May 03 2007

I survived the Battle of Coachella and all I got was this overpriced t-shirt

by in North America, United States, West Coast

The reason I never write about concerts is because, in general, I suck at reviewing them. I have to write about Coachella, though, so forgive me if this totally sucks or if I use the word “awesome” way too much. Pictures will be up later. I’m liberally sprinkling YouTube and professional photos throughout this post to give you some eye candy.


Day 1 – I’m not drunk, I just haven’t slept
My flight out of DCA left at 6am. I thought it would be quiet and relaxing – I mean, Jesus, who flies to Houston at 6am besides businessmen? Unfortunately, I was inundated with annoying middle schoolers in matching maroon sweatshirts, all of them on a simultaneous caffeine and candy high. I switched planes in Houston and landed in Palm Springs before noon. Kat picked me up and we met up with Lindsey and Danielle at In-N-Out. It’s a tradition that my first meal upon arrival in the Great State of California has to be a double double – been that way since I was a freshman at GW.

Danielle and I headed out to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio (location of Coachella) shortly thereafter. The traffic was a nightmare, compounded by the fact that my hometown had been inundated with idiotic East Coast drivers. (“New Jersey? WTF are you doing here? Hell no we’re not letting you in our lane!”) By the time we got there, the temperature was hovering around a balmy 100 degrees (oh, trust me, it gets much hotter there). Teenagers roamed the fields and scavenged through recycling bins in search of ten empty water bottles, which they could exchange for a full one. Personally, I opted to spend the $2 per bottle.
That night I saw the Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, and Gogol Bordello. The Arctic Monkeys and Interpol were good…nothing to really write home about. Gogol Bordello, however, put on an amazing show. They were playing opposite Bjork, but the crowd was much larger than I expected. Gogol Bordello, if you have never heard of them, is a punk band composed of immigrants from Eastern Europe. A Slavic Flogging Molly, if you will. The lead singer, Eugene Hütz, is an absolute madman who enjoys crowdsurfing on a large drum. Check out the video below:

If you get a chance to see these guys live, jump on it. The music has a Slavic twist to it with an accordion and violin that will have you dancing around like a fool in no time. They were the last band of the night, which was great, because by then I had been up for 24 hours straight with three hours of sleep the night before, and was subsequently staggering around like a drunk without the benefit of actually being drunk ($7 for a Heineken?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!). Trying to leave the concert was an absolute clusterfuck, as you had thousands of cars trying to get out and no cops directing traffic. It took us TWO hours to get out of the parking lot. WTF?

Day 2 – it’s not hot, you’re just weak
The first band I saw was Jack’s Mannequin, a solo project of Something Corporate’s lead singer Andrew McMahon. Something Corporate, which is now kinda defunct, was one of my favorite bands – nice SoCal rock with some piano thrown in. Jack’s Mannequin’s performance at Coachella was solid, and I loved hearing them perform “Bruised” live (“Vacation’s come and gone too late / There’s so much sun where I’m from”).
Next up was Travis. I had never heard of these guys even though they have apparently been around for quite awhile, but Olga raved about them so I decided to check them out. They were pretty damn good, although I could barely understand a word the lead singer was saying, his Scottish accent was so thick.
Saw the Decemberists next. Gotta love a band that’s kinda named after the boys of 1825, although I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t play 16 Military Wives. In between the Decemberists and Arcade Fire we met up with my friend Kim, who was lucky enough to be covering the concert for WORK. I shoulda been a journalist.

I started listening to Arcade Fire a few months ago at the suggestion of my roommate, Mike, and they put on an amazing show. Definitely a crowd favorite. The final band we saw that night was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s not much to say about the Chili Peppers. As expected, they were awesome live. And yeah, they played “Under the Bridge”, with a crowd of 60,000 singing along.

Flea, with RHCP

Day 3 – THE DAY RAGE REUNITES! “What better place than here? What better time than now?”
First up was Kaiser Chiefs. I became quite familiar with these guys while living in London, as it seemed every third song played on the radio was “Oh My God” ( “Oh my god I can’t believe it / I’ve never been this far away from home”). I love Kaiser Chiefs, but they just didn’t sound that good live. Whatev.

Ryan and headed over to the main stage a few hours early in order to get a decent spot for Rage Against the Machine. We had to stand through Crowded House, some Australian band I’ve never heard of. They were alright, I guess…I wouldn’t buy their CD or anything. No idea why Coachella put them so close to RATM, though. Really effin’ idiotic, as the hardcore RATM fans in the front were throwing bottles at Crowded House and chanting “RAGE RAGE RAGE!” I felt kinda sorry for those poor Aussies.

