-studded celebration with celebrities such as Anthony Kiedis, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz milling around. But the music was what we were there for, and although I didn't get to see half of the bands I wanted to, here's a run-through of a few bands featured at Coachella 2005.
Perry Farrell, leader of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros, has undergone a musical transformation over the past few years, and now performs under the name DJ Peretz. Farrell, a DJ? His performance was a solo one behind turntables spinning his own dance numbers as well as other songs we've all heard before, like Glenn Hughes' "I Just Want to Celebrate." He sang along with his mixed tracks, and it is always a treat to hear one of the most unique voices of the '90s live and in person. His mixing wasn't perfect by any means, but who cares, it was Perry Farrell.
Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy has made it clear in the past that festivals aren't his thing, but he put away his disregard for this event, and in doing so played one of the most respectable and truly musical sets of Coachella. The band opened with "The Late Great," a song off their most recent album, A Ghost is Born, and "I'm Trying to Break Your Heart" off Yankee Foxtrot Hotel. They played jam-style numbers, but didn't shy away from their more rocking stuff. Wilco left the hi-tech stage setup behind and awed their audience with pure talent and undeniably graceful musicianship.
Old and new Weezer fans were treated to a great mix of music, which included new songs like "Beverly Hills," but focused a great deal on the past with lots from their 1994 self-titled album, including "Undone-The Sweater Song," "Say It Ain't So" and "Buddy Holly." This was one of the better shows, even though listening to Weezer live sounds pretty much like hearing them on the radio—no long solos or variations, but still catchy nerdy uber-indie rock, still doing what they do best and still adored by the masses.
Thrice was easily the hardest band at Coachella, and having them there made lots of kids dressed in black from head-to-toe very happy. They were loud and wild and it was a great change of pace from the alt.rock, hip hop and DJing that engulfed the majority of the show. Thrice will make it to Las Cruces as part of the Warped Tour on June 28, so check them out for yourself.
In my opinion, Rilo Kiley is one of those bands where the less you know about them the better. Their electric country music stands on its own, and as soon as they stepped on stage with their alternative clothing and whatever attitudes, it kind of ruined the beautiful image I had in my head. However, listening to "It's A Hit" with my eyes closed was a moving experience, and Jenny Lewis' little-girl vocals really can pick you up and take you to a world of clouds, lollipops and unicorns—if you let them.
Trent Reznor is as amazing now as he was in 1989 when Pretty Hate Machine was released. The band was incredibly animated and energetic, and although the new CD, With Teeth, is great, longtime NIN fans like myself were elated to hear the old stuff: "Head Like A Hole," "Something I Can Never Have," "Closer" and so much more. Easily the best set of the day for me. Still, one wonders if Trent's anger and inner turmoil are real or just a gimmick for selling millions of records to angst-ridden teenagers. Either way, it makes for more than 15 years of some of the most passionate music ever created ... let's hope it never ends.
The most noteworthy and odd entrance was accomplished by Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy. Who expected to see the almost-50-year-old hanging upside down from the rafters, wrapped tightly in black ribbons? With trademark white lights shining upon him, the strange bat-like creature and his band jumped into their infamous "Bela Lugosi's Dead." If all the buzz around the grounds was any indication, this was the best set in terms of showmanship and musical variety. Murphy seemed to agree, saying at the end of the show, "Now you can say you were there."