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Sun08182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Coachella Weekend 2 is officially under way.

While this weekend is essentially a repeat of last weekend, there was still a great deal of excitement and anticipation in the air.

“There are some awesome bands and great weather. It’s going to be a good time,” said a man from Calgary as he went through one of the security lines.

There was even excitement among the bands playing at the festival. “We are very excited to have opened the main stage,” said Lorna Thomas of Skinny Lister. “The crowd was up for it today, and we had a good time, and it was a great gig.”

Art installations are widespread throughout the grounds. One exhibit that caught my eye on Day 1 was called The Coachella Power Station, designed by Los Angeles artists Derek Doublin, Vanessa Bonet and Chris Wagner. It looks like a model of a power station, with costumed workers wearing white jumpsuits and horse masks. It isn’t very clear what they are doing, but they open tool boxes and stuff the mouths of their masks with plastic imitations of wood and grass chunks.

“I love it,” said Ramin Omid, from Marina Del Ray, Calif. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.” When I asked him what he thought about the costumed individuals inside the exhibit, he laughed and said, “They look like nuclear engineers to me.”

Another exhibit makes rounds throughout the festival. Balloon Chain, developed by Robert Bose, from New York City, is a kite-like chain featuring numerous helium balloons, pulled by individual operators who allow attendees to take hold of them for a few moments. When Andy with Balloon Chain allowed me to take control of the handle, the pull of the 1,800-foot-long cord with small balloons was incredible. “When the wind picks up, it’ll drag you across the ground,” Andy said. “Last weekend, we did shorter lines due to the wind. Last Sunday night, it was really windy, and we had to bring the Balloon Chain down.”

For those who are looking to cool down, Heineken’s air-conditioned “Dome” is an inflatable dome featuring a bar and a dance floor, complete with live DJs. “It’s super refreshing,” Paloma Martinez of Los Angeles said. “The music inside here is definitely different than what you hear out there.”

If you ever wanted to learn more about the subject of drinking water, the Oasis Water Bar is the place to go. “We’re sharing with people where our water comes from, and some potential places where our water might come from in the future,” the Oasis employee explained to me, before handing me a survey sheet asking questions, like: Do I own a water bottle? Do I drink tap water at home? Do I order tap water or bottled water in restaurants? Participants then receive a sample of one of the various waters; the one I tried was called “Moonshine Secret Sauce.”

It tasted just like water.

When it comes to music, Coachella Day 1 definitely featured some noteworthy performances.

Johnny Marr—former guitarist with The Smiths—played mid-afternoon inside the Mojave Tent. Walking onto the stage with a rose in his mouth, he opened his set with the opening track on his newly released debut album, The Messenger.

“Is anyone smoking pot? I know someone is!” Marr said in between songs, earning a laugh from the crowd. He asked the guilty individual to raise his hand; one attendee then pointed out the man to the rest of the audience.

“Here’s one you know,” Marr said before he started The Smiths’ tune “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which electrified the audience and led to a sing-along. Marr closed his set with the Smiths’ hit “How Soon Is Now,” which gave the crowd another opportunity to sing along to a song they actually knew.

Reggae legend and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry appeared in the Gobi tent for an early evening performance. Perry, known for producing Bob Marley, was colorfully dressed in attire inspired by punk rock and Rastafarianism. Perry’s reggae sound has always been eccentric and nontraditional; he was accompanied by a dubstep DJ and a reggae band.

Following Lee “Scratch” Perry was former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and his band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Biafra, who once ran for president on the Green Party ticket, is known for his heavy political themes in his music; he referenced the debate on firearms and people who fear having their guns taken away.

“If that were ever to happen, I’d get out my lawn chair with a glass of lemonade and watch it,” Biafra said to the audience.

Biafra taunted the audience with his strange facial expressions and hand gestures; he resembled a punk-rock circus clown, only without makeup. He performed two Dead Kennedys songs during his set: “California Über Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia.”

While The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are experiencing some negative reviews for their new album, Mosquito, their performance on the main stage proved the band still knows how to turn in a great live show. The band’s lead-singer, Karen O, is a pop-star diva with a little bit of punk-rock attitude. The combination of the band’s rock sound and dance elements got the crowd moving. They dazzled the audience with a performance of “Sacrilege”—backed by a full gospel choir—toward the end of their set.

While Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are playing Sunday night on the main stage, he also performed with his side project, Grinderman, in the Mojave tent. The stage featured sets of large amplifiers on each side; amplifiers were also placed on the ground level between the security fence and the stage. When the band started playing, the ground felt like it was shaking; the feedback from the instruments was screeching enough to almost shatter ear drums. While Cave generally sings ballads and well-crafted songs when he plays solo or with the Bad Seeds, Grinderman is a harder, faster, louder experience.

