Coachella Music and Arts Festival

3 Days; 60,000 Fans; 123 Bands; The Biggest Reunion in Recent Memory  

April 23 - May 2, 2007 

Once again, it's been a long time since I've updated this site. In my defense, there's not been much to write about since Tahoe - on the personal front anyway. Works been crazy - I was in Charlotte for our annual conference, but that's a full on week plus of work, 12+ hours a day. Needless to say I didn't do much besides work and sleep and hang out with customers.

Last week, I had a little over a week off work, and with my friend Sean did a road trip down to Coachella CA (just outside of Palm Springs), for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival.  Coachella is a three-day music festival that draws some of the biggest rock bands together for a weekend of great music and camping in the desert. The huge draw this year was the reunion of Rage Against the Machine - one of the biggest acts of the late 90s/early 2000s, that haven't toured in 7 years. In addition, the Red hot Chili Peppers and Bjork were headlining the other days. More about the music later.

We decided to drive down - it had been years since I've been on a road trip, and I was really looking forward to it. We packed up Monday night after work, and hit the road just as the Canucks clinched the win to advance to the second round of the playoffs! It was a good start to the trip! Monday night we headed south and crossed the boarder about 9:30. The drive passed pretty quickly, as we wound south down the I-5 through Seattle, onto the I-90, then onto I-82. Around 1:00 we stopped just north of the Oregon boarder for the night.

The next morning we got up pretty early - 9ish - and continued our way south. The plan was to make this a long day, and get all the way to Las Vegas before we stopped. The camping at Coachella opened at 5 p.m. on Thursday, so we planned to stay a couple nights in Vegas, before making the final leg of the drive. The drive through the northeast portion of Oregon was very scenic as it wove it's way through the mountains. After a few hours we wound our way down into Idaho as the I-84 crossed that state, and lead us into Nevada. There's not a lot to say about that part of Idaho - pretty flat, with not a lot of great scenery. Just outside of Boise Idaho, we stopped for lunch at the greatest truck stop. This thing was a blast from the past for me - reminded me of the places I used to stop with Dad when I went on trips with him, before the commercialization of the trucks stops by the big fast food chains. The best thing was the sign over the counter. Something to the effect of "We're open to the public - but we serve our truckers first". Just classic.

Pronghorn antelope in the Nevada desert.  

Pronghorn antelope in the Nevada desert.  

After getting the camp settled, we wandered over to the "hospitality" text - where the bar was. It was still really warm, so we hung out, and watched people make fools of themselves doing karaoke. Not my thing, but Sean, who's quite the extrovert, decided to have a go. He pulled out a real crowd-pleaser from Sublime, and did a hell of a job. After they shut down the karaoke, we wandered back to camp, hung out for a while then crashed in anticipation of the fun to come.

Here's my Top 10 Coachella Sets from 2007

1. Rage Against the Machine
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. Jesus and Mary Chain
4. Fratellis
5. The Kooks
6. Sonic Youth
7. Placebo
8. Jarvis Cocker
9. Of Montreal
10. Lily Allen

Below, you can see my full write up for each act.

Coachella Day 1 - Friday April 27th

It gets way too hot, way too early in the desert. After the fact, we found out that the Palm Springs area got hit by a mini heat wave for the Coachella weekend. By 6:30 in the morning, it was already pushing 90 degrees, and by 8:00 or 9:00 it was up over 100. I think we had 101, 100 and 97 degrees for the three days. So by 6:30 the tent was way to hot to sleep in, and so no matter how little sleep you had the night before, you were up by 7:00 at the latest. 

