Coachella images twirling through the mind, chapter 2

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By Charles Russo

More ruminations on Coachella? You got it.

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Got Jah angst? Not here next to Stephen Marley. All photos by Charles Russo.

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Twilight of the costumed revelers.

Rage Against the Machine: I found it to be pretty amazing that the band, playing what was possibly the most anticipated popular musical performance in the world this year, could suffer the sort of mix problems that they went through for the first half of their set. This especially when one considers how excellent Bjork sounded two nights earlier.

Furthermore, the odd ordering of their set list put some heavyweight tracks too far up in front, and robbed them of their drama. "Bombtrack," "Bullet in the Head," and "Know Your Enemy" in the fourth, fifth, and sixth slots made for a somewhat anti-climactic experience. However three tracks off The Battle of Los Angeles really turned the show around: "Calm Like a Bomb," "Sleep Now in the Fire" (especially the "TV Eye" guitar breakdown in the middle), and "Guerrilla Radio."

That said, I thought they really salvaged their show by the second half of the set, and by the time they played "Wake Up" (which I haven't seen them play live since 1993), the band was really living up to the hype.

Leaving the press pit after the third song was just utter pandemonium. I had to jump over various barricades to get out. Security was fighting like all hell to retain control of the situation. Further out, I was amazed how many people were packed onto that main stage field. I've seen a lot of headliners play over the last seven years, but never to that kind of crowd.

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O whither that elusive butterfly named Sleep?

The Nightwatchman: Tommy Morello played one of the best sets of the entire weekend in the Gobi tent on Saturday afternoon, showcasing his Woody Guthrie-meets-Bruce Springsteen-via-Bob Dylan solo acoustic material to an extremely receptive crowd. He closed the set by enlisting Perry Farrell and Boots Riley to sing Guthrie's "This Land Is My Land." Quite a spectacle.

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Watch this, Nightwatchman.

The three surprise performances of the weekend for me were Busdriver, Brazilian Girls, and the Klaxons. Of course, this required me to miss much of Jarvis Cocker, Interpol, and Placebo. I guess that's the nature of the festival.

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Busdriver wants you to check out his tonsils.

Peaches: definitely one of the best sets of the festival - if for no other reason than her sense of theater. After Ron Jeremy introduced her and the band took the stage wielding light sabers and wearing space masks (?), Peaches got up on the drum kit and started with "Fuck or Kill," getting the crowd to sing "Impeach My Bush" (though they soon leave out the "My"). She then strapped on a guitar and started into the driving riff of "Rock Show," jumping down and running up to the center stage mic to sing.

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The common drum set cowers beneath Peaches's boot.

I don't really think that theatrics should trump the music in any show, but I was pretty amazed at how many bands would just play their normal setlist like they were at a normal show on their tour, which they weren't. You have an audience from all over the world, and you're competing for their attention against world class acts on four other stages - so why not up the stakes a bit?

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Ghostface - killing us loudly with his schlong.

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Red-headed friend from Santa Cruz: Gillian Welch.

Sonic Youth: in prime form.

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Yoot? Who needs it: Sonic Youth.

Does Josh Wolf count as a celebrity sighting?

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Killroy wuz hea.

These dancers were part of the Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque, who've been playing recently with Panic at the Disco.

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Formidable abs abound - hey, we're just far too close to LA!

The East Bay's Kinetic Steam Works provided a blast of energy for a carnival-style ride.

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Huffin' haus - Kinetic Steam Works rolls down from the Bay.

Of the big late-night Saturday acts, my vote goes to the Black Keys. The Good, the Bad, and the Queen was just not a good match for a Saturday night festival crowd.

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"Beards for everyone!" Black Keys caution.

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"Just when is it the right time for us to play?" wonders the Good, the Bad, and the Queen's Damon Albarn.

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Bass guitars come in handy when the hunting rifle is in the shop: the Good, the Bad, and the Queen's Paul Simonon.

Every year there is an act that gets booked early in a small tent and then outgrows the slot by the time the festival actually happens. This year it was Amy Winehouse (previously honors went to Wolfmother, M.I.A., Dizzee Rascal). She sounded pretty damn good and clearly had the most jam-packed press pit of the entire weekend.

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Not Amy Winehouse: pesky Manu Chao crowds out Air, playing a nearby stage.

Overall, the festival seems to have really gone into overdrive, in contrast to previous years. There has always been a lot going on throughout the polo field - though this year it coalesced into a form of hyperstimulation: a maximum amount of art installations, among a wealth of sideshows, with serious talent spread across the main five stages (shit, they even have two Tesla coils instead of just one).

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Lightning bolt rocks: the sole Tesla coil gets active in 2006.

In this sense, I feel that the nature of the experience has shifted. It has almost become less about the bands than a sort of sensory overload. Perhaps this sense of overstimulation doesn't foster an ideal environment for actually watching the music, which, after all, should be the bottom line at a music festival.

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Some carnival arts never get old - NOT!

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God help me, it's all a big blur.