Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RAVEDEATH, 1972 - Tim Hecker (2011)

While trying to read meaning into the untethered abstractions of an ambient recording is usually a shaky proposition, I think it's safe to say that in the specific case of Tim Hecker's throbbing, sometimes jarring, massive-sounding Ravedeath, 1972, the assault on traditional music by modern digital technology was very much on his mind.

From the album's dated cover photo of M.I.T. engineers about to release a piano from a dormitory rooftop in the school's annual "Piano Drop" ritual, to the violent titles (Ravedeath 1972, Hatred Of Music, No Drums, Analog Paralysis, 1978, Studio Suicide, 1980), to the hypnotic blend of Hecker's aged, surging pipe organ (recorded in an abandoned Reykjavik, Iceland cathedral) doing seamless, chaotic battle with all manner of electronic elements, music is very much under attack on Ravedeath, 1972, and science/digitization/technology is the definite villain.

For fifty-three minutes, the record walks the knife's edge between melody and pure noise, artificial elements charging in to disrupt the mix every time a genuine pattern threatens to emerge. 

It's very much of a piece, continually dissonant, hard to grasp, and often explosively loud for an ambient album, but despite this sonic consistency, a sense of movement does exist.

Through the first five tracks, the combat reigns supreme, but then, in the album's critical sixth track, Part I of the Hatred Of Music suite, a clear mood builds, and the music begins to suggest another famous work that was also obsessed with technology's assault on humanity, the closing moments of Vangelis's score for the film Blade Runner

For those who remember the movie, it's almost impossible at this moment on the record not to envision Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty, in metaphoric synergy with Ravedeath, 1972's cover, holding Harrison Ford's Sam Deckard aloft over the dark, wet streets below.  And as with Batty, who in his final act chooses life over destruction, the album shifts direction at this point, the battles still continuing, but traditional melodic components bursting forth more and more, until in the final closing track, Part III of the In The Air suite, melody and traditional piano are near all that remains.

The conceptual message seems clear.  Music, no matter what left hooks technology throws its way, will always prevail. 

It's definitely not an album for everyone, sonically having more in common with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music than anything readers are used to hearing in a conventional sense, but I found Ravedeath, 1972 to be a fascinating conceptual listen, and believe many fans of ambient music will feel the same. 

So if you're in a daring listening mood, this is one challenging record I would definitely give a try.

Status: Strong Recommend.

Here's a music only rip of Ravedeath, 1972's centerpiece, Hatred Of Music Part I.

Component Breakdown:
1. The Piano Drop - 8
2. In The Fog Part I - 8
3. In The Fog Part II - 8
4. In The Fog Part III - 8
5. No Drums - 8
6. Hatred Of Music Part I- 9
7. Hatred Of Music Part II - 8
8. Analog Paralysis, 1978 - 8
9. Studio Suicide, 1980 - 8
10. In The Air Part I - 8
11. In The Air Part II - 8
12. In The Air Part III - 8
Intangibles - High.

What are your thoughts on Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972? Let readers know?

Friday, July 8, 2011


There was a woman I once new at the University of Illinois, a fraternity brother's steady girlfriend who I became regular study partners with as we fought to close out our grueling final year in electrical engineering. 

She was smart, funny, sweet and kind, a joy to be around, and also quite beautiful, but given that her beauty came in a quiet, classy, polite package (not to mention taken), she often found herself bypassed at parties by fraternity brothers of mine for whom qualities such as smarts, humor, sweetness and class were not of immediate primary interest.

So one night, at one of the biggest parties of the year, without saying a word, she shows up wearing nothing but slacks and a form-fitting, clear plastic top. I'm not talking somewhat revealing here. I'm talking one hundred percent transparent. 

Needless to say, none of us saw or treated her in quite the same way again, and when I finally asked her about her motivations months later, she answered matter-of-factly, "Everyone just saw me as so-and-so's sweet little girlfriend, and I was tired of being pigeon-holed and ignored.  There's so much more to me than that!"

Lykke Li's sophomore LP Wounded Rhymes feels born of the exact same female frustrations and intent.

