Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fleetwood Mac, December 6, 2014 at the Forum

When I saw Fleetwood Mac in ‘03, I figured that was enough for me for the rest of my days.  For as much as that show exceeded my expectations, with the amount of songs they played, hits as well as deep cuts off their newest album, I figured there wasn’t need to want for a show that was any more.  I even saw Buckingham at a solo show, so that was covered as well.  Granted, Christine McVie wasn’t with them but there was only little hope that after being away for so long she would ever come back.  But as it is in hopes for rock group reunions anymore, as long as they’re not dead, chances are they’ll get back together again.  And so it was, that McVie came back, and there would be a massive tour, with multiple nights in L.A. (apparently a bigger deal to play a few nights at the Forum rather than one at Staples).  I’m not sure why I even hesitated to get tickets, since McVie being present would meant that they would get to the Tango in the Night songs that they largely left out of the shows when she wasn’t there.  It was actually Carla who get the tickets, as a holiday treat (and a story about how she traded for tickets to another night, and completely by coincidence got almost the same seats), even if she wasn’t as big a fan as me (even though it’s still baffling why I am, and to the degree that I am).  And so (after an aborted dinner at Red Lobster that became dinner at the Sizzler across the street (though I won’t complain)), we saw the band -- the whole band -- in their completed glory.  It wasn’t dissimilar to their regular touring show, as impressive that it was only the four or five of them on stage, largely without supplemental musicians, but with McVie contributing and Tango in the Nights songs shuffled in at regular intervals.  “Dreams” still came early and Buckingham still did a “Big Love” solo that was furious enough to belie his years.  Not that a McVie-less show was ever incomplete -- they actually did just fine with out her; her loss -- but to see all five of them on stage together in this day and age was a grand event.  And for me, for whom Tango in the Night was a soundtrack to the formative year of seventh grade, it was a singular experience.  Even if it was just another show, rolling through a set-list they’ve played for most of 40 years by muscle memory, making us sit through unnecessary band introductions and forcing appreciation for McVie coming back night after night before moving on through a relaxed touring schedule, those seasoned musicians at least made an argument for making it feel like this was the only night they were doing such a special show.  Even if one particular oldie, in a sea of oldies around us, told me to keep it down when I was talking to Carla during a clear lull in the show that surely even the band would admit to.  Hey, man, I’m at least as big a fan as you, even if I’m younger than you, and no one, including you and the band, was all that interested in that song.  But whatever.  Since they played so many hits, out of many hits, and now included songs that had been (voluntarily) off-limits for a while, even if McVie held up a complete show for so long, at least she came back within our lifetimes, so she could do whatever she wanted to the end.

Fleetwood Mac's set-list:
"The Chain"
"You Make Loving Fun"
"Second Hand News"
"I Know I'm Not Wrong"
"Sisters of the Moon"
"Say You Love Me"
"Seven Wonders"
"Big Love"
"Never Going Back Again"
"Over My Head"
"Little Lies"
"Gold Dust Woman"
"I'm So Afraid"
"Go Your Own Way"

"World Turning" (with drum solo)
"Don't Stop"
"Silver Springs"


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Afghan Whigs/Joseph Arthur, October 25, 2014 at the Fonda

We would be loathe to miss an Afghan Whigs show, as a reward after their being gone for so long, but after seeing them twice on the previous tour less than two years before, this seemed only like a companion show. Of course we had to hear the new material, from Do to the Beast, in a set more full than the Coachella one, with the highlights from the best-of set (that we'd already heard) -- all of it boiled down into just a one-night stand. It was the same band, still lacking the intensity (and drugs) of the old days, so Carla wouldn’t be able to experience that, but even if they were more stately these days, it was still a good run-through (even with "Gentlemen" but no "Debonair."  Surely the people there were true enough fans to be over their one radio hit). Dulli hasn’t been as chatty since even the early days of the Twilight Singers, but he can let the music speak for him, and that’s good enough. A highlight of the evening was the opening set by Joseph Arthur, who I’d caught years before (from KCRW, notThe O.C.), though I stopped before he started putting out too many albums to keep up with, and I'd never seen him even though he played L.A. regularly. His show that night wasn’t so much about the music, which was fine, since at the same time as he played he was painting on a canvas. This is a gimmick only if you’re expecting it to be all music, like most any other concert and with any other expectations for such, but in a context of the whole performance being art, even if the music wasn’t so avant-garde, it worked, and was at least a swerve from the norm.  Maybe he’s a better musician than painter (though the painting wasn't bad), and maybe he got as big as he’ll ever get years ago, but it was at least a display that made for a stand-out in an otherwise satisfying but not explosive evening.

Afghan Whigs' set-list:
"Parked Outside"
"Fountain and Fairfax"
"The Lottery"
"Step Into the Light"
"Now You Know"
"Royal Cream"
"I Am Fire" (with Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" snippet)
"Turn On the Water"
"It Kills"
"Can Rova"
"John the Baptist"
"My Enemy"
"Son of the South"
"Lost in the Woods"

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (The Police cover)
"Heaven on Their Minds" (Andrew Lloyd Webber cover)
"Somethin' Hot"
"Going to Town"
"Across 110th Street"/"Faded"

Joseph Arthur's set-list:
"Devil's Broom"
"I Used to Know How to Walk on Water"
"The Ballad of Boogie Christ"
"Honey and the Moon"/"Travel As Equals"
"Gypsy Faded"
"Heroin" (The Velvet Underground cover)
"I Miss the Zoo"
"Blue Lights in the Rear View"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TV on the Radio/Natasha Kmeto, October 22, 2014 at the Fonda

It’s not such a rare thing to see TV on the Radio, and it isn’t like we haven’t seen them numerous times before, and it’s not like we were all over their new album (Seeds, which we didn’t have; Carla nor I had just not gone out of our way for it), but we like them enough that we might as well go when they did a show (originally booked at the Regent, which would have been the first time we'd have gone there; the Fonda worked better for us anyway). As great as their recorded stuff was (never hurt by top-notch production), they were consistently inconsistent in concert -- a dull show or two for every few pretty good ones -- but we knew that they could pull out at least a few good tunes if nothing else, and we could check out the new stuff. It turned out to be one of the pretty good shows -- a little heavy on the atmospherics, and maybe not the barn-burner that made their name in the days before we ever heard of them, and not enough of their top tunes to mark it in our memories, but they made enough of an effort to pull off a performance that wasn't one of the dull ones. Natasha Klemto (if I got that name right) went on first, either a DJ or someone just playing music to warm up the crowd, but her stuff sounded great in either capacity, the infrequent opener we were at a show early enough to see, and apparently Google-proof. Or we were there at that time for a standard band playing the place, but TVOTR went on late enough that their opener was playing when they should have. They played well enough but the show itself was hamstrung by feeling shortened, being over just when they could have started to kick it in. They went on way too close to midnight, for whatever reason (as not a lot of other bands outside of a festival headliner or Guns n’ Roses get play that late), enough that the set-list looks like they played mid-day at a fest, and without "Staring at the Sun" (which apparently was planned for the very last but they ran out of time). We didn’t know that we would go ahead and see them twice more on this tour, so maybe we could have skipped this show, but with Andrew, Heather, Max, and Linda, it wasn’t a wasted evening (if over very late).

