Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coachella 2011 Recap

My first trip to Coachella was back in 2007 with my buddies JayO, Dave, JT and Chris…. we had such an amazing time that we returned in 2008. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to make it back the last couple years but about six months ago we got the wheels in motion for a return trip to Indio for the 2011 Coachella Festival. Below you’ll find a recap of our trip along with some pictures and videos we took throughout the weekend, hope you enjoy it.

Our crew flew out on Thursday morning to meet up with Chris (who lives in San Diego ) and then drove out a couple hours to Palm Springs (obviously with a required stop on the way out at In N Out Burger).
Arriving in Palm Springs Thursday afternoon, we had a night to kill before the festival started on Friday. We decided to again attend the Filter Magazine Pre-Party (thanks Soper!), which we had done previously both in 2007 and 2008. Basically Filter hosts this party which brings in several sponsors (Red Bull, Heineken, Jansport, etc.) and there are always give-aways and an open bar along with snacks, etc. They set up a couple DJs around the venue and it’s a great way to kick off the weekend.


- Rural Alberta Advantage (Outdoor Stage): I had actually gotten into these guys a little over a year ago when I was working up north in Albany . One of the local radio stations would play the RAA pretty frequently and I dug their music but I hadn’t seen them live before so I was excited to see some of their set. Typically, this is a tough spot to play since it’s real early the first day of the festival but the band had a pretty big crowd which was pretty cool. The Rural Alberta Advantage is just a three piece group but I definitely dig their sound and their lead singer reminded me a bit of John McCauley from Deer Tick/Middle Brother, same raspy sound to his voice. Also, their drummer is excellent (which you can get a good sense of from the video below). I shot a video of their song “Stamp”, my favorite off the new album.


- The Drums (Mojave Tent): Only caught a couple songs from these guys as I got over to the Mojave tent near the end of their set but they certainly sounded good. They had a big crowd (especially for an early set, looked like it was about 90% full). I'm going to look into some more music from these guys because it's obvious they've got a good fanbase.

- Cold War Kids (Outdoor Stage): I've seen these guys before but the show was a few years back and I've been listening to some of their more recent material. I thought they did a real nice job on the Main Stage. They mixed up the set with old and new tunes and the crowd was receptive. Solid band, definitely enjoy their stuff. The video below is a song called "Audience" that I got into a couple years ago.


- Cee Lo Green (Main Stage): Probably the strangest set of the weekend. Cee Lo showed up about halfway through his alloted stage time (which is a big problem at Coachella since they stick to a tight schedule). There was a big crowd to see him and he had good energy on stage.... when he finally got there. Coachella pulled the plug on him about half way through his set which was pretty confusing at first (this was mid-song so I thought they were having technical problems). The whole situation was pretty strange but bottom line was that it was an abbreviated set.

- Lauryn Hill (Main Stage): Caught a bit of this set as I loved the album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill". First time I've heard anything live from Lauryn since back when I saw the Fugees in my high school days but thought she sounded good.

- Black Keys (Main Stage): What can I say about these guys that I haven't already written..... just a big fan of their stuff. Every time I see them I'm amazed how much sound comes out of two guys (when they're not playing with the full band). BIg crowd for their set on the main stage, really enjoyed it. My buddy Chris took a good video of "Tighten Up" which you can catch below.

"TIGHTEN UP" (Video by Chris Hunt)

- Kings of Leon (Main Stage): I've seen Kings of Leon a bunch of times but haven't seen them since their latest album "Come Around Sundown" was released so I was excited to hear some of the new tracks. Always think these guys put on a good show and think they played a great set this time around. Loved the mix of some older tunes like "Fans" and "Taper Jean Girl" mixed in with the newer tracks like "The Immortals".


- Freelance Whales (Mojave Tent): Being that these guys are from Queens, you'd think that I'd have seen them already but I just haven't been able to make it to a show. I got into their album "Weathervanes" about a year ago and was looking forward to finally seeing them play live. They had an early set on Saturday in the Mojave Tent and I was surprised how many people showed up, nice crowd for an early set. I got to catch about the last five songs and thought they were excellent. Here's a video of their song "Hannah"...


- Gogol Bordello (Main Stage): Is there a consistently better festival band out there? These guys should be invited to play every festival in the world, instant ENERGY. I said to one of my buddies that they're one of the few bands that you could just see by accident and absolutely fall in love with, great live band. Gogol played to a big crowd on Saturday and seemed to be having a great time. Check out my video below of "Wonderlust King", if you haven't seen these guys make sure you get around to it sometime soon.


- Delta Spirit (Outdoor Stage): This was my first time seeing Delta Spirit but I am familiar with some of their material, I also love Matt Vazquez's work with Middle Brother. Nice crowd for a mid-day set on the Outdoor Stage. Caught about the last four songs and thought they were really solid. I'd like to see them in a club show, bet they'd be great. Here's a video for "St Francis" that my buddy Chris took.

"ST. FRANCIS" (Video by Chris Hunt)

- One Day As A Lion (Mojave Tent): This group consists of Zach De La Rocha of RATM and Jon Theodore of the Mars Volta. I'm always psyched to see Zach perform, very few people with his energy out there. I caught the beginning of the set before running over to see Mumford & Sons (this was a mistake, more on that in a bit). Big crowd here in the tent for these guys and people were really into the set. I got a quick video of the intro into "If You Fear Dying" which you can check out below.


