Coachella Day Two: Hit 'Em On The Dance Floor
If the first day of Coachella was all about the guitar rock, day two was all about getting your proverbial groove on. It started early in the afternoon with Hot Chip, whose "Revenge of the Nerds"-style synth bonanzas teased New Order and Peter Gabriel on the way to delirious dancing throughout the Mojave tent. MSTRKRFT were just as impressive in the Sahara tent, offering up tasty house and disco appealing to frat boys and old-school ravers alike.
!!! had a few moments that tipped too far into drone territory, but the last portion of their set recovered with "Yadnus" and "Must Be the Moon," emboldened with a manic New York energy that drove the crowd insane. It was the perfect set up for Girl Talk, who invited around 100 sweaty, half-clothed people (including Paris Hilton) up on stage to shake it while he mashed up '90s hip-hop with indie rock. Throughout, there were bits of Lady Sovereign's "Love Me or Hate Me," Smashing Pumpkins' "1979," Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," Elastica's "Connection" and the Cars's "Just What I Needed."
LCD Soundsystem capped the night with a bevy of coked-up funk/rock in the Sahara tent, highlighted by furious renditions of "Daft Punk Is Playing With My House" and "North American Scum."
There will still men with guitars to be found on day two; the Black Keys' show-closing performance in the Mojave tent was more jammy and spaced-out than usual, but the crowd was still eating up tracks like "10 A.M. Automatic," "The Breaks," "Busted" and "Girl Is on My Mind." Backstage beforehand, Keys drummer Patrick Carney told J.I. the group has recorded nine songs with rock legend Ike Turner, but no decision has yet been made how they will be released.
Over on the main stage, Arcade Fire (pictured: Richard Parry) delivered an impressive set of messianic orchestral rock, far more confident and less gimmicky than its 2005 Coachella appearance. Win Butler led his large ensemble through massive renditions of "Rebellion (Lies)," "Intervention," and "No Cars Go" as if he was a celebrant conducting a service for the entire Coachella congregation.
Earlier in the day, Kings Of Leon blazed through a high-energy set that was tighter than their own pants. Some of their newer songs had a bit less feeling than oldies like "California Waiting" and "Molly's Chambers," which have more character, but overall, the Tennessee boys just plain rocked.
Coachella Day One: Crazy From The Heat
The first day of Coachella 2007 is in the books, and since J.I. didn't get to bed until almost 4 a.m. local time, you'll have to bear with him as he rattles off some observations in stream-of-consciousness fashion:
On The Clock: Sets ran like clockwork on day one, except for Jarvis Cocker's at the Outdoor Theatre, which started about 15 minutes late.
Annoyances: There's an old railroad train parked in the grass close enough to the Gobi and Mojave tents that its steam whistle is more than audible during performances in those areas. Move this thing out of the way! Also, food seems to be more expensive. We paid $6 (!) for a solitary slice of pizza.
There's Still Showmanship In Indie Rock: We watched from backstage as Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes changed outfits mid-set. Goodbye, white pants, hello, turquoise short shorts and matching boots. Rufus Wainwright also started his performance wearing pajamas but doffed them in favor of a spangly suit jacket.
When In Doubt, Go With Bob: Marley brothers Stephen and Damian were the perfect duo to perform in the early evening at the Outdoor Theatre, covering their dad's "Catch a Fire," "Buffalo Soldier," "Exodus" and "Could You Be Loved," alongside Stephen's "Mind Control" and Damian's smash hit "Welcome to Jamrock." They also had a guy on stage with the best job in music: doing nothing but running around and waving a giant Jamaican flag (presumably while high).
They Have Risen: The Jesus & Mary Chain were outstanding during a set that only got better as it progressed. The group splintered in 1998 but is now back in action; it even played a new song, although nobody is talking yet about a possible new studio album. The simple, sludgy rock coursing through "Head On," "Snakedriver," "Teenage Lust" and "Frequency" was impossible to ignore (pictured: JAMC frontman Jim Reid).
Juicy, But No Pulp: Cocker played one of the most entertaining sets of the day, despite not doing any old Pulp songs. He treated the crowd like the avuncular substitute teacher who would let the kids be naughty and avoid the usual boring lecture. His band gave life to songs from Cocker's recent solo debut, "Jarvis," particularly "Fat Children," "I Will Kill Again," "One Man Show" (key line: "I have a hot date with a baked potato tonight") and "Big Julie."
Not Very Arresting: Interpol's after-dark set on the main stage was pretty monochromatic. The new songs ("Pioneer to the Falls," "The Heinrich Maneuver," "Mammoth") from the upcoming "Our Love To Admire" didn't stand out from the catalog; everything felt like it could have come from the same album, despite actually coming from three. They created a mood, but they didn't vary it at all. What was most notable was bassist Carlos D's transformation from scary Goth guy with greased New Wave haircut to an equally scary character straight out of 1842 we dubbed Edgar Allen Copperfield (poufy hair, pencil-thin mustache, bolo tie, Victorian top coat).
Congratulations to New York's own Pela, who celebrated the release of its full-length debut "Anytown Graffiti" (Great Society) on Tuesday with a sold-out show at the Mercury Lounge. The band was jovial and professional, and the energy exuded by the four-piece's fan base inched on hysterical. The melodramatic peaks and valleys of the songs were lead by the troubled tenor of Billy McCarthy (who our friend aptly described as "hunky"), with guitarist Nate Martinez taking our breath away with his consistent, vibrant riffs.