TV on the Radio's set-list:
"Could You"
"Careful You"
"Blues From Down Here"
"The Wrong Way"
"Dancing Choose"
"Wolf Like Me"


Friday, October 17, 2014

The New Pornographers, October 17, 2014 at the Wiltern

The New Pornographers were a good enough idea at the beginning -- basically an indie super-group -- then it was astounding when Neko Case went from a studio buddy to actually touring with them, and she actually kept sticking around. She probably could have sold venues just as well as the whole band but whatever kept her traveling with them, not just continuing to make music, was welcome, as was their coming to town. We might have seen them enough for a while, and Brill Bruisers wasn’t an album that needed a particular amount of support (though it raised up Together by comparison) but when everyone else said they were in for it we threw in as well. Even better to come out when they’d graduated to the Wiltern (but two nights at the Fonda was pretty good too).  As it was it was a standard show, a run-through of their stuff, a few decent deeper cuts, and a comfortable crowd of great musicians on stage, most of which could do -- and actually do -- their own solo stuff (not just Neko). Not as extraordinary as when they’ve had stronger material to draw from (not that their latest was lesser material, but their first three albums set an incredibly high standard) but still a treat to see them all.  Even if they kept putting out merely good albums, as long as they have those elements in the mix, they’ll be worth supporting. Another draw for us was seeing openers Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a band good enough that it almost could have been a co-headlining tour that New Porn just happened to close every night, but, being a Friday night to have dinner with Tana & Jamin and Jake & Lauralee, we missed them -- a disappointment but their latest album Days of Abandon didn’t seem like it was going to supplant memories of seeing them for their earlier stuff.

The New Pornographers' set-list:
"Brill Bruisers"
"Myriad Harbour"
"Use It"
"War On the East Coast"
"All the Old Showstoppers"
"Champions of Red Wine"
"Jackie, Dressed in Cobras"
"Another Drug Deal of the Heart"
"The Laws Have Changed"
"You Tell Me Where"
"Testament to Youth in Verse"
"Wide Eyes"
"Crash Years"
"Adventures in Solitude"
"Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk"
"Silver Jenny Dollar"
"Fantasy Fools"
"Born With a Sound"
"Mass Romantic"

"Dancehall Domine"
"Sing Me Spanish Techno"
"The Bleeding Heart Show"

"Execution Day"
"The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pixies/Gogol Bordello/Cat Power, September 28, 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl

Pixies have played every other venue in L.A., if not the rest of the world, that when they play a new place it doesn’t seem like fresh exploration so much as checking off another one from a list.  Playing the Hollywood Bowl should be a big deal for any band, even one who has been around the world so often, but for them it just seemed like an obligation.  It’s almost like it must be something in their contract to not play a stage they’ve already been, even if they don’t sell it out.  It would have been a momentous occasion to see them there if they hadn’t already tried to wear out their welcome everywhere else.  As such, we didn’t rush to get tickets.  We might have even skipped the show, having already seen the best of what they have (and more -- or less -- at Coachella that year), even when they switch up the set-list every night (making a case for seeing them multiple times) but now mixing in new stuff that didn’t need to be experienced more than once (or at all).  It was the under-card of the event that had us, and when the drinking kids were going to make a night of it, we figured we might as well be in too.  We tried out a new picnic spot and didn’t hurry in to see Cat Power.  It’s great that they got her for that show and I count myself as a fan, but anyone would know that her demure angst wasn’t going to electrify the place.  And indeed it didn’t.  What is a welcome, intimate listen through headphones on a bad day doesn’t convey the same energy in such a big setting.  Her festival-appropriate performances with her Southern-blues band fit her, but that night was back to the quiet confessional that just wouldn’t get anyone on their feet.  But if an opening band is a warm-up then she was good enough if she had to be.  However, there’s also the risk of an opening band eclipsing who they’re opening for, and anyone who hires on Gogol Bordello to play before them hoping to retain their audience clearly don’t know what they’re in for.  Gogol Bordello explode any line-up and it’s up to the other bands they play after to catch up, if they can.  It was either lack of forewarning, straight stupidity, or another sign that the Pixies really don't care to let such a band go on before them, but it was a selling point for us.  The gypsy-punks of Gogol Bordello are a hand-grenade dropped in the middle of a crowd, maybe a little more new-school than the oldies coming to see the Pixies would expect but it’s more of an effort to resist an explosion than to let it take you over.  Rock music is rock music.  Gogol Bordello can fill any time-slot, whether it’s their show or for another band, and they blow it up in their own unique way without a challenge.  Even the open-air lack of confines couldn’t pin them down that night, as ever.  They bring it all on the stage and don’t take anything back with them.  Eugene even started with wearing a button-down shirt -- yeah, quickly gone.  It could have been easily forgiven for any new fans to jump ship from the Pixies to the Bordello that night, especially when the former wouldn’t bother to attempt to recapture the energy of their (second) openers.  The Pixies were and are as sturdy as they ever have been.  They’re a good band, proficient enough with the great songs of their past, not matter how many times we’ve heard them and seen the band (as unavoidable as they’ve been with festivals and shows since their reunion, now running much longer than their original incarnation).  Like any other band, it’s up to their front-person to set the stage and their presence -- or lack of it -- can make or break a show.  Frank Black Francis is famously a turgid presence and generally no one seems to care.  Early on in the reunion he was still shredding his voice and might even engage the audience (though any effort was leagues beyond what he used to).  Now he seems like this whole reunion thing is just dragging out and he would rather be anywhere else doing anything else.  At one point we could have been happy that he was out there with all of them together doing those songs we love so much but it’s been so long that it seems like they’re going on with it just because they don’t want to have to be annoyed by their lives when they’re not being the Pixies (the spearhead of that being Black himself).  An old band could bring it back again with new songs and a renewed purpose but Black hasn’t bothered with that either; his own begrudging obligation to have to put together new stuff for the band is clearly the basis of any of the new tracks, and they clearly did not refresh or energize them.  Even bringing on Paz didn’t enliven anything.  More than any other time, Kim's absence was felt, as a counterweight to Black's apathy if nothing else; we can get over her not being with them anymore -- we know she can go on to other worthy stuff (and maybe she’s the smart one for getting out while the getting was good) -- so we won’t hold it against Paz.  She could get some sympathy for being the one person excited to be up there.  Joey and Dave try as much as they can but without guidance for a leader then they’re just going through the motions and pinning it up as another shift to punch; it can only be draining to have to have a leader who hasn't cared in years.  Dave even noted that that day was an anniversary of their first album being released -- an auspicious occasion and one to be celebrated (even if it surely was only by coincidence on the same night that they had to play the Bowl) -- but the fact that it took the drummer to announce it when the singer -- the guy that everyone is listening to -- couldn’t be bothered just showed how apathetic some of the disparate parts could be (as if it needed to be further emphasized).  It wasn't a bad set, even with the new material, but it was fairly standard, as maybe it was supposed to be playing such an important show, even if that was lost on the band.  It was what anyone would expect, no surprises, probably just the standards that Paz knows.  It could be imagined that the rest of the band finished the show and went home like it was any other night and any other show, that they might or might not have even wanted to do.  We in the audience left the show and went home, a shame the night couldn't mean more for us since it didn't mean much for them.

Pixies' set-list:
"Bone Machine"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"Something Against You"
"Gouge Away"
"Crackity Jones"
"Magdalena 318"
"Nimrod's Son"
"Indie Cindy"
"Here Comes Your Man"
"La La Love You"
"Greens and Blues"
"Isla de Encanta"
"Monkey Gone to Heaven"
"Where Is My Mind?"

