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04.22.09

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Phaedra

Photograph by Curtis Cartier
Fan Boy: The face of fanatacism at Coachella

Mūz

Curtis Cartier's Coachella diary.

By Curtis Cartier


There is the real world. And then there is what goes on for three days and nights at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Mūz journeyed to the deserts of Indie-O for this year's festivities and will now attempt to break down the mind-numbing experience in 550 words or less.

The headliners were hit and miss this year. Paul McCartney delivered a heartfelt extended set of mostly Beatles jams, including "Helter Skelter," "Blackbird," "Back in the USSR," "Let it Be" and "Yesterday." Mūz skipped over The Killers, who headlined Saturday night, in favor of a blistering performance by Flying Lotus, but word on the street is that they were mediocre at best. Sunday saw the return of 2004 headliner The Cure; Robert Smith was in rare form, dropping wicked guitar solos and wrist-slitting vocals during the band's nearly three-hour set.

Friday brought plenty of feel-good music to kick off the weekend. The Black Keys needed only a guitarist and drummer to rock the main stage. Crystal Castles had the Sahara Tent in a near riot when lead siren Alice Glass dove into the crowd amid a barrage of Nintendo sounds and screeching vocals. At the Outdoor Theatre, Leonard Cohen growled out his trademark ballads "Bird on a Wire" and "You Know Who I Am." Beirut struck a decidedly Mexican tone with his Mojave Tent performance. And the Crystal Method closed down Friday night with a live set of electronic rump rock.

On Saturday, the crowd was at its giddiest with the heart of the festival in full swing. Michael Franti & Spearhead brought an upbeat feel to the main stage with their brand of reggae grooves. Fleet Foxes, each member sporting a beard grizzlier than the next, harmonized at the Outdoor Theatre. And Band of Horses delivered a mellow assortment of hits that had several fans in a full waltz. The performance of the night, if not of the entire festival, took place away from the main stages, inside the electronica-heavy Dome. There, Los Angeles laptop manipulator Flying Lotus unleashed the most genius display of live beat creation Mūz has ever witnessed.

The food was delicious and only moderately overpriced, with Big Willie's BBQ topping my list and a grand total of seven churros still making their way through my digestive tract. Beers were $8 and mostly lost out to smuggled Jägermeister and Bud Light.

The art was spectacular yet again. Fire was the major theme this year, with three of the chief exhibits equipped with some fashion of flamethrower. The moving fire snake sculpture "Serpent Mother" was a major hit with its blazing spine and fire-breathing head. Another standout was Christian Ristow's "Hand of Man," a massive robot hand, controlled by fans and used to pick up and smash an old Buick.

On the final day of the festival, Somali rapper K'Naan inspired the Gobi Tent crowd with his biographical lyrics, and My Bloody Valentine assaulted the main stage with an ear-splitting noise holocaust. Meanwhile, The Orb reared its rarely seen head with a full band and Throbbing Gristle brought a bizarre sideshow that closed down the Mojave Tent.

All told, it was 38 hours of hot sun, warm beer, good friends and great music. So thanks, Coachella. See you next year.

View a slideshow from the festival here.


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