Hanging out in the Festival

Hanging out in the Festival

Entrance to the Festival, including set lists from past years

Entrance to the Festival, including set lists from past years

The big problem with Day 1 - with the whole event actually - was that there was way too much I wanted to see, and since there were 5 stages, there were conflicts. Day 1 was the worst for it. Here's what I ended up at on Day 1:

  • Comedians of Comedy
  • Tokyo Police Club
  • Of Montreal
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Jarvis Cocker
  • Sonic Youth
  • Bjork

Yep, started Coachella with a comedy act. There wasn't much else I wanted to see at that point. Much different than later in the day when I had to skip Interpol, Brazilian Girls, Rufus  Wainwright and Peaches. And apparently I missed one of the best acts in Amy Winehouse, but I didn't know that at the time. Tokyo Police Club, a Toronto band were OK - not what I was expecting from the hype. Of Montreal (a band not from Montreal it seems), is a pretty cool act - actually my "sleeper" act of the show. They put on a great show, and I really liked their glam-rock music. The Arctic Monkeys, one of the biggest bands going right now didn't disappoint. They rocked hard, played all the big hits and got the crowd going. Their set was a lot of fun, and pretty much what I had expected. 

After their  set was over, but before the Jesus and Mary Chain came on, Sean dragged me over to the Peaches set. He really wanted to see the set, but I was more interested in Jesus and Mary Chain. I sat through the opening of their set, plus the first song - long enough to think to myself "I'm willing to miss the Jesus and Mary Chain for this?", and got the hell out. Thank God I did. The Jesus and Mary Chain were easily one of the top 5 acts for me at the show! They were awesome - absolutely spectacular. For those of you who don't know them, have a look here. The Jesus and Mary Chain are one of the most influential alt-rocks bands ever, and it was great to see them live. For one of the more interesting moments of the festival, They were joined on stage by actress Scarlett Johansson. (She sang vocals on the song "Just Like Honey", which appeared in Lost in Translation.) 

After that great set, I flipped over to see Jarvis Cocker. Now Jarvis Cocker used to be the lead singer for a 90's brit-pop band called Pulp, which is still one of my favorite bands ever. Pulp broke up a while back, and so Jarvis was touring his first solo album. The set was good - the music wasn't quite up to Pulp standards, but it was good. And Jarvis Cocker is a great stage presence - he puts on a good show. 

Sonic Youth followed Jarvis Cocker. What can I say but... wow. Again, a bit of a history lesson - Sonic Youth was the original grunge act, but actually go back to the early 80's in New York. Before Nirvana and Pearl Jam, there was Sonic Youth. Arguably, if not for Sonic Youth, there never would have been a Nirvana. Anyway, I knew that the lead singer/lead guitar player for Sonic Youth was good, but until I saw them play, I really had no idea. Wow. And wow. What a set. I had never seen them before, and they were one of the big draws for me. I'm glad I saw them live. After Sonic Youth, I went and caught Bjork's set for a while. Now I was a Sugar Cubes fan (Bjork's band from the 90's), but I've never been a huge fan of her solo music. Don't get me wrong - she's got an amazing voice, and she put on an amazing, elaborate set, but it was the end of a very long day in 101 degree heat, and I was tired. So I laid down in the grass near the back, watched for a while, then went and had a shower.

After the shower I was feeling much better. So I hung out with Sarah and Tess for a bit, chatted with a group that moved in near by, had a few beverages and called it a night.

Coachella Day 2 - Saturday April 28th

So I ended up in bed at about 2:00, give or take. I may have had one drink too many, but expected to be able to sleep in, as the first act I wanted to see wasn't on until 3:30. Except I hadn't really factored in the desert. Sure it was hot the day before, but I wasn't expecting it to be so hot, you couldn't sleep by 7:00 in the morning! That was just uncalled for. So we got up and hung out; threw a disc around; I made a trip back to the car for more of our water supply; and basically hung out until it was time to brave the line to get back into the venue. 

That was really my only complaint with the festival - the organization was a bit lacking. Especially getting in and out of the venue - that was way more painful than it needed to be. The line ups were unreal, and the searches seemed a bit excessive. Even getting out was harder than it needed - especially on the last day after Rage. It was stupid how difficult they made it. other than that, the set-up was good. Lots of food; water was only $2.00 and there was lots of shade, when you wanted to get out of the sun. The camp was also pretty good - they had Internet access; lots of showers (which were surprisingly good) and a decent store - they didn't gouge too badly. 

Day 2 went like this:

  • The Fratellis
  • The New Pornographers
  • Kings of Leon
  • the Arcade Fire
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

It was a slower day on the second day. The day  started with one of my favorite new bands - the Fratellis. The Fratellis and the Kooks are two new British bands with a very cool sound. I saw them both at Coachella, and they both put on amazing sets. The New Pornographers, and Kings of Leon were good - a bit disappointing maybe, but good. The arcade Fire are not really my kind of music - a bit over-produced, but they put on a great show! 

One of the main reasons I was at Coachella was to see the Chili Peppers. I've been a huge RHCP fan for a long time - all the way back to Blood Sugar Sex Magic. But I've never seen them live. Well, this show made up for it. Big bands like the Chili Peppers have a stage presence about them that carries a show, and this one was awesome. They played a good selection of their big hits, mixed it in with some improvised songs (including a very cool cover of a Fleetwood Mac song). The Chili Pepper's set was by far the most elaborate of the festival - not to mention very cool. They has these awesome (I'm assuming) LCD panels that projects "images" and colors throughout the set. I'm really not sure how they did it, but it was very, very cool.

Now by no means am I am musician of any description, but I like to think I've seen a fair number of live acts, and have a decent understanding and/or appreciation for musical talent. I never really realized how amazing Flea, the RHCP bassist, is as a musician. The man did some things with a bass that I had no idea was possible. 

Overall, the set was fast, hard and just damn entertaining. These guys put on a hell of a show - the energy level was through the roof, and completely contagious. I went to bed very happy that night.

Day 3 - Sunday April 29th

 Sunday again started with being woken up way too early by the ridiculous heat. it only got to 97 degrees on Sunday. Big deal. Still too hot to sleep. Again, the morning passed with a lot of lounging around in the shade, trying to avoid getting burnt (which apparently worked, because between the shade and the sun screen, I did not get burnt at all!), and chatting with the couple "next door". They were pretty cool - from San Fran.

Day 3 was very similar to Day 2, and went like this:

  • The Kooks
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • The Roots
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • Willie Nelson
  • Placebo
  • Lily Allen
  • Happy Mondays
  • Rage Against The Machine

Sean and I had very different interests today, and split up pretty early in the day. I had really wanted to see the Kooks, having picked up their disc a few weeks back when I went to Tahoe.  I was really digging their sound, much like the Fratellis. The show was really good - high energy, lots of noise, and a real good vibe from the crowd. all in all, a very fun set. There had been a lot of hype over Explosions in the Sky, so I wandered over to check out their set after the Kooks ended. I didn't realize, but they are an instrumental set. While I can appreciate the talent, it just didn't do much for me. This was the start of me watching bits and pieces of a whole lot of sets, without really sitting through a whole set by anyone - except Placebo and of course, Rage!

Half way through Explosions, I got bored and wandered off. First to the beer gardens, then grabbed some food, then wandered around checking out some of the art exhibits and such that i had not got to seeing the first few days. 

After that, I sat and watched The Roots for a while - but they didn't do much for me either. Half way through their set I wandered over to see the Kaiser Chiefs set. Much better! I don't know the band well, but they have a couple of familiar songs. I enjoyed their set a lot, and watched most of it. 

The Kaiser Chiefs!

The Kaiser Chiefs!

Up next - Willie Nelson. Yes, I'll admit it - I went to Willie Nelson's set. I figured I was there, and now can say I've seen him. Begrudgingly,  I'll admit that it was a good set, and the crowd had fun. After Willie, I went over to see Placebo. Another awesome set! I didn't realize how much of their stuff I knew (or liked). The put on a great set, and had the crowd really into it. After Placebo I went over to see Lily Allen. OK, I'm almost a little embarrassed to admit I went to this one. Not really the type of music I normally get into - very much a chick, pop act, but I had seen her video and just loved it. It's one of the best videos I've seen in a while. Her set was one of the rowdiest - seems like she's got quite the fan base developing. It seemed like it overwhelmed her a bit - she was taken aback by the reaction, and even forgot the words to her song sin a couple of places. It was pretty cute. When her set was over I wandered over to the Happy Mondays, but they were not at all what I was expecting, and took off before the end of their set to find the ideal spot for Rage.

The night, as well as a totally awesome 2007 Coachella festival closed with Rage Against The Machine. What more is there to say? Amazing. Awesome. Everything I had hoped for, and the main reason I was there. This was Rage's first show in seven years, and the reunion went off as well as could be hoped. The set started off with Zack de la Rocha making a simple introduction: "Good evening, we're Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles, California." The crowd went nuts, and they kicked into a great set. Rage Against The Machine played:

'Testify'
'Bulls On Parade'
'People Of The Sun'
'Bombtrack'
'Bullet In The Head'
'Down Rodeo'
'Guerrilla Radio'
'Renegades Of Funk'
'Calm Like A Bomb'
'Sleep Now In The Fire'
'Wake Up'
'Freedom'
'Killing In The Name'

Rage has always been a hugely political band, and most of the rumors about the reunion focused on them using Coachella as a platform for their political expression. The expected tirade came during "Wake Up" in which de la Rocha compared the Bush administration to Nazi war criminals, saying "Our current administration needs to be tried, hung and shot ... We need to treat them like the war criminals they are." A little over the top frankly, and even a bit predictable - including the reaction from the converted. The night closed with the band's signature song Killing In The Name, with the Coachella crowd chanting its infamous "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" refrain. An amazing end to an amazing night and weekend!

Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine

The next day we woke up, still a bit in awe with how great the show was the night before. It was simply, amazing. We were again up pretty early - damn it was hot! We backed up our little camp, and carted our stuff back to the car. The trip out was way easier than the trip in. We managed to find the truck - coated in three days of desert dust, and covered in some... interesting... drawings, packed up and hit the road for the long drive back.

We hoped onto the I10 West from Indio/Coachella, towards Los Angeles. The plan was to head back by a different route, and come home along the coast. I had a few days, and wasn't really in any hurry, so the long, slow road up the 101 and Pacific Coast highway seemed idea. As we cruised towards LA, we went past Palm Springs, and the Morongo Casino. It was kinda strange being there in my own car, when a year earlier I had flown down and was touring around in a rental. Not sure why that seemed so strange. 

We continued on across the I10, and into LA. Seems like ti was a good trip for famous signs - first the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign; now the Hollywood sign, in the north Hollywood hills. I've been to LA a few times, but had never seen the sign before. It was kind of cool. We didn't spend any time at all in LA - more of a passing through than anything else. North of LA we moved off the interstate, and onto the coast highway. This was what I was looking forward to, on the home trip. 

North of LA, we went through Oxnard and Ventura. I want to come back here at some point, as they are the gateway to the Channel islands, which are supposed to be spectacular. The diving is supposed to be great, as they are marine parks. Next time. As we headed north, the scenery kept getting better and better. The hills got larger and more rugged. The beaches seem to stretch on forever, and at this point just look out onto open ocean. Around lunch time, we were passing through small towns, and decided on San Luis Obispo. It ended up being a good decision. San Luis was a very cool little town. Very picturesque, with some history and a very charming downtown. We had lunch at this little cafe that had the best food. It ended up being a very worthwhile lunch stop. One of those places that if I had a week or two to do the trip, I would have stopped for a day to check out.