"Planet of Sound"

Gogol Bordello's set-list:
"Not a Crime"
"Wonderlust King"
"The Other Side of Rainbow"
"Last One Goes the Hope"
"My Companjerav
"Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"
"Start Wearing Purple"

Cat Power's set-list (incomplete):
"The Greatest"
"Shivers" (The Boys Next Door cover) (With "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" snippet)
"Sea of Love" (Phil Phillips cover)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

FYF Fest, August 23 & 24, 2014 at L.A. Sports Arena and Coliseum, Exposition Park

Just when we were getting to really like FYF Fest at Historic Park outside of Chinatown, they changed it to Exposition Park outside of USC. Both have their pros and cons, but just the change shows that FYF was moving toward being a much bigger deal than our local fest with increasingly recognizable bands. This made them more capable of getting bigger and better acts but it was quickly approaching being another Coachella, with the negatives that come from that connotation. Still, we would take it as we could have it and enjoy it for what it was. The change in geography might not have been the worst move in the world, and it was because the park was closed down due to a massive renovation (though with no promise that it would ever go back there). There was nothing we could do and we trusted the festival enough to follow along wherever it went, though still being local helped a good deal. This was another weekend with the drinking kids, all the familiar faces, and had already become our traditional get-together weekend (not so much the easy rote to see off summer, since we kept partying the rest of the year, but we’d take any celebration to make an event). The line-up for the weekend also didn’t disappoint, though we probably would have showed up for a lackluster list, knowing we could trust the organizers to get obscure but worthy bands for us to discover, and since a lot of it was about all of us hanging out anyway. Though there were some great surprises that could have gotten us out to even an unfamiliar festival. And the easy (though distant) parking or taking the subway -- either way to get there, whatever worked best -- never hurts. One of the most significant acts they got were Slint, a relative legend from the ‘90s that I missed completely (as they were nowhere near the KROQ rotation back then). It was indie-rock all the way, and it wasn’t hard to see that something so challenging could have gotten big, no matter how rewarding once you got into them. Scott, my right-hand man at work, was more clever with that corner of music than I was and he got me a copy of Spiderland which I enjoyed, even if I still hadn’t really gotten it even after seeing them. They were our first act of Saturday, one of our must-sees if only because we knew it was a big deal for them to be there and might never see them again. It was also welcome to be in the air-conditioned comfort of the interior of the sports-arena, after whatever effort we put in to get to the festival. They were still a challenge to me even after seeing them, but their live show expressed that I should have more familiarity with them (and that I should get to those bands I missed back then); Slowdive being there was the biggest deal for me. I got into them in drips and drabs over a number of years, having missed them originally (and being in the wrong country for them), but they became a band I liked without being obsessed by, showing how limited they were to me for quite a while. I was always about Souvlaki, said to be a classic in every music magazine I read, and it was always an album that I could get back into without being so familiar as to be fully immersed in and could always listen like it was new and get something fresh out of every time. It wasn’t until much later that I rounded up more of their stuff but the rest of it was more of the deep sound that I finally got to discover.  Their showing on the FYF line-up was a great surprise, not that FYF is only about punk bands, but that they included an obscure (in the U.S.) shoe-gaze band years and years after their peak, with fans that had likely aged out, was astounding. And they didn’t disappoint live, bringing the washes of guitar that sound so great in headphones to the open field of the park. They never bothered with pop so they didn’t have to go back to their singles but what they put together was a sturdy representation of anything they ever were, and showed the range of the festival and knowledge of the FYF organizers; it seems a surprise when Against Me! don’t play FYF, since they fit in so well with what the festival is about.  As such, we saw them mostly in passing, figuring we could catch them any other time and since we’d seen them a few times already (including at least once there).  It’s a shame they could only score being a reliable but mid-tier festival act, since being the best at what they do deserved more, but if they wanted to keep riding on New Wave (which they didn’t necessarily keep bothering to do) (and pardon the pun), then surely the people of FYF wouldn’t mind, and they would be back again; Interpol weren’t necessarily a big surprise but they’re always welcome on a festival line-up.  We were going to be there anyway but having them is always a big point in an event’s favor.  By this time we had seen them enough that we didn’t have to pay attention like we might never see them again, and at that time of the evening navigating the beer lines was a consideration, but from what we saw they still put on a sturdy performance.  They always play “Evil” ("Rosemary") too early in the set but at least they keep including it.  A lot of the rest was from El Pintor, which we didn’t know at the time, but they could keep on putting out more of the same (which is forever a cop of Joy Division anyway, as if I have to tell you) and we wouldn’t mind; Phoenix weren’t a big draw for me, and I’m still mystified that they ever capture headliner status at a worthy festival. I don’t mind that brand of French-to-American pop, and a lot of their stuff is likable, but it just doesn’t have enough of an edge to keep me in it.  A little too twee (and I like plenty of twee). But we didn’t have to stay for much of them, as we were just rounding everyone up and seeing one last band as a push before being done for the day. We were tired enough so it was probably good that it wasn’t a band that we needed to give more to or expected much from us, so we could just see the first half of the set and make our way out. My attention was finally piqued when they started "Too Young" -- their best track that should have gotten more notice but it was years before everything else would hit for them -- but it was just a tease to go into different song. That would have been enough for me to abandon them there, especially since that meant they wouldn't go back to it for the rest of the set. They were touring on the album after their big one, and the best of the latter was just for the encore if anyone cared to stay, so we knew we weren’t missing much. It was actually a pretty good ending to a day that peaked mid-way, so relaxing on the downhill was welcome.

Sunday was a day with much fewer hopes and expectations. As such we we didn't hurry in, also because we had something going on early that afternoon, being a Sunday and all. The first band we got to was Balance & Composure, some harder-than-average rock act that didn’t make much of an impression but it was early and we were getting our bearings; a lot of the rest of the day must have been drinking in the beer gardens and breezing through stage areas and other bands since we only saw a few more barely enough to say that we were there. Apparently we saw the Presidents of the United States of America, a band that I didn’t have to see even when they were big (which actually, somehow happened), and might have been fun if for no other reason that they were completely opposite of most of the acts they have there (except for having guitars and being now fairly obscure) but they pulled a surprisingly big crowd so whatever we saw was as we navigated the outside of the crowd to get somewhere else, and hopefully that didn’t include us having to stand through “Peaches”; I don’t know why I thought Murder City Devils were a female band. As it were, they were a big draw for Carla and it was great to happen upon them.  Even better to see a legitimately punk band, out of a sea that we missed, and one with enough miles to put down a ferocious and high-energy performance. An unexpected stand-out for me; since we left early, Haim became the Sunday headliners for us. They might have been big in other parts of the world (I heard them on the radio when I was in Indiana) but we could still claim them as ours -- and not even just for L.A. but for Sherman Oaks, just across town from us. Even still, we had yet to see them anywhere along their ascent so it was a special thing to see them there, which may have been their peak (or at least an early one for them). They were appreciative of their home-town show and if every performance they put on wasn’t always a celebration, that night was, for them and for all of us maybe in equal measure. They might have gotten a bad rap by the legit music snobs, an indie band that crossed over to mainstream and could never go back again, but there was a buoyancy in their music, enough that it was a fairly unique thing in that space between alt and pop, not that that was a uncrowded place but that they could actually do it with some legitimacy and display of quality, instead of being another crap KROQ band that went big because there was nothing better happening or relied on their long-legs and good looks (which never hurt but they didn’t even need it).  We knew we’d run into them again but that night they lived up to whatever promise that fueled them on their way up to it.  And it was good enough for us to end on, and missing the big acts of the night made it a breeze to get out and home, chalking up another satisfying FYF event.