Five years back, at the age of nineteen, the precocious young Swede began releasing spare dance-pop singles, finally aggregated in her 2008 full-length debut Youth Novels, that were striking in their emotional intimacy.  Tracks like Little Bit and Dance, Dance, Dance conveyed a sense of naked vulnerability few artists could match, and that shy, awkward vulnerability soon became the only talking point associated with her music.

But anyone who has seen Li live knows she is actually amongst the most searingly intense performers on the present-day concert circuit, a force to be reckoned with.

Enter Wounded Rhymes to set the record straight.

From the outset, with the hard-charging stomp Youth Knows No Pain, one senses vulnerability is not going to be a defining aspect this time around.

By the time one reaches the album's fifth track, the sexually dominating Get Some, where Li declares (in the year's most quoted lyric) "Like a shotgun / needs an outcome / I'm your prostitute / you're gonna get some" it's a certainty. 

Though she's still exploring moments of high emotional turmoil, commitment, and disappointment here, only on the haunting, desperate I Know Places does Li return to Youth Novels' trademark intimacy.

Otherwise, Wounded Rhymes is as much of a radical departure musically as it is lyrically. 

Where the stylistically varied debut was stark, gentle and restrained, Rhymes is lush, tough and explosive, locked in on a musical palette that pairs 60s-flavored garage rockers and Brill/Doo Wap/Spectorian ballads in equal measure with all manner of exotic, sampled, thoroughly modern percussion.  Listening to the bouncing ping pong balls that open Youth Knows No Pain, one imagines Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation, Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, and Flying Lotus's Cosmogramma may have been the only albums Li and producer/arranger Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn, & John) allowed during breaks in the recording sessions.

Throughout on this exceptionally consistent effort, Li emerges as a far more forceful singer and presence than ever before, demanding attention.  Even tracks with a decidedly downbeat sentiment, like the Carole Kingish Sadness Is A Blessing, have a triumphant swagger to them.

In truth, I probably still like the in-most-ways inferior Youth Novels better, so great were those high points and moments of intimacy, but by any measure, Wounded Rhymes is a remarkably confident and assertive stylistic shift for such a young artist, and seems destined to become one of 2011's signature albums.

Makes one wonder, in the most promising sense...

"What else have we failed to see in Lykke Li that she is yet to reveal?"

Status: Strong Recommend.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Get Some, Rich Kids Blues, Sadness Is A Blessing, I Know Places.

Here's the official video for the assertive Get Some (a bit inappropriate for younger viewers).

Component Breakdown:
1. Youth Knows No Pain - 9
2. I Follow Rivers - 8
3. Love Out Of Lust - 8
4. Unrequited Love - 7
5. Get Some - 9
6. Rich Kids Blues - 9
7. Sadness Is A Blessing - 9
8. I Know Places - 9
9. Jerome - 7
10. Silent My Song - 6
Intangibles - Average to High

What are your thoughts on Lykke Li's Wounded Rhymes? Let readers know!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

TOMBOY - Panda Bear (2011)

As cohesive, original, and carefully designed an album as 2011 has produced, Panda Bear's Tomboy is nonetheless a highly unsatisify listen, a work where confessional lyrics and inventive, expiremental approaches to vocal melody, percussion, and instrumentation all ultimately come to serve at cross purposes, resulting in a druggy, busy, "hard to connect with" album of minimal staying power. 

But then, the forging of druggy, busy, "hard to connect with" music of minimal staying power is nothing new for Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) or his compatriots in Animal Collective.  I just felt that in recent years, following Panda Bear's winning '07 solo release Person Pitch and Animal Collective's fantastic '09 release Merriweather Post Pavillion, Panda and the band were finally on a evolutionary trajectory towards greater accessibility, particularly with the dropping of their early career penchant for intentionally confusing mood.

But alas, no.  Tomboy is a return to the cluttered, obfuscating tactics of Feels and Strawberry Jam.

The approach is made clear from the get go in opener You Can Count On Me.  Over a roiling, repetive sea of  warping, sequencer-morphed keys and guitars, Panda's Brain Wilson vocals are patiently stretched end-to-end, like a ship captain calmly calling out to steady his crew amid a terrible storm.

And for eleven tracks, it's a pattern that with minor variations holds.

