The wait is finally over.
The steamy drive into the desert is complete, the minutia of getting here and inside is taken care of, and I have been loosed upon the weekend.
Annually, the promoters try to refine the entry process for the festival, and this year was no different. Press pickup and will-call was way off-campus this time (Indian Wells), and in an attempt to crack down on shenanigans, checkpoints were set up, and no one was allowed within a mile of the venue without a wristband.
Even the wristbands themselves have been upgraded to be as "slip-off proof" as ever, complete with a locking mechanism and a bar-code scanner that checks you in and out of the venue each time you go in or out. All said, though, the process was easy-peasy, and they have things running quite efficiently. But it's hot. Really hot. Like, it-feels-like-we're-a-mile-from-the-sun hot. Like, I-was-sweating-long-before-I-even-got-out-of-my-car-to-make-the-long-ass-trek-from-the-south-40-parking-lot-to-the-venue-itself hot. And they say tomorrow is going to be even hotter.
But every time I wonder why Goldenvoice doesn't ease the suffering and do this thing in October, I just look around at the massive throng of scantily-clad concert-goers and realize that their philosophy has got to be that a couple of heat strokes is an acceptable amount of collateral damage for the never-ending parade of washboard abs and bejeweled midriffs. I mean, they are sufficiently staffed with a boat-load of paramedics armed with cold compresses and bottles of water. And there are shady escapes all over. I would personally rather have a cool breeze, but I get it.
Got a tad-late start Friday, but that always seems to be the case when I get into town on Friday instead of Thursday. I first made my way over to the Gobi Tent to see Brandt Brauer Frick, a German three-piece that calls itself "acoustic techno" but had missed the first three songs/first 15 minutes, so I couldn't get into the photo pit to shoot pictures. But they were great, and I'd love to catch them again in a small venue.
Heading over toward electricity in the media tent to charge my cell phone coincided with Ozomatli starting on the Coachella (main) Stage, so I checked them out for awhile. Despite having seen them about a thousand times, they delivered a quality set at what seemed like the hottest part of the day -- all while gussied up in suits. Nice work, gentlemen. Next it was Cee-Lo Green. He was extremely late and announced, when he finally hit the stage, that he only had 20 minutes. Despite proclaiming that "if they didn't want me to be late, they should have given me a better time slot," he seemed to please the crowd by including two of his major hits in recent years, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and his own recent smash, "F--- You." But what would have been the most interesting part of the set -- a cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" -- unfortunately was plug-pulled right after the trademark intro and before Mr. Green could utter a single word of the lyrics. He should have opened with that one or just got his ass there earlier.
Next up were the Australian youngsters Tame Impala on the Outdoor Stage. The psych-rockers released one of the better rock records of last year and captured the essence of it during their set. Then it was back to the main stage to see Ms. Lauryn Hill. I hadn't seen her perform live since the Fugees days, and, thankfully, she hasn't missed a beat. Continuously turning to her sprawling band and encouraging them to keep the energy up, the set of favorites, slow jams and Bob Marley tunes was phenomenal.
As the sun set for the day, I headed over to the Mojave Tent to catch a double bill of Portland synth-rockers Yacht and the Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells. Both were good, but Sleigh Bells delivered the best set I saw all day. Singer Alexis Krauss screamed, jumped, danced, head-banged and flailed her way through a searing performance. While I thought their debut record, Treats, was pretty good but probably not deserving of the onslaught of accolades it's received, seeing them live has changed my opinion. Last, it was back to the main stage to end the night (for me) with the cozy comforts of the Black Keys. Sure, I could have checked out someone I haven't seen a million times, but I was tired and just wanted to relax. They, as always, delivered.
And I needed to make sure that I could live to fight another day. Saturday will be longer and crazier.
Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com