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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Great beer and excellent music go hand in hand—so it’s no wonder that craft beer is becoming a bigger deal each year at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella.

Not only did the Craft Beer Barn delight beer fans for the third year in a row; this year’s festival included a smaller rare beer barn, craft beer cocktails and a cabin speakeasy by the Houston Brothers.

Also present were all three of Coachella Valley’s local breweries, including La Quinta Brewing Co.—just weeks before taking home a gold medal at one of the world’s biggest beer competitions. (More on that later.)

As I enjoyed the second weekend of the festival, seeing all of the great beer together with all of the renowned musicians got me thinking about pairings: Which brew goes best with which music?


Prince

Prince was at Coachella in spirit, after passing away on April 21, the day before the second weekend of the festival began. Coachella’s palm trees were awash with Prince’s trademark purple hue. Ice Cube even wore a purple bandana and purple sneakers in tribute.

Before LCD Soundsystem performed, the three massive main-stage screens played the entirety of Prince’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” recorded in 2008 on that very stage.

Prince’s music crossed genres; he was a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop. He went against the grain and refused to bow to big record labels during his nearly 40-year history of artistry.

Because Prince is such a legend, it’s virtually impossible to pair him with just one beer. However, the brewery that comes to mind is Stone Brewing. The 20-year-old San Diego brewery has gone against the grain since unleashing Arrogant Bastard Ale upon the world in November 1997.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Stone announced plans to become the first American craft brewer to own and operate a brewery in Europe. Much like Prince refused to bow down to big business, Stone’s founders just announced a project called True Craft—an effort to invest in craft breweries which are dedicated to remaining true to the definition of craft beer, as an “alternative to being bought or pushed out by Big Beer.”


LCD Soundsystem

The icons offered tribute to Prince by leading off their set with a joyous, funky version of “Controversy,” lifting both spirits and feet off the ground. The anti-cool—yet infinitely cool—electro-rock group also played “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Dance Yrself Clean,” creating a grin-inducing dance party. James Murphy’s Brooklyn demeanor, electro-rock dancing and serious singing all contributed to what was a triumphant return. Murphy proved his comedic talent as well when, over a simple drum beat, he cavalierly proclaimed that he was present at every key moment in underground music.

I found myself memorized and swaying aggressively when a young, dreadlocked hipster came up beside me. His eyes were wide, overwhelmed by the sensation of the beautiful music. “I didn’t know about these guys; they’re amazing!” he said.

I giggled. “Yes, yes they are.”

Pair with: The Bruery’s Confession. Not quite beer, not quite wine, this unique and effervescent wild ale is perfect for the wild and collaborative band. Confession is a sour blonde ale that is blended and fermented with juice pressed from Riesling grapes.

While LCD Soundsystem may be best known for the effect the band has on the dance floor, Confession is best known for the effect it has when flavors reveal themselves on the tongue.


Disclosure

This electronic music duo is definitely one of the cleanest stage acts you’ll see live. Disclosure wowed the crowd by welcoming AlunaGeorge singer Aluna Francis to the visually brilliant stage. “Moving Mountains” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” brought awesome roars from the audience. Simply put, Disclosure was the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Pair with: El Segundo Citra Pale Ake. Nearly every craft-beer-drinker I know loves this beer. With notes of guava, grapefruit peel, mango and peach, what’s not to love? It’s refreshing, bright and taste-bud-pleasing.


N.W.A.

The Coachella lineup simply listed Ice Cube. But after he asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” the surviving members of N.W.A. performed together for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Before Dre arrived—wearing all black with the Prince symbol on his shirt—Ice Cube had the N.W.A. vibes in full force with “Fuck tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton.” It was loud, aggressive and totally awesome.

Pair with: Three Weavers’ Hops Needs Friends. With a bold emphasis on hoppy bitterness, this IPA from the Inglewood brewery (not far from Compton) is loaded Idaho 7 and Azacca hops, giving it bursts of pineapple, orange and strawberry flavors—loads of “California Love.”