Taken individually, the music, Panda's dark lyrics full (as the cover image implies) of thoughts of self-doubt, and, most significantly, the vocal melodies, are often impressive...but the sounds never consistently congeal, and the lyrics are rendered unintelligible throughout by the stretched-out delivery and several delay effects. 

My guess is various chemical "enhancers" may vastly improve one's ability to appreciate Tomboy, but I think most drug-free straights like me will find the material sonically appealing at times but otherwise inpenetrable. 

Aside for Last Night At The Jetty, the album's most conventional and most successful mid-tempo track, the album works best in it's moments of extreme quiet (Sheherazade) or tempo (Afterburner), where the layers of clutter that bog down the rest of the LP are stripped away, resulting in simpler, more easily appreciated dynamics.

So, a disappointed mild recommend for Tomboy

It's too unique and intentional an album to dismiss outright, but in the end, it left me feeling absolutely nothing.

Status: Mild Recommend.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Tomboy, Last Night At The Jetty, Sheherazade, Afterburner.

Here's the official video for Alsatian Darn, which gives a good sense of the album's repetitve, druggy nature.

Component Breakdown:
1. You Can Count On Me - 6
2. Tomboy - 7
3. Slow Motion - 6
4. Surfer's Hymn - 7
5. Last Night At The Jetty - 8
6. Drone - 7
7. Alsatian Darn - 6
8. Sheherazade - 8
9. Friendship Bracelet - 4
10. Afterburner - 8
11. Benfica - 5
Intangibles - Very Low

What are your thoughts on Panda Bear's Tomboy?  Let readers know.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Coachella Gets It Right In 2011! The Artists...Not So Much!

Last update 09/11/2011.

After 2010's overcrowded nightmare, the question on every fan's mind in 2011 was not who would be the top act of the weekend, but would festival promoter Goldenvoice correct the myriad of logistical problems that plagued last year's otherwise excellent fest.

Would the new UPS delivered wristbands and additional security checkpoints reduce the astronomical number of gate crashers that flooded the Empire polo fields in 2010?  Would the expanded acreage, added sixth stage, and widened tents alleviate the overcrowding and congestion, especially around the outdoor theater.  Would Coachella return to the days when the vibe and ease of the festival was as much of a draw as the always mind-blowing lineup.

Well, congratulations Goldenvoice.  Mission accomplished.  Nearly every rabbit you pulled out of your hat in 2011 won the crowd. 

Though it sold out in just 6 days, and had at least fifteen thousand more attendees, the 2011 festival was easily the most manageable since 2008.

Traffic and parking entry were comparatively quick, security/scanning lines were a breeze, and though still crowded, for the first time in three years I didn't get squeezed out of a single show.

And as always, the music was top notch.  Though there were some flat spots Friday and Sunday, and while unlike others I wasn't floored by any of the headlining acts, the daytime performances were collectively the best I have ever seen, and several of the evening undercard acts I caught, particularly Elbow, PJ Harvey, Cut Copy, The Kills, Trentemoller, and Robyn, destroyed.

Coachella 2011's Human-Powered Condor
  The massive art displays, always an endearing secondary draw, weren't up to snuff with past years (though I personally loved the giant metal condor), but I'm fine with that, as it's clear the bulk of this year's discretionary spending went towards correcting logistical concerns.

The one criticism I can lay at Coachella 2011, and it's a relatively minor one, is aimed more at the artists.  From the Chemical Brother's to Lauryn Hill to Marina and the Diamonds to the Stokes to the festival's train wreck set by Cee Lo Green, artists missed scheduled start times like never before.

Because the festival is so tightly scheduled and sets so short (45-50 minutes on average), these late starts can really prove disastrous, and Goldenvoice handled them the only way it logically could, by denying these artists the opportunity to play past their originally schedule end time.  This resulted in a number of dramatically shortened sets...and in a few instances, some very pissed off performers.

But otherwise, Coachella 2011 was a marvelous addition to the festival's growing legend. 

Here are a few lists highlighting the best of what I saw.  After that, I'll begin a more detailed break down of each day's performances.

