Return to the desert
01 May 2008
Following last year’s extension of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival to three days, 2008 sees
the festival go bigger and better still by adding 40 acres to the already huge polo grounds, plus two of the most memorable
headline performances in its short history, with Prince
and Roger Waters captivating
Prince's Saturday night set inspires the crowd to sing, dance and clap along, the elusive enigma agreeing to play at Coachella under one stipulation. "I get to pick the music", he states, before introducing Morris and Jerome of The Time who launch into ‘Jungle Love’. Next he introduces Sheila E, singing her hit ‘Glamorous Life’. Prince's masterful musicianship is on dazzling display as he runs through a rock inspired set that includes among his hits a medley of Santana songs, an amazing take on Radiohead's ‘Creep’ and a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ that has the entire polo field singing in unison. The powerful set includes his hits ‘1999’, ‘Little Red Corvette’ and ‘Purple Rain’ before coming to a close shortly before one in the morning with ‘Let's Go Crazy’.
Roger Waters performance of Dark Side of The Moon is equally captivating but for entirely different reasons than Prince's party the previous night. Waters and company give us a visually stunning show to go along with Pink Floyd's trademark atmospheric sound. The performance is a whole lot more than just Dark Side of The Moon; we hear selections from other Floyd albums such as ‘Animals’, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Wall’.
The highlight of the show comes halfway through ‘Pigs’ as pyrotechnics explode onstage and a giant, bus-sized inflatable pig is paraded around with the words "Don't be lead to slaughter" painted on its side as well as "Fear builds walls". While all this is going on a plane circles the field releasing confetti covered with “Obama” and a checked boxes, as Coachella gets political. As the song builds to a crescendo the pig breaks loose and ascended into the night sky.
There’s then a short intermission before the performance of Dark Side of The Moon begins, Waters’ huge sound blending beautifully with the video behind the stage. The surround sound speakers positioned around the polo grounds make the effects on ‘On The Run’ and the laughter on ‘Brain Damage’ sound as if they’re moving about behind you, a chilling effect I've never heard during a live performance. After ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ Waters closes out his iconic set with ‘Another Brick in The Wall, Pt. 2’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’.
The weekend is full of great performances, but before I mention any one else, I must state this: If you get a chance see The National live don’t pass it up. They put on one of the best performances of the festival as they play the outdoor stage at sunset. The start strong and as the sun goes down it seems like the darkness unleashes a beast as they transform ‘Squalor Victoria’ into an emotionally charged epic. They perform with such intensity that their songs take on a whole new sound.
Portishead also play an amazing set; their newer songs don't blend in so well with their older work, but songs like ‘Wandering Star’ and ‘Roads’ showcase how powerful their softer sounding songs could be. And they so fresh great considering they’ve been out of the game for so long.
Each day of the festival seems to have a wonderfully lunatic performance. Friday belongs to Les Savy Fav. While the band play frontman Tim Harrington strips down to his undies, drinks bubble solution, jumps onto a photographer, dons a wig and climbs the lighting rig to the top of the stage – not bad for one short set and his manic sense of fun adds greatly to the performance.
Saturday gives us Man Man, a raucous group who play everything from kazoos to duck calls to a bowl full of spoons. Their playful sound ranges madly from Frank Zappa to Cab Calloway to falsetto nursery rhymes and they make ferocious music out of any instrument they can get their hands on.
Sunday afternoon, meanwhile, brings us the gypsy punk sound of Gogol Bordello, one of the highest attended of any daytime performance. Their high energy performance immediately sends the crowd into a frenzy with groups of people joining arms and dancing in circles to the exuberant eastern sounding punk music.
At the other end of the scale, techno pioneers Kraftwerk show off their brand of minimalist techno, robots appearing from behind their consoles during their performance of ‘The Robots’ and the band donning glowing matrix suits during ‘Musique Non-Stop’. Justice close out the show by remixing their hit album ‘The Cross’ to an overflowing crowd in the Sahara tent.
Elsewhere, the Dolab is once again inhabited by Lucent Dossier, a cabaret troop who perform a water drenched program that delights their crowd. The art installations prove bigger than ever this year, the waves are uniquely constructed crests made of bamboo, but the most photographed art installation has to be the Big Rig Jib, a statement against our country's dependence on oil showing two oil tankers tangled around one another.
The Coachella Music Festival succeeds once again in bringing amazing performances from some the greatest acts from around the world, as well as remaining extremely clean and well organised with the new layout leaving more free space for everyone.
Written by Carlos Santiago