Missed: Albert Hammond Jr., Julian Casablancas (there was a strong Strokes presence at the festival, which is great for Strokes fans, which we absolutely are, but we didn’t have much concern for their side-projects, especially after seeing some of Casablancas’s lackluster set at Coachella earlier in the year), Grimes (knew by name, not as much by sound), Ty Segall (for as much as I should be into his stuff, especially from listening to Rollins’s show even intermittently, you really can’t get away from him, but I still hadn’t done it then); The Bronx (something tells me I should know them better); Darkside (which were a big deal to be there, for whatever reason, since I didn’t really know them, though I saw an instant of them inside probably while I was waiting for someone to come out of the restroom); the Strokes (crazy that we missed them but we’ve seen them enough, and knew that their best stuff was what we’d already seen, so we opted for leaving earlier instead), Deafheaven (my biggest conflict of the weekend, between them and leaving at a reasonable time. Missing them here stuck with me for a long time since I had been into them for a while, being the rare shoe-gaze band that came up on the radar in a long time); Jamie XX (somehow I missed the connection to our much-loved The XX. Apparently the letters being in his name seemed like it could have been a trick or laziness for the lesser member of the band to ride some coattails, and I still didn’t get on the train until a lot better. Though even if I had known and thought it through there were other conflicts with seeing him, including leaving early to beat traffic and be capable of working the next day, which won out).

Interpol's set-list:
"Say Hello to the Angels"
"Hands Away"
"Length of Love"
"Take You on a Cruise"
"All the Rage Back Home"
"Not Even Jail"
"Slow Hands"

Haim's set-list:
"If I Could Change Your Mind"
"Oh Well" (Fleetwood Mac cover)
"My Song 5"
"Don't Save Me"
"The Wire"
"Let Me Go"

Slowdive's set-list:
"Catch the Breeze"
"Crazy for You"
"Machine Gun"
"Souvlaki Space Station"
"When the Sun Hits"
"She Calls"
"Golden Hair" (Syd Barrett cover)

Slint's set-list:
"Breadcrumb Trail"
"Nosferatu Man"
"Don,  Aman"
"Good Morning, Captain"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nine Inch Nails/Soundgarden/Cold Cave, August 21, 2014 at Sleep Train Amphitheater

On March 8, 1994, I bought The Downward Spiral, not Superunknown. Back then, my allegiance was definitely with Nine Inch Nails. I (with Brian) even drove to Mad Platter in Riverside that day and I paid full price for it. I later became something of a Soundgarden fan -- though mostly just for one album (not Superunknown, which I later got through Columbia House or something, and ditched not long after that) and a few singles -- but mostly because they got lumped in with a lot of my other favorite bands. Back then not much stood up to my deep love for NIN.  Though well after college and nearing something nearing middle age, I still considered myself a fan and would pick up whatever they put out but I couldn’t get too excited about seeing them in concert again. I’d already seen them at Lollapalooza the summer before and they were challenging bordering on disappointing; we could have seen them at Outside Lands but passed on it easily enough. But seeing a show with Corey is a singular experience, especially in going back to seeing NIN like we did back in the day (maybe the fourth concert I’ve ever been to, when they were still playing clubs).  And it would be a day out with Corey. He got the tickets fairly late and might have even intended to take a chick with him, but when he offered me the ticket, I took it.  So it was an easy drive to San Diego and a trip to the corporately-titled Sleep Train Amphitheater. As a call-back to arriving at shows by the time it says on the ticket (hopefully less than paranoia of missing anything -- as if Trent Reznor has performed during the day in 23 years) we got there early, among maybe the first few dozen through the door. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a concert venue early enough that it was empty.  We killed some time waiting it out (which had to have been excruciating for Corey since he doesn't drink).  But we had pretty good seats, the front of the section about halfway up. It wouldn’t be the Palace but I didn’t need to be so close up again (and I wouldn’t mind keeping my hearing for the next few days after). There were tickets for the show on Groupon, showing that even putting two once-gigantic bands on the same bill together wasn’t the same kind of draw they once were (who could have easily filled that venue or bigger by themselves back in the day), but we can say that it’s due to their most die-hard fans aging out and the music industry moving past them rather than no longer being able to put out worthwhile, relevant music. Count them down however you like for relying on the nostalgia factor, but this show had an extra gravity for anyone knowing their shared history, especially that of that day (and caring, which is where the trick is). Or it was just these two bands playing together, whether you were a fan of either or both, from the '90s or more recently. Finally we had something to watch, though it was only Cold Cave, who were making some mildly abrasive noise-pop but didn’t move much and the background visuals were a nice touch but couldn't completely save them. (Death Grips opening the show was what got me originally excited about going, if nothing else, but they bailed on it.)  Soundgarden did their thing and it was a fine performance. Nothing like the early-cycle celebration of their return at Lollapalooza '10, as this was just another tour stop, and there were no surprises or fireworks, except that they’re still doing it, as loud as they’ve ever been, and Cornell’s voice has stood up for so long. I didn’t recognize the deeper cuts, and I might have thrown in a few different tracks (“Pretty Noose," "Birth Ritual"), but what they did was satisfying. At last it was time for NIN. I had read that they had switched up the set since I had seen them last, toward the beginning of the tour to one of the last stops, and I was looking forward to seeing something different.  With the house-lights still up, Reznor swiftly stomped across the stage, grabbed the mic, then jumped into the first song before most of the crowd knew what was going on. Then the band blew through the rest of the set and it was a Nine Inch Nails show. Unfortunately, it was the same I’d seen before -- if they had changed their set after the initial run of festivals, they had changed it back, or there were changes I just couldn’t notice -- but this time had the benefit of me lowering my expectations, increasingly more as the night went on and I realized that it wasn’t so different. But if that’s what Reznor wanted to do, he could have let it be it worse. The effort was appreciated even if he wasn't destroying as many instruments, and the new stuff at times sounded better than the old material, as it had a little more electricity than the well-worn tunes we’d already heard and that the band were dragging out yet again. It was also an unofficial celebration of 20 years of The Downward Spiral -- even if the exact-same anniversary for Superunknown didn’t have the same recognition -- so those songs had a little extra poignancy. Reznor even addressed the crowd toward the end of the set, expressing his appreciation of his fans sticking around for so many years and noting that it might be a while before he came back with more NIN but it would indeed happen at some point -- that much talking, above explosively-furious complaints of equipment not working, was nowhere near any earlier NIN show, but it was warm, honest, and appreciated. The set was a little too well-lived-in to provide the kind of spark they had in the early days but it was a good enough show.  Put the two performances together and it was a pretty good deal. Thanks to Corey for the ticket.

Nine Inch Nails' set-list:
"Copy of A"
"Came Back Haunted"
"March of the Pigs"
"Terrible Lie"
"Closer" (with "The Only Time" snippet)
"Gave Up"
"Find My Way"
"The Great Destroyer"
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like a Hole"


Soundgarden's set-list:
"The Telephantasm" (introduction)
"Searching With My Good Eye Closed"
"Jesus Christ Pose"
"Black Hole Sun"
"The Day I Tried to Live"
"My Wave"
"Blow Up the Outside World"
"Fell on Black Days"
"A Thousand Days Before"
"Rusty Cage"
"Beyond the Wheel"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Electric Six/Yip Deceiver, June 13, 2014 at the Roxy