Best Day:

SATURDAY - Best opening act (The Love Language), best headliner set (The Arcade Fire), and the two strongest performances I caught all weekend (Foals and Elbow).  Throw in other fine sets by Freelance Whales, Tallest Man On Earth, Broken Social Scene, and The Kills and you've got the makings of one of the two or three best single days I've ever experienced at the festival.

McQ's Favorite Performances:

Keep in mind, with six stages running almost continuously, any one person's impression of this festival is fragmentary at best...but of the 81 acts I saw, these were the 11 I enjoyed most.

1. FOALS - Staggering technical musicianship from this raging UK dance-rock act.
2. ELBOW - Warm classic rock flavored anthems delivered with epic hugeness and heart.
3. PJ HARVEY - a quiet, relatively still, but mesmerizing set.
4. ROBYN - Started out dancing up a storm to her techno hits, then blew me away with her connectedness to the string of Madonesque ballads she closed with.
5. CUT//COPY - They were great, but hard to gauge how great, as crowd was best I have ever seen.  Electric environment.
6. BLACK JOE LEWIS AND THE HONEYBEARS - Just a great time had by all who attended this Soul/Shaggy College Rock act's blistering opening day set.
7. THE LOVE LANGUAGE - Didn't know a thing about Saturday's opening band, an indie-pop act with a romantic, Walkmen-like vibe, but they were astonishing...a pitch perfect show.
8. DELOREAN - Those who are more familiar with their soaring brand of electronic music felt the set was marred by sound problems, but I was swept away by their swirl and their great drummer.
9. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE - The perfect festival band delivers a near perfect set. 
10. ARCADE FIRE - Best of the three headlining sets was slowed at times by the less fit for live translation material from The Suburbs, but I'll never forgot those 2000 white beach balls falling onto the crowd from atop the mainstage catwalk, and then changing colors in sync with the rest of the show's lighting design.  A priceless novel gimmick, perfectly executed.
11. HIGH CONTRAST - My favorite DJ set of the weekend...wonderful fun for those who caught this late Sunday afternoon set in the Oasis dome.

McQ's 5 Favorite Individual Songs

1. ELBOW - ONE DAY LIKE THIS - Rousing sing-along close to festival's second best set.
2. FOALS - TWO STEPS, TWICE - I didn't think they could top Afterglow or Spanish Sahara from their already festival best set.  They did...easily.
3. TITUS ANDRONICUS - BATTLE OF HAMPTON ROADS/TITUS ANDRONICUS FOREVER - Closing 20 minutes of this unique New Jersey punk outfit's set were glorious.
4. ARCADE FIRE - WAKE UP - Their best song and all those beach balls.
5. MENOMENA - TAOS - My favorite ass-kicking track of 2010 kicking ass and taking names live in 2011.

6 Best Random Moments:

6. CEE LO GREEN VS. COACHELLA - Those plotting their Friday evening around a fun Cee Lo Green set were instead treated to a thirty-five minute delay.  When Green final arrived on stage, dressed in the black jeans and white T-shirt he had just woken up in, he immediately started blaming the gaff on Coachella management for giving him such a shitty set-time.  The promptness loving Coachella crowd was having none of it, and responded with a audience-wide middle finger salute.  When Cee Lo launched into Fuck You fifteen minutes later, the song had taken on an entirely new meaning. After, when his band started into Journey's Don't Stop Believin', Green launched into another rant, and stage power was promptly cut.  Needless to say, I think this was Green's last time on a Coachella stage.  Very entertaining, not in the way I imagine Cee Lo intended, but very entertaining.

5. DURAN DURAN'S ENTHUSIASM - Duran Duran's Sunday night set wasn't a very top act for me, but they acquitted themselves surprisingly well, and no group over the weekend was happier to be there than this often critically maligned 80s act.  Clearly on a mission to resurrect their reputation, they gave everything they had in this set.  Gentlemen, consider yourselves resurrected.

4. SHARING THE DREAM - One of the sweetest moment's of the festival came early Sunday on the Outdoor Theater, when one of the young singers for the Simon and Garfunkel-like Good Old War brought out his music-loving suburbanite father, replete with calf-high socks, late-middle aged paunch, and a Phillies t-shirt, to sing backing vocals on their final song.

