Bryce's 2012 Coachella Wrap Up: Day 1

April 14, 2012

Coachella is many different things to many different people. For some it's a chance to see bands that might never come to their city, or a number of bands who do in fact cross through town but they could never afford to catch all of. For others it's a chance to stumble upon some cool tunes i n the desert, a destination of sorts for a weekend of care free music discovery in the sun (ha, the sun. we'll get to that) and then for apparently a lot of frat boys and 30 year old one time frat boys this year, it was a place to take their closest group of 15 girls who'd never heard of any band below the second line to do drugs and not pay attention to any of the bands while simultaneously talking through the sets about "how amazing this is" and taking up space.  Color me jaded but as an 8th year attendee of the fest things got off to a bit of a rough start. In fact, l ets rewind. 

There are many ways to do Cocahella, be it, show up first thing as doors open, to catch every band you think you m ight like (maximizing your ticket investment) or wander in halfway through the day, have a couple beers, catch the big bands you really wanna see, or, well, just don't come in at all. Which to be honest, is what it felt like a lot of people did. Not only was day 1 cloudy, cold and windy, but it was even marred with rain. Something virtually unheard of in Coachella history. Giving the whole fest a feel of something more like Sasquatch, though most were completely underdressed for the forecasted weather and looked fairly miserable for at least the first half the day.  But it also felt very empty, which in this writers opinion is a nod to people buying 3 day passes, simply to camp and hang out, and then on a secondary note go into the fest to catch an artist here and there that they like over the course of the weekend. Something not only unheard of, but impossible in previous years. As the festival has changed and grown over the years, so has it's attendee dynamic. And as a music fan, I cant necessarily say I'm pumped on it.

My day started however, at a pool party sponsored by The Hundreds and Bromance records, featuring the dj stylings of none other than Ed Banger boss, Busy P! Hanging out by the pool is always a good time when the frenchmen are around, especially when surprise guests like Gaspard from Justice and visual wiz So Me show up to support their friend. As the weather quickly shifts however, and it becomes apparent that I'm going to have to hitch a ride on the Ray-Ban party bus to the fest...things get kinda strange. But that's almost what the Coachella spirit is about. Sure you might miss a set or two you want too see (Breakbot ...tear) but suddenlt you're making friends with strangers from Florida, and Ohio, and then the next thing you know girls are pouring 5th's of vodka down your throat (no but really, this happened) which by the way, seems like a dandy and fun idea at the time (and oh it is) but when the bus drops you off another mile or 2 from the site and you realize if you sprint the whole way you can still catch Sebastian in the Sahara... it suddenly becomes a less enjoyable decision (the good news however being that you will definitely sweat it all out on your trans-desert test of stamina).

Now let me tell you. I've been listening to electro for some years. I was there the first time Sebastian played the Saha tent in 08, and let me tell you. It was empty. That guy is awesome, but nobody knows who the hell he is. Fast forward to yesterday, the Sahara stands as the freshly coined, bro-corner/tank-top city/high school party of the year. The crowd is a mix of 16 year old kids smoking cigarettes, and college kids in hats that say "Frat." (seriously) who have been waiting all year to "Roll in the Sahara" and exclaiming things like "THIS IS THE GREATEST SONG I'VE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE" for three songs in direct succession. Needless to say, despite great times in past years seeing bands like Justice, Daft Punk, Lcd Soundsystem and more... it's become less of a place about breaking new and exciting dance music, and moreso an idiot quarantine. Which really, whatever. Trust me it makes it way easier to see the bands you like cuz the tents are E M P T Y. I saw Death Grips unleash their brand of future-noise/avant gaurd/weirdo-rap to a Gobi tent about 1/3 full. Indie darlings Wu Lyf, played to a half empty tent as well. But take a stroll across the way to the Sahara to catch YouTube sensation Madeon, and the place is packed and going off. Of Course.

Now let me explain, I have nothing against Madeon. Kid is 18 years old or something, packing out the sahara and dropping mashups of huge obscure french tracks that I love (along with massive sing a long chorus's from The Killers and Deadmau5). It's honestly hilarious and fun to watch this little kid up there twisting knobs and throwing his hands up to the sky, making people lose their minds. It's kinda like what I envision watching that movie August Rush would be like (not that I ever saw it, but I imagine it going down something like this).

Even Pulp, who played their first show on US soil in 10-ish years had an extremely modest crowd. I walked straight up to about 40 feet back from the stage, just ten minutes before their set (it would have been earlier but had to go off on a hunt to find a piece of festival staple, Spicy Pie. Eaten exclusively at Coachella by this guy for the least 5 years. Seriously, don't sleep on it. But despite the seemingly small crowd, Pulp were phenomenal. Jarvis, in true form, sarcastic and rant filled as ever. Throwing grapes (???) and candy into the audience between classic tracks as they pulled out all the stops for a career spanning set (a neon illuminated PULP sign, served as the backdrop for a set that included no less than fog, lasers and a wonderful light show). And even in the end, the crowd didn't disappoint as they all lost their collective shit to Common People, giving the fest it's first real feeling of a "Coachella Moment". 

The Rapture also deserve a huge shout out on here for laying down one of the best, most focused, and fun sets of the day in the Mojave tent (wait...weren't they in the Sahara just a few years ago?), packing out the tent, to the point where we were standing just outside and still dancing/singing along, the new tracks sound fantastic live, extreme energy coming out of last years "In The Grace Of Your Love" which culminated in the first giant sing a long of the night to "How Deep Is Your Love" (it was a moment, it was amazing, pray they come to seattle).

Then comes the end of the night, which... for many people at this particular edition of the fest, likely had quite different results. Some people ended their night with the Black Keys at the mainstage, others to the giant LED screens of Swedish House Mafia, bumping out the bro-step, frat-trance, un-ts un-ts un-ts. But real music lovers. The few that there were, made their way over to the outdoor stage to catch the big comeback of Swedish punk legends, Refused. And good goddamn was that a great decision. Despite 14 years apart, the band hasn't lost a bit of their bite. Denis lykzen throws his mic stand into the air, races to either side of the stage, addressing the crowd atop a stack of monitors. They rip through classics like "Refused are fucking dead", "Liberation Frequency", "Worms of the senses/Faculties of the Skull", they haven't lost a bit of their touch in their time away. Dennis lightly reminding us of the bands political leanings, encouraging us between songs to take control of our governent, and our system, that the power of change lies in not one, but in all of us. Also stopping to acknowledge the bands last tour of the states ended after just a few shows in a basement in Harrisonburg VA to about 40 people, and now being here at Coachella as the played to a few thousand, was a truly special moment for them, acknowledging that this does indeed count as the proper tour for "The Shape Of Punk To Come" and they thanked Coachella and their support and encouragement to reunite, expressing that punk ideals can live in the same place as playing music for the people who it touches. All in all an absolutely brilliant way to end day 1. Proving that just because things start a bit slow, doesn't mean the music in the in end won't overcome and leave you with a Coachella set you and the people who were there with you will never forget. Onto day 2!