Coachella

Studio:
Directed by Drew Thomas

Mar 10, 2006 Web Exclusive
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What happened to the concert film? For years, music-related films have been relegated to straight-to-DVD purgatory; denied the big-screen splendor that they rightfully deserve. Enter Coachella, the Woodstock for a new generation, helping to bring back the theatrical musical experience. The film precedes a pack of concert movies scheduled to come out this spring that includes Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, Beastie Boys’ Awesome I Fuckin’ Shot That and Dave Chappelle’s Block PartyCoachella features a colorful mix of performances and footage from each of the past annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festivals (1999-2005), and the film is being distributed roadshow-style, playing in atypical venues across the United States in an attempt to make the film experience a concert-like event much like the unique festival itself.


Wisely eschewing a track-by-track rollout, Drew Thomas takes countless hours of footage and assembles the ultimate festival souvenir. After having witnessed camera crews documenting Coachella during the festival all these years, it’s a pleasure to finally see the finished product. While the film won’t please everyone, it should satisfy most of those who were there and serves as an amazing introduction for those who haven’t yet made the trip to Indio.


The film begins by showing a brief history of the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California via vintage newsreel footage, and quickly springs into action with a bold, politicized performance of “We Don’t Stop” by Michael Franti and Spearhead. This choice is perhaps the most important one in the film, and it pays off. Franti has a knack for wrapping a crowd around his finger, and he’s in top form here, not simply bashing the Bush administration, but igniting minds to make change and encourage thought. This sentiment is echoed later in one of the films’ best moments, a mash-up between two different ways of thinking about the power of music via the idealistic Saul Williams and cynical Noel Gallagher of Oasis.


Without ruining any of several surprises, I will say that there are several appearances and performances that stood out amongst the eclectic mix of Coachella performers. They include the grainy first-year appearance of Kool Keith’s Black Elvis persona, Belle & Sebastian’s sunset Foo Fighters improv, the electronic music interlude, the over-the-top Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner, DJs Nu Mark and Cut Chemist punishing their vinyl, Polyphonic Spree’s tribute to the sun, Arcade Fire living up to the hype in 2005, the look on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante’s face while paying tribute to Coachella’s home in “Californication,” and last but not least, the triumphant 2004 return of Pixies, including Kim Deal’s promise to “see you at the Kraftwerk tent” after delivering a miracle of a show that many thought would never happen again.

Of course, I would have loved to have seen 2004’s earth-shattering evening Basement Jaxx performance and ecstatic Junior Senior fans sweating and dancing wildly in the 112-degree heat. I would have also loved to have seen more electronic music, such as the truly magnificent 1999 and 2003 Underworld performances. Perhaps promoters/producers Goldenvoice will offer that extra footage in a sequel, or as an extra incentive to purchase the DVD. As it is, the movie is much better than I ever thought it would or could be. It has a dreamy, communal vibe that is a perfect teaser for future Coachella festivals (though even the movie still can’t convey how frickin’ hot it can get out there in Indio). Director Drew Thomas has made an extremely satisfying film that finally gathers the music of our new generation and serves as a cultural time capsule for decades to come. (www.coachella.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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