3. CHROMEO ALONE-O - With set time schedule's going off the wire all weekend long, this Canadian Dance act suddenly found themselves the one performing live act Sunday night, and it seemed as if the entire grounds had broken into dance as I slowly worked my way to the mainstage for the start of the Strokes. 

2. GOODBYE DEAR FRIEND - Halfway through their blistering set, hardcore punk band OFF!'s lead singer Keith Morris paused to introduce the song Eulogy, written for Jeffrey Lee Pierce, late leader of the seminal 80s/90s punk outfit The Gun Club and Morris best friend. Morris spoke with genuine heart-wrenching emotion, discussing Pierce's influence and friendship, before ultimately breaking into tears, and then launching into one of the most savage punk tracks you will ever hear.  Again, had to be there, but a spell binding moment.

1. THOSE DAMN ARCADE FIRE BEACH BALLS - The 2011 festival's signature moment.

And now, on to the day-by-day reviews.


For me, each day this year had a distinctly different feel to it.  Saturday felt awash in classic and indie rock vibes.  Sunday had a strong experimental lean, what with Kanye, DFA 1979 and PJ Harvey amongst the evening's top billed acts, and a plethora of wildly inventive lesser known acts dominating the evening slate of the Gobi and Mojave.

Friday, in contrast, was all about dance.  From the funky opening punches of Black Joe Lewis and !!!, through the epic Cut Copy/Crystal Castles/Robyn/Chemical Brothers string of club and DJ acts, dance oriented acts dominated from start to finish.

Here's how I'd rank what I saw from Friday's performances.


1. Robyn 10:50 - 11:40 Mojave: Supported by two excellent live drummers and two keyboardists/sequencers, symmetrically arranged around a center microphone, Robyn took the stage just a few minutes late, and was a whirling dynamo from the get-go.  The opening half of her set was dominated primarily by her more techno flavored numbers - Fembots, Cobrastyle, Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do - before launching into latest release Body Talk's biggest hit Dancing On My Own. I was immediately struck by just how perfectly structured this pop song is...similar to how I felt watching the crowd get swept up in Born To Run's starts and pauses when I saw Springsteen in 2009.  Unlike your dime a dozen American Idol contestant aping lame AM diva's like Miriah Carey, Christina Aguilera, or Jennifer Hudson, Robyn doesn't waste her time with all that gratuitous vocal masturbation...she sings her lines straight, clean, and true, imbuing her Madonna-esque pop songs with far more heartfelt emotion than the more predatory/less earnest Madonna herself was ever able to conjure.  Needless to say, the song was a didn't make my top five songs of the weekend list, but it would be in the next five.  Following that peak, Robyn jumped into a couple more techno numbers, before crushing the crowd with four more of the best pop songs from her last two albums (Indestructible, Be Mine, Hang With Me, With Every Heartbeat), all of which played nearly as strong as Dancing On My Own.  A fantastic close to the best set of the day.


2. Cut/Copy 8:35 - 9:25 Mojave: Sometimes the crowd is just ready to celebrate a young band's existence, or maybe it just has something to do with the first day time slot.  I remember being floored by how vocally enthusiastic the crowd was at Beirut's set in the same stage and almost same time in 2009...which to date had been the most amped I'd ever seen a Coachella crowd...but this crowd was twice that.  From the moment Cut/Copy took the stage through a cheesy "Twilight Zone" door isolated in the middle of the stage, the crowd was at a fever pitch.  That Cut/Copy then rose to match the audience's fervor with one of the sharpest performance of the weekend only took things higher.  Playing the bulk of the best of the material from their last two releases, including Lights & Music and Hearts On Fire from In Ghost Colors and  Need You Now, Take Me Over, and Pharaohs & Pyramids from Zonoscope, the band was sharp from start to finish, and for an act not now for their strong vocals, I thought their live harmonies were top notch.  Just an excellent high energy set all the way through with a phenomenal crowd.

3. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears 1:55 - 2:40 Mojave:  Noticing a trend?  The Mojave tent was where the best action was at in 2011, and the first great Mojave set in 2011 came from this rocking young act out of Austin, Texas.  Dabbling in classic soul, but giving it a less disciplined, sloppier, irreverent college rock slant, Black Joe delivered the best of both niches...all the power and "sweep you off your feet" energy of a traditional, high-powered soul review, combined with the "go for broke" spotaneity of an exhuberant jam band.  It's hard to put into words how ass-kicking this set was.  Black Joe isn't nearly as good a singer as say, a Sharon Jones, or even a Mayer Hawthorne, but he fits perfectly from a personality standpoint with the act's college-rock leanings, and the overall visceral, booty-shaking thunder the band delivered in the peak moments of this set was simply irrestible.  I missed the last couple tracks to catch the back half of !!!, but came away tremendously impressed.  Add these guys to my list of must see live acts.  Just a ton of fun.


Titus Andronicus - Coachella 2011
 4. Titus Andronicus 3:30 - 4:15 Outdoor Theater:  Titus took the stage a few minutes early in the peak of the mid-afternoon sun and proceed to take the temperature several degrees higher with a blistering opening rendition of A More Perfect Union. As one familiar with this band's shaggy, drawn-out E-Street Band flavored take on punk rock, the playing and sound was a bit sloppy, but the energy was great. Crazy-eyed, bearded Patrick Stickles proved an engaging front-man, claiming in one between-song break to be a all-out Luddite and asking people in the audience to text Lil' B The Base God that he was a big fan and wanted to meet the fellow weekend performer.  The middle portion of this set sagged a touch, hampered by the not-great sound and Stickles' less-than-stellar singing voice, but the final twenty-minute stretch of Battle Of Hampton Roads/Titus Andronicus Forever/The Theme From Cheers, where the energy and Stickles fantastic lyrical talents and gift for rousing catch-phrases came to the fore, was stone cold killer...with Hampton Roads/Titus Andronicus Forever going down as one of my five favorite performance moments of the entire festival.

Here's a fan video of set opener A More Perfect Union.

5. Warpaint 4:40 - 5:25 Outdoor Theater: Originally, I only planned on giving this all-female, moody Southern Cal art-rock act about ten minutes.  They were buried smack dab in the middle of probably the biggest conflict clusterf--- of the whole festival, and I'm just not that big of a fan of their latest release, 2010s The Fool.  But man, do those moody, wonky songs from that album play better live.  If you've given The Fool a listen, you know it's an album much less focused on big picture items like over-arching melodies and accessible verse-chorus structures, and much more focused on an "in the moment" flow of engaging  tiny details and odd instrumental collisions.  On record, it's hard to make these subtle, complicated and inventive touches shine without losing them some in the mix, but on this day, at the outdoor theater, where base, drums, keys and guitars and whatever other instruments the band brought out could all be cranked to 11 and still maintain a clear aural separation in that open desert air, the combinations proved intoxicating.  All and all, this was probably the best sounding set of the entire festival, and unlike any other over the three day weekend, and with Cee Lo taking 35 extra-minutes to get on stage, I ended up lucky enought to catch almost the whole thing.
Here's the official Coachella video of their performance of Undertow.

6. New Pants 1:00 - 1:40 Gobi:  I had no intention of catching this Japanese act, knowing nothing about them other than one goofy, Devo-like video I had screened on Youtube.  But Hurts, despite receiving raves from many attendees, were boring me to tears over in the Mojave, so I popped in on my way to The Rural Alberta Advantage and ended up witnessing one of the surprise sets of the weekend.  The quartet was midway through performing a decent M83ish shoegaze number, and then immediately jumped into a hard-charging rocker.  It quickly became apparent that this band had a ton of range, which I guess is not surprising coming from a notorious Karaoke loving country.  Each song felt like a stylistic 180 from the previous number, but all were delivered with tons of energy and humor.  And that Devo-like song did ultimately arrive in the setlist, supported by the most sophisticated of wardrobe changes, highlighted in the picture above.

Here's a fan video of that opening shoegaze number.  I have no idea what the song name is.

7. Ms. Lauryn Hill 6:05 - 6:55 Main Stage: Can't say I had the best vantage point for this show, as I had retreated to the South Beer Garden with friends, and like Cee Lo, Lauryn was late to start.  But unlike Cee Lo, she was incredibly gracious handling her shortened set, and rather than embarass herself as many in the media had predicted after her long performing layoff, put on a wonderful show. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has always been one of those must get albums that I missed when it first came out and have always put off purchasing...but no longer.  After watching this set, I'll be grabbing myself a copy in the near future for sure.

