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Scarlett Fever & Other Friday Coachella Highlights

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

Unlike most Coachella rumors (no, the Police did NOT sign up for Coachella this year), the one about J&MC being joined by Scarlett Johansson miraculously turned out to be true. To be honest, it was somewhat anti-climactic. She walked out wordlessly, in a Brady Bunch '60s shift dress and John Taylor fedora that covered much of her gorgeous face (I did briefly spot Scarlett backstage later on, and yes, she is GORGEOUS), and Jim Reid quipped unassumingly, "Well, should we do this, then?" They then played "Just Like Honey," which was subtly--and I do mean subtly--enhanced by about 10 or 15 seconds of Scarlett's backup cooing. I have to say, though, from what I could make of it, she sounded pretty damn good. You know, only Scarlett Johansson could star in a video by (and be romantically linked to) Justin Timberlake one month, and then get onstage at an indie-rock festival with a vintage '80s goth band the next. It makes me think she'll actually be able to pull off her upcoming solo album, a collection of Tom Waits covers creatively titled Scarlett Johansson Sings Tom Waits (seriously!). Let's try to see fellow it-girl thesps-turned-pop stars like Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan try that!

OK, before I get to the other main events of the day, honorable-mention shoutouts must go out to hard-charging multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-genre power trio the Noisettes; clown-face-painted glam squad Of Montreal; and local faves Silversun Pickups. After that came Satellite Party, the new "supergroup" fronted by Perry Farrell, who always manages to make it to Coachella in one incarnation or another, be it Porno For Pyros or an umpteenth Jane's Addiction reunion or this latest endeavor. "Coachella, we meet again!" exclaimed Perry upon greeting the audience, most of whom seemed to have no idea until that very moment that Perry even had a new band, and therefore were quite surprised to see him.

Probably even more surprising was the fact that Nuno Bettencourt--yes, THAT Nuno Bettencourt, from Extreme--was on lead guitar, providing plenty of screechy Musician's Institute riffage. Guess the otherwise-employed Nuno is still avoiding Gary Cherone's calls. Anyhoo, the band also featured Perry's nubile, peroxided, vaguely pornstar-ish wife on backup vocals/visual interest duties. The sound wasn't good enough for me to discern whether or not she could actually sing, or if she was just pulling a Linda McCartney, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. For all I know, she's the next Maria Callas.

Meanwhile, Perry did this thing, blathering a lot of hippie shiz about Satellite Party's plans to change the world and whatnot. Good luck with that, Perry. But the man once again reminded us all that he's an amazing performer, particularly when he blitzkrieged through the Jane's classic "Stop" (blissfully unaware that that particular number got about a jillion times stronger a crowd response than any actual Satellite Party song).

Next up was Amy Winehouse, inexplicably playing the intimate Gobi Tent despite the fact that she's got a top 15 album right now and is the fastest-rising British female star in U.S. chart history. Or herstory, as the case may be. Anyway, the Gobi Tent was unsurprisingly a Winehouse madhouse, leaving me with two less-than-ideal options. Option 1: Stand where I could actually hear Amy's smoky, Motown-y vocals, but get only an obstructed and rather unexciting view of the backs of the 50 gazillion seemingly 6-foot-5 people in front of me. Option 2: Stand where I could see Amy in all her damaged, rehab-resistant glory, but barely hear her due to Circa Survive's competing noise from the neighboring Mojave Tent. I went with option 2, and I have to say, Amy looked like a STAR. Probably the only star who can successfully rock a ratty B52's-castoff beehive hairpiece, armfuls of Tommy Lee-esque tattoos, and a white husband-beater (that term seems more appropriate than "wife-beater" in this instance) tank-top. Speaking of husbands, did ya know that Amy just got engaged? Ooh, gawd help the man who tries to make an honest woman out of Amy. I just hope there's no open bar at her wedding reception...

Over on the Main Stage, 2005-06 buzz band the Arctic Monkeys proved they still deserve their hype in 2007, playing a blistering set that kicked off with a positively brianstorming "Brianstorm." But to be honest, I was more interested in another Friday artist hailing from Sheffield, England: you guessed it, my oft-gushed-over hero, former Pulp frontman Sir Jarvis Cocker. I've always adored Pulp; back in the Britpoppin' 1990s, when people would ask me where I stood on the whole Oasis-vs.-Blur debate (and I was asked this fairly often, strangely), my answer was: "None of the above! Pulp!" And Pulp hardly ever toured the U.S., so seeing Jarvis Cocker live onstage was a real treat for me.

I actually saw the real live Jarvis earlier, when I spent a good chunk of Amy Winehouse's set staring at him, since he was also in the audience. Don't worry, though, I didn't stalk him--mainly because he's about 8 feet tall, and therefore his long-legged strides were way too much for me to keep up with. I gave up trying to follow him after about 30 seconds...but not before getting a chance to admire the fact that, despite the heat and unrelenting sun, he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt AND professorial corduroy blazer. You gotta love Jarv for putting fashion before comfort. He is truly a man of style.

So the rockin' Mr. Cocker started his set about 20 agonizing minutes late due to technical difficulties, but I was quick to forgive him. First, he apologized in an oh-so-English, charmingly polite way; second, he bent over and shook his skinny behind in the audience's direction during the "where the sun don't shine" line in "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time"; third, he namechecked yacht-rock icon Christopher Cross TWICE during his highly entertaining, dry-witted stage banter, which I found oddly amusing; and fourth, he was just simple AWESOME. I never wanted it to end, but unfortch it did, and sooner rather than later, since those damned technical difficulties ate into his set time. "Sorry, but it's not called the Jarvis Cocker Festival," he shrugged modestly. "I'm only here tonight; no one wants to see me blather on for 72 hours." Don't be so sure, Jarvis. If a three-day Jarvis Cocker Festival ever becomes a glorious reality, I'll be buying a ticket, pronto...

And finally, the other big highlight of the day was the reunion by the warring Reid brothers of the aforementioned Jesus & Mary Chain. Screw the Rage Against The Machine reunion, which everyone other than myself seems to be so jazzed about--THIS was the 2007 Coachella comeback to see, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, I was so excited when they started playing "Head On," I bizarrely morphed into one of those hackeysack-loving, Bonnaroo-attending hippies often sighted at festivals like these: Yes, I kicked off my shoes and started dancing like a free-spirited wood nymph right there on the Coachella lawn. I'm sure this is not the reaction that J&MC--with their dark gloom tunes like "Happy When It Rains"--are used to. But hey, at least it was nighttime; watching these goth gods play under a blazing blood red sky would have just been plain wrong.

All right, off to get my 3.5 hours of beauty sleep now...

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