Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bishop Allen - May

It's the last day of May, which means a new Bishop Allen EP. May's edition features, as usual, four songs and, this time, even more adventurous instrumentation. You can buy May on their websiteHere's a track from May:

Bishop Allen - Butterfly Nets

Now, I don't know if you've done the math, but four songs every month is 48 songs in the year, or the equivalent of three 16-song albums in 2006, a feat that even the Bob Pollards and Will Johnsons of the world would have a hard time matching. And since we're a little more than a third of the way through the year, and I don't like switching CDs every four songs, I decided to go all Stylus on you and play God with EPs, putting them all on one CD and rearraning the order while I'm at it (I know, I know, in this age of mp3s and iPods, doing this is a bit of an anachronism, so for those of you that hard time imagining this, think of this as a playlist in your iTunes. Kids.) I feel OK doing this because putting all four EPs on a CD in order just wouldn't make sense. Each one has its own flow and movement from song to song. I'm pretty sure most of the songs on April weren't even written when January was sequenced, so I don't feel like I'm messing with any Grand Plan of Bishop Allen. And even if I was, I'd still feel OK about it. So here goes:

1. The History of Excuses (March)
2. The Monitor (March)
3. Queen of the Rummage Sale (February)
4. The News From Your Bed (February)
5. Corazon (January)
6. Winter Coat (March)
7. The Bullet and Big D (January)
8. The Rabbit (January)
9. Making Friends (January)
10. Flight 180 (April)
11. Shrinking Violet (April)
12. Central Booking (February)
13. Vain (February)
14. Suddenly (March)
15. The Costume Ball (April)
16. Bellingham (April)

Silver Jews

Silver Jews are playing at the Duck Room on July 28, 2006. Rock.

Silver Jews - There Is A Place (via Bows + Arrows)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Gentleman Auction House

The most obvious comparison to Gentleman Auction House is, clearly, Bright Eyes. And when I saw them open for Drums and Tuba last month, not only did they more effectively hold my interest than Drums and Tuba, they reminded me of two more great bands - The Arcade Fire and Okkervil River. The first comparison is based on the similarities between singer Eric Enger's waivering voice and the moody Nebraskan's voice as well as the band's lilting indie rock-cum-americana and the second comparison is based on the energy and stage presence (and sheer number of people on the stage) of the young band, qualities of both the Arcade Fire and Okkervil River.

You can check them out this Friday at the Way Out Club, when they play with The Young Republic and Never Perfect Intentions. I highly recommend it. Oh, and they're from St. Louis too, so, uhhh, go us!

Here's an mp3. Go to the show spend some money. Drink some beer. It will be good. It'll do your karma some good.

Gentleman Auction House - Everyone Has Taken Their Hat Off But You

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pegasus Now

As you may or may not know, I spent my high school years and the summers of my college years in Dallas. Specifically, most of the 90's. I was way into Dallas music then. As a matter of fact, I still regularly listen to CDs of those bands. But then I moved (back) to Missouri and kind of stopped knowing who the new bands in Dallas were.

So, with that background, I hit up myspace and did a search by zip code to find some new music from Dallas. The Theater Fire and The Happy Bullets had been getting some serious blog props and The Deathray Davies and Centro-matic (two of my favorite bands, period) were, of course, already well known to the indie-rock crowd, but I was looking for a band I had never even heard of. It was then that I stumbled upon Pegasus Now. They play indie-rock that, at times, seems to have a bit of a jazz bent to it. It looks like they primarily are playing shows only in Texas, but, with any luck, they'll break out of the Lone Star State and grace us midwesteners with their presence, too. Here are some Pegasus Now songs for you:

Pegasus Now - Kitty and Pup
Pegasus Now - Spiders Walk
Pegasus Now - Lullaby of Fortunes

So, as I was going through this, I decided it might be fun to post about all my favorite Dallas bands of the 90's. I'll do a different post for each band and put up a couple mp3's. I'll have to come up with a title or something, and this is the first time I will have done any sort of theme-posting, so I can't promise anything, but it should be fun.