Here's Ms. Hill's own composite video of her performance of Everything Is Everything and The Sweetest Thing at the festival.

Other Friday Sets Of Positive Note

8. The Rural Alberta Advantage 1:15 - 1:55 Outdoor Theater: I only caught about twenty minutes from this young, lively Canadian folk-rock act with its gravelly voice lead singer, but found them to be energetic and appealing.

Here's a fan video of their closing number, Stamp.

9. The Chemical Brothers 11:40 pm - End Main Stage: The Chemical Brothers were late getting stage, and the set was a touch more mellow overall than I had to see this late in the evening, but otherwise this was an excellent show to close out day one.  Supported by some amazing, very trippy video work (though nothing like the trippiness that would come the next evening with Animal Collective) and an overhanging conical light mesh similar to what U2 had going on with their No Line On The Horizon tour, the blend of image and music was the message.

Here's a fan video that kinda captures the set's ridiculously high-end video work.

10. Tame Impala 5:50 - 6:35 Outdoor Theater: I had hoped for a touch more from this young act out of Australia.  A one-man bedroom project on album, my chief complaint was that singer/guitarist Kevin Parker is far stronger drummer on record than touring bandmate Jay Watson is live.  For music so dependent on percussion to provide not just rhythm, but color, Watson's competent but unspectacular chops were a significant hindrance.  Credit should go to Parker though...somehow he manged to expertly recreate the band's swirling, signature guitar effects live, and their closing number was fantastic.  All in all, a very good set, but with a better drummer could have been great.

Here's the whole show, as captured by 5-Gum and Coachella.

11. The Black Keys 8:30 - 9:40 Main Stage: Having seen the Keys in '09, I only caught their blistering closing number,  I Got Mine from Attack & Release, after exiting Cut Copy's set, but it was excellent.  Others I spoke to said the earlier portions of the set had been plagued by sound problems, but all seemed kosher as I approached.

Here's what I walked in on.

12. Crystal Castles 9:30 - 10:20 Outdoor Theater: I came away pleasantly surprised from this set.  I love both of this electronica act's full length releases, but bad live reviews from previous shows abound.  Tonight, however, they were game entertainers, especially impressive considering lead singer Alice Glass was performing on a recently broken ankle.  In the end, I still think they're intricate pop/electronic material is best experienced on record, but a fine performance nonetheless.

Here's a high quality fan video of Baptism from their latest LP.

13. Tokimonsta 12:30 - 1:30 Sahara Tent: Having a general hardcore preference for the live band experience over the live DJ experience (though appreciative of both), I usually skip all but a handful of Sahara Tent acts each year, but due to a favorable schedule break and a positive recommendation from a co-worker who moonlights himself as a DJ, I decided to check the first of this young Asian-American DJ's set out, and was happy I did.  A very chill and atmospheric set.

Here's a brief sample.

14. Cee Lo Green 4:50 (actually 5:20) - 5:40 Main Stage:  You can see my comments on this debacle up above in my 6 Favorite Random moments section, but aside from the very late start and the hostilities, I have to say when Cee Lo was actually performing, this set was quite good, and has often maligned band actually sounded fine.  Of course, when your set time has been trimmed down so short that your set list plays with Bright Lights Big City, Crazy, Fuck You and one other song, it's going to play well.

Here's the Gnarls Barkley track Crazy.


15.The Drums 4:10 - 4:55 Mojave Tent: I only caught two songs of the Drum's Mojave set.  Loved the happened to walk in right as they were working my two favorite tracks (Let's Go Surfing and I Need Fun In My Life), but was thrown by Jonathan Pierce, whose voice sounds nothing live like it does on their debut, and who in person comes off more like a shifty, meth-addled surf-punk than the innocent, earnest young gent one imagines on record.  Sound was muddy, too. So love the songs, but the band's live vibe robbed them of much of their on-record charm.

Here's a fan video of Surfing and Forever And Ever, Amen.

