03 May 2007
Sunday saw the 2007 Coachella Music Festival draw to a close as Los Angeles based political rockers Rage Against The Machine reunited after a seven year break up. It took only a few opening chords from Testify to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The set was a strong representation of the band's entire career, songs from every one of their albums were played while the crowd of an estimated 60,000 all shouted the choruses out word for word. The performance was not flawless, there were a few flubbed lyrics and botched intros, the crowd however were quick to forgive and the positives outweighed the negatives by far. Zach de la Rocha ended the set with a tirade against the Bush administration and stated that they should be treated like the war criminals they are.
The ferocity of Rage Against The Machine was not typical of the bands playing the festival. Earlier on Sunday I had watched Regina Spektor captivate the audience with nothing more than a piano and her wonderfully playful voice. The night before, Tiesto had the whole audience dancing to his unique brand of trance. That very same day Willie Nelson led the crowd in a country sing along.
No matter who you were or what you were there for, the Coachella Music Festival had something to offer you. The main Coachella Stage was like a time machine showing you legendary musicians of the past (Jesus and Mary Chain, Willie Nelson), the present (Interpol, Bjork) or the future (Silversun Pickups, Arctic Monkeys). The electronic dance heavy Sahara Tent churned out one amazing act after another, Saturday was exceptional with MSTRKRFT making the entire tent move to their rhythm in setting desert sun. LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture were a great one two punch of fun disco inspired rock that left the crowd gyrating all the way until the day drew to an end. The Gobi Tent probably had the most eclectic mix of artists, ranging from The Comedians of Comedy cracking up a packed tent to Konono No. 1 who brought their blend of tribal Kongo music and electronic. The Outdoor Stage was an alternative to the more mainstream acts that dominated the main stage. DJ Shadow put on an exhibition of trippy samples and moody tones on the Outdoor Stage while Bjork performed on the main stage.
Bjork closed out the show on Friday night, which was in fact the first time the festival was expanded to three days and began on Friday. Her performance was beautifully whimsical as would be expected from the Icelandic pop star. She came out singing her new song Earth Intruders with a collection of orbs as a headpiece and a colorful muumuu that flowed literally from head to toe. With kites and banners being blown about onstage by the desert winds, Bjork proceeded to delight the crowd with a collection of her hits performed with an all female choir who doubled as a horn section. Her voice soared in her trademark Icelandic accent as her DJ used a bizarre looking piece of touch screen equipment that looked more like a control on the starship enterprise than a musical instrument. She closed out the night with an amazing performance of Hyperballad which started quiet and ended with a sea of people jubilantly bouncing around to electronic beats and asking one another "What was that thing?" That "thing" they were referring to was a bright green circular table that played samples as white squares decorated with runes were dropped onto it. As the squares were moved closer to one another they would connect by a small animated lightning bolt, the samples could then be manipulated by twisting the squares or sliding them up or down. It was exciting just watching it being used, it seemed like some sort of alien technology and brought a whole other layer of uniqueness to Bjork's performance.
Bjork was not the only artist to bring a surprise to the stage, The Jesus And Mary Chain surprised a lot of people by bringing out actress Scarlett Johansson to sing back up to Just Like Honey. Mash up master Girl Talk is known to have a stage full of people dancing with him as he mixes up his music, but none drew more attention than Paris Hilton. Former Jane's Addiction front Perry Farrell who performed Friday with his band Satellite Party showed up to help out Rage Against The Machine's guitarist Tom Morello during his solo set as The Nightwatchman.
This year's festival included a lot more art installments than previous years. There were tents shaped like leaves of flowers surrounding a stage where performers from Lucent Dossier Vaudeville entertained those lucky enough to wander by during one of their impromptu performances. Bay area artists Kinetic Steamworks set up a carnival ride that ran solely on steam power. It was impressive and fun to hear the train whistle from time to time. It is incredible how the handful of art exhibits and sculptures really breathe character to what was essentially a field of grass.
Performance after jaw dropping performance, Coachella delivered on every level, engrossing artistry, pulse pounding excitement and just good clean fun. With its scenic mountain skyline and clear blue skies it is easy to see why the Coachella Valley is a perfect place for this festival. Enduring the harsh desert climate is a struggle, but the rewards of enduring that struggle well worth it. It's easy to see why artists as well as people from around the globe all come here each year to celebrate and share in the experience.
by Carlos Santiago
Photos by Mark Austin - http://www.mcaphoto.com/