Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When the Coachella Valley Independent received an invitation to get into the head of Nick Cave and his fans, we could not say “no.”

So off I headed to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, as Nick Cave was wrapping up his “Conversations With Nick Cave: An Evening of Talk and Music” series, on Oct. 15. As I took my seat, the spoken-word piece “Steve McQueen” was playing over the speakers.

As Cave walked on the small stage, he was surrounded by nine round tables, at which fans sat. In front of the tables was a piano and a standing microphone. The format was straightforward: Ushers were dispersed throughout the hall; when a fan raised his or her hand, an usher would come over with a microphone. Cave chose which fans to take questions from—and it seemed he favored those in the nose-bleed seats.

The Australian singer made fans laugh and cry throughout the night. Fans achieve a special connection with musicians through their songs and the pain that artists sometimes endure—in Cave’s case, his challenges with addiction and the death of his son Arthur in 2015.

Before the event started in earnest, Cave gave fans 15 seconds to take photos. Precisely 15 seconds later, he joked, “Put that fucking thing away.” Since this was an intimate event, no photography or recording was allowed, so fans could feel free to ask anything they wanted.

Fans asked questions and sought advice from Cave as if he was a trusted therapist. Mixed into the questions were incredible piano arrangements, accompanied only by his voice, for nearly a dozen songs. Cave opened with “The Ship Song,” which was followed by “The Weeping” which set the tone for a cathartic experience.

Nick Cave explained how this tour came about: “This is a way to individualize an audience. I get as many as 100 questions a day. … I feel there is a collective need in those questions, and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”

Fans asked questions on everything from how he thinks of songs when he performs them (“A good song follows you like a friend. ‘Into My Arms’ changed after the loss of my child”) to the lack of authenticity in America (“I never found an audience not to be authentic; they are open, curious and love music”) to artists he’d like to question in a similar format (“Patti Smith. She knows how to talk about things.”).

A female fan from Perth, Australia, asked: “In what way did your living in Australia effect you?” Nick responded by saying: “All the songs very much have to do with memory and where I grew up.  … Still today, being a child in a country town in Australia affected me. I had a free range childhood in Australia. … When I was 14, someone played Leonard Cohen and fucked the whole thing up.”

One fan asked about the song “Mercy Seat,” about a death-row inmate. Cave drew a contrast between his version and Johnny Cash’s cover in which Cash inferred that the condemned man was innocent. “In my version, the guy is guilty,” Cave mentioned, adding, “A criminal should never be defined by the one crime they commit.” As he did throughout the night, Cave transitioned into singing the song that was the subject of the question, much to the audience’s delight.

A fan shared: “Every time my heart is broken, I turn straight to you. Do you think love songs will save the world?” Nick quipped: “My father put poetry at the top of human achievements and rock music at the bottom. … Yes, music is one thing that will save the world. … In my view, being human is a privilege and worth saving. I am not afraid of dying. … I have existential fears of climate change, A.I., nuclear war.”

He sang “Far From Me,” about his break-up with PJ Harvey, adding: “I got a lot of songs from Polly Harvey. I got an album out of it. “

Another fan asked: “What is your relationship with instruments? Do you consider yourself an instrumentalist?” He answered with an unequivocal: “No! I consider myself an impostor to music. I am visual; musicians hear it. … With (side project) Grinderman, we had to put everything in A-minor because it’s the only key I know.”

Someone asked about living in L.A.: “I really love the openness of the people. I think L.A. people are genuine. I live up in the hills. There is all this nature—fucking hawks and skunks, and five minutes down the hill onto Sunset Boulevard, it’s like hell, and I am the most normal person there.”

A fan wanted to know: “Does Nick Cave have rules for life?” He responded: “Show people beautiful things. It’s very easy to see the worst in life these days.”

A couple of times, things got a little weird. One woman asked if Cave ever got raped. He explained jokingly, “I haven’t been raped. I’ve been molested, but I come from a country town in Australia. That is how we find out about stuff.”

