Duffy is currently the biggest thing in the Britain since sliced crumpets, but here in America, where her debut album doesn't come out until May, she's still relegated to daytime sidestage status. A sassy lass with a sizeable bouffant and Spectorian '60s sound, it's perhaps unavoidable that this girl gets compared to last year's Coachella buzz Brit, Amy Winehouse--but that is unfair to Duffy, as it sets her up for failure. Sonically, Duffy is similar to Amy, with her raspy girl-group vocals, but in every other way she's Amy's polar opposite--sort of the Good Witch to Amy's Bad Witch, if you will. Duffy is doll-faced, blonde, tattoo-free, relatively sober, and in possession of all her teeth, plus she looks like she occasionally eats solid food and she smiles a lot. She also seems to favor acid-washed denim maternity dresses (please, someone fire this chick's stylist, pronto) over Amy's beater tank tops, miniscule jean shorts, and filthy ballet flats.
Next up were reunited shoegazer veterans Swervedriver, although at a hot desert concert like this I might want to use the term "sandalgazer" instead. Now, Coachella Sunday wasn't very crowded--I've in fact never seen the festival so undersold, so almost ghost-townishly empty--and this was great for fans like me who could saunter right up to the stage without so much as even jostling another person. But for Swervedriver, this lack of attendance must have been frustrating: The Mojave Tent wasn't even half-full to see their first U.S. performance since 1999.
Next in the Mojave Tent was Jason Pearce's Spiritualized, stripping back from their usual cosmic cacophony (well, they still had a string quartet and three choir singers, but that's pretty stripped-back by Spiritualized standards) for one of their "Acoustic Mainline" performances. This could have been great in the right setting--i.e., a quiet theater where people could sit and actually give the rapt attention that this amazing band deserves--
I then checked out Sean Penn--yes, THE Sean Penn--on the main stage, where he spent 15 or so pre-My Morning Jacket minutes discussing his "Dirty Hands Caravan," a biodiesel cross-country bus trip leaving for New Orleans the day after Coachella. Sean was presumably at Coachella to recruit 300 youth for this politically awareness-propagating junket, but unfortunately his appearance didn't generate much enthusiasm. It seemed like the audience just wanted less talk and more rock.
Only at a festival like Coachella could an Oscar-winning actor be the opening act for Kentucky indie-rockers My Morning Jacket. But I decided to pass on those bearded everymen in favor of the second-stage concert by the glamorously gothy Love & Rockets, another one of Coachella 2008's reunion acts. Sure, this reunion wasn't quite as cool as when the three members of Love & Rockets' previous band, Bauhaus, played Coachella in 2005--after all, that show had probably THE best opener in Coachella history, when Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy descended upside-down from the rafters dressed as a vampire bat.
Love & Rockets cranked out an extremely enthusiastically received set that included 120 Minutes-heyday classics like "Haunted (When The Minutes Drag)," "No New Tale To Tell," "American Dream," "Mirror People, "Holiday On The Moon" (dedicated to Roger Waters, who was about to perform all of Dark Side Of The Moon on the main stage), and "Kundalini Express" (dedicated to Roger's late Pink Floyd bandmate, Syd Barrett). But the real Rockets ride was the final number, "Ying And Yang The Flowerpot Man":
Bubblemen costumes and bags of feathers made for fabulous entertainment, of course, but that was nothing compared to what went down during Roger Waters' set. However, I will admit that at first I was disappointed by the Pink Floyd man's solo show. First of all, he was supposed to be performing Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety, but then he performed songs like "Wish You Were Here," "Mother," and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Um, was I losing my dang mind, or were those songs NOT on Dark Side Of The Moon? Also, I'd heard rumors there would be puppets at this show. And if there's anything cooler than an onstage pillow fight, it's puppets. But I saw no puppets. I wanted puppets, damn it. Where were the freakin' puppets?
Anyway, my first dilemma (Dark Side tracklist confusion) was solved when Roger announced there'd be a short intermission followed by the proper Dark Side portion of the show, which apparently hadn't even started yet. Phew. And my second problem (an appalling dearth of puppets) was solved when an even cooler prop emerged during Roger's performance of "Animals": an enormous, inflatable pig emblazoned with the phrases "Don't be led to the slaughter," "Fear builds walls," and (most notably) the single word "Obama" with a checked ballot box next to it.
I do wonder, though: Was Roger making a political statement here that Barack Obama will only be elected president when pigs fly? Hmmm...
After the brief aforementioned intermission, Roger returned, a Chernobyl-strength smoke machine was powered up and aimed smack at the crowd, and the real show began. It was time to bring Coachella over to the Dark Side. Suddenly I didn't miss the puppets anymore. This was some pretty cool, history-making stuff here. And the gigantic blast of hair-singing, face-melting pyro during the show was great for keeping the late-evening desert chill at bay. Thanks, Roger!
Justice's hi-NRG set (the highlight of which, for me, was the "We Are Your Friends" mashup with the Klaxons' "Atlantis To Interzone") was the perfect end to Coachella 2008, because it gave me the espresso-like energy burst I needed to crank out one more Coachella blog at 3am, when all I really wanted to do was sit in a hot tub and not emerge until I was as pruney as those famous Indio Valley dates. So thank you, Justice, for making my job that much easier. Not to mention that much more enjoyable.AT&T blue room, so all is not lost. And for more info on Coachella (because it's never too early to start following rumors about Coachella 2009), click here for the official site.
All live photos (except Swervedriver and Love & Rockets) by Mike Orlosky. For more of his Coachella pics, click here.