Guns N’ Roses

I would blast GnR in my Walkman in the mid ’90s as I got ready to swim the 100 freestyle at my high school’s swim meets. Therefore, I was beyond excited to see this large-than-life band.

Sure enough, many 35-to-55-year-olds rocked like it was 1987. Duff played his powerful licks from a white bass adorned with a purple decal featuring Prince’s symbol. He sang The Damned’s “New Rose”—which was extra-cool, since the psychedelic punk legends had just played before GnR.

But it was Slash’s astounding guitar solos and Axl’s wailing falsetto that really drew in the crowd. Despite Axl being confined to a throne due to a leg injury, the band members delivered a mind-blowing set—and, of course, Axl dedicated it to Prince.

Guns N’ Roses didn’t need a special guest, because the band made sure the night ended with a bang.

Pair with: Faction Brewing’s Something Different IPA. This IPA is hopped with Centennial, Citra and Experimental 07270 varieties. With aromas of pine resin and notes of grapefruit, spice and tropical fruit, this beer is highly rated. Another pairing option: Try pairing GnR with Modern Times Infinity Beach, a sour IPA with grapefruit zest coming in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. This is a special-release beer that is kettle-soured with three lacto strains before fermentation with Modern Times’ Brett blend, resulting in loads of flavors and in-your-face, citrusy awesomeness.


La Quinta’s Big Medal

La Quinta Brewing brought the Sundaze Session IPA and Poolside Blonde to Coachella—but it was another beer that would earn the Palm Desert-based brewery one of the beer world’s highest honors a couple of weeks later.

On May 6, La Quinta won the gold medal in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer Category at the World Beer Cup for the Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter. It bested a whopping 66 entries to take top honors.

The brewery takes its popular coffee porter and ages it in bourbon barrels for approximately four months. The coffee used is from local icon Koffi, roasted in Rancho Mirage.

I chatted briefly with Skip Madsen, who is now the brewmaster at La Quinta Brewing. He lived in Seattle for more than 20 years and brewed at Pike Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewing, Big Time Brewing, American Brewing Company and his own company, Water Street Brewing.

Madsen started brewing in the desert in January. Since then, he’s introduced the new Even Par IPA, which comes in at 7.2 percent ABV—pun intended, as 72 marks even par at many golf courses. The beer is brewed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops.

“I like to do all kinds of styles, but I’m known as an IPA guy,” he said.

This marks Madsen’s third World Beer Cup medal—and La Quinta’s first.

Up next for La Quinta: Some new beers and possible bottling of the now-renowned Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter, likely around the holidays.

Published in Beer

In 2013, I covered Coachella and Stagecoach for the first time for the Coachella Valley Independent—but I had concerns about doing so. In the fall of 2011, I suffered a serious back injury. As a result, I am unable to stand or sit for long periods of time.

Thankfully, while on site during Coachella in 2013, I discovered the services of Goldenvoice’s ADA department, which is in charge of accommodating guests with various disabilities. Three years later, the department is doing an ever-better job of doing so.

If you’ve attended either Coachella or Stagecoach, you may have seen Austin Whitney, of Accessible Festivals. Austin, in his wheel chair, is seemingly everywhere, and always with his service dog, Ophelia.

When I went to meet Whitney at one of the ADA platforms near the Mane Stage on Saturday evening during Stagecoach, he was handling an issue with an ADA wristband holder—with a smile on his face. As we went to find a place to chat, he talked to me about being from Berkeley, Calif., and about how seeing Rancid perform at Coachella was a highlight for him. As we made our way through the grounds, many people screamed his name—and a whole lot of people asked if they could pet Ophelia.

“I was in a car accident when I was 18,” Whitney said. “It severed my spinal cord and paralyzed me from the waist down. That really changed my life dramatically. At the time, my world was turned upside down. I had been very active in sports before that, and all my friends went off to college. My whole college plan was messed up. I was going to go to the University of Michigan, and there was no way after an injury like that.”

Despite the injury, he was determined to attend Coachella in 2008, because Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, was performing.

