Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coachella Festival 2012 wrap up: April 20-22

photo by Robert Kinsler
A version of my review originally appeared at

Contrary to popular belief, the real Coachella experience is not all about being seen and partying; it involves discovering new music and reacquainting yourself with old faves.  

Despite an attendance level near 90,000 daily (an increase of 10,000 over 2011), everything was fairly tolerable. The crowds could still learn some things about concert etiquette though.

Shields Date Garden, a desert institution since 1924, made its Coachella food court debut. I enjoyed one of their sweet milkshakes. With Sunday being Earth Day, I was surprised not to see teenagers racing to gather empty water bottles to recycle in exchange for a full one as in years past. None of the performers I saw mentioned the environment either. 

Record-breaking heat didn’t deter guys and gals from wearing skimpy attire. Nor did it keep others from sporting a wide array of colorful, rave-worthy costumes (Gumby, Crayola crayons) that made you want to check your phone to see if the calendar actually read Oct. 31.

Right around dusk each day, a parade of models arrived in the VIP section, ostensibly just to see the headliner. They were hard to miss in designer clothes, shoes and sunglasses. One woman who was not a model passed out right in front of me.

Adjacent to that gated perimeter, near the handicapped seating section, paparazzi guys were on the prowl during Noel Gallagher’s set. I turned around to see a veteran actress who looked like Melanie Griffith forlornly shield her face and say “please, guys” before heading toward the pit area.

While darting between the four stages (I scarcely set foot in the DJ-centric Sahara Tent), I witnessed three dozen full or partial sets. Memorable moments were in plentiful supply, so I thought I’d tie up some loose ends with a few others.

On Saturday Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook (the latter is pictured above) – the singer/songwriters of influential British band Squeeze – displayed sublime harmonies and deft guitar work inside a shamefully under-filled Mojave Tent. The parade of classics from their ’70s and ’80s heyday (“Tempted,” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Up the Junction,” “Hourglass,” “Is That Love”) were pure bliss for fans of traditional smart pop/rock songcraft. Later, I heard several people rave about them. (Their new Live at the Fillmore album is highly recommended.)

Miike Snow impressed me with its coolly detached brand of electropop. Playing to a large and enthusiastic Outdoor Theatre crowd, the Swedish/American trio opened to a landing spaceship sound and opened with “The Wave.” Both “Pretender” and “Paddling Out” stood out for their consistent dance sensibility.

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