Crawling through Coachella, chapter 1


Yep, this was the year I finally stopped pooh-poohing, scoffing, scorning, and smugly hrumphing in the delightful cool of the Bay Area and caught the traffic jam heading from LA to Indio for Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, expanded to three days for the first time. Of course, lucky me, I also got to make the traffic snarl from the freeway exit to the parking lot entrance, and then the teeming mass from the entrance to the ticket get the picture.

Spidey 3: Hazy days, much music, as Michael Christina's three-legged I.T. overlooks it all. Photos by Charles Russo.

Way too much going on in that headdress, dancing queen: a member of Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque.

Was it worth the cross-stage cacophony, exploding shampoo bottles, the tent city filled with philosophical quasi-frat boys and random ravers that go bump and then, "WHOOO!" at 5 in the morning? You tell me. My brain underwent a major meltdown. Here's a free-associatin' "review"-slash-overview of the Coachella, to be continued with more wonderful photos by Guardian contributor Charles Russo. And gripes -- err, I mean, critiques -- from yours truly.

Zacky, can you hear me? No, 'cause the Lemonheads are threatening to drown the main stage out.

Everyone was obviously there for the Rage Against the Machine reunion, a first since the band went dormant about seven years ago - which explains the major bro-down going on everywhere you looked. The final headliner on the last night, Sunday, April 29, of the three-day fest, they were definitely doing their best to power past the hype and bring the rock with such modern rock staples as "Killing in the Name" and "Bulls on Parade." The scruffily bearded Zack de la Rocha bounded about, blissfully ignorant of the hordes heading toward the exit, hoping to get a jump on the truly terrifying traffic tangle expected on the way back to LA.

Killing in the name of guitar hero Tom Morello.

"My mind has been completely blown!" raved one woman at the campground's Cybercafe after Bjork, who gave everyone a good preview of her new album, Volta, backed by a womanly chorus and band in brightly hued new wave, Polyphonic Spree-goes-to-the-Acropolis Grecian gowns. Brass, strings, vibes, Lemur, the works - and some inspiring costume changes from the Bjorkly one.

One thing we can count on: Bjork pushing the fashion envelope; here, she channels a voodoo priestess June Allyson.

Another artist that got the buzz around the polo grounds and tent city was the Bay's own DJ Shadow. As we melted in our Tevas, we overheard kids talking up Shadow, who headlined the second largest stage the opening night, Friday, April 27. Sounded tops. Shadow would helpfully step up to the mic to remind everyone that all the tracks that night were his own - if they weren't recognizable they were brand spankin'. Color splashed videos flickered overheard on a massive screen as Keak groused about those freaks.

Shadow wonders if the audience would take it the wrong way if he blurted, "Talk to the finger."

The Roots sounded tight, hitting it hard midday Sunday. We wandered away midway through a Tarantino-esque

"Can we take quirkily punctuated names to a nutty new level?" the Roots ponder.

I do love me some Jarvis Cocker. Guess I just have a weakness for snide, brainy Brits who like to chatter on about imaginary rain storms and apologize - sorta - for their tardiness on stage. Pulling feel-good tracks from his new solo album, Jarvis, the forgotten son of Joe Cocker (not!) let the healing begin with "Fat Children" and "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time." Too bad we couldn't get a little of that fabled Anglo rainy-day action, he hinted, introducing "Heavy Weather."

Jarvis, don't let your fresh witticisms grow up to be dried-up curds of embittered alcholism.

I missed Brazilian Girls, but Charles caught a little of their lunar magic on camera. Loverly....

Brazilian Girls can't not take a fabulous picture.

You know, I kinda like (translation: don't flip) the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they pop up on the radio, but I couldn't stand 'em when I saw the group at Oakland Arena last year. Maybe it was because of the vomiting teens with breast implants imploding all around me? Anyway, they sounded awesome - screaming guitar solos and all - from afar, on the lawn, cozying up to the gigantic Tesla coils. Spare me the onstage visuals - Charles is a braver man than I.

I like what Anthony Kiedis is doing with the facial hair and the bargain-bin Oliver Twist vibe. Keep that up!

Klaxons were fit for the Euro arenas they fill - judging from their Sunday show. They tailed the awesome CSS, who caught much love as vocalist Lovefoxxx ripped off her top and stripped to a body stocking. Cansei so sexxxy! Klaxons need to add a couple x's in there to catch up with the Brazilian fun girls - "Golden Skans" and "Atlantis to Interzone" sounded like the UK pop hits they are.

I bet this Klaxon wishes he shaved all that hair off in honor of the 110-degree weather.

Poor Willie Nelson and his longtime band sounded thrown off by the sound echoing off the secondary Outdoor Theatre stage - mama, don't let your baby grow up to play alongside Kaiser Chiefs.

Willie Nelson - relentlessly musical, even in the face of sonic obliteration.

I missed Paul van Dyk, but feasted my peepers on the pink and blue and cute all over light show in the Sahara hanger during the fine, fine Justice and LCD Soundsystem sets. Hey, knock me on the noggin with that glow stick. This kinda ambiance truly gets ya in the mood to dance, dance - then start a revolution. Promises, promises.

Can I get a vowel: Paul van Dyk looks for the boogie.