A reunited Jurassic 5 took the stage at the outdoor theater at 10:45 p.m. Jurassic 5’s positive and political themed hip-hop songs brought out a laid back vibe. An oversized turntable in the middle of the stage turned out to be not just a prop; both DJs, Cut-Chemist and Nu-Mark, took turns scratching the large record and messing with the mixer. As they say in one of their songs, “we came here to entertain,” and entertain, they did. They also made mention of Public Enemy being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dedicated their performance to them, stating that without Public Enemy’s influence, Jurassic 5 wouldn’t have come together.

With Damon Albarn supposedly at odds with Jamie Hewlett as far as the Gorillaz are concerned, it’s not a surprise that he is continuing the Blur reunion. Blur, who switched spots with The Stone Roses this weekend, took the stage at 11:35. The 3-D, hologram backdrop of the underbelly of a bridge was realistic; it actually looked as if the band were playing under a bridge.

The group proved worthy of being headliners. “Out of Time” had many people gently swaying side to side, singing along to the sentimental song about not having enough time to appreciate life. Of course, no Blur show would be complete without their hit “Song 2,” which made the audience scream “WOOOO HOOOO” along with Albarn.

Photos by Noelle Haro-Gomez

Published in Reviews

The time has come again to review some of the most-promising CD boxed sets hitting the shelves.

The cynics among us decry the act of repackaging old music in pretty new boxes, while music buffs drool over rarities, outtakes and remastered classic albums. That said, here is simply a sampling of the best new boxed sets on the market. Whatever your tastes, you're likely to find something out there.

Get ready, get set and shop for the best deals. While some of these collections have hefty price tags, if you search for the right deals online, you might discover some ridiculously low sale prices. Most of the prices shown are taken from Amazon.com as of our press deadline.

Let's dispense with the prosaic intro—and get to the goodies.


Blur

Blur 21

VIRGIN; 18 CDs, 3 DVDs; $175.70

If you're surprised that this '90s Britpop band has enough material for 18 CDs, you're not alone. But just in time for the 21st anniversary of the release of their debut, Leisure, here it is: all seven studio albums, as well as more than five hours of previously unreleased material, three DVDs and a collectible book. There's even a limited-edition, 7-inch vinyl single with a song that the band recorded under its original name, Seymour. It's actually too much to list. Bandleader Damon Albarn has gone on to form such interesting groups as Gorillaz; Mali Music; The Good, the Bad and the Queen; and, most recently, Rocketjuice and the Moon. But here, you can hear his not-too-shabby beginnings.


Johnny Cash

The Complete Columbia Album Collection

LEGACY; 63 CDs; $255.99

This massive boxed set includes the Man in Black's complete recorded output for Columbia Records, from 1958's The Fabulous Johnny Cash, which featured his first No. 1 single, "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," to Highwayman 2 (released in 1990), his second collaboration with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Naturally, there's a big ol' color booklet with meticulous documentation and liner notes, but the emphasis here is on Cash's music: from country and Western, gospel, blues and rockabilly, to folk and traditional ballads. Also included are two new singles compilations: the 28-song album Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar, and the 55-track The Singles, Plus. Cash may have recorded some weaker material at certain points in his career, but as a body of work, this is the latest Holy Grail in recorded music.


The English Beat

The Complete Beat

SHOUT! FACTORY; 5 CDs; $35.31

With songs such as "Mirror in the Bathroom," "I Confess," "Hands Off ... She's Mine" and "Twist and Crawl," memories of '80s two-tone ska will come flooding back. A total of 79 tracks are spread across these five discs. Included are remasters and expanded versions of the band's three studio albums, two extras discs full of 12-inch mixes and dubs, some Peel Sessions, and four cuts recorded live in Boston in November 1982.


Woody Guthrie

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection

SMITHSONIAN/FOLKWAYS; 3 CDs; $63.98

Maybe you heard about this set from the flood of publicity that heralded its release last summer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the folk legend's birth. This 57-song set documents the work of one of the most important and influential singer-songwriters of the last century (he died in 1967), touching just the tip of a 3,000-song iceberg. The beautifully bound, 154-page book features art essays. The music includes some of his earliest recordings, some rare radio shows, 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs. Many kids learn "This Land Is Your Land" in school, but Guthrie was way more than that. Folk music—indeed, all music—would not have been what it is today without him.