“It was the greatest show I ever saw in my life,” Whitney said. “At that show, it was one of the first places I found myself smiling. I was consumed by self-pity and hopelessness, and I felt that my life was over. Sitting in that crowd, enjoying that show, I didn’t think about my disability, and I didn’t think about this anxiety that consumed me about my future. I was living in the moment and being happy.

“I started going to a decent amount of music festivals after that. Having that to look forward to every two months throughout the season gave me something to look forward to when I needed something to look forward to during the first one to two years that were the roughest.”

His experiences led him to start working with festival promoters. He wanted to see them go above and beyond the legal requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and focus on creating a truly enjoyable experience for those who had disabilities. He worked with Goldenvoice in 2011 and 2012, and he returned in 2016.

“(The year) 2011 was my first year at Coachella, and I started working for different promoters, and it kind of dawned on me: There’s a lot that could be done in terms of accommodations and people with disabilities. Other people I had been working with, they weren’t taking them into mind. I started law school at UC Berkeley at that time, and I was the only kind of person who had a legal background with that. The legal stuff doesn’t really matter: What I aim to do is really welcome people with disabilities and go beyond what’s considered ADA-compliant. It’s a very low bar with restrooms, parking and all of that stuff. I wanted to help promoters build events that people with disabilities could enjoy, and not have anxiety when they purchase a ticket.”

The department has to handle some complex and sensitive issues.

“We help everything between a 15-year-old with a broken foot to a 90-year-old with every conceivable health condition and an oxygen tank. We help folks who are hard of hearing, those who are deaf, those who are blind, those who are in wheelchairs, and (those with) various ailments and diseases. We deal with cancer and complications that come from illness, including skin conditions. Pregnancy isn’t a disability, but our services are helpful to a lot of folks, including those with late-term pregnancy; we put that under our umbrella and have a lot of patrons who are pregnant and offer our platforms to them—especially to those who go to Coachella because there are no chairs allowed.”

Whitney said Coachella and Stagecoach attendees noticed that the ADA team was a lot larger this year.

“It’s almost twice the size of the team we had last year,” he said. “These are people who love their job. One of the core elements of how we operate is to connect with people on a very human to human level—and that’s how you diffuse situations when they do arise. We also gave twice the amount of shuttle rides each weekend than were done last year. We have more carts going; I have eight or nine carts going right now. I have more people here to dedicate to what needs to get done.”

Whitney also added LED signs at each platform, making it easier for patrons to spot them. Doppler Labs was onsite offering patrons who are hard of hearing a pair of earplugs that can take in audio and be controlled with smartphones. Whitney said his team was offering guided tours to those with visual disabilities to help them make a mental map of the festival. A dietician was onsite to help those with dietary disabilities navigate among the food vendors. Finally, the department had a hotline phone number set up for the first time, which rang directly to Whitney or members of his staff—which took 160 calls a day.

At one point during Coachella, I watched as Whitney helped deal with chaos just before Ice Cube’s second-weekend performance. Both ADA platforms at the Coachella Stage were full—yet there was a huge line of attendees with ADA wristbands

“That was pretty crazy!” Whitney recalled. “We had 35 people who wanted to get on that platform before Ice Cube when Disclosure was performing. It was already pretty full—and then I had 35 people in line. If we didn’t help people get up there, they weren’t going to see the show.

“I know what it’s like if you can’t stand. If we can help, we will. If that means companions having to give up their seats and stand up, so be it. We got everyone on there, and that was a highlight for me and a personal accomplishment. I got awarded for that too, so it was great.”

Whitney said Goldenvoice has been supportive regarding those with disabilities, and he thinks things will improve even more during future festivals. He conceded there’s a lot of work left to do.