On a different note, the dios (malos) show last night was cancelled. Boo.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


I discovered Ivy listening to Darren Snow's show Rocket 88 on KDHX at some point last year. They have four full-length albums out, and their latest, 2005's In The Clear, is a great Indie-pop record. The band's three members -- Dominique Durand, Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger -- are all in other bands or projects, the best known of which is Schlesinger's Fountains of Wayne. While I admit I was way late on the Ivy band wagon, I figure I'd pull as many people along with me as possible. Here are two tracks fromIn The Clear:

Ivy - Thinking About You
Ivy - Corners of Your Mind

Friday, May 26, 2006

dios (malos)

dios (malos) are playing at the Hi-Pointe on Sunday, May 28, 2006. They were supposed to play with Matt Pond PA last February at Pop's, but it was cancelled -- a fact I was not aware of until I had already made the Thursday night drive to Sauget, IL. Now, I'm all for an excuse to be in Sauget, but it was a school night, so we managed to refrain from partaking in any extracurricular activies while there. Here are a few songs for you (Thanks to My Old Kentucky Blog for the Pixies' cover):

dios (malos) - I Want It All
dios (malos) - EPK
dios (malos) - You Make Me Feel Uncomfortable
dios (malos) - Starting Five
dios (malos) - Where Is My Mind? (Pixies cover)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth

According to Pitchfork, The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth are playing together at The Pageant on Saturday, August 26, 2006. Yessir.

Hey, Look at me!

Here's a column I wrote for Playback:Stl last month. It's nothing new, but here you go anyway:

Selling out. Working for the man. Being a Corporate Shill. Every true “artist” fears being accused of doing these things. Acording to Wikipedia—as reliable a source as I’ve ever seen—“selling out” is “the compromising of one’s integrity, morality, and principles in exchange for money, success, or other personal gain. It is commonly associated with attempts to increase mass appeal or acceptability to mainstream society. A person who does this is labeled a sellout.” Up until even five years ago, any suggestion of doing so would be taken by artists of a certain color as an affront to the very nature of their art and an attack on their credibility and the authenticity of their work (Moby, I’m looking in your direction). These days, however, the line defining the realm of selling out has blurred. This can be seen in everything from commercials to The O.C. to the Garden State soundtrack. How did this happen and what does it mean? Does it matter? Should we care about this? Do people (aka noncritics/bloggers/otherwise musically obsessed–types) even care? Is just an academic exercise?

I don’t think it’s merely academic, and I think it does matter, although I don’t think the average citizen cares about what selling out means. But that goes to the very nature of selling out—only a minority cares about it because it is the access and visibility to the teeming masses that defines selling out and it is that minority the creates the art, distributes the art, and shapes the uncritical masses tastes, whether they know it or not and whether you like it or not.

Like many people who were into punk rock, independent music, or otherwise rebellious music, I used to have a strong aversion to anything resembling selling out. But now I embrace it, and I do so because I realize that quite often, it is not “selling out.” In the mid-’90s, when I was in college, I remember watching MTV (when they still showed a few videos and The Real World was still somewhat interesting) and noticing that while 97.38% of all the videos they showed were absolute feces, the songs that were featured as background music for shows such as The Real Word, Road Rules, and other non-music programming featured the music of my musically formative years in Dallas—the Deathray Davies, the Old 97’s, Tripping Daisy, the Toadies—basically, bands that would only ever get their videos played during 120 Minutes (and later, Subterranean). I remember thinking that it was ridiculous that MTV played such crap videos when someone in the organization clearly had decent taste in music.

Those people were the interns that had been tasked with finding appropriate—and appropriately cheap—music as background music for these shows. Those interns now have real jobs. Real jobs at advertising agencies and PR firms. So, initially, it was a case of tastemakers becoming decision makers. When this proved successful for companies such as the Gap (the Dandy Warhols, Elvis Costello, Badly Drawn Boy, Red House Painters), Volkswagen (Nick Drake, Son Volt, Stereolab), and Saturn (the Walkmen and Cameo—which is sweet, by the way), the suits took notice. It seems that there has been a subtle shift: Now decision makers become tastemakers, regardless of whether they actually have good taste in music—kind of like the way the music industry has always operated. So, when I first heard Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything” in a Miller Genuine Draft commercial, it made me happy because I realized my peers were in a position to put these songs in commercials and I was happy the band was going to make a little extra money.

We became trained to think in this way for a few years, especially because the music being played in the commercials wasn’t identified, so there was still a certain amount of exclusivity and elitism involved in having known the song in the commercial for years. But when you see Bob Dylan hawking bras and panties for Victoria’s Secret, or Iggy Pop selling “Lust for Life” to Royal Carribean, you in no way think that some young college graduate has found a way to subvert the advertising world to include one of his favorite underground bands in a commercial. Dylan selling lingerie is about as blatant as a tricked-out Garth Algar sporting Reebok from head to toe. NASCAR drivers are more subtle in their sponsorships.

