Live Review: Coachella 2009 - Day 1 - Indio, CA
Tue, 21 Apr 2009 15:42:42
Ghostland Observatory Photos
Friday at Coachella this year was when the dance music DJ was officially disrespected. Perhaps it is the DJ’s fault for failing to forge new ground while indie-dance acts like Crystal Castles and Ghostland Observatory steal their prime time Sahara tent thunder. Or maybe it’s because this side of the Atlantic will never be able to shed the notion that a DJ is meant for no higher purpose than to play 70’s hits and Salt-N-Pepa after the newlywed’s first dance.
Whatever the reason, massive British DJ talent (and co-producer of the newest M.I.A. record) Dave Taylor (aka Switch) was relegated to the opening slot (that would be noon) in the Sahara tent this year. He was followed by six time DMC champion DJ Craze (and cohort Klever). After that was Gui Burratto, a Brazilian tech-house DJ that was the producer of the year last year in most genre-hound minds. Inexplicably billed ahead of the three prior acts was Steve Aoki, who delivered a respectable, crowd-hyping effort even if track selection was a bit flat. Next up was Felix da Housecat, the so-called “godfather of electro” and with the exception a half an hour allotted to a Crystal Method live performance from 11:30 pm to midnight, by 5:30, all of the people using solely decks and a mixer to bring their music to the masses were done.
This is of course coming from an avid dance music fan and DJ. Gone are the days when Carl Cox and Derrick Carter got the back-to-back sunset slots in the Sahara, capped off by a closing Daft Punk cherry on top.
No disrespect meant to Crystal Castles (whose performance generated by far the most random “did you see that??” buzz around the festival that day) or Ghostland Observatory, who had enough drops in their electro-indie dance set to satisfy bassheads and a light show that would make Roger Waters weep. And though there were no 4/4’s to be heard, Peanut Butter Wolf did the decks respeck by offering up some sublime selections for those who still pop-in some of his old Pharcyde beats as their first hip-hop love.
Also, by booking The Bug, the Coachella crew inched one step closer to giving dubstep a main stage venue. The Bug has mad skills by the waydude can transition between tracks with the best of them, whipped the crowd up into a frenzy before dropping another delicious, ragga-twanged slice of beat.
Girl Talk brought his silly pageantry and laptop fueled mayhem to the 9 pm slot in the Sahara, but it was difficult to find room to dance amid the mobs of screaming teenage girls. (Yes, at 29, I’m an old, crotchety Coachella vet).
And as always, The Do Lab took it bigger and better this year, offering the true refuge for beat aficionados. This time they offered two DJ-stations with massive structure assembled out of shipping pallets. The sounds of the blossoming Glitch Mob permeated the air at The Do Lab, with laser-bass raining down on those hitting up the misters during the daylight or claiming refugee status from a lackluster Franz Ferdinand set later on in the afternoon. God bless The Do Lab.
While walking toward The Dome (which was situated right in front of the entrance this year) at the end of the evening, I passed a lot of older folk just making their way into the concert. At first I thought it was a caravan picking up their children, but then realized that Sir Paul was about to come on. And that moment embodies Coachella in a nutshell this year: ever-expanding, ever-growing, trying to satisfy all music fans at once. More space was offered up to vendors and corporate sponsorship this year. More installations were present yet all of them somehow felt polished and squeaky clean compared to years past (even the Burning Man holdover Hand of Man). And the music was carefully engineered to appeal to the broadest spectrum, instead of catering to individual niches as they have in year’s past.
Nevertheless, Coachella remains the premier US-based music festival. It’s scrubbed enough to lure in the Hollywood club-goers yet dusty and chaotic enough to attract the fur-legging clad peeps just warming up for Burning Man. Despite the sense of being overstuffed with booths and massive, flaming rattlesnakes, Coachella still felt like home. While it didn’t have the same, awe-induced wonderment that defines your first or second voyage there, the familiarity of wandering from stage to stage, striking up conversations with random e-tards, and oohing and aahhing at the Hovatron, it has now become the friend you can depend on for a good time when you need it most.
View the Coachella 2009 Day 1 Photo Gallery