“Right now, we still have capacity issues on the platforms, and it’s crazy out there,” he said. “We have to work on viewing areas. We have the screens with the monitors with American Sign Language, but it has to be dialed in a lot more. I put a lot of attention during weekend 1 and 2 of Coachella doing disability-etiquette-training for security guards, and a huge amount of time is spent fixing mistakes out there with the security staff. They don’t need to be disability experts, but they need to understand when to reach out to us. Those are probably the big (changes) that we’re going to see. Also, (we’re working on) locking down our systems a little bit more and figuring out more innovative ways to get information out there for those with disabilities, whether that’s through social media or the packages with the wristbands that get sent out. After this event, I’ll do a full debrief with my staff to see what we can improve on.”

What advice does Whitney offer to those who are disabled and want to come to Coachella or Stagecoach?

Go to a music festival,” Whitney said with enthusiasm. “I’ve seen some folks who have more serious medical conditions than I can comprehend. I can find a solution to almost any accessibility issue if I know in advance. It’s a little more difficult if they just show up onsite. But if somebody has a specific concern, reach out to us. I’m fairly reachable by phone or e-mail, and this is what I do all the time. I can figure out a solution if there is a concern. I wouldn’t let someone’s disability stop them from experiencing something awesome like that Ice Cube show.” 

It is unbelievable how far the band The Flusters has come in such a short amount time.

Last Saturday at noon, the members of the band crossed an item off their bucket lists when they stepped onto the Outdoor Stage at Coachella. Each year, a local band or two gets the coveted, albeit difficult slot. There’s usually not much of a crowd on hand at noon, but many locals—including Ian Cush of the Coachella Valley Art Scene, Matt Styler of the Hive Minds, Giselle Woo and some devout Flusters fans turned out—turned out to watch the band play, as did a handful of Coachella early birds who did not know The Flusters.

While the Flusters were playing, Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar appeared onstage and took some photos and video of the band with his phone.

Shortly after the impressive show, frontman/guitarist Doug Van Sant, guitarist Danny White and new drummer Daniel Perry appeared in the press tent. Doug Van Sant mentioned Coachella was on their bucket list—but he had no idea it would happen this year.

“No, not at all,” Van Sant said. “It was a big fat no. We hoped for it. We tried to remain in sight and plain view of those who are connected with Coachella and selecting local acts. We did the best, and we did everything we could. When Brightener went on for last week, we said, ‘Well, that’s this year’s local band.’ If there was another local band we wanted to see do it, it was Brightener. Will (Sturgeon) has worked with us, so we thought it was good for them.”

Danny White said the experience of playing Coachella was highly rewarding.

“I think it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” he said. “… The blood, sweat and tears—to have it pay off in the way that it has, and this is only the beginning—it’s only going to grow. There’s going to be a lot more hard work put in, and this is going to continue to get better.”

Van Sant mentioned when Independent readers voted for The Flusters as the Best Local Band in 2015.

“When CV Independent readers named us as the best band for 2015, the first thing I said to the guys is, ‘We won; what’s next?’ That’s the way we have to live our lives and go through our careers as artists. Same with this: Coachella is done; what’s next? How we can we use this experience to better our future and our music? That’s where my head is at right now. What is next?”

So, what is next?

“We’re focusing on recording an album, and we’re focused on getting some booking and representation,” Van Sant said. “We’re looking to poke our heads into SXSW next year. We’d like to open for some bigger acts in the greater Los Angeles area. We’d like to get our EP distributed in the widest way possible when that releases this summer—and have a kick-ass release party.”

The Flusters’ audience has grown subsantially since the group’s genesis a little more than a year ago. Many people have taken an interest in this indie-surf band from the desert, and the crowds get bigger each time it plays in local venues. During the “In-Betweener” on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza, the place was packed with many familiar faces from previous Flusters shows—as well as many new people who came to check The Flusters out.

“It just shows we have the love of our fans, and they respect us as much as we respect them,” said Daniel Perry, the newest member. “It’s such an experience to see people love what you do as much as you love it yourself. It is one of the greatest feelings to know people are enjoying it.”

Perry explained how he joined the band after The Flusters parted ways with former drummer Chris O’Sullivan.