Additionally, with “indie” rock being used to describe a ridiculously wide swath of music, including that of bands on major labels (and becoming more of stylistic descriptor, a lá “alternative”—something that certainly bodes well for the genre), it’s hard to tell who’s selling out and who’s compromising their songwriting, style, or ideals to get included on The O.C. or in a commercial.

So where does this leave us? I have no idea. I do know, though, that I am over my immediate suspicion of bands featured in commercials and on TV. As long as they aren’t pandering (but, what is that, really? Every band panders to someone—the drummer’s mom, the singer’s voices in his head, the band’s four fans, etc.), then I am happy that they are getting some exposure and hopefully a little scratch. Or it means I’m getting old and the vast majority of the music I like is somehow appropriate for selling minivans. That’s the scariest part of it all.

I'm a Bum

So I forgot to bring my camera out with me last weekend at The Theater Fire show, so I don't have any pictures of that, but I can assure you that the show was great. They performed the entirety of their new CD, Everybody Has A Dark Side. I highly recommend seeing them if you get a chance.

I headed out to see the Minus the Bear show on Monday night, but arrived at the Creepy Crawl only to have Mr. Vivak tell that the show was sold out and there was no way anyone else could come in, due to fire code. Boo. Although I am glad to see that a Monday night show can sell out.

AND, I was unable to make it out to catch Slow Parade last night, as I got caught up with work. If anybody saw that, please let me know how it went...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Slow Parade

Slow Parade are playing tomorrow night at Cicero's as a part of Playback's Tuesday night concert series at Cicero's. If you aren't familiar with Slow Parade, then you should know that they are from St. Louis and play moody and melodic indie rock. They got a nice write-up in the Riverfront Times a couple months ago, too... Here are a few songs for you, my adoring public:
Slow Parade - Will, Not
Slow Parade - Novelist

Monday, May 22, 2006

Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear is playing at the Creepy Crawl on Monday, May 22, 2006 (that's tonight, kids!). I recently saw them at Coachella and really liked them. I think they'll be even better in the tiny environs of the Creepy Crawl. Here are some songs:

Minus the Bear - Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo
Minus the Bear - Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!
Minus the Bear - Hooray

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Theater Fire

I haven't posted in a wek because I just started a new job, so I'm sorry about that. Anyway, I am in Dallas this weekend for a wedding, and as luck would have it, The Theater Fire are playing at the The Cavern tonight. I've heard lots about them, but have never had the chance to see them live. I'll report back next week with a review and pictures. Here are some mp3's for yor listening pleasure:
The Theater Fire - Ne'er Too Late
The Theater Fire - Dark Side
The Theater Fire - These Tears Could Rust a Train
The Theater Fire - Kicking Up the Darkness

Friday, May 12, 2006

Vintage Vinyl's 25th Anniversary

Tomorrow, on May 13, Vintage Vinyl is throwing a party to celebrate it's 25th Anniversary. They've got a ton of bands playing. The day starts out with a bunch of great local bands, and goes until 9:00 p.m. or so.

Here's the lineup:
12:00PM Tobi Kai & The Strays
12:30PM Johnny O & The Jerks
1:00PM Love Experts
1:30PM LaPush
2:00PM Magnolia Summer
2:30PM Geoff Koch
3:00PM Russian Circles
3:30PM As Fast As
4:00PM Margot & The Nuclear So & So's
4:30PM Mason Jennings
5:00PM Mellowdrone
5:30PM Casey Reid
6:00PM Strays Don't Sleep
6:30PM Shawn Mullins
7:00PM Murder By Death
7:30PM Alexi Murdoch
8:00PM The Bronx

Two of St. Louis' best bands - Magnolia Summer and Love Experts -- are playing early, so make sure you make it out to catch them. I will certainly be there. Magnolia Summer has also just released a brand new CD called From Driveways Lost View, and I can't recommend it enough. It's got a little more kick to it than their debut CD, Levers and Pulleys, which I am also a big fan of. There are a few more electric guitars and some quicker tempos. So go out tomorrow catch a bunch of good live music and buy their new CD. Here's some new songs and an old song to convince you:

Magnolia Summer - Once in a While
Magnolia Summer - Summer Moon

Here's a Love Experts song:
Love Experts - Cuba Street

Here are some songs from the other bands playing:
Margot & the Nuclear So & So's - Skeleton Key
Margot & the Nuclear So & So's - Quiet as a Mouse
Mason Jennings - Ulysses
Mellowdrone - Fashionable Uninvited
Mellowdrone - Oh My

Thanks to Out the Other, My Old Kentucky Blog, I Guess I'm Floating, and Culture Bully

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Coachella Day 2

OK, so here's my review of Day 2 of Coachella, or, as some people like to call it, "Sunday." I readily admit I don't know much about formatting this thing, and that's why my Day 1 review had the pictures and text floating around each other, looking like bad concrete poetry from a 10th-grade English class. I will attempt to remedy that with this review, but who knows....


Sunday started off much the same way as Saturday, except that at 9am it was already as hot as it had been at any time on Saturday. We upped the rehydration ante and chugged water and Gatorade before breaking out the remaining Keystone Lights.

I really wanted to catch The Octopus Project, as I had heard very good things aobut their performance at SXSW. Unfortunately, they were playing at noon, which meant there was no realistic way I was going to see them. After three years of attending Coachellas and other festivals, I know my body well enough to know that showing up first thing and staying until the end is not a good idea. Hopefully I’ll get them to come through St. Louis this summer…

We did, however, make it in just in time to see Mates of State. I’m no Superfan, but I like everything I’ve heard of Mates of State, and had heard great reviews of their live show, including their performance at last year’s Austin City Limits Festival. Unfortunately, their performance on this day didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The sound was thin and the performances didn’t seem particularly tight. Both singer/keyboardist Kori Gardner and singer/drummer Jason Hammel seemed to be struggling to hit the harmonies. We stuck it out for a while and then decided it was time to grab some lunch (two chicken soft tacos, if you were wondering).

When the schedule for the weekend was released, I was disappointed to see that The Magic Numbers and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists had identical, competing set times, as they were both bands I had been looking forward to seeing. I decided to split the difference and headed off to the main Coachella Stage to catch The Magic Numbers. When I got there, there was a pretty big, very receptive crowd and the band seemed genuinely surprised to have that many people come out to see them. I really enjoyed the set and wished I could have seen the whole set, but I had to move on over to the Outdoor Theater to catch…

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. I’ve seen them play a few times, and I’ve always been impressed. Dressed in all white, they played with a ton of energy and ripped through a short but good set that included “Me & Mia”, “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone”, and "Timorous Me.”

After Ted Leo & the Rx were done, I headed into the beer garden to meet some friends for a beer before heading back out to the Outdoor Theater to catch the beginning of Minus the Bear before heading off to see Wolf Parade. I’ve been wanting to witness Minus the Bear live for some time now, but just haven’t been able to pull it off. They sounded great, even if David Knudson’s guitar wasn’t quite loud enough. It was the kind of solid, enjoyable -- if not legendary -- sets that make up the bulk of a weekend like Coachella and make it so worthwhile.

When Minus the Bear was done, we walked over to the Mojave Tent, where they were running a little behind schedule, which meant we were able to catch the very, very end of Metric’s set. It sounded great, adding yet another band to the list of wish-I’d-seen’s for the weekend.

We passed the set change with a quick beer and then made our way up close for Wolf Parade. Technical difficulties were far more common this year than they had been in the past, and few caused a greater delay than the one Wolf Parade faced. Unlike Madonna’s half hour delay (which I secrectly took quite a bit of pleasure in), Wolf Parade’s 25-minute delay, while frustrating, evoked a certain amount of sympathy from the crowd. You could tell it was frustrating the band as they went through keyboard after keyboard and cord after cord trying to figure out what was wrong. You could sense that this band’s chance to prove themselves at a high exposure event like Coachella was slipping away minute by minute. Also unlike Madonna’s set, where the crowd turned hostile, the crowd here was very respectful of the band’s predicament. Fortunately, once the band did start, they put on one of the best performances of the weekend. Their abbreviated, eight-song set was powerful and loud, and the band sounded great. If they had been able to play all of their fifty allotted minutes, people would have been talking about how Wolf Parade was “The Arcade Fire of ‘06”.

