Coachella 2009 Day Three | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Bloody Valentine

No Age, The Cure, Okkervil River, Devendra Banhart, Paul Weller, Peter Bjorn and John, My Bloody Valentine, Lykke Li, Friendly Fires, Late of the Pier, Fucked Up, Antony and the Johnsons, Throbbing Gristle, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vivian Girls, Public Enemy

Coachella 2009 Day Three, April 19th, 2009

Apr 23, 2009 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Throbbing Gristle
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On day three of Coachella My Bloody Valentine threatened to burst a thousand eardrums. As we entered the festival site around 12:30 PM they were handing out complimentary earplugs in anticipation for the aural attack. Other highlights included a blood-splattered Fucked Up, an energetic Friendly Fires, and the incredibly strange Throbbing Gristle.

Our first set of the day came from all-girl trio Vivian Girls, who played at 12:45 PM in the Mojave tent. The Brooklyn-based band was predictably noisy and lo-fi and played short and punchy songs. The band sounded best when letting their songs breathe a little by rocking out more. Singer/guitarist Cassie came off all Kim Deal, with her dirty blonde locks covering part of her face and her eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. There was little banter, beyond Cassie saying, “I hope you enjoy the rest of today. Awesome line-up tonight.” For the band’s last song, all three members switched instruments-Cassie moved to the bass, bassist Katy switched to drums, drummer Ali took over the guitar-and sounded just as good as before.

No Age was next up at the Mojave tent, at 1:45 PM. I’ve never quite gotten the appeal of the Los Angeles duo and what I saw of their set did little to sway me. The band’s performance did garner the first mosh pit and crowd surfer that I witnessed at Coachella 2009. The duo sounded better in the moments when there were no vocals.

Friendly Fires’ 2:10 PM set at the Gobi set was one of the best we saw at this year’s Coachella. The British dance-pop trio’s set was reminiscent of !!!‘s show-stopping one at 2007’s festival, with lead-singer Ed Macfarlane really shaking it across the stage. Despite his fantastic dance moves and the band’s energetic beats, Macfarlane was apologetic. “Being how English I am, I can’t take this heat. I apologize,” he said. Friendly Fires set-list included pretty much all of the band’s justly acclaimed self-titled debut, including the songs “Jump in the Pool,” “In the Hospital,” “White Diamonds,” and “Strobe.” “This song’s called ‘Photo Booth,’ it’s the first song we wrote,” said Macfarlane. During that song Macfarlane banged the microphone against his head and then the drummer mimicked the beat. “On Board” featured extra cowbell and throughout the set it was apparent how important the bass is to the band’s sound. Album highlight “Paris” lead to a bout of crowd surfing. Before their last song, “Ex Lover,” Macfarlane requested of the crowd, “Please dance with me, I’d appreciate it.” That was certainly not a problem, request granted-a dancing train of sorts erupted in the middle of the audience. Then, as Vivian Girls did earlier, Friendly Fires’ members switched instruments, with Macfarlane moving to the bass and the bassist taking over percussion. Macfarlane and guitarist Edd Gibson then went wild dancing around the stage. Friendly Fires’ infectious energy assured them a place amongst this year’s Coachella highlights.

Okkervil River seemed like a poor fit for the main Coachella Stage, but they still put their all into their 2:25 PM set, so much so that frontman Will Sheff fell over flat on his back at one point because he was rocking out a little too hard. Even though I didn’t catch Okkervil River’s full set, luckily the band played its two best songs in a row, “Lost Coastlines” and “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe.”

On record, Fucked Up seem like just another screaming hardcore punk band to me, and I’m not sure why so many hipsters like them so much, but live they are a different beast, thanks completely to the stage presence of vocalist Pink Eyes (aka Damian Abraham). At the band’s 2:50 PM set in the Mojave tent, Abraham banged his head on the side of stage and crowd surfed with blood streaming down his face, singing most of the songs from either the photo pit or in the crowd. He then thanked security for letting him do his thing. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a show shut down,” said Abraham. The middle of the crowd erupted into a furious mosh pit. Before covering Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown,” Abraham went on a rant about cool people, saying that the real cool people are not the kids who wear Ed Hardy clothes, but are “punk rock kids who hated high school…collected records…who hate sports, except professional wrestling, because that shit’s cool.” The members of No Age got up to guest on Fucked Up’s last song.

Swedish singer Lykke Li’s spastic dance moves helped keep her 4:05 PM set at the Outdoor Theatre interesting, but her backing band needed a little bit more power and energy. “How’s everybody feeling? If you’re dehydrated clap your hands. You’ll be clapping on this one for sure,” she said before performing “I’m Good, I’m Gone.” Unfortunately, Lykke Li’s vocals on the live version of the song were a lot weaker than on the excellent recorded version, which was one of the highlights of her great debut album, Youth Novels. “Okay, it’s time to fucking wake up now. Are you ready to wake up and smell the coffee, the fucking Swedish coffee, the techno coffee?” Lykke Li asked before launching into “Complaint Department,” which came off better live than “I’m Good, I’m Gone” did. The song started with Lykke Li performing solo to a massive backing beat before her full band returned to take the song to the next level. “Do you know a band named Kings of Leon? They’re backstage. This is me,” said Lykke Li before covering Nashville-based band’s “Knocked Up.” As we were walking away from Lykke Li’s set she was singing into a megaphone.

