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The Coachella Awards

You can tell it’s still early at the Coachella Festival, because nobody smells bad yet. The crowd is well-scrubbed, the grass is still soft, the water bottles only cost two bucks and everybody’s smiling. Where’s the filth? The festival crusties? The rock & roll warriors passed out in pools of puke? Tomorrow! Shockingly, it’s a little hot out there–a hundred degrees or so, which makes it all the more amazing Amy Winehouse’s hair didn’t melt, here in the town of Merv Griffin Boulevard, Monty Hall Avenue and Frank Sinatra Drive. Here’s a quick rundown of Coachella’s highlights so far.

• Best performance: The Jesus and Mary Chain. As soon as they began with “Never Understand,” right after sundown, it was instant lift-off in the crowd, most of whom weren’t born when it came out. They’ve got the drummer from Ride, likely the best drummer they’ve ever played with, bashing goth-punk classics like “Sidewalking” and “Head On.” Even the new song (“All Things Must Pass”) sends the main-stage fans into spasms. Scarlett Johansson came out to sing on “Just Like Honey.” The Reid brothers were too cool to bother introducing her, but she looked like candy in her paisley top, denim miniskirt and fedora. “Are you having fun?” Jim Reid sneered. “Well, let’s see what we can do about that.” Cold bastards.

• Best dressed: Of Montreal, defying the heat in their new wave angel-wing frippery to play excellent new songs like “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider.”

• Best hair: Amy Winehouse, whose ratted beehive held up heroically.

• Most polarizing: Bjork. Her wiggy end-of-the-night set split people into love-it or hate-it camps, the most talked-about gig so far. It sounded like a duck in a blender, but maybe it was just where I was standing.

• Strangest fashion statement: Carlos D of Interpol, debuting his new mustache, goatee, and string tie. He’s like Colonel Sanders at Transylvania Fried Chicken. Interpol kicked ass in front of a fanatical main-stage crowd. The new songs were hit-or-miss, with one good one (“The Heimlich Maneuver”) and one that sounds like lukewarm Coldplay (they didn’t mention the title, but it goes something like “This desperate grope to pull black from the grave / But does the soul await?” Okaaaay!) But everybody rocked out to “Evil” and “Take You On A Cruise.”

• Public nudity: none yet.

• Drugs: none before sundown; after that, discreet yet pervasive pot smoke, especially in the Nineties techno tent where Felix Da Housecat and Faithless reign.

• Bathrooms: don’t ask.

• Most pointless though ultimately victorious exercise in vintage concert T-shirt one-upmanship: the guy in the David Lee Roth “Eat ‘Em And Smile” tour shirt.

• Best place to beat the heat: the little chillout tent with the misting machine, near the solar-energy display and the Tesla coil.

• Best place to pick up goths: the geodesic dome where David J of Bauhaus was spinning. Bizarrely, three members of Bauhaus are doing DJ sets there, but on three different days. No Love & Rockets reunion?

• Best dancer: Jarvis Cocker, whose flippy-floppy moves were visible a half-mile from the stage. Who’s his yoga instructor?

• The Arctic Monkeys were okay in their thankless midday slot, while Gogol Bordello rocked the Bjork refugees with their late-night Mojave Tent set, an amazing Pogues-worthy display of their Eastern European gypsy punk. Sonic Youth opened with a superb rendition of their classic “Candle,” then did a bunch of great new songs. “We just flew in from China,” Thurston Moore announced. “The Shanghai punks send their love.” Everybody keeps talking about how pumped they are to see Rage Against The Machine, who play their big comeback gig on Sunday. Today is jam packed: Arcade Fire, Chili Peppers, Ghostface Killah, LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, !!!, Roky Erikson, and of course, Travis. I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only one there for Travis. See you in the bathroom line!


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