Coachella 2010 is debauchery in the desert
This is the exalted status of
Coachella: Not only does Jay-Z perform the first headlining slot of the festival
with a 10-piece band, but he enlists a cameo from his old lady, pop goddess Beyonce
Knowles, to go out with a
short-shortsed, chestnut-tressed bang.
Signs suggest this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which began yesterday near Palm Springs, CA, and runs til tomorrow, is the biggest in the fest's 10-year history. It's completely sold out for the first time, meaning an estimated 75,000 three-day tickets are gone, and thousands of ticketless fans were left stranded outside the gates.
Yesterday, those inside were treated to an endless parade of flesh and music. Defying desert heat and good sense, sweaty-browed dance parties of barely-dressed revelers broke out throughout the day, starting with MSN-favorites the Avett Brothers at 3 pm. Playing on the sun-drenched Outdoor Theater stage, the banjo-smashing, bluegrass rocking North Carolinians worked through technical problems to belt out old favorite "Colorshow" with the aid of a new drummer and delved into last year's brilliant I and Love and You for "Laundry Room," "Slight Figure of Speech," and the gorgeous title track, which ended with brothers Scott and Seth Avett humbly leading the crowd in a heartfelt singalong: "I and love and you."
Brooklyn band Yeasayer, one of festival's most anticipated acts, delivered note-for-note renditions of would-be anthems from their new album, Odd Blood. In this setting—Mojave Tent, broad daylight, thousands of dancing fans—Yeasayer's lineage between Pink Floyd and Duran Duran was firmly established. Tracks from Odd Blood like "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp" were beholden to both woolly psychedelia and synthetic, polished pop. Along with MGMT (who plays today), Yeasayer is probably most representative of indie rock's playfully trippy zeitgeist, which is exactly what Coachella is made of.
On the fringe of that DayGlo party vibe is Portland electro-soul quartet Hockey, who played to a small but exuberant crowd in the Gobi Tent. Microhits like "Song Away" and "Too Fake" brought out the Motowner in lead singer Benjamin Grubin.
The antithesis? Gil Scott-Heron's dirge-like soul-blues. The iconic spoken-word poet and musician's gravitas was like a hammer over the head of Coachella's party-minded attendees. The song "Work for Peace," with its repeated mantra "You gotta go to work," felt out of place surrounded by the indulgence and narcissism of the rest of Coachella, which was probably why his set at the Gobi Tent was sadly under-attended.
The more inspired contrarian was John Lydon of Public Image Ltd. PiL's 11 pm Outdoor Theater stage set was directly up against Jay-Z, but both Lydon and his small but devoted audience were consumed by PiL's industrial dance pop. Lydon is touring with PiL for the first time in 18 years with all new members save guitarist Lu Edmonds, but Lydon, spiky haired and odd-looking as ever, will forever be a profound agitator. His extended version of "Warrior" spiked the punch with a little bitterness, an anti-capitalist sneer in the face of Jay-Z's showboating.
The Outdoor Stage also hosted UK goth rockers Echo & the Bunnymen, whose version of "Roadhouse Blues" sounded like Neil Diamond doing the Doors, and, as Jay-Z's tee time approached on the main stage, Vampire Weekend, whose breezy, worldly indie pop and new material ("Cousins," "Run") sounded far more substantial than the Brooklyn band's 2008 Coachella set.
Prior to the Jay-Z show on the main stage were Street Sweeper Social Club, the Specials, and LCD Soundsystem.
Street Sweeper is the unfortunate rap-rock side project of former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Boots Riley, MC of Bay Area political-rap crew the Coup. Each of their originals sounds like a rehash of Rage's "Killing in the Name Of"; maybe that's why they, thanfully, played some choice covers: MIA's "Paper Planes" and a guitartastic version of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out."
Pioneering UK ska band the Specials played their first US show since 1981 with almost all of their original members. With a huge, horn driven sound, they blew through "Monkey Man," their cover of the Toots and the Maytals classic, and a slew of other influential tunes which sounded just right as the sun set and a cool breeze took over the polo fields.