When Wolf Parade was done, I made my way back over to the Outdoor Theater to meet up with some friends who had left Wolf Parade early to see Bloc Party. Last year, Bloc Party put on one of the best shows of the weekend, and when I saw them again, five months later at Austin City Limits Festival, they were even better. While their performance at this year’s Coachella was good – great even – it just didn’t measure up to the previous two times I had seen them. For my friends who were seeing them for the first time, however, it was perfect. My coolness towards their performance probably also has to do with the fact that I was coming from seeing a great Wolf Parade performance, and that we were so far back (by the bleachers) that you kind of lost out on that all-important visceral component of a live performance.

At the end of Bloc Party, a friend and I headed to the Gobi Tent to see Gnarls Barkley, who had already started one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. I will never know why they had them playing on essentially the smallest stage, but the crowd was overflowing. We weren't even able to get under the tent it was so crowded. Keeping with their penchant for movie-themed costumes, everyone on stage was dressed as a character from The Wizard of Oz. Danger Mouse was dressed as the Tin Man, the string section was dressed as flying monkeys, the backing singers as a trio of Dorothies, the band itself was dressed as witches, and Cee-Lo was dressed as the Cowardly Lion, sporting a t-shirt that said, in big black letters, "Mean ol' Lion." I didn't get a picture of it, but he started the set off with a wig resenbling a golden mane. I imagine that got hot real fast. The set itself was great and the crowd was very enthusiastic. The band sounded good and you could really tell they were having fun. I highly recommend catching them this summer if you can.

Next was a yet another trip to the beer garden. From there, we watched the first several songs of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' set. They sounded good, but by this point in the weekend, I just didn’t have the energy or will to fight the crowd of the main Coachella Stage to watch them from out there. I was happy to settle for a tight angle from a distance in the beer garden as the moon was settling into place in the desert sky.

Just before the YYY’s set ended a friend and I made our way over to the Sahara Tent to try and catch Madonna. I told myself before the weekend started that if there were no conflicts with Madonna, I would certainly try and check her out. As it was, Mogwai was set to start playing 15 minutes after Madonna, so I was happy I would be able to see a song or two of Madonna without feeling guilty about skipping seeing another band play. Unfortunately, Madonna seemed to forget she was playing at festival – a festival in which other artists were playing at the same, in which fans had other bands they wanted to see and in which the stage she was to perform on was booked later in the evening for other artists. We followed the flood of people all heading to the Sahara Tent and, upon arriving at the Sahara Tent, determined that there was no way we would find a spot in the tent, especially if we wanted to leave before the set was over, so we found a spot outside of the tent, within view of a projection screen that had been set up for overflow viewing, and settled in. By this point in the day, several stages were behind schedule, so the fact that Madonna didn’t start right at her scheduled 8:10 start was not at all surprising. But as the delay passed the 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-minute marks, the crowd began to get restless. After about twenty minutes, every time the song playing on the PA would wind down and a new song would start – instead of Madonna coming out – the crowd would actually boo. It actually became uncomfortable. Finally, after 30 minutes, I decided I had to make it over to Mogwai, a band I was really excited to see. About ten seconds after I turned around to walk away, the music stopped, the curtain dropped and Madonna came out singing her latest single, “Hung Up.” I stopped my retreat, turned to watch the song, realized that a) she was singing out of key and b) I really didn’t care about her anyway, and was on my way.

Fortunately for me, the Outdoor Stage was also running behind schedule, so when I showed up, Mogwai was only finishing their first song, “Hunted by a Freak” and heading into “Mogwai Fear Satan.” There was nobody at the stage, owing to being scheduled against both Madonna and Massive Attack. I was able to settle in up close and enjoy what was easily on of the best sets of the weekend. Mogwai is LOUD. There is no denying this. I can’t imagine how loud they must have sounded when they played in the closed-in Mojave Tent in 2004. Despite some technical problems (see a theme here?) with their effects pedals, Mogwai put on a stellar show, somehow proving that deafening music can also be ambient music.

I thought I’d check out Massive Attack before heading back over to the Outdoor Theater for The Go! Team. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that Massive Attack was one of the best performances of the weekend, but I just didn’t see it that way. Maybe it was exhaustion beginning to set in or maybe it was my lack of familiarity with their entire catalogue, but I just didn’t get into it that much. At one point, it looked like a slightly-more-together George Clinton was singing adult alternative faux-soul on stage. I don’t know who it was, but I took that as a signal to head back over to the Outdoor Theater.