The Electric Six had a Kickstarter some years before (among the numerous Kickstarter campaigns they’ve had) where one of the level rewards was a ticket to every Electric Six, for the rest of life.  I’ve often thought about how much money I could have saved if I had jumped on that.  As it is, when they play a local show, they might as well charge me for a ticket straight off and let me know since, as anyone knows, I’ll be there.  (Not always the L.A. date, but one nearby if not.)  And so we saw them at the Roxy, one of the only venues smaller than the Troubadour to play without dishonor.  Maybe they just wanted to play such a legendary place, as often some bands do.  So they were there and so were we.  It was much the familiar show, with a few new tracks -- including the death-metal chorus of “Adam Levine” -- though if I minded seeing the same thing I wouldn’t see them so often.  The biggest significance for this show was Dick beginning counting off the numbers of the songs, keeping track of the order as they played them, though it was probably printed on his set-list more than he remembered their numbered order (and hopefully they didn’t play the same set enough to make the latter a simple proposition).  Some apparent technical problems in the middle also gave Dick the space to play “Jimmy Carter” by himself on an acoustic guitar, a rare glimpse of a Valentine solo show that confoundingly Europe gets frequently and we don’t (though he added the song to some encores on later tours).  And if the Six were frustrated with having to play such a small place (after playing increasingly smaller spaces), they took it out with smashing through a set possibly more furious than usual for having been so confined.  One of the more satisfying shows they had done recently.  The opening band was Yip Deceiver, which, even while in the vein of hyperactive indie bands like Hockey, didn’t leave much of an impression for as much as we saw them, until they came back on stage with the Six in the encore and did a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” of all songs.  There’s probably a story for picking that one, and it's probably all tongue-in-cheek, but it fit among anything else they played with any more or less irony.  This was also the show when I realized that I should have gotten Dylan to come, and it might have worked out since it was Friday night but I only came up with it when we there.  The next night they were playing Santa Ana but he was away that weekend anyway so it wouldn’t have worked out after all, though it planted the idea for next time.

Electric Six’s set-list (originally posted by me):
”Nom De Plume”
”After Hours”
”Devil Nights”
”Down at McDonnelzzz”
”The New Shampoo”
”Gay Bar”
”Gay Bar Part Two”
”Jimmy Carter”
”Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)”
”Hello! I See You”
”Jam It in the Hole”
”Show Me What Your Lights Mean”
”Future Is in the Future”
”Danger! High Voltage”
”Adam Levine”
”Dance Epidemic”
”I Buy the Drugs”
”We Were Witchy Witchy White Women”

”Everywhere” (Fleetwood Mac cover) (with Yip Deceiver)
”Dance Commander”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Billy Joel, May 17, 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl

I’d seen Billy Joel years ago and that was probably good enough for the rest of my life but in the time since I’d developed more of an appreciation of his catalog (even if it was still only off the first two greatest-hits volumes) and I wouldn’t have minded seeing him again.  Playing the Bowl was an event in itself, maybe even rivaling the show at the MGM in Vegas with Elton John where I saw him the first time.  He had said that it wasn’t going to be a greatest-hits set, and he could be forgiven for not going down that road yet again.  Heck, this was after how many times that he’d said he had retired.  So I hadn’t jumped on tickets but Carla knew I had some desire to go, and she knew we could make a great night of it, and that became my birthday present.  Not bad.  We jumped into Bowl-mode, getting a picnic dinner together and having time outside before going into the show, which was as full as we’d ever seen it.  The set turned out to have enough hits to satisfy us, more than half, and we didn’t feel like we missed anything by not knowing every single song, since those songs were still as solid as any other popular thing he’d done anyway.  This was more of a show by an artist, performing for the crowd that came to see him, rather than pandering to what he thought they wanted.  And that worked fine, since a master showman like himself knows just how much to dole out.  The high-point for me came early (and it would have been as great a shock as I’ve ever gotten at a concert if I hadn’t looked at his recent set-lists beforehand) that he played “Pressure,” a criminally-forgotten gem not only in his catalog but in the entire oeuvre of great rock music.  I never understood why no hard-rock band has ever turned around a cover of that song, especially back in the late-’90s when every nu-metal band tried to make their name on an easy ‘80s cover (and, unfortunately, some of them succeeding).  It came too early in the set, with Joel and his band not quite warm enough to bring much heat to the tune, but the fact it was included and that they made a go of it was enough for me.  The rest of the night might have been a typical evening at the Bowl but that’s nothing less than reliably extraordinary and special.  And if Joel isn’t going to actually, officially retire, maybe he has another series of shows like this still in him, maybe with some other hits, maybe with a pick-up band to tear down his catalog like it hasn’t already been done.

Billy Joel’s set-list:
“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)“
“Everybody Loves You Now“
“Vienna“ (audience chose between this and “Summer Highland Falls“)
“The Magnificent Seven Theme“ (Elmer Bernstein cover) (snippet)
“The Ballad of Billy the Kid“
“The Entertainer“
“Where's the Orchestra?“
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood“ (first time since the '80s)
“New York State of Mind“
“Sometimes a Fantasy“
“Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)“ (“Layla“ interlude)
“She's Always a Woman“
“Don't Ask Me Why“
“The River of Dreams“ (featuring part of "Surfin' USA")
“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant“
“Piano Man“

“It's Still Rock and Roll to Me“
“Big Shot“
“You May Be Right“ (with Adam Levine)
“Only the Good Die Young“

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Dandy Warhols, April 26 at the Roxy

The Dandy Warhols might have hit their peak years ago but it doesn’t stop them from keeping the tours going.  They’ve already hit nearly every venue in L.A, from Universal and the Wiltern on down, so it was probably just time until they played the Roxy.  They had already been relegated to opening shows, though it got them to play Universal, but they could do a few nights at a (relatively) tiny club just to do it, if nothing else.  Promoters just slot them in at a place and they’ll pull a crowd, even years after they’ve made any music that had a significant impact.  Yet, it was still amazing that they were playing somewhere as small as the Roxy and that tickets didn’t sell out instantly.  As it was, I heard about it from a friend at work and who knew how long it had been been since the tickets were up.  We jumped on it, coordinating with Dayna & Carlos for an evening out with them.  Up to that point for some reason I had thought they were still touring to play Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia in its entirety and it was only at the show that I realized they weren’t.  They still put on a great show, as they do, and even better for being confined to such a small area they could fill with bohemia and rock n’ roll.  Also odd that they played there only a week after Coachella, which they played only once (back in ‘01), and didn't again.  Could they have been trying to get onto the festival bill and assumed they’d be in the L.A. area for it and when that didn’t happen they went ahead with a show anyway?  It didn’t seem to matter anyway and they still rocked it out.  They stuck mostly to ...Come Down and Thirteen Tales, at least knowing what the crowd was going to want, though they switched up the set-list most nights, at least for the first few songs.  We missed "Every Day Should Be A Holiday" -- yet again for me -- just the night before (and played solo by Courtney) but they made up for it with the rest, whatever they played.  Bonus: As we were mulling about after the show, most of the band members made their way out around the emptying floor and Zia was wandering, at least for a moment, on her own.  Yes, it was a good idea to leave, with Carla, as promptly as possible.