- Big Audio Dynamite (Outdoor Stage): I didn't see this set but my buddy Chris had good things to say. Check out his video of "E = MC Squared" below.

"E=MC SQUARED" (Video by Chris Hunt)

- Mumford & Sons (Main Stage): Let me start off by saying I've been listening to these guys for just over a year now but hadn't had the chance to see them live yet so this was one of the sets I was most looking forward to. I dig their album and was looking forward to hearing the songs live for the first time. Unfortunately, this set was probably the most disappointing of the weekend for me. An absolutely MASSIVE crowd showed up to see these guys on the main stage and I thought they would kick off the show with some a high energy version of either "The Cave" or "Little Lion Man". Instead they started off with a couple slow songs and then announced that they'd be playing some new songs. They didn't get into the hits until about 5-6 songs in and I thought the band lost a lot of the crowd early, myself included. I thought they sounded fine but I was disappointed in the energy kicking off the show, guess I was just expecting a different show.

A few songs in, the band mentioned how this was the biggest crowd they've played before and they just seemed out of their league a bit to me (watching Arcade Fire on the same stage about an hour later only confirmed this to me). In my mind, you have a huge crowd like that and there's probably a large percentage that hasn't seen Mumford & Sons live, you have to come out and rip into the set to get people hooked. I thought they did the exact opposite and I was really surprised and honestly disappointed.


- Arcade Fire (Main Stage): For my money, one of the truly great live bands out there right now. I've seen these guys about five or six times, small and large venues, clubs and outdoors, and they are incredibly consistent with putting on an awesome show. The headlining slot at Coachella was no different, starting with a very cool video intro. Loved the way they mixed the set with songs from all three albums. Lots of highlights but especially "Haiti", "Intervention", "We Used To Wait" and "Power Out". Here's a clip of "Haiti" from my buddy Dave:

"HAITI" (Video by Dave Miller)


- Nas & Damian Marley (Main Stage): We caught a bit of this set early in the day, another good act to get the crowd going early on the main stage.

- Fistful of Mercy (Mojave Tent): I was actually surprised more people didn't show up for this set, one of my thoughts is that people weren't familiar with the name "Fistful of Mercy", which consists of Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur. Anyways, the crowd filled in as the set went along and I thought they sounded good as a group. Pretty polished for not touring all that much and the harmonies sounded great. We got a good video of the title track which you can see below.....

"FISTFUL OF MERCY" (Video by Chris Hunt)

- Foster The People (Gobi Tent): Wow, easily one of my favorite sets of the weekend. My buddy Chris sent me some of their stuff a couple months ago and I found that they had three tracks on Itunes (their full album comes out in May). If you're unfamiliar with their music, kind of a electro-pop sound along the lines of Passion Pit and MGMT. Their lead singer has a great voice, seeing him live it actually reminds me of David Gray (obviously different style music but his voice sounded almost exactly like him to me). I don't think it comes across on the studio recordings as much but it's a really strong voice. The crowd was into the set from the first note, people were singing, dancing and cheering throughout the entire show. Pretty good for a band with only a few songs available.

I can't tell you how much their set reminded me of the MGMT tent set a few years ago at Coachella, very similar feel before they exploded into a bigtime act. I see a similar future on the horizon for Foster The People. Highly recommend seeing these guys if they're coming your way. Here's one of my favorite tracks that I was able to record, "Houdini".


- Chromeo (Outdoor Stage): My first time seeing Chromeo! I have a couple friends who recently saw them here in NYC and said the show was great. Definitely a fun act to catch, high energy, a lot of people dancing, etc. Unrelated to Coachella, if you like these guys, you HAVE to check out their session of "Daryl's House"... take a listen to that version of "No Can Do". So good.

- The National (Outdoor Stage): I've seen The National several times so I kind of swung by their set while getting something to eat. Good news the way the festival is setup is that you don't need to be right in front of the stage to hear most of the bands, this worked perfectly as I grabbed some food in the garden next to the stage. Always think these guys sound good but I prefer seeing them in a club setting. Unique sound, definitely a fan.

- The Strokes (Main Stage): It's been a long time since I've seen The Strokes (first time I saw them was almost ten years ago with Kings of Leon opening at the Theater at MSG!). Almost forgot how much I love their sound and again, another excellent live band. Very tight group and thought they sounded great. Definitely held their own in front of a big crowd on Sunday night. Hope I get to see them again sometime soon. Here's a video I took of "Hard To Explain"...


- Kanye West (Main Stage): Probably the act I was most excited for all weekend and Kanye did not disappoint. I had seen him about five years ago in a small club setting so I knew he could perform but this would also be another level. Really impressive set, "Flashing Lights", "Good Life", "Homecoming", it just went on and on and I loved every minute. Kanye also had a bunch of backing dancers, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on additional vocals, lighting and even fireworks. Truly a commanding performance, thought Kanye was amazing. One last video clip I'll leave you with.... "Power" (shot by Dave Miller).

"POWER" (Video by Dave Miller)

There are always bands that you want to see that you don't get a chance to get to. Would have loved to see The Joy Formidable, City & Colour, & Wiz Khalifa but you can't do it all. It's great making the trip, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, Coachella is a truly unique experience, different than almost any other festival I've been to. All in all it was another fantastic trip out west and hopefully I'll be able to return back out soon.

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