I’m glad I did, as The Go! Team put on what was my favorite set of Sunday. I had never seen them before, but I had heard mixed reviews. I knew they were a band where you were either going to be into it or just weren’t, and fortunately for me, I had a decent idea of what to expect, so the double-drummer set-up, the high energy and the scissor-kicking Lady Ninja were no surprise to me. They were not at all sloppy, as some reviews had reported, but, instead, were tight, hitting their notes, and full of energy and fire. Guitarist and primary songwriter Ian Parton apparently ate a pound and a half of sugar before their set and Kaori Tsuchida was a cartoon character come to life, bouncing all over the stage playing guitars and keyboards, shouting out backing vocals at all the right moments. They topped it off by closing the set with “Ladyflash,” during which Mike Watt, of Minutemen, fIREHOSE, and solo fame, came out on stage and played bass with them, a completely unexpected and totally cool moment that was a great ending to a great set.

I was to meet a friend in the beer garden before Tool, but they closed down the garden, so I was going to have to fly it solo for the rest of the night, barring any random run-in’s with friends. I decided to check the VIP section to see if they were still serving drinks, and, conveniently, they were. I had a few cocktails up there while I waited for Tool. Tool was really the only band I watched from the VIP section for any significant amount of time. After a delay of about 15 minutes, Tool hit the stage, opening their set with “Stinkfist”, moving into “The Pot,” one of the better songs off their latest CD, 10,000 Days. Tool was good -- not great -- but their music fit into the desert setting surprisingly well. When they went into a Lateralus-centric sequence of songs, I found my way back over to the Outdoor Theater to check out Scissor Sisters.

I have seen SS before, and that show was a great, fun show, but I wasn’t that thrilled with what I saw on this evening. I was itching to get back over to Tool, and itching to get some sleep, so when I walked up to the stage and they were playing songs I wasn’t familiar with, I didn't exercise much patience and headed back to the mainstage to catch the rest of Tool.

I made my way back to the campground during the last song, “Aenima”, which happens to be my favorite Tool song, to beat the crowd, which I did, had a few beers and got some much needed sleep, trying to process everything I had witnessed and heard this weekend.

I have every intention of going back next year…

Here's a few more pictures:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The Stills and Rogue Wave are playing at The Creepy Crawl on June 21, 2006.

Matt over at You Ain't No Picasso recently put up a mp3 of We Are Scientists covering Sigur Ros's "Hoppipolla."

We Are Scientists - Hoppipolla (live)

Bishop Allen's latest EP, April is now available to buy here. It is the fourth in their series of monthly EP's that are to be released in 2006. So far, March is easily my favorite, so here's to hoping April is even better. here is a track from April:

Bishop Allen - Flight 180

***Review of Day 2 at Coachella coming soon***

Friday, May 05, 2006

Coachella Day 1

I attended my third Coachella Music festival this past weekend, and after a few days to decompress and process all the sights and sounds, I present you with my 2006 Coachella Music Festival Review.
I flew into LAX on Friday at noon and had a friend pick me up from there, and we headed on our way. It was an overcast day, which had me a little on edge since there had been some talk of precipitation this weekend in the Coachella Valley. After making a requisite lunch stop at an In-n-Out (the one we stopped at was apparently a training store, as it was located next to the In-n-Out University) and dealing with the wonderous mess that is Southern California traffic, we finally dropped down into the Coachella Valley to find sunny skies, windmills, and open highway.

We quickly passed through Cathedral City, Palm Springs, and finally – Indio. After hopping onto southbound Monroe Avenue, we reached our first destination – Food 4 Less. It has become tradition for us to stop here first thing and load up on booze, food, and other necessities before we head to the campground. We arrived there about 15 minutes after the other car of our party did (the bastards made good time by taking 60 instead of Interstate 10, but I digress), loaded up and headed to the camping ground. We quickly unloaded and made our way through security. We had our two coolers bottom loaded with beer, and as one of my friends approached the security table, the cooler slipped from his hand and spilled everywhere – Keystone Lights and all (I know, I know…). He scrambled to get the cooler back together and made it through without a word from the many security people around him who had witnessed the whole sequence.

The first night went smoothly, as it had in years’ past. Tents were set up, alcohol was consumed, and horrible, horrible karaoke blared from the speakers of the on-site “cantina”. This year, they played the Coachella movie on an inflatable screen, and it was so much more enjoyable to watch than it had been when I first saw it in a suburban megaplex in St. Louis four months ago. I’m sure that had a lot to do with the setting, the drinking, and the fact that everyone there was really into the movie, getting excited for the weekend’s festivities.


