Photos by Deanna Kim
So far, I can describe today as a series of happy accidents that was reinforced by the weather, which was pleasantly not as scalding hot as I had anticipated.
A word to the wise: there are five stages at Coachella, and given the vast layout of the festival you are almost guaranteed to get lost at some point, and also susceptible to ending up at the wrong concert. Although I’d like to say that I avoided both, I’ll err on the side of honesty and admit that I was a victim of both. After running around in circles and missing Lord Huron’s performance at 1 p.m., which was dismaying, I decided to hit up the Youth Lagoon concert immediately after. That would have all been peachy, except that it took me three songs to realize that the band onstage wasn’t Youth Lagoon at all—it was The Shouting Matches, a blues band comprised of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Brian Moen, and Phil Cook, who took the stage around 2:30 p.m. Characterized by Vernon’s unforgettable vocals, the drawl of a harmonica that was incorporated into a few songs, and dual guitar playing that epitomized the elements of classic rock, The Shouting Matches was a pleasant surprise despite my original intentions.
I wanted to catch the end of Beardyman (aka Darren Foreman)’s set, so I booked it over to the Outdoor Theatre just in time to experience the idiosyncrasy of his music, which is sporadically punctuated with humorous bits that he pops off with. The two-time UK Beatbox Champion (in 2006 and 2007) kept the audience on their feet with beats and rhythms that conveyed the improvisational nature of his set. Despite the spur-of-the-moment feel of his set, though, Foreman revealed later that the freedom to improvise also has the potential to pose obstacles.
“It’s funny, I find it a challenge to do exactly what I want to do at some gigs,” Foreman said in a post-performance interview. “I guess [that’s] the peril of being an improv-based act…depending on the mood you’re in, it can go either way.” He added that it also “depends what town you’re in. London audiences are hard to impress; American crowds are awesome.”
A highlight of the afternoon is credited to Alt-J, a British indie rock quartet who took the Mojave stage around 5:30 to a packed house. Again, I had never heard of Alt-J until literally yesterday, but the hype I heard about them was validated within the first few moments of their set. While the music clearly exuded a cheery, almost buoyant quality that provoked enthusiastic responses from the crowd, a notable song—“Matilda”—temporarily subdued the atmosphere’s vibrancy in favor of a sort of reverence, noted with militaristic drum beats. Again, another unexpectedly sweet discovery. Something not so sweet, though: either my camera fell out of my fanny pack (which somehow became unzipped), or someone covertly stole it. Lesson learned? Periodically check that you have everything, before, during, and after performances. I thought I circumvented the possibility by wearing a fanny pack, but apparently not. Take note, fellow newbies.
It was hard to stay upset for long, though, because the pinnacle of my set list for day 1 kicked off right after Alt-J. Working out the past couple of weeks worked out in my favor, because I was able to rush over to the Passion Pit concert at 6:00 and grab a favorable spot in the middle of the crowd, which resulted as a mass exodus of fans that congregated around Coachella stage. Their performance deserves its own article, though (at least in my shamelessly biased opinion), so I’ll post something about that later, as well as coverage of Modest Mouse and Bassnector’s sets. I smell like a men’s locker room, my feet have been stomped on and dirtied up, and I’m already a good six shades darker than I was this morning, but the way things are here, I don’t see that as a bad thing—I see it as initiation.
Justin Vernon of the Shouting Matches
Ian Matthias Bavitz aka Aesop Rock
Photos by Deanna Kim