“About two or three months ago, Mario (Estrada), our bassist, had just sent me a text message asking me if I wanted to jam. I said yes one day, hung out, played some stuff and had some fun. We were just talking, and he told me The Flusters were looking for a new drummer. He asked me if I was interested in auditioning for it. For me, 2016 was the year for change. … I jammed with him and Danny once, and they gave Doug the final go. After that, we had a couple of practices, did a couple of shows, and it was great chemistry from the start. When I first started, I felt like I had been in the band the entire time.”

Van Sant said Perry has made needed adjustments in a short period of time.

“We didn’t know in the beginning,” Van Sant said. “He hadn’t found his sweet spot with us yet. We were rushing him, and he was scrambling, and I told him, ‘We need control; we need to hear what we’re doing, and we don’t need rushing tempos.’ I pulled him aside when he got it under control and I told him, ‘I want you to arrive now. I need you to arrive.’ A switch clicked on, and we got our set together for Coachella, and he’s been great.”

Van Sant said he’s touched by the love he and other local musicians have received.

“I have to say: Coming from Philadelphia, there’s a lot of hater mentality out there,” Van Sant said. “It’s not really hater mentality, but they’re out for themselves and their own projects. Coming out here and having this happen, I got personal texts from several local artists such as the guys from Monreaux, the guys from the Hive Minds, all the other guys from Brightener, and the guys from the Yip Yops. People were so happy for us and supportive. It’s also been coming from the Coachella Valley Art Scene, CV Independent, and all these wonderful people in the scene—it means a lot to us. I’m not used to that.”

Pappy and Harriet’s hosted the final in-between Coachella show last Thursday, marking the end of three days of great performances.

Before the scheduled 8 p.m. show, I met a couple from Echo Park who gave the impression that they spent most of their formative years in the Echo and Echoplex—legendary Los Angeles spots for music. I also met a younger gal from San Diego who was at the show after spending three days at Coachella’s first weekend. The best part of these in-between shows: They attract real music fans who want to see a performance—they’re not present to be seen.

Opener Bob Moses is a partnership between Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance—melding a DJ with original rock. The result: very danceable beats, especially on the dirt dance floor of the outdoor stage at Pappy’s.

Miike Snow, the indie pop band from Sweden that played Sunday night at Coachella, had me hooked before even playing one note: The group had to be desert cool. After all, the band has a jackalope graphic on the album Happy to Know You, along with T-shirts featuring the iconic desert mythological creature. I never knew the jackalope also existed in Sweden.

Lead singer Andrew Wyatt’s skills on the keyboard were a delight. He would move to a microphone at the center of the stage and then back to the keys. “Genghis Kahn” was very addicting tune that made many spectators smile and scream. Wyatt was in good spirits, saying, “Oh yes, the grooves just keep on coming.”

The show moved at a rapid pace, highlighted by the song “Paddling Out,” and also featuring favorites such as “Billie Holiday” and “Burial.”

A few minutes after Andrew Wyatt walked off the stage, the band reunited onstage for a two-song encore. “Sorry for the long absence,” Wyatt said as the audience cheered.

As the group concluded with “Animal,” Wyatt noted: “If you guys stuck around this long, you know the lyrics of this one.”

Find more from Guillermo Prieto at www.facebook.com/irockkphotos and irockphotos.net.

Published in Reviews

Music fans at Pappy and Harriet’s last Wednesday had a choice to make: Go early and see a show by Deerhunter outdoors, or stay up late and see Melody’s Echo Chamber  inside at midnight.

I saw Melody’s Echo Chamber perform in front of thousands of music fans at FYF Fest last year—and I wanted to see her perform in one of the most intimate venues in the U.S.A., in between her Sunday gigs at Coachella.

The Pappy’s staff had the herculean logistical task of emptying the inside of Pappy’s while allowing hundreds of fans to leave the outdoor stage. With the task done, the backing musicians completed their sound check to a nearly empty bar—while communicating in French. Since my French is limited to sorte and pomme de terre, I had no idea what adjustments they were making as they prepared for the show.

Doors opened, and fans rushed in—with some wearing Coachella bracelets. This was apparently some sort of fashion statement, since the second week of Coachella did not start for a couple days. 