After whiling away the first five hours of Saturday (there’s no sleeping in in the desert), we made our way into the festival. The first band of Coachella ’06 that I saw was The Walkmen. I am certainly a fan of The Walkmen, but I only own one of their records (Bows + Arrows) and I rarely listen to it. That being said, “The Rat” and “We’ve Been Had” are two of my favorite singles in the past five years.

I have seen The Walkmen twice – both times at festivals (last year’s Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Festival) – and both times I was less than impressed. On both of those occasions I came to the conclusion that The Walkmen were just one of those bands, like …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, that you had to see in a club to appreciate, and, unfortunately for me, I had never seen them in a club setting. So it was quite a pleasant surprise when The Walkmen put on a great performance on Coachella’s main stage. I don’t know if it was just that performance or whether they figured out how to make their sound fill the open spaces of a festival setting, but I was quite impressed with them. They were tight and the sound was good despite the noticeably incessant gum chewing by singer Hamilton Leithauser. It was a solid start to a long, hot weekend of music.

Next, it was beer time. Getting in and out of the beer tent between the main Coachella stage and the Outdoor Stage was a logisitical disaster this year, but at 3:15, people were still flowing smoothly through the single three-foot wide entrance, which was great and all, but we had to get ID wristbands. That line was about 15 minutes.

We took the scenic route over to the Mojave Tent, checking out the various art installations and other mind-distractors, to check out Wolfmother. Wolfmother has had a ton of hype written about them, how they are the perfect mix of Sabbath and Zeppelin, how they were an Australian throwback to 70’s hard rock. Maybe it was the hype, or maybe it was the fact that we only saw three songs, or maybe it was the fact that we stood way in the back of the tent, but I was completely bored by their performance, but here's a nice picture I took then, anyway.

I knew I wanted to get over to see Animal Collective, so we left the Mojave, making a pit stop at The Gobi Tent to check out Lyrics Born. I was a big fan of what I saw, but we had to move on. I wish I had been able to check out more of their set.

We walked up to the Outdoor Theatre after Animal Collective had already started. I wish we hadn’t. All I can say about that performance is – WHAT THE HELL? It was them banging on trash cans and various other noise-making pieces of metal and making every other sort of non-melodic noise possible. It was in free-time and it was certainly free-form. Unfortunately, it was awful. There was nothing redeeming about that performance. I don’t know if they were deliberately trying to confuse and agitate people, but they managed to do both.

We made a quick exit and headed over to the Mojave Tent to catch Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. A lot of people apparently weren’t that impressed with CYHSY’s set at Coachella this year, but I thought it was great. Sure, it was nothing like the Arcade Fire, Secret Machines or Bloc Party performances of ’05, but it was still a solid set full of energy. They certainly seemed as if they were having fun and, for the most part, the crowd was really into it. They got a big thumbs up from me and I certainly hope they come through St. Louis sometime this summer.

I left CYHSY a little early, as I was to meet friends in the main beer garden prior to My Morning Jacket. In just two hours time, the line to get into the beer tent had deteriorated into a giant clusterpork that took ten minutes just to get into. So, I spent ten minutes – the first ten minutes of MMJ’s set – trying to get into the beer tent just to immediately leave once I met up with my friends. Despite the delay and annoyance of the beer garden, I was able to settle in for one of the best performances of the weekend. I had been hoping they’d get to play the last set of the night on the Outdoor Theater, a la Spoon last year, but instead they got an early evening spot. It made no difference, really, though, as their set was great, regardless of the time of day. As always, My Morning Jacket delivered the goods. It was a tight set and they played all the songs you’d want to hear - "Mahgeetah," "Wordless Chorus," "One Big Holiday," and "Gideon." The one song they didn’t play they would have sent it over the edge was “Lay Low”, but alas.

The My Morning Jacket set marked my first serious conflict of the weekend – most of the TV on the Radio set overlapped with MMJ’s. I wish I could say I made the right decision by seeing My Morning Jacket, but, based on the final fifteen minutes of the TVOTR set that I caught, it was a true toss-up, as they put on just as good a set as My Morning Jacket had (and I had never seen TVOTR). I do not regret my decision, but I really wish I had been able to see all of TV on the Radio’s set.