LCD Soundsystem was the first
main stage act to fully live up to their hype, with lead singer James Murphy playing the ubercool ringmaster of his
loose-but-tight punk-funk dance band. "Drunk Girls," a wry ode from
the band's upcoming This Is Happening,
was especially apt. There's no better place than a massive music festival to
hear their sentimental favorite "All My Friends," and, underneath a
room-sized disco ball brought out above the stage, "New York I Love You,"
a bittersweet ballad that had the crowd crooning along.
And then, starting at 11, there was his Hovaness. Jay-Z arrived on the mainstage from underneath, elevated by a hydraulic lift so that he rose and appeared full-form from within the stage itself. Backed by the ten-piece Roc Boys band, including horns, percussion, guitar, and rhythm section, he dove straight into "Run This Town," his pre-emptive strike at total festival domination. From there, dressed in black jeans, t-shirt, and shades, he ran through a 90-minute set of hits old and new, tweaking tunes to maximize their rocking-ness—a heavy-metal "99 Problems" ("Instead of turning it up to ten, we're gonna turn it up to 99," he said by way of intro) a Doors-sampling "Takeover," an extended, sampled singalong of Oasis' "Wonderwall," and an MIA-nod with "Swagger Like Us." Live-band hip-hop is a risky move, and though the songs didn't bang with 808 bass like the originals, the band made for a far more stimulating stage show than a DJ would've.
Z's set was meticulously produced, seemingly leaving little to chance but ensuring every gesture and pose was a grand one, almost as if the performance was more for the giant screens on either side of the stage than the fans in the front rows.
But as Coachella's first hip-hop headliner, he made a major impression. Rumors of a guest appearance by Dr. Dre went unsubstantiated and instead, at the very end of his set, he brought out Beyonce to duet on "Young Forever."
"I felt like a child up here tonight I had so much fun," he said before the "Single Ladies" star came out. "I felt y'all energy and spirit. I want you to do one thing for me: I want you to always stay forever young." As Beyonce sauntered on-stage in Daisy Dukes and a punky, off-the-shoulder t-shirt, the crowd—one of the largest ever at Coachella's main stage—couldn't have been happier to oblige.
What do they all have in common? Read on
Wayne Coyne remembers. And he still goes. The frontman for the Flaming Lips spent his youth the same way many of us did – combing through the stacks of vinyl or CDs at record stores, finding the music that would form their lives – stuff that didn’t get on TV or the radio, things you had to find on your own.
So it’s no surprise that on Saturday, April 17 – Record Store Day nationwide – the Lips are releasing their interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” a creation originally available only through iTunes at first.
The Lips collaborated with Coyne’s nephew’s band, Stardeath and White Dwarfs. A CD version arrives in May, but on Saturday you can go down to your indie record stores and pick it up on colored vinyl. The Lips will also perform the album in its entirety at Bonnaroo.
Coyne, talking from his home in Oklahoma City, spoke to us recently about how the album came to be and why he’s releasing it the way he is.
I was told the Pink Floyd camp gave their blessing to your version of “Dark Side” sight unseen. Are they fans?
“I would say that’s not true. I would say the fact that you get to do it and you’re not stopped is kind of the way you get to know that they approve. We began doing it as just a whim. We didn’t conceptualize about this for years. It was really just a whim. We suggested it with iTunes. We checked into it legally and publishing-wise. But the way it works you really have to do the whole thing before Pink Floyd says yes or no. You gotta take a risk by doing all this work – I don’t call it work, music or whatever. Then phase two: I’ve done it. It moves forward. Even a day before it was supposed to be released on iTunes, it was still ‘Hold on, let’s see what happens here.’ They let us made one video of ‘Breathe’– that’s again saying ‘We don’t have to let you do any of this. If we don’t like you, we will kill you.’ The ultimate approval came later when we heard from their merchandising camp that thy wanted to make a t-shirt with Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd on it together. That’s the only time you ever got a feeling (it was approved). But I don’t know if that would really be the guys in Pink Floyd themselves.”
