We got things started with Les Butcherettes. I had never heard of them, but Jordan said to to check them out and he was right. They were proof that minimal can be good. At almost every stage you would see the performers apply layer upon layer of instruments, tracks, lighting, and special effects. Les Butcherrettes kept it simple with their singer playing guitar or organ, a bass player and a drummer. That way there message was not diluted, it was direct. They sounded like a cross between the Suburban Lawns and Bulimia Banquet. On the songs that are just organ, bass, and drums the music sounds like the Screamers because of the way she plays the keyboard.
Next up was Greg Ginn. I was wondering who he was going to be playing with but he was just playing alone, the Process of Weeding Out has been completed. His current act is as an electronic one man band. Making the scene was Jordan Schwartz, the star of the Black Flag Slip It In, as well as old school desert punker Herb Leneau.
Greg Ginn arrived at the stage accompanied by a rig that took four people to roll on. At big concerts you set up your equipment on a wooden platform with wheels on the side of the stage and then roll it on when its your turn to play and all that needs to be done is to plug in the power and place the mic. These platforms can fit a drum set and a drummer but it was not enough for the Ginn one man band. So he spent the next 10 minutes plugging in contraptions placed on a table and on the floor. When he finally commenced to playing it was insane.
He put on some kind of rhythm sequence like at the disco stages and then did Theremin solos and guitar solos over that for 45 minutes. It was like something you would see on the Venice boardwalk and sounded like when you are walk into Guitar Center and everybody is trying out different guitars at the same time. It was pretty awesome of Goldenvoice to book Greg Ginn for Coachella. Most of the bands there were record company bands with managers on a path towards commercial success, so Greg Ginn was the most punk in the attitude of not being success-oriented. He is playing outside music in the tradition of the L.A. Free Music Society; and after about 15 minutes I went outside.
On the outside stage was Sean Kuti and his Egypt 80. This was the opposite of Greg Ginn. Instead of one man playing by himself over a pre-recorded sequence it was a full band with drums, percussion, bass, a horn section, guitars, and background singers all listening to each other and playing off of each other. It was the difference between 10 people grooving together an one person grooving alone.
Sean Kuti and the Egypt 80 were the most musical act at Coachella. He played the JuJu music of his father Fela Kuti combining the indigenous music of his native Nigeria with Charlie Parker jazz and James Brown funk. Unlike Greg Ginn, who cared not about his audience, the Egypt 80 did there best to entertain and had thousands of people on their feet dancing and swaying to their hypnotic sound.
Next up was the Hives. The band was decent, they reminded me of the Comatones or Standard and Poor, but the singer was obnoxious. When Paul Stanley or Dio or Mugger would get on stage and tell everybody how great they were they did it with a sense of humor. The hives singer believed to deeply in his own hype. Some of his sayings were pretty funny, however, like ‘Coachella, center of the hipsters, and we are the center of the Coachella so this is the center of hip.’ and ‘We are the main course of Coachella, the bands before us were the appetizers and after us is the desert, we are the main course the headliners’, this is what the singer felt he needed to tell the audience – in case that was something they were wondering about. He tried some crowd control maneuvers like making everybody sit down and stand up but it just seemed like a contrived new wave Jim Morrison wannabe. They finished the set by chanting one more time to the audience and giving themselves an ovation.
The true headliner was Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. From the moment they busted out on stage with The Next Episode they had the audience blazing, dancing, singing along to every word. Dre and Snoop could have just done their songs and taken there money but instead they went for it and gave there audience an experience that they could talk about for the rest of there lives. While most of the so called Hip Hop acts suffered from the placebo syndrome, the Dr Dre Snoop Dogg experience was true. It reminded me of the Stax Review from the 60’s with lots of special guests like Eminem and Warren G singing there songs and also doing songs with multiple vocalists trading off. Instead of playing to pre-recorded tracks or samples or sequences the experience used a live band with two drummers, a bass player, and two keyboard players. Using live musicians that could feed off each other and off the singers put the Funk in the G-Funk and made the vibe alive. The only crowds I had been in at concerts that big were for the Rolling Stones or the Who. They even experimented with new technology using large scale holograms first of dancing girls and then of Tupac Shakur. They took the Hatsumi Miku concept and took it three steps further by resurecting the dead. Some critics thought it was cheesy but I thought it was a cool display of technology.
I had a great time, and in conclusion, it was great to see how Goldenvoice and Rat Sound had evolved from the days of Fenders Ballroom.
Contributed by Dave Travis