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S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y…Rock!

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

The title of this blog entry references the Bay City Rollers, by the way. I'm trying to start a new Coachella reunion rumor after all that frustratingly unfounded gossip about the Police playing this year. Bay City Rollers in 2008!

OK, forgive me. I am still semi-delirious after a 13-hour Friday of (what was mostly) fun in the sun. Yes, while most my of scenester friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances were lazing by pools at hotels much more lavishly appointed than mine, attempting to snag swag at the nearby Hugo Boss and DKNY parties, or still sleeping as deeply as coma patients, I was incredibly already at Coachella, ready to rawk. Sure, I was exhausted, but arriving at the crack of noon certainly had its perks--like actually making it on time to the relatively uncrowded early-afternoon sets by dreamy psych-folk rockers Fields (fantastic!) and cheeky Brit-punks the Cribs (ditto!). I certainly couldn't think of a better way to kick off day 2 of Coachella. I don't even like Hugo Boss clothes, anyway.

After the Cribs I stuck around in the Mojave Tent for the Fratellis--who, like the aforementioned Bay City Rollers, are Scottish. Just FYI. Anyway, it was around this time that the tent's temperature seemed to jump from a moderately uncomfortable 95 degrees to a downright hallucination-inducing heat level more typical of Native American sweatlodges--somewhere around, oh, I dunno, 300 degrees or so. That's what it felt like, anyway. Guess I wasn't the only person who wanted to see the raucous rock trio--that's the power of a ubiquitous iPod ad for ya. To the crowd's credit, though, many of the punters shoehorned into the densely packed tent seemed quite familiar with Fratellis tunes other than the buzz band's jaunty iPod theme "Flathead." In fact, the song that got the biggest response was "Chelsea Dagger," a glam-tinged, call-and-response, football-terrace-shouty anthem that ought to replace Gary Glitter's "Rock & Roll Part 2" at sporting matches, now that the infamous Glitter's music has been pretty much banned from family-friendly events like that. Just a suggestion.

Anyhoo, the Fratellis were fab. Sure, Pete Townshend didn't come out and play with them--he's a Fratellis fan and has been known to make cameos at their shows, and if he had this time, that surely would've even topped Friday's guest appearance by Scarlett Johansson with the Jesus & Mary Chain. But the Fratellis did just fine on their own, so no worries.

Incidentally, when I interviewed the Fratellis last month at South By Southwest, they amusingly devoted about 10 minutes to a rhapsodic discussion of their fondness for the Southern California grocery store chain Ralph's, which they discovered while recording their debut album in Los Angeles. Well, when I was driving to the fest yesterday, I did notice a big 24-hour Ralph's store in Indio, smack on the corner of 50th Avenue and Jefferson. I wonder if the Fratellis have had a chance to shop there yet?

But I digress. How unlike me. Again, I blame it on the sleep deprivation and sunstroke. Anyway, after the Fratellis, fans filed out of the tent singing along to the piped-in exit music--Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline"--and spirits were running high. Unfortch, the Fratellis' fellow Scotsmen, Travis, couldn't keep up that momentum over on the Main Stage. Now, don't get me wrong: I love me some Travis. Love. After all, they were Coldplay before Coldplay were Coldplay, and I'm still bitter that they never became the huge U.S. sensation they were predicted to become. But sadly, after yesterday's show, I'm pretty sure it ain't ever gonna happen for them in America. Too bad, so sad. But the gig was just lackluster. Suffice it to say that when frontman Fran Healy sang "All I Want To Do Is Rock," I didn't really believe him. 'Cuz he didn't. Rock, that is. Nice sentiment, poor execution.

Luckily, the next two bands rocked the Main Stage a whole lot harder. First up was Kings Of Leon, the Southern-fried Followill family band that--according to possibly spurious urban legend--was reared by a Pentecostal preacher papa in the back of a traveling missionary RV. Don't know if that's true--it's an awesome story either way, it sure looks good on paper--but KOL's Coachella show was nevertheless a religious experience. Until now I had mixed feelings about KOL's newest album, Because Of The Times, but after seeing them at Coachella, I am converted. Praise the Kings!

Equally revelatory was the sundown set by Montreal's Arcade Fire. I still insist that their song "Keep The Car Running" is a (probably unintentional) ripoff of Eddie & the Cruisers' "On The Dark Side," but that's not necessarily a bad thing. That song and other transcendent numbers like "Intervention" and "Neighborhood #3" certainly got my motor re-running after a long day.

So, newly second-winded, I decided to get my dance on. Really, I needed any excuse to avoid headliner Red Hot Chili Peppers' jock-rock (maybe it's my overall lack of testosterone, but that shiz is soooo not my scene; I ain't planning to see rap-rock Sunday headliner Rage Against The Machine, either). And boogie-ing to the expertly executed INXS/Lil' Mama, Justin Timberlake/Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins/Fergie mashups of DJs extraordinaire Girl Talk seemed like an excellent non-RHCP alternative. Yes, as you can see from the photo above--Girl Talk really know how to get the party started. No parking on the dance floor here, no siree! In fact, fans were leaping over the barricade in droves and hopping onto the stage to shake their groove thangs in earnest. I'm pretty sure I even spotted Perry Farrell's comely wife/Satellite Party cohort up onstage, in all her hotpants'd, platform-shoed glory.

Apparently a lot of people didn't want to see RHCP, judging from the huge number of glowstick-toting hard-partiers flocking to the Hi-NRG dance tent sets by cowbell-loving, electro-rock New Yorkers LCD Soundsystem and the Rapture. Unfortunately that crowd spillover did not, well, spill over to the Mojave Tent for the decidedly more downtempo Sparklehorse, the band that "won" the not-so-coveted Worst Timeslot Award for Saturday. Their delicate indie rock simply could not compete with the overamped decibel levels of the nearby Chili Peppers, so they ended up playing to a half-empty tent. (These guys really need to get a new booking agent, pronto.) Poor Sparklehorse--they were really good, too. All those people who instead subjected themselves to Anthony Kiedis's "singing" didn't know what they were missing.

All right, not to end things on a downer note, but Saturday's Biggest Disappointment Award goes not to Sparklehorse, or RHCP, or even Travis, but surprisingly to the Good, the Bad & the Queen--the Britpop supergroup featuring Blur/Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn, ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong, legendary world music drummer Tony Allen, and long-retired Clash bassist Paul Simonon. GB&Q were one of my most anticipated acts of the entire weekend, and when they went on an almost inexcusable 35 minutes late and the evening desert breeze started whipping sand into my already scorched retinas a la a scene out of Lawrence Of Arabia, my anticipation only grew more feverish.

So finally they emerged and a top-hatted, redcoated Damon intoned in a disconcertingly joyless, un-ringmaster-like manner, "We are going to play our album now." But it seemed more like they were just playing a maxi-single. Meaning, for about an hour they performed what sounded like the same song over and over and over. And over. Samey samey samey samey samey. Such a bummer, to have such star power all harnessed on one stage, and then see it go to waste. And I really WANTED to like GB&Q. I really, rilly did. I told myself I should like them. I tried to will myself to like them. I tried to will myself to not fall asleep on the lawn. But I could not deny that only about a third of Good, the Bad & the Queen's name was appropriate.

OK, I can't believe I'm about to head out for another 13 hours of this desert delirium. But, traffic permitting, I want to get there early to kick off my day on a happy note with the feelgood sounds of opening acts Mika, Lupe Fiasco, the Feeling, and the Kooks...all of whom should make up for last night's GB&Q-administered letdown. So I'll sign off for now, but check back later for a full report on Sunday sunny Sunday.

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