Beirut, Gotye, Wild Flag, Fitz & The Tantrums, Coachella 2012
Coachella Day 3: Beirut, Goyte, Wild Flag, and Fitz & the Tantrums, April 15th, 2012
True Tales of the Coachella Curmudgeon
Part three: In Which Our Hero Dodges Bullets and Swords
I learned an important fact on the final day of Coachella—namely that no one knows anything. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Blame it on the dehydration associated with wandering the parking lots for nearly four hours in search of my car, which security had towed and reparked as some sort of penitence for daring to park in a pick up and drop off lot—not that it was labeled as such.
My wanderings could have been cut significantly shorter had Coachella simply educated their guards. Instead, asking supposed authorities about where I could find my car was not unlike asking third grade boys about sex—as I was rewarded a series of wild guesses based on hearsay and conjecture. While I was elated to hear that the Coachella reparks cars on the festival grounds rather than towing them to the local impound lot (confirmed—not by a security guard—but by a sweaty, slightly panicked call to the local sheriff’s office), finding out where they might have put my car was an exercise in frustration to the point of tears.
Since the information on car towing was not provided in the employee handbook (nor was it anywhere on the Coachella website) I was essentially treated as someone else’s problem, guards passing my issue off to someone—anyone—nearby. Even when frustration turned to near “hysterical female” status (My apologies to Ms. Steinem) I was routinely ignored, rerouted, and basically mocked—for parking in a lot that wasn’t labeled as a tow away zone. Umm…really guys?
Flash-forward to 4:00pm when a kind security guard named Ken offered me both a bottle of water and a promise that he would help solve my problem. Perhaps fittingly, we discovered that after hunting in at least five different lots, my car had been towed to a spot a near 100 feet from where we were standing!
My stint in music festival purgatory over, I considered calling it a day—and probably would have, had it not been for my editor, who sent a barrage of encouraging text messages, comparing me to a series of strong female characters. (Sample: [Doctor Who’s] Amy Pond would go to Coachella!) And so, back into the fray I went.
Musically, day three didn’t offer a fraction of the thrills of day one and two. I arrived in time to catch the end of Fitz & the Tantrums lackluster set. What sounded fun on debut full-length Pickin’ Up the Pieces, simply felt like a desperate plea for attention from the distracted attendees. At that time of the day, their main competition was the apoplectic squeals of guitars from a nearby tent, and a large flower sculpture, crafted around crane that allowed it to flex and move. Both seemed infinitely more appealing.
My mood lifted with Wild Flag’s set at the outdoor theater. Admittedly, I’m not much of a rocker (I like to think of myself as the apex of indie wimpdom), but it’s difficult to deny the appeal Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Rebecca Cole, and Mary Timony giving it their rock goddess all. Songs from the band’s debut album amped up to a new heights (see, the shout-along chorus of “Glass Tambourine”) even indie wimps such as myself couldn’t help but join in the fun…in a mellow, low-key, completely exhausted way that is.
The biggest surprise of the evening was Gotye. Despite the fact I’ve kinda grown to hate “Somebody that I Used to Know,” the song provided the festival its biggest sing-along moment, the packed Mojave tent joining in on the chorus. It was distressing that shortly after the tune, two-thirds of the audience dispersed—especially since it came at the set’s midway point. While I’m still not onboard with the seemingly ubiquitous tune, I was dazzled by every other song the band performed. I’m ready to say it: Gotye’s catchy, percussive tunes may prove him to be more than a one-hit wonder. I’ll be leading the charge.
Beirut took the stage shortly after Gotye. Despite a near all-encompassing exhaustion, I propped myself up against the soundboard, eager to hear any of the cuts from last year’s Rip Tide heavy playlists. A handful of songs into the set, I realized this might have been a mistake. I adore Zach Condon’s gypsy folk and songs of wanderlust—but after the day’s exhaustion, I was beyond the point of caring. Nothing was connecting. A subversive idea occurred to me: Coachella is not an internment camp. I could leave.
And so I did just that.
It was a bummer that my Coachella 2012 came to an end with a whimper. Musically, this year was a success. I was blown away by sets from Radiohead, M83, Pulp, and Andrew Bird. I was also happily surprised by tUnE-yArDs and Gotye.
Certain changes to the way the festival was run were a mixed bag. It’s nice to know that anyone who brings in an empty container will be given free water—but the filling stations need to be more clearly marked. Gatecrashers were more-or-less successfully kept out, which lead to less packed grounds. The info booths everywhere were helpful, but—as demonstrated by the car saga—there must be uniform procedures for dealing with issues. Watching fire isles being filled with VIP and bottlenecks formed with people trying to exit…those are two observations that cannot be sugarcoated. This must be changed before someone is hurt or killed.
So I guess the big question: does the good outweigh the bad? I can’t deny that I didn’t have a good time. My original mission was to lie in the sun, and enjoy a few good bands with a few good friends. And as the Under the Radar Twitter and Instagram feed (manned by blog editor Michele Yamamoto) attested, we accomplished that in spades. But watching basic safety disregarded in the name of cramming people in was disheartening, as was the festival’s complete breakdown of communication that led to the world’s longest car hunt (perhaps not a hyperbole). In the end, is it worth forgoing the relative comfort and safety of seeing a show in LA for the bustle and excitement of Coachella? I’m no longer convinced that it is.