On a more serious note, an audience member asked him about getting sober. “My big fear (was) if I gave up drugs, I would not be able to be creative.” He explained that when he was contemplating getting sober, he did not see any of his sober peers creating anything “incredible” post0sobriety. He said he was relieved that was not the case when he became “clean.”

As things were wrapping up, a fan named Aaron asked how people were selected to sit at the onstage circular tables. Cave explained they were selected randomly—and asked if Aaron wanted to join him onstage. A fan behind Cave stood up, gesturing for Aaron to sit in his chair. Instead, Aaron walked onstage and sat on the piano bench next to Nick. A stage manager began walking toward them, but Cage waved him off, allowing Aaron to sit on the piano bench with him as he played the last song, “Stagger Lee.” Aaron hammed it up, and Cave had to tell him “no interpretive dancing” was allowed.

In an era of scripted small talk, it was amazing to see Nick Cave open up to his fans. The night was a testament to how music moves fans—and the courage Cave has to open up about his life and music.

Published in Reviews

They saved the best for last.

Day 3 of Coachella 2013’s second weekend started off with blistering temperatures, but attendees came prepared. While a windstorm put a damper on the closing events of Coachella’s first weekend, the winds on the second Sunday remained relatively calm.

While Saturday’s schedule was heavy on the EDM, on Sunday, it was mostly about the rock. Throughout the Coachella’s history, Day 3 has always seemed to feature the biggest acts.

The Gaslight Anthem took to the main stage at 3:30 p.m. One figures the New Jersey punk outfit would attract a sizable crowd, but the attendance was quite thin.

The band walked onstage and began performing without an intro and without addressing the crowd—and they suffered through technical difficulties throughout the set. Guitarist and lead vocalist Brian Fallon’s microphone didn’t appear to be loud enough; the guitar solos were low volume and barely present. Overall, the band’s performance seemed … dull. The band—notable for being the closest thing to Bruce Springsteen within modern music—decided for some reason to cover Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song” toward the end; they closed with “The Backseat,” which was probably the best song of their set.

Too little, too late.

“I like them; they were on my list of bands that I wanted to see,” said Karen, who came all the way from Toronto.

However, she was honest about the band’s performance.

“I enjoyed them, even though the sound wasn’t perfect. It was still worth seeing.”

The eccentric and renowned Dinosaur Jr. performed on the Outdoor Theater stage at 5:10. The Massachusetts band—known for lead guitarist and vocalist J Mascis’ perfection of the art of feedback—offered a variety of songs from throughout their career. The band’s sound—which could be described as a combination of hardcore-punk, metal and psychedelic rock—made them a perfect act to follow Kurt Vile and the Violators. Mascis’ Marshall stack amps were arranged in a feedback zone that he moved in and out of between vocals; on couple of songs, he ceded lead vocals to drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow. Toward the end of their set, Dinosaur Jr. played a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” in their own unique sound.

Rodriguez—the subject of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, which won Best Documentary Feature honors at this year’s Academy Awards—took the stage in the Gobi tent at 6:35 p.m. to an audience of die-hards excited to hear the newly famous Detroit musician, whose music became the soundtrack for the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, unbeknownst to Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ folk sound, however, presented a problem: At the same time, Social Distortion was blasting throughout the entire festival; Tame Impala was performing in the nearby Outdoor Theater; and James Blake was performing in the neighboring Mojave tent (with Rza of Wu-Tang Clan making a special appearance during Blake’s set).

When Rodriguez walked on to the stage, he was guided on each arm to his guitar and microphone due to the inoperable glaucoma that’s causing him to go blind. When Rodriguez began his performance, the other bands easily drowned him out. Still, his fans got as close as they could to try to hear him. His performance of “I Wonder” early in his set led to loud applause when fans heard the opening bass line.