Melody Prochet, the woman behind Melody’s Echo Chamber, walked in last—wearing a smile. Melody’s Echo Chamber kicked things off with an instrumental introduction that transported me to a little café I visited near the Opera District years ago in Paris.

Prochet alternated between keyboards and the microphone stand, moving and dancing and twirling as guitars, bass and drums glided with her charming voice. Melody expressed her excitement at playing at Pappy’s, saying, “How awesome is this place, seriously?”

Hearing “Crystallized” sung by Melody melted me a little on this cold desert night: “Just before I crystallized, you were gone for real this time. Just before, I crystallized you are gone of time this time. How I want to idealize.” “Je Me Perds de Vue” blew everyone’s mind away.

The hour-long performance was too short. Melody left the show by saying, “Thank you guys for being so awesome.” I thought: No, thank you.

Find more from Guillermo Prieto at www.facebook.com/irockkphotos and irockphotos.net.

Published in Reviews

On Sunday night at Coachella, Major Lazer proved there’s not a stage big enough for the group.

I was fortunate enough to see Major Lazer’s Coachella appearance in the Mojave tent in 2013, so I had some idea what to expect. That show was epic—and drew a crowd so large that there was no escape.

When I took my place at the ADA platform on the lawn about 100 yards or so away from the Coachella stage on Sunday night, I knew that this year’s Major Lazer performance was going to be big: Major Lazer’s crowd made Ice Cube’s crowd the night before look small in comparison.

Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire performed in typical Major Lazer fashion, combining their talents as producers and DJs to amp up the crowd—with some help from their female dancers. At one point, they had the crowd jump and then run to the right and then to the left. Yes, they asked the huge crowd, packed in like sardines in many places, to run.

Major Lazer utilized the Coachella Stage’s visual walls better than any other group I saw over the weekend. The visuals were awesome, and included scenes from the group’s cartoon television show, images of retro television sets, trippy designs and a “PEACE IS THE MISSION” flag. Of course, Peace Is the Mission happens to be the title of Major Lazer’s latest album.

However, the show’s most epic moment, by far, came when Major Lazer paid tribute to Prince by turning the Coachella Stage purple all the way across—and then announcing special guest Usher, who performed “I Would Die 4 U.”

It was the best tribute to Prince I witnessed through the weekend. Mavis Staples discussed her friendship with him and sang the chorus to “Purple Rain,” while Pete Yorn sang a few lines and the chorus of “Nothing Compares 2 U” at the beginning of his set. Mario Estrada of the Flusters wore a purple handkerchief in his front suit pocket, and many performers mentioned Prince’s name and their sadness over his passing. Big names like Guns N’ Roses and Ice Cube even dedicated their performances to Prince. But Major Lazer and Usher certainly did it best. 

Photos below by Kevin Fitzgerald; scroll down to see more from Sunday at Coachella.

Published in Reviews

After he was announced as part of the Coachella lineup, Ice Cube said his goal for the performance was to get N.W.A. back together.

It didn’t happen during Coachella’s first weekend. But on the Saturday night of Weekend 2, he managed to accomplish just that.

Last weekend, both DJ Yella and MC Ren joined Ice Cube—but there wasn’t a doctor in the house. But this weekend, Dr. Dre was announced—and the crowd went insane.

While it was late in Ice Cube’s set, Dre joined Yella, Ren and Cube for a shortened version of “The Next Episode,” as well as “California Love.”

Other guests included The Game and Kendrick Lamar. Cube teased the audience a bit when graphics flashed for Parliament Funkadelic. Some people in the crowd thought George Clinton himself might come out and sing “Bop Gun (One Nation),” a 1994 collaboration between Ice Cube and Clinton that sampled Clinton’s original “Bop Gun.” Alas, Clinton was nowhere to be found—but nonetheless, the song was fantastic.

When Ice Cube began the show, he appeared on a throne of fingers shaped like the West Coast hand gesture. Cube then made it known: “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.” This made me wonder: Did gangsta rap make him appear in all of thise family films and horrible comedies?