16. !!! 2:20 - 3:10 Outdoor Theater: !!! weren't bad, and I did miss their first couple of tracks, including most likely AM/FM off of Strange Weather, which would have definitely added some umph to what I saw, but overall, I was very underwhelmed by this celebrated live act. Their closer Heart of Hearts from Myth Takes was fantastic, but everything that came before that was just so-so, and each time lead singer Nic Offer announced the band's job was to "get the party started", or that "they were there to blow the roof off the house", I just kept think back to Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, who had just done this three fold over in the Mojave Tent.  My guess is had Coachella gone to the double weekend format in 2010, !!! might have benefitted as much as anyone the second week after hearing how badly Black Joe kick their ass in week one.

Here's the official Coachella video of their strong closing number.

17. The Morning Benders 4:30 - 5:20 Gobi Tent: In fairness to this band, whose album I've come to appreciate to far greater degree since Coachella, I was just passing through from The Drums to Warpaint.  That said, mid-afternoon on Day One was far from the best time for their very sleepy, West Coast Grizzly Bear vibe.  Probably would have enjoyed more if I was more familiar with their debut at the time, but I wasn't, and what I caught of this set played very dull.

Here's a fan captured snippet.

18. Interpol 7:25 - 8:15 Main Stage: Okay, I'm going to catch fire for this one, but I hated this set, bored me silly.  That said, in fairness I've never been a fan of the band...their updated take on Joy Division/Psychedelic Furs-flavored 80s murk has never worked for me aside from a couple of tunes of their most celebrated album Turn On The Bright Lights, and to be honest, I'm also confused why they were even invited this year, as nothing they've done the last half decade seemed to merit a return to Coachella.

But here they were, and having already seen Sleigh Bells, and as it was also unlikely I'd ever put down money to see Interpol in a headlining slot of their own, this was the time to bite the bullet and see if I was wrong about the band.

I wasn't, and that bullet went down painfully hard...but I'm sure fans loved this show plenty.  My negativity here is purely a reflection on my personal tastes, not the effort or caliber of their performance, which was fully professional, or the light show, which was pretty damn cool.

Here's a look at Obstacle 1.

19. Hurts 1:00 - 1:35 Mojave Tent: Caught the opening ten minutes of this very mellow act before moving on to Rural Alberta Advantage.  Based on the number of people on the message boards ranking this set in their top five for the weekend, it must have gotten much better than what I saw, which was a very mannered, static, formally dressed synth-pop band delivering a quiet set with an intentional physical restraint. We're talking almost My Bloody Valentine levels of non-interaction.  The vibe was kind of cool, the music sounded okay, but I just was in no mood to chill like this this early on Day One.  Check out the back-up singer on the left...he didn't move an inch the entire time I was watching.

20. Kings Of Leon 9:55 - 11:15 Main Stage: The least anticipated headliner of the weekend was very flat for the few minutes I caught, but in fairness to them, I only saw about a ten minute stretch before moving on to Robyn, and that stretch was two ballads I hadn't heard before, so I probably witnessed the quietest part of their show.  Still, though I like this band sporadically on record, what I saw did nothing to peak my interest towards ever catching a full set from the live. They were pretty damn dull.

Here's them doing one of the songs I wish I had caught, Crawl.

21. Miguel Noon - 12:30 Mojave Tent: After Kate-Miller Heidke's knock-out opening set to kick off Coachella 2010, I was pumped to see what the first live act of 2011 would deliver. Sadly, 2011's first set was one of it's very worst.  Combining the cheesiest musical elements and performance tics of Usher and Journey (of which there are many), along with some of the dorkiest synchronized robot moves I've ever seen, Miguel felt like a lowest common denominator, mass-marketed dance club acts, so instead of kicking off my day with a fun set, I quickly found myself bailing to grab a bite instead.

I'm all for a huge variety of music being represented at Coachella, put please Goldenvoice, no lame AM radio/Total Request Live/teeny bopper crap like this. Usher is too lame an artist to play Coachella in my book, and he's five times cooler than Miguel.  Guy should have never been on the bill, and I'm assuming he was packaged in by an agent to seal the deal on a more noteworthy artist.

Here's the opening number that sent me running for a pulled-pork sandwich.

to Saturday 2011 Review.