Before I go any further, I should disclose that Edmonton Folk Music Festival aside, the last multi-day music festival I attended was Stage 13 in 2002. After a nine year hiatus and intensive therapy to wipe my mind of Nickelback pyrotechnics and the brutal site set-up I witnessed at that festival, it was time to get back in the saddle and head to California to check out Coachella.
Being older and wiser paid off this time around. For starters, camping was replaced with condo, rusty hatchback was replaced with air-conditioned shuttle and Molson was replaced with Stone Brewing.
Here’s a rundown of the acts we caught at Coachella: Rural Alberta Advantage, !!!, OFWGKTA, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yacht, Cold War Kids, The Black Keys, Cut Copy, Crystal Castles, Robyn, Bright Eyes, Mumford and Sons, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, DFA 1979, The National, Ratatat, The Strokes, PJ Harvey and Kanye West
Set reviews and video can be found all over the web so I won’t waste your precious time writing something that can be better written by someone else. Instead, I offer you a snapshot of my festival highlights and lowlights.
Let’s start with lowlights…
OFWGKTA. Their set started about 20 minutes late due to technical difficulties which Tyler the Creator blamed on the “dumbass Coachella engineer.” Once they did finally start, the sound was less than impressive. Three songs in, a large number of people left—including us. I hear Pharrell joined them on stage near the end of the set.
The Black Keys. Yes, that’s right. This was probably my biggest disappointment of the weekend. It had nothing to do with them and everything to do with sound and video problems. I talked to people who stuck around for the whole set and they said the sound improved a bit.
$9 beer. I’m kidding.
And now the highlights…
Rural Alberta Advantage. It was my 4th time seeing RAA but I was still excited to catch their set on Thursday afternoon. Nils was beginning to lose his voice by the end of the set bit they ploughed through it and made it work. It makes me happy to see these guys get this kind of exposure as I feel it is well deserved.
!!!. These guys put on one of the best live shows I have seen in a long time. Front man Nic Offer has stage presence for miles and a Mick Jagger swagger that works will with his short shorts. He was in and out of the crowd and had everyone watching his every move.
Mumford & Sons. Simply put, their set was everything I expected it would be.
Arcade Fire. Seeing them in the California desert is better than seeing them in a hockey arena.
The National. Lead singer Matt Berninger spent more time drinking (water, I’m sure) than he did interacting with the crowd in between songs. However, it didn’t matter. They churned out a solid set that saw Justin Vernon join them for “Terrible Love”.
Kanye West. I suspect the lack of major guest appearances was a result of the stage being too small for his ego to share it with anyone who may have taken attention away from him. I still think he is a huge jackass but I have huge respect for his talent.
Last but not least, I must comment on how well organized Coachella 2011 was. I had heard from friends about problems to look out for (i.e. long waits to get in, long wait for shuttles and cabs) but, overall, we found everything went extremely smooth. I hear they really kicked things up this year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I must go re-apply aloe vera to my sunburn.