Sigur Ros was next on the itinerary. They played in the same time slot as Air did in 2004 – sunset on the mainstage – and put on just as powerful a show as Air did, with the orange and purple sky of the setting desert sun silhouetting the mountains as a stunning backdrop to the set. With a four or five piece string section backing them, Sigur Ros put on a truly incredible show, one that I would put in the top three of the weekend.

I wanted to catch the end of Ladytron, but the crowd was growing and it was getting dark, so I settled for a beer and caught the beginning of Franz Ferdinand. They put on a great show, lasers and all. Everything was played just a notch faster than on the albums and the song selection kept it moving along so you never got bored or antsy. They did leave a few of my favorite songs on You Could Have It So Much Better out, but overall it was a great set. I had seen them last September at the Austin City Limits Festival, and hadn’t been that impressed, but their set at this year’s Coachella was top notch.

After Franz Ferdinand, I headed over to Eagles of Death Metal and grabbed some Thai noodles and chicken on a stick for dinner. The noodles were great. Really, really good. The chicken was good, too. Eagles of Death Metal were even better. It was basically a hometown show for them and, despite a late start, they played a great set complimented by a great lighting show.

Depeche Mode was generally a let down. They put on a serviceable show, but I just wasn’t that into it. It was during their set that I finally decided to check out the VIP area. Wow – talk about a scene. It was like Hollywood was transplanted 100 miles to the east and found it’s way to Coachella. The Beautiful PeopleTM were everywhere. It was nice for about five minutes, just for the people watching, but it soon became apparent that (at that hour) the VIP section largely consisted of people who had heard about this thing in the desert and had nothing better to do, so they decided to come out for the party. “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of Depeche Mode. I think.” “I liked Tool in High School.” “Clap Your Hands Say What?” “There’s a bar, right?” “There’ll be, like, directors there, right?” ANYWAY, I soon noticed the time and realized I had to make a bee line for the Sahara Tent.

In two previous Coachellas, I had only seen one show in the Sahara Tent, which is traditionally where most of the electronic artists perform, and that was only really two or three songs from The Chemical Brothers. Daft Punk, though, was enough for me to brave the glow sticks and twirling dancers, and I wanted to make sure I got a good spot for the show. (Side note – I peaked into the Mojave Tent on my way to see Daft Punk and noted that The Living Things were playing to a TINY crowd. This is due to two things – they aren’t that good, and EVERYBODY was planning on seeing Daft Punk.) I managed to get in front of the soundboard, to the middle of the tent. The crowd was buzzing. There was such anticipation and excitement in the air for Daft Punk’s first U.S. performance in 9 years, you couldn’t help but getting caught up in it. The house lights lowered and the PA went silent. The crowd exploded with even more anticipation. Then, in a perfect bit of timing and mood, the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme began playing – you know the one, the one where the spaceship and the French keyboardist are communicating with each other through keyboard tones. The crowd somehow went even more nuts. The curtains opened and out came a giant pyramid, with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo at the top of the pyramid, in full robot gear. As they busted into “Robot Rock,” the crowd hit a level of ecstasy that lasted for the entire set. With an insane light show and energy that could not be beat, Daft Punk put on easily the best show of the weekend. It ranks up there with The Pixies and The Arcade Fire as my favorite Coachella performances. Maybe it was because I had no idea what to expect, or it was just the energy of the crowd rubbing off on me, but it was a performance for the ages. About halfway through, I moved my position to just outside the Sahara Tent, where they had giant screens set up so the thousands of people overflowing out of the tent could see the performance and I was able to get a little more space to move around. They had a great setlist, including “One More Time,” “Da Funk,” “Around The World,” “Face to Face,” “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” and “Crescendolls.” They weaved the songs in and out of each other, turning them inside out, throwing in bits of vocals here and there from other songs to create a seamless setlist. When it was over, the crowd hung around for at least fifteen minutes, cheering for an encore, but there was no encore to be had. The machine had run its program, and the program did not take into account this variable. No amount of cheering was going to bring the robots back out. When it became clear the crowd had no intention of stopping their cries for an encore, the pyramid, still on stage, lit up in red, blinking a few times, as if to say, “I hear you and thank you for your love.” Maybe they were human after all.

After Daft Punk finished, we headed out of the festival exhausted and buzzing from what we had just witnessed. It was time to head back to the campground, crack a night cap beer, and get some sleep for another day of music and sun.

Here are some extra pictures for you: