Like any festival, except more so, Coachella has three things that suck: getting in, getting out and being there. Lord, the torments we endure for music. But this weekend, the music was more than enough, gathering most of the planet's best fit-and-working bands in the desert heat. Coachella '07 was the place to hear amazing new bands I never heard of (The Feeling), bands I always kinda liked but not enough to bother seeing live (Arcade Fire), bands I previously wrote off but was totally wrong about (Klaxons). A quick highlight loop:
Best of the fest: LCD Soundsystem, by far. The current six-person touring lineup is the most bloodthirsty live band around, with the guitarist from Hot Chip and the drummer from The Juan McLean propelling "All My Friends" and "North American Scum" far past their already-mindblowing studio versions. Best show I've seen all year, besides the one they did last month at New York's Bowery Ballroom. They had Coachella's happiest crowd too, gyrating in the Sahara Tent under a giant mirror ball. I can't think of another band I would say this about, but if I took somebody to this gig and they didn't have the best time of their life, I would assume they were profoundly fucked in the head.
Hottest decade: The Nineties were EVERYWHERE. What was this, the Tibetan Freedom Fest? Rage, Björk, the Chili Peppers, the Lemonheads, techno, trip-hop, punk, glow-sticks, Perry Farrell, cameos — there was even a shitty ska band! (Sorry, didn't stay long enough to get their name.) Nobody would have been surprised to see Tupac in the Mojave Tent.
Best surprise: Arcade Fire. They paced it brilliantly, saving their best songs for a serial climax -- I had no idea I liked them so much, but for the last five or six songs, starting with "Wake Up," every intro made me go, "hey, THIS one." "Rebellion (Lies)" was one of those corny sundown festival experiences where the crowd has this massive moment together, as couples of all sexes found secluded spots on the grass for making out.
No surprise at all: The Port-o-Potties, which made you wanna borrow a corkscrew and give yourself a gastric bypass.
Biggest laugh: The Coachella staff, a bunch of bargain-basement amateurs. Nice folks and all, real chic in their yellow polo shirts, but not trained to handle tough questions like "Where's the exit?" or "Why is Crowded House playing?" Rookie security has its advantages, though -- I found a spot to slip through the fence, right behind the Hawaiian Shaved Ice booth. This saved me an hour's walk from the parking lot to the entrance, plus a four-hour wait in the Will Call line. So how did I spend those five extra hours? I rocked in bulk, and passed the savings on to you. Thanks, Hawaiian Shaved Ice!
Most unexpected fan fave: !!!, pronounced "chick chick chick," whose Nu Shooz-meets-Neu disco punk packed the Mojave Tent with thousands of fans. You couldn't squeeze into the !!! tent, but everybody stayed to boogie in the brutal afternoon sun. The tent next door was completely empty, with a couple of techno DJs spinning. And you thought !!!'s fan base consisted of three stops on the L-train.
Weirdest party: Girl Talk's Greg Gillis was amazing -- clearly, calling this man a mere mash-up DJ is like calling Kierkegaard a sportswriter. What was Paris Hilton doing up there? Well, in the immortal words of Tone Loc, she wanted to come onstage, and do a little dance. So she did.
Ugliest bastards: Happy Mondays, decrepit hooligans twisting their melons in front of dangerously drunk Brits screaming for "Grandbag's Funeral." No Bez, no Paul, no Rowetta. One look at Shaun Ryder and you will never touch another drug in your life. At least not until the music ends and you realize that only massive doses of toxic chemicals will ease the pain of getting out of the parking lot. "Kinky Afro" was a scream. The new songs? Not so much.
Toughest troopers: The Cribs and the Fratellis (tie). Two scrappy young Brit bands, stuck in a hellhole early-afternoon tent slot, played back-to-back sets and raised hell like it was THEIR OWN SHOW. That's how you do it. A hell of a lot more fun than the Arctic Monkeys.
Best argument starter: Bjölrk. Transcendent artistry or flatulent squawking of the damned?
Best place to get clubbed by dipshit cops: The campgrounds on Saturday night, where an after-hours party of 200 or so fans got raided by slap-happy Indio police in full riot gear. What kind of pussy wears a SWAT helmet to go bust a few wasted Lemonheads fans?
Best place to watch hippies dance to "Ice Cream": Ghostface Killah<. The crowd was so eager to love him, they didn't care what he actually did, which was great because neither did he. Symbiosis!
Best-kept secret: The geodesic dome with low-profile DJ sets by Eighties faves from Bauhaus' Daniel Ash to Dee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier (who pulled in a mob of straight dudes with cameras -- who knew?). The Smiths' Andy Rourke played the Mark Ronson techno remake of "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before," mixed in with "You Keep Me Hanging On."
I haven't even begun to process how great CSS were, covering L7's "Pretend We're Dead" and calling it a Daft Punk song. Or how great Chip were. Carlos D's bold attempt to become the goth Rollie Fingers. Scarlett Johansson's honey-dripping beehive. The Jesus and Mary Chain attacking "Never Understand." Blonde Redhead, Decemberists, Jarvis Cocker (sure wish he still sang "Sorted For E's & Whizz"), taking bets on who Tiesto is and how for the love of fuck he got to headline the main stage... what a weekend. You have humiliated me for the LAST TIME, Coachella. Thanks for the memories!