Dandy Warhols' set-list:
"Everyone Is Totally Insane"
"The Last High"
"I Love You"
New song? "Intensified"?
"Well They're Gone"
"Good Morning"
"Sad Vacation"
"All the Girls in London"
"Horse Pills"
"Bohemian Like You"
"Get Off"
"Pete International Airport"
"Boys Better"
"Daisy on My Toe" (Zia solo)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Coachella, April 18-20 in Indio

After missing Coachella ‘13, we figured we were done with the festival, for various reasons (chief among them financial -- for that much money we could go on a proper vacation, and we're adults now), and we were cool with that.  The biggest thing that could get us to reconsider it for another year, we knew, was if they whipped out a phenomenal line-up, one beyond what we could expect, something maybe even more amazing than we could ask for, which doesn’t seem completely impossible considering what they’ve come up with in years past but it would have to go some distance.  For me, it was mostly about one group, a band I had been slavering to see even before the first Coachella and had broken up well before then.  Then the announcement that they were going to be there in ‘15, something that had been hinted vaguely at but the line-up revelation being the first actual confirmation.  It didn’t hurt that the rest of the line-up was incredibly impressive (and included a number of the bands from my first fake Coachella line-up, being the guide to bands I had never seen, were favorites when I’ve seen them, and wanted to reunite).  There was no way we couldn’t go.  The rest of the kids were down for it, I made the hotel reservation (the day the line-up came out) and everyone got their tickets, so we were all-in.  We had our traditional Sizzler dinner the night before on our way out, got everyone together -- us, Vanessa, Noa, Rachel, Jen, and Dave, having his very first Coachella weekend, and the whole thing went off without a hitch, a fitting end to what we thought strongly would be our last Coachella.  To top it off, on our way in the first day, our carpoolchella-outfitted truck got spotted by the roving agents giving out prizes for carpooling in and we, with Vanessa and Dave, won VIP tickets.  We would have been fine without them but it was a nice touch for the weekend, with a relatively uncrowded place to rest, shorter lines for food and drinks, and, most of all, the Samsung tent, which we had access to since I had a Samsung phone, and that gave us a rest area with AC, lockers to leave my phone to recharge, more drinks, a concierge who helped me with some problems with my phone I was having, Carla got her hair braided, and they even gave us a $10 voucher we could use at any of the food-trucks or bars around there.  Membership has its privileges.  I liked the phone anyway.  We were in there some of the time, mostly because we could, but to see the bands it was best to be out and about.  Friday is the day we’re most likely get to in early, since we’re excited and full of energy, and since, as we’ve learned, there’s a mass bottle-neck to enter as the day goes on, with so many people coming out from L.A. at the same time.  So we were there early enough to see some of Preatures, who we found out are Australian, heard some of Wye Oak, not to hear from them again, some of Goat, which were apparently good enough while we were having drinks, and ZZ Ward, who actually wasn’t bad, with a boogie-bar-band going on, with some nice hips (the only other thing I knew about her was her image on a tin of mints I got from somewhere at some point, a promotional thing I didn't pay much attention to except for being some pretty good mints), then Grouplove a bit later from the VIP area, who are probably a fine band, but I couldn’t find much concern, even though, or maybe because, they’re local.  It was a good warm-up to get into the day and sunshine and groove.  The crash over the next day or two would happen when it happened; the first band we were there for were Dum Dum Girls, who I’d started getting into just recently.  They’d been around for a while already so I had to catch up, and I still wasn’t as deep into them, but a sturdy set there proved they were a good band to stay with.  I knew there was something about their music that drew me in a little more, maybe something that wasn’t captured so much live, and it was shortly after that that I discovered they were produced (including their newest, Too True) by Sune Rose Wagner, of my beloved Raveonettes, and that was enough of a connection for me.  It also doesn’t hurt when your mysterious and dark lead singer performs with black tape Xs over her nipples under a sheer, black top.  They don’t need to keep a gothy image and it might be a bit much to give out, but a drop of overt sexiness can be a nice bit of spice; again, a whole lot of it was all about the line-up.  There were so many bands I had taken as my own, it would have been ridiculous to not have gone.  I’d seen a number of them a number of times, and maybe more toward their peaks, but to see them all there together in one weekend, mixed together, in the here-and-now, the updated versions to show they were still pushing on (and relevant enough to play the festival), was a singular delight.  It wasn’t until we got out there and Carla pointed out that, even beyond a number of bands that were reuniting, which Coachella does well to pull, it was a whole lot from the ‘90s.  Maybe it was just being retro, and we were done with the whole '80s thing by then anyway.  It worked for us.  It was mildly surprising to see the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in the line-up.  It almost seemed like a reward for them to have been there at the beginning (even if they weren’t actually at the very first Coachella -- they were supposed to be, and were even on some of the T-shirts, but ultimately weren’t, for whatever reason) and back again, with whatever happened to them in between, and not only were they still standing but they rocked as hard and as loud as they ever have, maybe moreso, earning that place on the line-up as much as anyway, not needing to actually rely on any retro thing and making anyone wonder how they could ever not be asked to appear.  They don’t really have anything else to prove but they played like their lives depended on it.  That’s how they played their best shows.  They tore into the material, not bothering with playing what everyone knew (which wasn't much in the first place) or shying away from new stuff (from Meat & Bone, as appropriate as anything they've done), just blasting through the set, burning it down, then starting the next song before wasting even a second.  The band still looks like they did 20-something years ago and that’s all they needed to round it out.  Spencer doesn’t let you wonder if leather pants are still in style or how hot he must be on stage in them, but maybe he'd give you a whiff of his pant-leg, baby.  It must have sucked for the bands on the bigger stages to be blown away but these veterans on the under-card.  No one recorded the set-list because to witness it was to be blown away by it; the Afghan Whigs were another surprise and another '90s reunion, even though we'd already seen them (twice) since they came back.  To have them in the mix would have been significant enough but we also knew they couldn't not put on a blazing set, especially a compact one that would go right for the jugular.  And they did.  They had enough confidence to fit in new material (from Do to the Beast) as half their set, that day not bothering with relative hits they managed to get on the radio (i.e. "Debonair") or usual set staples that are their best songs (i.e., "What Jail Is Like"), just burning through a set like they would have 20 years ago.  It was good enough that it wasn't even a bother that they ended 10 minutes early (as that stage seemed to be off all day).  Dulli once said to my face that he wouldn't play Coachella (because it was too hot).  He also said in that same conversation that the 'Whigs wouldn't get back together, but I had no problem at all that both of those became false; I was going on about how the line-up was the biggest deciding factor in us going that year, and it was, but I would have been there, on my own if I had to, just to see the Replacements.  It had been way too long waiting for them to get back together, and the rumors every year and Paul’s mediocre solo albums and seeing Tommy paying the bills with Guns N’ Roses, that it was agonizing waiting for it.  I told Carla on our first date that if they played Coachella that I would be there.  And so we were.  Now, I got on the ‘Mats train late -- right around when they broke up if I recall, and with their last two albums, which the general consensus says are their worst (whether I admit that or not, there’s still a very special place in my heart for them).  So all this time I’ve been patient about their getting back to together, for the chance to see them that I missed before, and thinking that they might never do it (though the Pixies proved that if any band could ever possibly get back together, it would likely eventually happen).  For all that I’d heard and read about their live shows for years I couldn’t know what to expect but I didn’t care.  Just to see them up on stage again, to hear at least a few of those songs, would be enough for me.  It could be a great show or they could play it drunk -- magic or a shambles, maybe decided as they stepped on stage, just like back in the day.  I’d read about their show there the weekend before, that it was sparsely attended and that they played a turgid set.  Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise.  It’d been quite a while, and no one had gotten any younger.  Could it have been too long?  Could they have missed the mark?  Maybe.  But I didn’t care.  I just wanted that one show.  Appropriately, I had drinks before, getting to just the right level of dippy-headed inebriation before they went on (maybe like them), and clawing our way to as close to the stage as we could get (and somehow digging the other kids from back in the crowd up with us).  And then they were up there.  In front of us.  And they tore into it.  They stuck to the older stuff, wisely if they knew their fans, with a few newer cuts but very purposely not a lot.  They started as a bar-band so putting together a set-list would be some kind of poison, but it’s not like they weren’t loose even on their tightest nights.  Even rolling out “Another Girl Another Planet,” a B-side cover rare on its own, even rarer to play (and the song I’d had in my head for days up to then).  If there was something that didn’t work the weekend before, it wasn't on evidence that night.  They could have done the whole thing like that but then they brought out Billy Joe Armstrong.  I’d probably be more excited to see him with the Replacements, his gods as much as ours, than with Green Day.  He was up there for only the few songs that they’d practiced but Paul encouraged him to stay.  Paul asked, “What do you want to play?”  Billy Joe shrugged.  Paul suggested a song, then Billy Joe said he didn’t know how to play it.  “Neither do we!”, Paul said.  Typically, classically Replacements.  Josh Freese, a brilliant pick for a pinch-hit drummer, kept everything on track with a strong spine while the guitarist (obviously not Bob or Slim) followed the others, and somehow it all fit together (as well as it could for such a shambolic band).  Paul spent most of the set on his back on a couch near the back of the stage, which could have been interpreted as him just being an old guy or pass-out drunk (or both), all of which would be appropriate.  It turned out that he was having back problems, which is a lot less fun than the other possibilities, but the fact that they clearly weren’t trying too hard to make too much of it was also typical.  All around it was just what anyone could have expected -- sometimes better than could be predicted but not in the way anyone guessed it would be.  We suspected they were going to stick around for a while longer, since they went to the trouble to get all this together in the first place, but their doing that show then and there in front of the world again was a declaration that they'd returned, maybe for the only other time, to finally put the rumors to rest and show that they could create magic out of chaos once again.  They weren't going to settle for a standard set and it was a highlight for the weekend, not just for me (though it was also a high-light for my entire year) but surely for anyone else with the taste (and age) to know that they could be as amazing as their legend had it; if we saw the beginning of the Knife, it was lost to me because I was in a post-Replacements daze and just couldn’t comprehend much after that; Outkast would have been a total high-point in any other line-up on any other day.  Here they were just the headlining band, and something we were kinda over by the time they got up there.  I’ve loved what albums of theirs I've had but they’re in a class by themselves live, or at least they used to be.  They were still great but they weren’t competing for attention being before other bands and really getting it out like they used to.  Seeing them years ago, they were one of the most amazing bands I’d ever seen for getting a crowd going and punching out a great show.  That night they already had the biggest slot and they could do what they want, including just gliding through a show instead of having to prove themselves, and to a much bigger crowd than they'd been in front of back in the day.  It was because of popular demand that they came back, and we thank them for it.  But they became just the headline band, as they were doing for that all-festival tour, cashing in on the dues they’d paid and giving it to the crowd together (more for getting Andre 3000 out) one more time.  They at least had the songs to carry them, even if they had no concern for new stuff, having enough confidence in their set to pull out “Hey Ya!” only halfway through, and that’s when we were leaving for the day.