The first time we saw Pela was nearly two years ago in the vacuum that is the Delancey. What seemed like straight-forward, emotional rock eventually grew on us, as the drum, bass and guitar lines eventually become just as recognizable as the catchiest chorus. One of the worst criticisms we've heard is that they sound too much like the National.
And Lo! Behold! They're all friends! And Bryan Devendorf, drummer for the National, gave a pair of helping hands to Takka Takka's opening set on Tuesday. There was something off about the group, maybe that they were nervous or under-prepared for the sold-out event, but the songs didn't sound as tight as they do on their MySpace. Prior to that, our friends Project Jenny, Project Jan continued their marvelous "electro-karaoke" assault on the masses with much joy, splendor and mic stand-humping.
Idol Chatter: Shock'N'Yall
OK, Seacrest. "Biggest shock ever," our fannies. BEFORE America voted, mind you, you warned us that we'd be seeing the most astonishing "Idol" in history. Yet, you started out last night's episode by admitting that the big shocker was actually the results. Hold the phone here -- how can you predict the outcome before the votes are even cast? Boy, way to screw that one up.
So within the first five minutes we already knew how last night would end: Either no one was going home, or Sanjaya would be bumped back into the competition for further comedic relief/media fodder. Thankfully, the former played out.
But aside from Seacrest's misstep, we'll give the "Idol" folks kudos on a quality charity special. Not only did the guilt trip-inducing footage of poverty-stricken children leave us on the verge of tears, there were quite a few downright funny moments to boot (J.I.'s top pick: Rob Schneider saying, "Hi, I'm Adam Sandler").
In addition to Seacrest, who held down the fort on the "Idol" set, our fave talk show host Ellen DeGeneres hosted a live telecast from the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. Earth, Wind & Fire, undoubtedly showing their age, started off the night's performances with a medley of songs including "Boogie Wonderland," "Shining Star" and "September."
The contestants' first group performance was the Quincy Jones-conducted new song "Time to Care," which, though we're sure they sang in earnest, was really really slow and, well, boring.
Eric McCormack made us chuckle by saying something like "If every person who voted for Sanjaya donated just one dollar," as did Jack Black with his "Kiss From a Rose" skit, which included a rose-sniffing Kyle Gass seated in the audience as well as an actual Seal cameo.
Although we realize celebrities often mean well, the "Stayin' Alive" bit was just plain tacky. And, uh, were we on glue or was that seriously Kelly Clarkson covering Patti Griffin with friggin' Jeff Beck of all people? Fortunately, the duet that followed between Celine Dion and the, um, ghost of Elvis quickly confirmed our suspicion that yes, in fact, we were on glue.
Even Madonna, surrounded by a group of who we assume to be her latest 20 adoptees, made a plea for donations, and maybe we zoned out, but there were no Sacha Baron Cohen, Pink or Gwen Stefani appearances as was promised.
Bono may not have materialized in the flesh tonight, but the footage of his interaction with the contestants did. And it was totally lame. What is wrong with you people! This is Bono we're talking about here! Shame on you for showing more enthusiasm upon meeting Peter Noone.
The group performed the Bono and Dave Stewart-penned "American Prayer" after Seacrest revealed the oh-so-outrageous results. Poor Jordin, who thought she was getting sent home, was all choked up as she started singing, but the gang pulled it off much smoother than the aforementioned Quincy affair.
Good, bad or ugly, we realize this week's "Idol" was for a good cause. We also acknowledge that we are terrible people for not donating any money. But that's neither here nor there.
Idol Chatter: Singing Saves The World
Thank goodness the "Idol" gang pulled their act together last night, or we'd a felt real bad-like ripping their performances to shreds amid the heartbreaking clips of impoverished Africa. Or more likely the contestants were mediocre per usual, and we unknowingly pushed our snobbery aside for once to examine the bigger picture.
Either way, last night kicked off "Idol Gives Back," the charity project aimed at raising money for children living in poverty. The fundraising special, spearheaded by none other than Bono, saw the contestants performing songs of inspiration with a monetary portion of each of their received votes going toward the cause. See, the multi-kajillion dollar enterprise that is "American Idol" is capable of doing a respectable deed now and again. God bless 'em.
The do-gooder Irishman was also allegedly this week's singing mentor, yet there was no evidence of Bono actually working in person with the remaining six. We were pretty disappointed about this, mainly because one would logically expect the contestants to spontaneously combust in his mere presence or be completely ignorant and address him as "Bow-know" or something. But no such luck.
The big guns were, predictably, Melinda, who gave Faith Hill a run for her money and DID NOT ACT SURPRISED, and Jordin, who never fails to make us smile when she towers over the itty bitty Seacrest.
Chris surprised us with his take on Eric Clapton's "Change the World," and the added vocal run at the end was a nice finishing touch. Blake's simple, toned-down approach impressed us, too, despite Randy's criticism and Simon calling him flat.
Flashback to Season 3 as LaKisha sounded like a poor (wo)man's Fantasia, and although the judges praised Phil, we still just aren't feelin' him. Plus we're pretty sure we were about 10 when we last heard that Garth Brooks song, which made for another interesting trip down memory lane.
Tonight, expect appearances from every possible celebrity under the sun, both politically minded (Dear Ms. Pink, give it up already) and not so much (four words: "Since U Been Gone") as well as "one of the biggest shocks we've ever had on 'American Idol.'" What, is Borat gonna come out in that green swimsuit thing? Is Bono going to claim the title as the only male shorter than Seacrest ever to grace the "Idol" stage? Maybe Jack Black will toke up on live television? Guess we'll have to tune in to find out.