The set included a lot of Ice Cube’s greatest material, such as “Check Yo’ Self” and “Gangsta Nation,” as well as N.W.A. hits “Dopeman” (performed with Little Easy-E., son of the late Eazy-E) and “Fuck Tha Police” (performed with Ren and Yella). He closed out the show with “It Was a Good Day.”

Given that Ice Cube had made good on his promise to get the surviving members of N.W.A. back together, it indeed was a good day. 

Scroll down to see more photos from Saturday at Coachella, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

When the original lineup of Guns N’ Roses (or what was left of it) fell apart due to acrimony in the mid-late 1990s, it seemed that Axl Rose would never again play with the other men who made the band legendary.

Well, Axl made good with Duff McKagan (bass) and Slash (lead guitar) for a reunion at Coachella—their two weekends as the Saturday headliner have been pretty epic.

While the band sounded great during the Weekend 2 show—although Axl’s voice is not as powerful as it once was, and he was sitting on Dave Grohl’s “broken leg throne,” as Axl is nursing a leg injury—and the band performed all the hits, the show felt less exciting and more nostalgic.

As the band opened with “It’s So Easy,” it was obvious that the production budget was quite hefty. The new Coachella Stage, with visuals all the way across, flashed interesting images throughout the set, including raining liquor bottles, rotating guns, raining bullets, Guns N’ Roses’ classic logo, and so on.

Duff McKagan paid tribute to Prince with the legendary logo on his bass guitar, while Slash wore a sleeveless Bad Brains T-shirt. “Welcome to the Jungle” was played early in the nearly three-hour set, along with “You Could Be Mine” and the infamous cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

After “Live and Let Die,” Axl complained that being on that throne was a drag, and he didn’t care for it too much—although the upside was he could belt out some vicious screams.

Speaking of covers, just as Pinch, of The Damned, predicted in my interview with him, the show included a Damned cover—“New Rose,” sung by McKagan.

As for a rumored tribute to Prince … it was not to be. Axl mentioned a tribute to Prince would have been nice if they’d had the time to rehearse, before adding he owned a copy of the film Purple Rain on LaserDisc.

Charming. At least he dedicated the entire set to Prince.

Of course, numerous GNR classics were played during the set. “November Rain” was epic; Axl moved to a piano, and a lot of the distracted crowd members suddenly began running back toward the stage with camera phones in the air.

The band closed with an encore of “Don’t Cry,” “Used to Love Her,” a cover of The Who’s “The Seeker” and “Paradise City,” finishing with a massive pyrotechnics/fireworks display.

While it was a triumphant performance, one has to wonder what’s next. Will there be a new record? Will Axl make it through an entire GNR reunion tour while also committing to lead vocals with AC/DC? Will Slash go back to his solo career or even revive Slash’s Snakepit?

Angus Young from AC/DC did not make a guest appearance as he did last weekend—in fact, there were no special guests at all. The only big surprise was that the band was nearly on time and performed the entire show, something the members had a hard time doing when they were riding high (in multiple ways) on the “Use Your Illusion” tour in the early ’90s.

This reunion could have been amazing about 10 years ago, when Slash, Duff and former drummer Matt Sorum were ending Velvet Revolver with the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. (Slash has a reference to Velvet Revolver tattooed on his forearm; it was clearly visible through the entire performance.) Also, I would have loved to see Axl run around and be the frontman he was was—but broken leg or not, I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

Scroll down to see more Saturday Coachella images by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

Every year at Coachella, the art installations cause a variety of reactions.

“Wow.”

“Interesting.”

“WTF?”

“Tower of Twelve Stories” by Jimenez Lai of Taiwan/Canada really lights up the Coachella night sky this year. It sort of resembles a piece of modern furniture, with compartments put together to form one structure. It may be a statement as to how we’ll be living in tiny spaces in very strange buildings in the future.

One installation that is on the “WTF” part of the scale is “The Armpit.” It led to the first time I’ve ever been able to say, “Let’s get in line to see ‘The Armpit!’” It’s meant to be interactive. The minute you walk up the ramp and inside the armpit (that just sounds funny, doesn’t it) … it, thankfully, is not very armpit-like.