Vatican forgives Beatles (blames Jews)
At a time when they surely have bigger things to think about, the Vatican's official newspaper has published a glowing appraisal of the Beatles, calling their music "beautiful" and dismissing their years of drug use and excessive living. On the front page of the L'Osservatore Romano, the paper admits that the band once "said they were bigger than Jesus and put out mysterious messages, that were possibly even Satanic", but also asks: "what would pop music have been like without the Beatles?"
The article comes four decades after John Lennon enraged the Catholic church by saying the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" and suggesting that Christianity was a dying institution. The newspaper eventually offered its forgiveness for these comments in a 2008 article, when it ascribed Lennon's remarks to "showing off, bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success". The 2008 piece, which praised the White Album for remaining a "magical musical anthology", came shortly after the appointment of Giovanni Maria Vian as new editor. The paper has since taken to publishing articles on entertainment and the arts, as well as traditional news about the Pope's activities.
The timing of its latest effusive piece on the Beatles coincides with mounting focus on the Vatican's response to claims of institutional sexual abuse within the Catholic church. The latest edition of L'Osservatore Romano acknowledged the controversy by saying there was international "support for the Pope".
A tragedy, a travesty and a triumph
There's a great profile of the late Alex Chilton in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, but with a chilling ending:
"At least twice in the week before his fatal heart attack, Chilton experienced shortness of breath and chills while cutting grass. But he did not seek medical attention, (his wife) said, in part because he had no health insurance."
It's as though Stevie Ray Vaughan never existed. A BBC poll of the top 40 guitarists from the past 30 year put Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante in the number one slot, followed closely by Slash and well ahead of the likes of Prince or Kurt Cobain. Granted, Frusciante has his chops, but #1 while Vaughan never even made the list?
Finally, you may have missed it in all the hubbub, but when they handed out Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, the late great Hank Williams won one as well. He got it "for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life." Better late than never, I guess. Bob Dylan got one a couple of years ago too -- at least he was around to enjoy it.
Country legend found not guilty
WACO - A McLennan County jury has found country music songwriter Billy Joe Shaver not guilty of aggravated assault in the March 31, 2007, shooting of a man at a bar.
Shaver let out a big long exhale after state District Judge Matt Johnson read the jury’s verdict.
In court, Billy Coker, the man who Shaver shot, looked stunned. He said he was disappointed but would respect the justice system’s outcome. Prosecutor Mark Parker told Coker he was sorry.
Shaver, meanwhile, hugged supporters who numbered in the dozens. His band, his agent and other supporters waited at the McLennan County Courthouse for the verdict. Willie Nelson, who watched the day’s testimony from the courtroom gallery, had left.
Nick Gaiton, the upright bass player in Shaver’s band, said he was relieved. “We feel great. We’re going to play some music. Now this won’t be on his heart and mind.”
Shaver still faces a charge of unlawful carrying of a handgun for bringing his gun to Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon the night of the shooting.
Shaver’s attorney Dick DeGuerin said he hopes a plea bargain can be struck with prosecutors on that charge.
Outside the historic courthouse, which opened in 1902, Shaver and DeGuerin were all smiles. DeGuerin said it was a fair trial.
Shaver said: “I knew in my heart we would win.”
When asked about Coker, he said, “I am very sorry about the incident. Hopefully things will work out where we become friends.”
Shaver said he would head to Houston, where he is scheduled to play a gig tonight.
UPDATE 4:52 PM
WACO - The jury in Billy Joe Shaver’s aggravated assault trial began deliberating at 4:30 p.m. today after prosecutor Beth Toben told them that the country music singer and songwriter acted like a bully in shooting a man in the face in 2007.
“He may be a honky tonk hero,” Toben said, referring to the title of Shaver’s autobiography, “and he may have written a lot of wonderful songs… but on that day, he was a honky tonk bully.”
Shaver’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin told the jury that Shaver, 70, acted in self-defense in shooting Billy Coker, 53, with a .22 on the bar’s back patio on March 31, 2007.