Despite all of the noise, Rodriguez and his backing band were on the ball. Fans began to trickle in after James Blake and Social Distortion were finished, just as Rodriguez began “Sugar Man,” which sent smartphones up into the air to capture video or shoot photos. After a folk-sounding cover of Little Richard’s “Lucille,” Rodriguez began to lose a portion of the audience to some of the other performers about to go on stage, but nonetheless, Rodriguez delivered a strong performance until the very end.

Regarding the art exhibits of Coachella: When the sun sets, the night time is the right time, because many of the exhibits have lighting that makes them visually stunning. On Sunday night as Vampire Weekend played on the main stage, the exhibits in the areas closest to the main stage came alive for one last night.

The Balloon Chain looks more impressive at night as it moves through the festival with balloons lit and streaming across the night sky. Mirage lights up at night, putting an impressive accent on the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired structure. The Do LaB’s teepee-style tents glow at night, bringing out the different shades of the fabric.

One exhibit that grabbed attention throughout the weekend was the Poetic Kinetics’ PK-107 Mantis. A cherry-picker-like structure with wings that look like they came off a jet fighter, Mantis moves up and down, looking like a giant, robotic praying mantis.

Lindsay, attending the festival all the way from Ireland, stood and watched it with curiosity

“It’s quite spectacular. It really stands out at night time,” he said.

Another attraction that could be seen moving around the festival at night were the Electric Butterfly Effect butterflies. They were illuminated in neon colors and looked like they were really moving.

In the evening, nothing is better than a ride on the Ferris wheel—one of the festival’s most popular attractions. Despite an $8 ticket price, there was a long line on Sunday night.

A couple offered a very sentimental take on their Ferris wheel experience, stating that from up above, you can see the diversity of the festival. “You can see music bringing everyone together,” said Karen from Pasadena.

Her friend, Matt from Palm Desert, agreed.

“It’s such a great thing to get all these people together. It was kind of epic seeing everything up there going on at once,” he said.

When it came to the last of the musical performances, the main stage seemed to lose a large percentage of the attendees’ interest.

After the sun went down, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage, at 8:40 p.m. Cave’s dark songwriting—referencing the Old and New Testament, plagued characters, and sometimes heartfelt sentiments—make him an unusual performer, and several people didn’t know what to make of him. As he walked onto the stage—backed by a children’s choir and with a woman doing sign language in front of the video monitor on the right side of the stage—he didn’t have much of a crowd. As he started his first song, “From Her to Eternity,” the choir provided a drone to Nick Cave’s howling of the lyrics.

While performing “Deanna,” the crowd sang along to the chorus of “Oh, Deanna, D-e-anna,” giving Cave the crowd participation he deserved, before a good chunk of his audience moved over to the Outdoor Theater to wait for Wu-Tang Clan.

If there was one important lesson to be learned during Coachella 2013, it’s this: Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to … mess with.

Wu-Tang attracted an audience at the Outdoor Theater that went into to the Main Stage area, around The Do LaB, and near the Gobi tent. Wu-Tang, backed by a large orchestra, rocked the audience with their hard-core hip-hop anthems from their legendary Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album. Wu-Tang’s energetic set ran into the end of Nick Cave’s set and into the beginning of Red Hot Chili Peppers set, holding the audience even as the Peppers took the stage. After Wu-Tang finished their set and wished the fans a happy late 4/20, the crowd at the quickly moved to the main stage area.

Last week’s performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was plagued by a windstorm, and it seems that last week’s attendees didn’t get to see the full stage show by Hall of Fame inductees. The band’s full stage show, with video monitors and much more colorful lighting, seemed to help the band perform a little better. Unfortunately, the set list didn’t offer much of their early ’90s classics other than “Give It Away.”

While the Coachella 2013 lineup seemed a little lackluster, and too many performances were plagued by technical problems, scheduling problems, and various other problems, the event was nonetheless solid and a full experience for those in attendance.

Published in Reviews