Heart

Strange Euphoria

EPIC LEGACY; 4 CDs, 1 DVD; $34.99

Ann and Nancy Wilson, rock 'n' roll's best sister act—who released a brand-new album this year as well—may have experienced ups and downs throughout their 36-year career, but enjoying the highs always has been worth enduring the lows. This boxed set is way more than simply a repackaging of the hits: It's the first multi-label, career-spanning compendium for the band, jam-packed with album and demo versions of familiar hits (so you can compare and contrast), rarities, live tracks and outtakes. The DVD is a 55-minute live performance of the young band in 1976 (around the time I developed a crush on both sisters). There are tracks representing the pre-Heart group Ann Wilson and the Daybreaks, and the Wilsons' late-period side project, the Lovemongers. The fourth CD is an EP compiling Heart's uncanny Led Zeppelin covers.


Various Artists

Philadelphia International Records: The 40th Anniversary Box Set

HARMLESS; 10 CDs; $68.48

This soul compilation covers the glory days of the 1970s label, including nearly 800 minutes of pure, distilled R&B and funk by the likes of M.F.S.B., the O'Jays, Archie Bell and the Drells, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees, Billy Paul, Instant Funk, Teddy Pendergrass, the Jacksons, Lou Rawls and many others. The package includes a 60-page booklet with sleeve notes and track details by archivist Ralph Tee. There's a reason why an entire genre has been called Philly soul, and the music here constitutes Exhibit A. Initial reviews say this boxed set tops previous similar collections for sheer volume.


Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine XX

LEGACY; 2 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 LP; $95.49

Can any of us really imagine Paul Ryan getting into "Killing in the Name" or "Take the Power Back" from Rage's amazing, incendiary debut album? Released in 1992, this exclamatory album showed Rage to be among the pioneers in blending hip-hop, hard rock and protest music in one package, which, by the way, sounds as dynamic and innovative as it did 20 years ago. It has been preserved in all its "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" glory on this new set, which features a remastered edition of the original, commercial version of the album, a CD with the original demos for the album, two live DVDs, and an audiophile's wet dream of a 180-gram vinyl version of it. If your pocketbook can't handle the price tag, scaled-down versions are available.


Roxy Music

The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982

VIRGIN; 10 CDs; $84.37

In one of the best deals out there, you get all eight of the ground-breaking band's studio albums in their original form, from the thorny self-titled debut—an amalgam of art-, glam- and prog-rock—to the final work, the smooth cocktails-and-boudoir record Avalon. Also included are two discs of bonus tracks previously unavailable on CD. Audiophiles will want to know that these versions used flat transfers from the original analog master tapes rather than the 1999 digital re-masters. Sounding as much like the original LPs as possible, this set will allow you to imagine how shockingly new Roxy's music must have sounded in the context of pop music 40 years ago.


Paul Simon

Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition

SONY LEGACY; 1 CD, 1 DVD; $16.08

The unprecedented meeting of Simon's ageless pop and the sounds of South African musicians such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo (not to forget a guest appearance by Tucson homegirl Linda Ronstadt) yielded this Grammy-winning 1986 album. Here is a remastered version of the album, which includes such unforgettable hits as "The Boy in the Bubble," "You Can Call Me Al," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and the title track. Also included is a DVD of the documentary Under African Skies, directed by Joe Berlinger, about the making-of and the controversy surrounding the album. You can also buy assorted, more-elaborate editions with more CDs, more DVDs, more booklets and vinyl. This one's a deal, though.


A.R. Kane

Complete Singles Collection

ONE LITTLE INDIAN; 2 CDs; $19.15

This great, now-overlooked shoegaze duo from the late 1980s and early ’90s released only three proper studio albums, but lots of EPs and 12-inch singles fill out their impressive body of work, the depth and breadth of which is demonstrated in this two-disc, 33-track package.

Alex Ayuli and Rudi Tambala comprised A.R. Kane, and their engaging experiments in dream pop, drone rock, jazz funk, avant-garde, electronica, dance music and sonic collages earned them comparisons to such acts as the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and most of the roster at 4AD Records.

Much of A.R. Kane’s attraction derived from their balance of the sacred and profane, the tender and the brutal. Genuinely creepy songs such as “Butterfly Collector,” “Lollita,” “Haunting” and “Baby Milk Snatcher” also are genuinely beautiful, filled with hammering drum machines, feedback loops, dub bass, distorted vocals and gouaches of shimmering white noise.

Even on more heavy-handed tracks, such as “Sado-Masochism is a Must” and “Sperm Travels Like Juggernaut,” the lack of subtlety is mitigated by playful irony. Casual listeners might question the need for multiple versions of some tunes, but when alternate takes and dance remixes are included, each is substantially different from the original version.

These tunes offer glimpses of the soft, white underbelly of desire and need, the most hidden places of the psyche. But listening to A.R. Kane also is deliciously disorienting—it might make you might feel as if you’re in the midst of The Matrix, streams of musical code cascading around you, simultaneously logical and incomprehensible. Did you take the red pill or the blue pill?

Published in Reviews