The first room of the work, designed by Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis of Latvia, features old television screens showing random bits of film; one screen displayed a random fact about Albert Einstein. One part on the second floor has a bunch of broken televisions. The balcony offers a great view off the grounds—with a ride that offers a 360-degree view of the Coachella grounds.

The “Katrina Chairs” by Alexandre Arrechea of Cuba has become a conversation piece online. I’m not sure what to think; it looks like four giant chairs with little apartments on top.

“Portals,” by Phillip K. Smith III of Palm Desert, is inspired by modernism, and to me, it feels a little bit like Eero Saarinen architecture. The exterior and interior are vented with mirrors angled in a way that you can see through them—but the closer you get, the harder it is to see through. On the inside are chambers with resemble speaker heads on the walls, with a tree growing out of the middle of the structure.

“Sneaking Into the Show” by the Date Farmers has an eerie feel. Two figures are very tall and look like they should have some advertising on them, placed outside of some tourist trap.

I saw plenty of photos last week of “Besame Mucho,” a large sign that says just that—made entirely of flowers. The translation is “Kiss Me a Lot.” I suppose that’s fitting considering how many love stories and romantic connections there have been at Coachella, including Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp-Muhl from Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad meeting his wife, Lauren Parsekian.

One thing that’s missing this year is a large exhibit that moves through the audience throughout the grounds. There was the giant snail in 2013, the astronaut in 2014, and the caterpillar that became a butterfly in 2015. What’s up, Coachella?

See more images from Friday at Coachella below. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Visual Arts

This is the fourth Coachella I have covered for the Coachella Valley Independent. I’ve seen many memorable performances. Motörhead was fantastic in 2014, while AC/DC rocked last year, and Major Lazer put on a spectacle in the Mojave in 2013.

However, I’d never been blown away—that is, until I watched M83’s show on Friday night. Simply put, it was a perfect performance that was both fun and, in some ways, unbeliebavle.

M83 first seriously piqued my interest in 2011, when I heard the band’s new album at the time, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. I was excited to hear the just-released new album, Junk—and could not wait to see the band when it was announced as part of the Coachella lineup.

In some ways, Junk is a cheesy throwback to the ’80s. Many of the songs feature a new-wave vibe and funky bass grooves; the album art even features creatures that could have been part of some’ 80s children’s television show. (M83 members have said the album was inspired by shows such as Punky Brewster.)

When M83 took the Coachella Stage at nearly 8 p.m., high winds were ripping through—and tore the top of the Outdoor Stage. Nonetheless, the crowd was anticipating M83. The minute the band took the stage and opened with “Reunion” from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming—a concept album that was supposedly made for sleeping and dreaming—the crowd responded with a loud ovation and was soon singing along to the harmonic chorus of “Wh-oh-oh.”

The band played a selection of cuts from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming that also included “Midnight City” and “Wait,” as well as songs from Junk such as “Do It, Try It” and “Go.”

The visuals on the new Coachella Stage were surreal, trippy and occasionally silly. The band’s ability to have fun and play off-the-wall ’70s- and ’80s-style tracks while seamlessly transitioning into the uplifting, ambient, emotional songs from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming proves that not only are the members of M83 creative; they’re master performers as well.

M83 will no doubt be back at Coachella in the future—the distant future, perhaps, considering five years elapsed between the band’s most recent albums. When M83 does return, perhaps the band will be a headliner: 50 minutes of M83 was not enough, even though that 50 minutes featured an elated crowd that sang along and danced from start to finish.

Some people have claimed that rock ’n’ roll is dead. Shows like this prove that’s simply not so: Rock ’n’ roll may have evolved, but it’s most certainly alive in well. M83 is still kicking ass on instruments while playing fantastically written songs—and M83 is not the only group doing that in the modern day.

Thanks to M83’s show at Coachella, I’ve seen the future of what’s to come in music. And it’s excellent.

Published in Reviews

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