For the next two hours we saw a smorgasbord of artists, sampling a song or two of some or casually watching others while traveling between stages. Apparently Lykke Li sang Victoria Bergsman’s part in “Young Folks” with Peter Bjorn and John, but alas we missed it and only vaguely heard their set from a distance. Antony and the Johnsons’ Antony Hegarty seemed out of place performing in the desert sun, but there was no denying the power and passion of his voice. My response to Yeah Yeah Yeahs was ‘no, no, no,’ mainly because I simply wasn’t in the mood to be interested in them. I haven’t heard the band’s new album yet, but the word is that it’s good. Karen O and co. performed underneath a giant looming eyeball. Paul Weller, the former singer of The Jam and The Style Council, performs to much larger crowds back in his native England, but the Coachella audience seemed disinterested, as only a small to medium sized crowd gathered for his 7 PM set at the Outdoor Theatre and most of them were older music fans. Meanwhile, Devendra Banhart played to an overflow crowd in the Gobi tent at the same time-perhaps Weller and Banhart should’ve switched stages. All the young folks were checking out Late of the Pier’s 7:25 PM set in the large Sahara tent. Unfortunately, the British electro-rock four-piece were stuck performing up against My Bloody Valentine for half their set and they went on a few minutes late, so we only caught their first couple of songs. The band were dressed in sparkly outfits and successfully replicated its recorded sound live.

When My Bloody Valentine took the main Coachella Stage at 7:50 PM they at first didn’t sound as loud as I was told they’d be. Friends who had seen them perform at the Santa Monica Civic last October warned me that it was one of the loudest shows that they’d ever attended, if not the loudest, but that was an indoor show and outdoors the sound had more room to travel. But as the set continued My Bloody Valentine seemed to be getting progressively louder and for the first time in years I wore earplugs. The band was bathed in red spotlights and guitarist/singer Kevin Shields barely said a word to the audience, beyond, “Hello people who have come to Coachella.” My Bloody Valentine’s legend and influence has only grown over the years, but now that the band has reformed the question still looms, ‘Will they ever finish the follow-up 1991’s Loveless?’ Until then the band put on a mesmerizing visual and sonic spectacle. My Bloody Valentine’s final 15 to 20 minutes consisted of a relentless and seemingly endless wall of distortion that drowned out most of the festival grounds. It was the sound of a thousand eardrums bursting, the kind of music that could be used for torture and brainwashing, and it was awe-inspiring. As I walked across the field I spotted a ton of people with their fingers in their ears and a concerned or annoyed look on their faces.

Coachella’s organizers were smart enough to not schedule any other performers on the two stages closest to the main stage during My Bloody Valentine’s set, knowing that they couldn’t compete with all that noise. But because MBV’s set ran over, Public Enemy was forced to begin its 9 PM set at the Outdoor Theatre as MBV’s noise assault was ending. The hip-hop legends performed the entirety of their classic 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, from start to finish. Flavor Flav got up on stage first, to get the crowd amped. After years of gracing reality TV, it’s hard to see Flavor Flav as much more than a caricature. Then Chuck D took the stage. “This is the first time we’ve done this record in its entirety [in America] in 16 years,” said Chuck D. After performing “Don’t Believe the Hype,” Chuck D went on a political rant, saying, “Whatever information you get, challenge it. Don’t believe the hype.” Flavor Flav jumped off the stage into the audience a couple of times, warning them first, to which Chuck D remarked, “He’s 50-years-old ladies and gentlemen. That’s his 50 year birthday joke.” Later Flavor Flav climbed up the stage’s scaffolding. But it wasn’t all fun and games and soon enough Chuck D was back to politics. “Now that we have President Obama as the new president, that means we gotta pay attention more than ever…pay attention to the weapons of mass distraction.”

The Cure was The Cure during their 9:25 PM headlining set on the main Coachella Stage, meaning that there were few surprises in what we saw, except that they seemed to start with a bunch of new songs. Yes, The Cure is a legendary band, but I’d seen them a couple of times before, including when they last headlined Coachella in 2004. For our final set of Coachella 2009 we checked out Throbbing Gristle at 10:10 PM in the Mojave tent. The ‘70s cult band reformed in 2004 and was simply strange. Frontman Genesis P-Orridge was incredibly androgynous, no doubt leaving some in the audience questioning his gender, and apparently he’s had plastic surgery to make him that way. The band mixed abstract electronic beats and soundscapes with P-Orridge’s weird seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics. One song featured the lyric “I’ve got a biscuit tin to put your panties in” and another consisted mainly of P-Orridge shouting “I’m fed up.” “You’ve overexcited me with your applause. I think I’ve had three orgasms already,” said P-Orridge after one song. Later he played an electronic violin as members of No Age watched from the side of the stage. Throbbing Grizzle were one of the most bizarre and intriguing acts I’ve ever seen at Coachella.

We left the festival grounds as The Cure was still playing and we later heard that their set went past the curfew, that they refused to leave the stage and so their power was shut off, which left them to perform their final songs acoustically. I’ve attended all ten Coachella festivals now and this year’s was neither the strongest nor the weakest one. It certainly didn’t top last year’s festival, which included stand out sets from Prince, Portishead, The Verve, and Roger Waters. Over this year’s festival, however, there was rarely a moment when there wasn’t some artist performing who was worth checking out and Coachella remains the premier North American music festival.

Click here to view a full gallery of photos from Coachella 2009 day three.


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maria jones
June 22nd 2009

The rock band which we can say alternative is My Bloody Valentine..This is a very nice post

Bart Johnson
August 2nd 2010

Its a 15000 page book by this crazy old, dead artist. I would love to read it. Don’t know where to go to find it, don’t believe it was ever published.

January 10th 2011

Okkervil River seemed like a poor fit for the main Coachella Stage, but they still put their all into their 2:25 PM set, so much so that frontman Will Sheff fell over flat on his back at one point because he was rocking out a little too hard. “Rolex Prices

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