“The defense to aggravated assault is self defense. It’s a God given right that is recognized by our law since time began,” said DeGuerin, of Houston.
DeGuerin said that Coker had intimidated Shaver by brandishing a knife in the bar and telling Shaver to shut up when Coker was talking to Shaver’s then wife.
“Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Billy Joe Shaver was not in fear?” DeGuerin said.
While several prosecution witnesses said Shaver asked Coker to go outside, Shaver said it was Coker’s idea.
“Ask this question: how does a 67-year-old man who had his neck broke 5 months earlier defend himself against a 51-year-old aggressive….arrogant… bully with a knife?” DeGuerin said.
Toben said the stories of several prosecution witnesses who said that Shaver was not provoked by Coker immediately prior to the shooting and told Coker after the shooting that nobody tells him to shut up were too similar to discount.
She said if Shaver’s story that it was Coker’s idea to go outside were true and Shaver was scared of Coker then Shaver should not have gone outside.
“Not only did he not retreat, what did he do, he scooted around in front of him. He was not going to get ambushed,” Toben said.
“He had a gun going to a knife fight and he knew he was going to win. That’s why he wasn’t scared going out there,” Toben said.
UPDATE 12:35 PM
WACO — Billy Joe Shaver grew testy during cross-examination at his aggravated assault trial today, bristling when a prosecutor suggested that he has cultivated an outlaw reputation.
“More like an outcast, “ Shaver said under questioning by McLennan County Assistant District Attorney Beth Toben.
Toben suggested that Shaver had many opportunities to leave Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon on March 31, 2007, if he felt threatened by Billy Coker, the man Shaver shot that night.
Shaver said his wife was still in the bar, and he didn’t want to leave her there.
“If I was chicken (expletive), I would have left, yes,” Shaver said, adding that people need to be tough in entertainment business.
Toben asked Shaver to restate what he said before the shooting.
“I actually asked him ‘Why do you want to do this.’ For one reason or another someone turned it into ‘Where do you want it,’ ” he said.
“You’re still gonna write the song but,” with different lyrics, Toben asked.
That comment caused an objection by Shaver and his lawyer and verbal outbursts by some of those in state District Judge Matt Johnson’s courtroom. One man was escorted from court for yelling “come on, woman.”
Shaver later explained that in an earlier comment he was referring to how Dale Watson, of Austin, wrote a song about the incident called “Where do you want it.”
Toben asked whether the shooting happened because Shaver was jealous that Coker at the time was talking to his wife, Wanda Shaver.
“I get more women than a passenger train can haul, I’m not jealous,” Shaver said.
Toben later asked: “I am still trying to understand why you were so worried about the knife when all he was doing was putting it in his drink and stirring it?”
“Give me a break ma’am,” Shaver responded. “You would too.”
Toben referred to Shaver’s autobiography several times during her questioning to suggest that Shaver should not have been scared of Coker’s knife because he has had previous brushes with guns and knives.
At one point, when Toben went back to the book, Shaver said: “I wish I had a book on you, I tell you that.”
That comment drew hardy laughter from the courtroom gallery. Johnson ordered one man, who was among the loudest laughers, from the courtroom.
“I am sorry I said that,” Shaver said.
“I am sorry I laughed,” the man said.
Also, the end of an era
Rocker Andrew WK has never held back onstage, but there's a story (and a song) about him stalking a girl back when he was 17 (as seen in this picture). Check out his story and hear the song here.
Andrew WK at 17
It was 40 years ago today (almost) that the Beatles officially broke up.
What smelled at first like a cheesy stunt by DEVO is actually a lot of fun - they're letting fans pick what songs and single should go on their new album. Click here to participate. Also, their Coachella set in a few days will be part of the webcast from the festival.
Uncut magazine has deemed Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" as the #1 great lost album of all time. That's not hard to argue with, given that it was a brilliant live album of new songs (a concept Jackson Browne borrowed a few years later). It came out on vinyl but never on CD, though the CD that Warner Brothers mastered years ago has long since leaked to the Internet if you know where to look. Here's one of the better cuts, "Last Dance."