missed: MS MR (a festival staple for a while and I'd never really seen them; conflict with Dum Dum Girls); Haim (conflict with JSBX, but we didn’t miss them much because they’re local (like, really local) and we knew we’d see them again before long); AFI (usually not on my radar but still great memories of their Lollapalooza set a few years before); Bastille (we decided to be an optimist about it); Kate Nash (too close to the 'Whigs but it’s good to see she’s still around and relevant enough to be playing a big American festival (I hadn’t kept up with her after Made of Bricks); Neko Case (heart-breaking to miss her but a conflict with the 'Whigs); Woodkid (conflict with the ‘Mats); Bryan Ferry (conflict with the ‘Mats, which was a real bummer because we probably wouldn’t get a chance to see him again, and he still does a healthy dose of Roxy Music stuff); Girl Talk (if you’re not on drugs and you’ve already seen him play once, you’re kinda over it); the Cult (another bummer to miss since it’s a band we hadn’t seen before and might not go out of our way to see again).

After Friday’s cornucopia of bands, peaking with the Replacements, Saturday could only be a lower level, even if on any other bill it would have been a high-point.  We got in about mid-day, not being in a rush but with a few acts in mind to see.  Since we entered by the main stage it was hard to avoid Cage the Elephant, and that was one of the big acts Noa was there for.  I always forget that I like them, mostly because it’s not enough for me to track down their albums, but I’ve enjoyed them live.  This was a lot like any other time I’ve seen them at a festival, though it was still fine and energetic; Bombay Bicycle Club is one of Carla’s bands, and being that they’re a poppy but solid band from England, you’d think I’d be all into them but by that time they were just another band in the mid-size tent.  Nothing wrong with them, and it was probably a great set for them, and Carla enjoyed it, but it wasn’t much for me, especially since I’d seen them do a full show already; Julian Casablanca’s set from a few years ago was a high point for me then but this time it seemed like a token appearance at best, a nuisance at worst.  The solo album he was touring on hadn’t grabbed me and even if he did some Strokes cuts it would have felt like he was desperate to offer anything the crowd would be into or just assuming he was automatically in their good graces.  It's apparent that the people love him for his original band.  For us it was just a set we wandered through after our lunch in the VIP garden (a reason to get one of those passes on its own) on the way to the next act; out next stop was the beer garden to the side of the main stage, so Kid Cudi’s set was mostly secondary to us drinking.  We saw just the end and he sure put a lot of passion into it but it mostly passed through us, except when he did “Pursuit of Happiness” which we knew only because of Lissie; we went with the kids over to Capital Cities but I knew it wasn’t for me.  I was already gone by the time they got into it but everyone said later that they were really great.  Maybe they were; if we saw Warpaint, it was only for the briefest bit at the end.  As much as we love them, we didn’t sweat missing them since we’d seen them and we knew they'd be around again.  They were a summer festival staple band and they got around.  They’re more like Haim in certain ways than not; MGMT were also festival whores, a band that kept showing up more than they didn’t, it seemed.  I made an effort at the beginning and they didn’t catch, and I knew trying harder wasn’t going to pay off.  As it was, we could enjoy them at a show, if we were in the lounge with a drink in hand, then forget a few minutes later that they’d even played; Lorde had been a hard sell for me -- I never did warm up to “Royals”, but after all the hype I checked out the album and really dug it, more as an album than as singles.  Even still, it wasn't enough to fight for a close spot to see her on the second stage, so we saw the first bit of her from a distance, enough to say I’ve seen her in case she has the ability to be something enough to seek out later on; I’m rarely drawn to DJs playing the festival but some years ago when I wandered by Fatboy Slim playing I saw one of the most astounding feats of live music-cutting and -mixing that I may ever witness in my life.  Enough to put him on the list to see again, and he had the longevity to make it back (even if that amount was big only anywhere but the States).  I made my way over to the big DJ tent to catch some of his set, to see if it was something I needed to see the rest of, but by that time of the evening the place was packed and chaotic, the visuals loud and messy and confusing, and who knows if he was even mixing live like a DJ or just letting music play, or if that music was even worth listening to.  I saw that it was just too much for me, fairly typical for the Sahara Tent, and we moved on; the Pixies playing should have been a big deal.  A really big deal, for me.  They weren’t announced initially and added only when the set-times were released, and even then it didn’t feel like much of a surprise.  The line-up was already packed so it didn’t contribute much, and they had gotten around so much by then that the only surprise was that they hadn’t played every year since they did the first time, 10 years ago, which we already had seen, both Carla & I separately, and on top of how many other times we had seen them, they became just another band out there.  The only real reason to see them would have been to hear any new material, which we already knew was not much worth the effort, or to see Paz playing bass, which was welcome but not enough to balance not seeing Kim there.  Packing out the mid-size tent almost made up for not scoring a spot on the main stage -- a bummer because they would have deserved it more if it was all old stuff they were playing, if they hadn’t already done that show.  As it was, we saw the first half of them out of some kind of obligation then scurried off to the next act that we were actually excited about.  Side-note: At one point Frank Black was entering the VIP area just as we were so I said hello and thanked him for playing and shook his hand and he dismissed me as usual; Queens of the Stone Ages’ ...Like Clockwork was my album of the year so it was good to be able to see them play from it later in that tour, when I was more familiar with it than at the beginning, at Lollapalooza.  They tore through it, along with other great stuff, and more relaxed this time with having nothing more to prove (as if they ever did).  That was the high point for Carla, always meeting her expectations if not exceeding them, and they delivered, even though we had no doubt; after that could have been all extra, but it was still early.  We knew Pharrell’s set was going to be big, and you probably read about his guest-stars in an article more informed and more aware of pop music than this one.  We hung around to hear a few of the hits, songs we knew even though they were nowhere in our music collections, and maybe even knew we missed what was probably one of the most electric and electric sets of the weekend (and one perplexingly confined to the side stage).  But there was other stuff to see; Pet Shop Boys were another big attraction for me.  I’ve already gone on about seeing them, and being familiar with them I knew how great they could be live.  Even though probably every person over 25 knew who they were, their set, in the mid-size tent, was nearly empty (relatively).  It was just the two of them, as usual, along with a pair of dancers wearing mildly-Satanic-looking cattle skulls, and they rolled out a lot of the hits, even when those weren’t always hits in the U.S.  The music was good, the presentation was fine, the vibe was sexy and fun, but maybe it was the lack of an audience, and that they were aware of the size of it, or the fact that they’re used to a crowd turning the place into a wet discotech that they just didn’t bring much energy.  They usually slide through a set without a huge amount of effort, leaving the dancers to put out most of the physicality, but that wasn’t the best play for the place.  They had little to prove, and maybe they played just to show they’re still relevant, and even if their material was still great, it just wasn’t the place for it.  Maybe they could have done better in the DJ tent with kids so E-ed out of their minds that they’d dance to whatever, whether they could appreciate it or not.  It could have been not being able to fully appreciate them because of an overflow of acts that were great for other reasons, or because they just didn’t bring as good a show as they could have, or because it was getting late and we wanted to be able to get out before the mass exodus of the night, but we left halfway through and didn’t much regret missing the rest.