After lunch we hit the road, and continued north. The scenery continued to amaze, a couple of hours later we hit the San Simeon area. This ended up being pretty cool for a couple of reason. First, Hearst Castle is there. Hearst Castle was the palatial estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is supposed to be amazing, and again, with more time I'd go back and do it. As a point of interest, Hearst Castle became so famous that it was caricatured in the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane as Charles Foster Kane's "Xanadu."  I really wanted to check it out - not really to pay the money to go in, but to see the outside. The state park's board took care of that - the Castle is way back from the road (a few miles probably), but you go into an interpretive center, and they bus you (or something) up to the estate. We passed on that option. 

A few miles up the road there was a cool animal encounter for us. This one stretch of beach was covered with elephant seals. This gave me a chance to get out and take some pictures, stretch and enjoy the very nice afternoon. The seals were cool, and the ground squirrels were very friendly, and allowed for some easy, up close photos.

About an hour north of the seal, the road started to get very cool. It started gaining and losing elevation almost continually; the road switched back over and over, affording spectacular views of the coast line. We passed through a bunch of very cool little towns, and passed by some amazing little hotels/motels perched up over the ocean. 

An example of the amazing California coastline...

An example of the amazing California coastline...

 We continued up the coast, amazing as it was, as the light at the end of the day failed. We had just arrived in Monterey, and I was a bit disappointed that we had missed a chance to see 17 Mile Drive, around Pebble Beach. I had done the drive a few years back on a trip to San Fran, but Sean had not, and I thought it would have been cool to do again. Oh well - next time. And there will be a next time for sure!

From Monterey, since it was dark, we jumped on the highway, and headed straight up to San Francisco. It was close to 10:00 when we got into San Fran, and we still hadn't managed to track down dinner yet. We had the same problem we'd experienced in a number of US cities - namely that nothing is open late at night! If this was Vancouver, you'd have little problem finding food at 100:00, but in  San Fran we ended up stuck with fast food. After getting some food, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (amazing as always), and continued north. The idea was to stop at the first decent hotel we could find - which ended up being much later than expected! 

The road north from San Fran was the coolest on the trip. It wove it's way back and forth through the hills, along the ocean. Every once in a while, you'd get these awesome views back to San Fran, and the lights of the city. we had a bunch of animal "encounters" as well - deer on the roads, raccoons, skunks and a couple of unidentifiable critters. The road was amazing, but because it was so late, every motel in the various small towns we drove through were closed up for the night. Eventually, we headed back to the 101, and cruised up it into San Rafael, where we found a place to crash for the night.

The next morning we had breakfast in this great little breakfast spot in town (possibly the best omelet I've ever had), then hit the road. The 101 wound its way north trough some very picturesque country side, and into Napa/Sonoma. Given my love of wine, I decided to make a stop at Rodney Strong Vinyards, as it was close to the highway. Now I'm not normally the hugest fan of California wine, but I have always liked the wines produced by Rodney Strong. And they didn't disappoint. We tasted a good variety, and I ended up buying 9 bottles before I was done. I loved their Sav. Blanc and Pinot Noir - spectacular!. After that brief stop, we continued north along the 101. It wove its way through an amazing variety of terrain - along the coast in places; through redwood forests; rolling hills; too many different types to name. Every time we thought we'd seen something too amazing to top, we'd round a corner, or come up over a hill, and there would be something else equally, or more amazing. 

We pushed out way through all of northern California, and into southern Oregon by the time we hit a late dinner time - about 9:00. At that point, we were in Grant's Pass and had a decision to make. I wanted to stop, get a hotel and take out time getting back the next day. But Sean was insistent that we push on through the night, and get back. In some ways, I regret giving in. I ended up missing the whole of the Oregon Coast (as we came back along the I-5), but as I've mentioned in a number of places, I will do that trip again, and will take more time to do it properly.

All in all, the drive back was almost as good as the show - in different ways obviously. I need to go back and do it again, but having been through it once will help make that next trip even better, as I have a bit of a feel for it, and know where to spend my time. all in all, a great holiday.