Manu Chao with Radio Bemba Sound System played after Crowded House. Oh…My…God…these guys were amazing. I’ve never heard any of their music before, but I was impressed with their entire setlist. Intense mix of rock, reggae, ska, a few foreign languages thrown in…these guys really blew me away. I had no idea what they were saying, but they kept screaming California, so that’s gotta be something.

FINALLY, the last band of the night, the last band of Coachella 2007, the only band I would fly 3,000 miles to see reunite…RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

Ryan and I had a decent view…we were probably about 30 feet in front in front of the soundbooth. I found myself surrounded by half-naked, sweaty men wearing bright orange “Drive out the Bush regime” bandanas, shouting “RAGE RAGE RAGE!” RATM walked on stage and Zack shouted “Good evening, we’re Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles, California!” The crowd went nuts. SEVEN LONG YEARS WITHOUT RAGE! Abandoned in our time of need! With everything that has been going on these past seven years, we could have had five new, angry albums!

They opened with “Testify“, the Battle of Los Angeles anthem railing against our runaway oil consumption and subsequent military intervention in the Middle East (“Mister anchor assure me / That Baghdad is burning”).

Yeah, kinda like this

All hell broke loose when Morello started on the main riff. The crowd was packed so tightly where we were that I was literally picked off the ground and moved 10 feet left then 10 feet right, then 5 feet front, and 5 feet back – my feet weren’t even touching the ground. It was like some sort of bizarre tug of war using human bodies. The heat was suffocating, and I managed to take a knee and elbow to the head from some crowdsurfer. A few guys were being carried out, all bloodied up. It was freakin’ intense. After the first two songs, I moved back about 15 feet where it wasn’t as packed, and the air was a bit, uh, fresher. A moshpit formed to the left of me, and to my right, three guys climbed on top of the soundbooth, with security following soon thereafter.

That’s gotta hurt

01 “Testify”
02 “Bulls On Parade”
03 “People Of The Sun”
04 “Bombtrack”
05 “Bullet In The Head”
06 “Down Rodeo”
07 “Guerrilla Radio”
08 “Renegades Of Funk” (my current ringtone, ooooh yeah)
09 “Calm Like A Bomb”
10 “Sleep Now In The Fire”
11 “Wake Up”
12 “Freedom”
13 “Killing In The Name” (with a little improvisation thrown in “Some of those who hold office are the same that burn crosses.”)

At one point, during “Wake Up”, the crowd cheered loudly as Zack called for the Bush administration to be “hung, and tried, and shot”:

“A good friend of ours said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. Presidents as were applied to the Nazi’s after World War II, then every single one of ’em, every last rich white one of ’em from Truman on would have been hung to death, and shot. And this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be. But the challenges that we face, they go way beyond administrations. Way beyond elections. Way Beyond every four years of pulling levers. Way beyond that, because this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel, that in order to sustain itself, it needs to destroy entire countries, and profit from their reconstruction, in order to survive, and that’s not a system that changes every four years, it’s a system that we have to break down generation after generation after generation after generation after generation. Wake up!”

WARNING: Political rant about one minute in

I was like, whoa, did he just say that? And poor Jimmy Carter, what did he ever do to deserve that fate? And aren’t you supposed to try a person BEFORE hanging and/or shooting them?

The last song of the evening was “Killing in the Name.” It was like seven years of pent up anger exploded at the end, with a crowd of 60,000 screaming “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” over and over.

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”

I was so amped after that set I wanted to put on a bandana and start throwing molotov cocktails at Wal-Mart. The only “raging against the machine” I managed to accomplish that night, however, was pushing my way past a security guard who was yelling “This exit is for wrist bands ONLY!” But that exit was closest to where we had parked, and we were in no mood to walk all the way around the polo fields. Allllll hell can’t stop us now!

The very next morning I was on a plane headed back to DC. Back to reality, working for Big Energy, filling up the 14mpg SUV, and thinking, hmm, business school…maybe I’ll give that a try.

There are very few things I regret not doing, but I have the feeling that if I did not go to this concert I would have really regretted it. I saw one of my favorite bands reunite after a seven year hiatus…and yeah, I’ve got the “Battle of Coachella” shirt to prove it.

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2 Responses to I survived the Battle of Coachella and all I got was this overpriced t-shirt

  1. From El Capitan:

    F’n A. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

    Posted on May 7, 2007 at 3:53 pm #
  2. From Vicky:

    Great write up. The pics look epic!

    Posted on November 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm #
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