Steely Dan are performing at Coachella this Friday and next, and Donald Fagen has offered to chronicle his experiences in several installations of a tour diary. The following are his words, untouched and unedited:
Thursday, April 9
Oh man. I don’t feel so well. We got in late last night and checked into a hotel somewhere near the Coachella gig. Maybe Palm Springs. The address card on the desk mentions “Rancho Mirage,” but could that be the name of a town? It sounds more like a brand of toaster oven. Weird.
In the dark room, trying to wake up, I heard the strains of “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” wafting in from outside. I slid the curtain open: blinding sunshine. Giant palm trees and white pavilions. On a patch of well-mowed grass a group of children were running and laughing and yelling, playing various games with multicolored balls, like croquet balls, only bigger. These games, one with wooden ramps, another that required tiny goalposts, were entirely unfamiliar to me. The scene had a dreamlike quality, and that Lewis Carroll poem came to mind:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
These activities must be part of the hotel’s day care service.
I think I may be fighting a cold. Since the show isn’t until tomorrow, I think I’ll hang in the room and have the band do today’s sound check without me.
Last night some of the guys in the band were talking about that movie, Whiplash. After watching this cloddish potboiler about an aspiring drummer’s experience in jazz school, the jazz players I know either go berserk with indignation and/or howl with derisive laughter. Many jazzers, including pianist Ethan Iverson and Richard Brody of the New Yorker, have written about this ignorant and mendacious film, so I won’t belabor the point.
Suffice to say that Whiplash has nothing to do with actual jazz unless you consider it to be a species of martial arts, as Buddy Rich often did. It makes Paris Blues with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier look like a golden edifice of verisimilitude. I’m not saying Whiplash shouldn’t be seen in theaters, though. It should, at midnight, along with Plan 9 from Outer Space and, especially, Glen or Glenda.