Coachella 2010 : Day One

Well, it’s a been a couple of weeks, so I finally decided to sit down and compile my thoughts about this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, which took place April 16 – 18, 2010 in Indio, CA.  This was the sixth time that I had attended the festival, and it was the fifth year in a row.

From a logistical standpoint, this year’s Coachella was FAR from perfect.  Months before the festival began, people were already upset that there were no single day tickets this year.  If you wanted to attend, you had to purchase a 3-day pass for the whole weekend.  Then, when the first day finally came around, there were problems with parking, ticket/wristband exchange, bands who had to cancel due to the Icelandic volcano, and a huge sold out crowd (75,000 people as opposed to 60,000 or less the last few years).  If you want to read complaints, there are other sites for that, including the official Coachella message board.  While this year WAS a bit unorganized, for me it was one of my favorite years overall, so I’ll focus on the (mostly) positive instead.

Ferris wheel

This year there was a ferris wheel!

After waiting about 45 minutes to park, the longest that we waited all weekend, we arrived at the Empire Polo Fields at around 1 p.m. on Friday.  We purchased our refillable water bottles ($12 each, but refillable for free all weekend), and checked out the merchandise tent, then we headed to see our first act of the weekend, DJ Lance Rock from the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba!

I’ve been meaning to write about Yo Gabba Gabba! for some time now.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch the show regularly, even though it’s on Nick Jr. and is aimed towards toddlers.  The best part of the show are the musical performances.  Most of the bands and artists that have appeared on the show have played Coachella in the past (including Of Montreal, I’m From Barcelona, Chromeo, etc.) so the fact that DJ Lance was playing there seemed like a perfect fit.

He started his set by doing some simple DJ-ing and dancing. Then, about halfway through, he brought all the characters onstage to sing/perform some songs from the show.  I have to admit that I was hoping they would be there, but never thought that they actually would. And on their official blog, they’ve posted photos of the Gabba gang hanging out at the festival for the whole weekend.  This was a great way to kick off the first day, and is still a highlight of the weekend for me.

After DJ Lance, we headed over to the Gobi tent to see Sleigh Bells perform.

Sleigh Bells seem to have a lot of buzz going on right now, and I have to say that they definitely live up to the hype.  I had heard a few of their songs, on the internet and played on Sirius XMU.  They packed a lot of noise and energy into their set, playing songs from their upcoming major label debut CD that comes out in May.

Sleigh Bells

Reading through the Coachella message board after the festival ended, Sleigh Bells was in the top five for a lot of people who saw them.  They are definitely a band to keep an eye on over the next few months.  I am predicting that they will be the next band from the indie scene to blow up huge, and will be coming soon to a radio near you.

Next up for us was the band Yeasayer.  The Yeasayer CD is one of my favorites of 2010 so far.  Their single “Ambling Alp” was one of our featured music videos late last year). Maybe it was because we had a spot that was pretty far away from the stage, but their performance was just “okay” for me.  It wasn’t bad, in fact, I don’t think we saw ANY bad sets over the weekend, but it just didn’t blow me away.

After Yeasayer, we made our way over to the Outdoor Stage to grab a spot on the grass, and catch the set by She & Him.  She & Him is in reality the band made up of actress/musician Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward.  We basically sat for this whole performance, but at one point I did walk up to the stage to take a few photos.

She & Him

She & Him have a retro 60’s sound, that can be a bit sugary-sweet at times, but I enjoyed the performance overall.  They were one of those bands that I didn’t NEED to see, but since it fit into our schedule we decided to check it out.  I do enjoy their new single, “In The Sun.”

We knew that there would be a huge crowd for the band Grizzly Bear, so we headed to the Mojave tent to find a spot.  Unfortunately that meant sitting through the last half of Lucero, the alt-country-ish band that was on before them.  Luckily there are no similarities between the two acts, in music or in their fans, so as soon as Lucero ended we were able to get up pretty close to watch one of my most anticipated bands of the weekend.

Even if you haven’t heard OF Grizzly Bear, you probably know their single “Two Weeks” from the new Volkswagen Commercials that have been airing the last couple of months.  This was a great performance.  They did all the songs that I wanted to hear including “Cheerleader” and “While You Wait For The Others”

By this time, I had noted on my twitter, where I was live-tweeting all weekend, that this year’s festival was already miles ahead of what we saw in 2009.  I’m not sure what was wrong with last year, but we didn’t really enjoy it that much.  By comparison, 2010 had so many great bands, and it didn’t hurt that the weather never got above 90 and was even cool/breezy when the sun would go behind the clouds.

After Grizzly Bear, we played a human game of Frogger, trying to navigate through the huge crowds that were in the polo fields by the end of the night.  As I mentioned earlier, there were about 75,000 people this year, and you could feel it.  I’ve never seen so many people there at one time.  If I had any suggestions for next year, it would be to cut back the attendance to where it’s been the last few years.

We arrived at the Coachella Stage to see LCD Soundsystem.  My wife and I are huge fans of LCD Soundsystem. We had seen them at the El Rey in L.A. a couple of years ago.  It was a bit weird seeing them on such a big stage.  As with the band Hot Chip, who we saw on Saturday, I think I much prefer seeing them in a smaller venue.  The new LCD Soundsystem CD comes out in May, and you can now listen to the whole thing online, but at the time I had only heard the first single from it, “Drunk Girls,” which James Murphy and his band performed on Friday night.

I wish I had heard more of the new CD before I saw them there, because they were in the odd position of playing new stuff from a CD that nobody even owned yet, but their performance was full of energy and they were another highlight of my weekend.

LCD Soundsystem

Vampire Weekend was playing the Outdoor Stage after that, so we went over to watch that.  When Vampire Weekend had performed on that same stage a couple of years ago, I really wasn’t a fan.  I didn’t warm to their first CD for quite awhile, and while we had the chance to watch them that year, I remember simply walking by, not really understanding their popularity.  This year was a little different, and I have to say that Vampire Weekend did a very tight performance, which included my favorite song from their new CD, “Giving Up The Gun.”

My only complaint is that Vampire Weekend were one of those bands who sound almost exactly the same as their CD’s.  I like that, in a way, but sometime I feel like I could have just listened to the CD and had the same experience.

Finally, we were getting tired, but decided to check out Jay-Z’s headlining set before we left.  We hadn’t necessarily planned to see him, but figured we might as well see a little bit before trying to beat the traffic out of the parking lots.  Well, I have to say that he totally rocked.  My biggest regret now is that we didn’t stay for the whole thing because he was a total rock star up there.  I guess adding to that regret was that when we got to the car, it still took almost an hour to get out of the parking lot, so it really didn’t make much of a difference.

Jay-Z … Really!  It is!

Once we did get out of the lot, we headed back to our hotel to get a good night’s rest in preparation for day two.

Read about day two on Thursday…

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