missed: White Lies (it was a surprise they could still pull a festival slot but I wasn’t so concerned with them after their first album, leaving it in a place where I could enjoy it without having to connect it with anything else they did after); Chvrches (we weren’t familiar with them but they had a lot of buzz at that moment); Washed Out (probably couldn’t top what we’d seen of them before); Foster the People (probably the only time we would make an effort to see them.  But didn’t want to badly enough to have any regret for not having done it); Sleigh Bells (from an impressive list of bands that we missed, they just happened to stack so many of them on top of each other later in the day and sacrifices had to be made); Muse (like we were going to bother anyway.  The fact that they got them to do the festival -- yet again -- just seems like they couldn’t get another headliner and these guys, not currently on a tour, had the weekend open.  Not very adventurous but probably great for their fans); Skrillex (and I’m not sure why we even would have considered it.  It might have been interesting to see how his show -- whatever that is -- has changed since he’s gotten big but we weren’t going to make the effort).

As usual, Sunday was a late day going in, enough that our first act of the day was Neutral Milk Hotel, one of the big pulls for the festivals.  I knew how legendary they were since their heyday in the ‘90s yet I never found my way to them.  I know that I had missed that one since their set did nothing for me.  Surely an acquired taste like so many of my favorite bands but at that time, going in cold, barely even knowing what genre or sub-genre they subscribed to, the set just went through me.  I didn’t even remember that we had seen the entire thing but apparently we did; we saw the second half of Little Dragon.  Another one that didn’t leave an impression since I don’t remember seeing them.  But it had been a long weekend; for everyone else, Beck was the big act of the day.  Nearly for me too.  Even since the beginning I couldn’t say that I was a huge Beck fan, though I still managed to get every album he put out and kept them, even if I didn’t always hold them as dearly as any other artist I kept up with.  But part of the thrill of being a fan of his, to whatever degree, is following his various mutations and being there when he reached another high.  His newest, Morning Phase, was billed as a new Sea Change, but I liked the new one more than that older one.  And as difficult as it would have been to pull off any version of such a dour album, he brought it.  With a truncated set he probably left off more of the newer stuff than he had been playing, but he stuck with the gems, not always his best-known stuff but what was working with that band, in that context.  The whole thing would have been fine but he pulled out a secret weapon, the near-forgotten “Debra,” buried even since his first (and the first) Coachella festival.  Maybe it would have worked in any other set-list along the way, maybe even on the Sea Change tour if he wanted to get cheeky of a night, but that he had it there that night helped make the whole thing.  He might even have coasted through the rendition (which, as it’s so laid-back anyway, might have made it another version) but it was a high point.  If they did a CD of highlights from the weekend, one song from each artist, that one would have opened the album.  Beck did it again.  Then I left before the last song because I had my personal highlight for the day, if not the entire festival that didn’t include the Replacements; Motörhead isn’t a band you’d think I’d be into, but it’s possible you could say the same thing about most of their fans.  Cousin Jason introduced Brian and me to them somewhere in high school as something of a novelty, something that we would only marvel at and maybe make a joke from our ignorance.  Biker-metal was a lot closer to what Brian had ever listened to and especially as I was going through various alt- and British- and pop-phases, it wasn’t anything that I ever thought to listen very seriously or non-ironically.  That wasn’t fair but I didn’t know any better.  It was only in getting another stack of CDs from Columbia House and The Best of Motörhead was just another one to get cheap.  I always put it on as a really extreme thing -- everyone needs a bit of head-banger metal every once in a while -- but after a while the songs started to take hold of me.  Of course it started with “Ace of Spades” -- forever a stone classic -- but the other tunes started to grab me as well.  For one, there was never anything like it, even other biker-metal (wherever that was) couldn’t get near it.  Those were hard songs, but they were done as well as anything else in any other genre out there.  For what it was, it was true and honest to itself and didn’t care if you were in or out since it was going on anyway.  And of course there was the incomparable Lemmy, a star on his own even if you couldn’t get into the music (and a shame if you didn’t, but you always have time with the music).  I hadn’t gone much beyond that greatest-hits, probably out of fear, but I still had something for them.  And I had never seen them in concert.  Not really a surprise -- they weren’t going to play much any other festival, Coachella itself being one of the biggest shocks in their history, and it was a bit intense for me to see them on their own (a friend of mine, who had been in a pioneering speed-metal band, said that they were such a loud band that he couldn’t stay in the same facility when he had seen them).  I had my ear-plugs and I was ready.  I missed the first song just because it takes time to get across the field even when you’re sprinting but I don’t feel I missed a thing from it.  The volume from the rest of the performance made up for it.  Even Slash coming out for the encore was an unnecessary addition.  No one had any idea what kind of shape Lemmy was really in for that show, but they made the effort to make that go of it, and his fans will always love him for it.  It wasn’t too much longer that we all became exponentially glad that we got to see that show, and for that one, the first and only time I would get to see him/them.  (Some years ago he had brushed by me at the Rainbow Room on an ordinary Wednesday night and I was too overwhelmed to say hello to him.  Everyone has told me that he was really friendly and I regret that I never met him.)  That show was as perfect as it could have been; I think I wandered through Duck Sauce, whatever that was, on the way to the next thing but obviously what was there didn’t stick; the rest was Arcade Fire, though again it was just to finish up the night after a high-point.  By that time in their timeline, the band, while still great, had settled into being a reliable, if predictable, headliner, as they seemed to hit every big festival with their rolling extravaganza (as well as working their way up through the Coachella ranks and already having headlined once before).  Second only to their music was how they were impressive for being a (relatively) new band that earned headliner status, when that designation was getting few and far between for bands that had increasingly fleeting moments of impact then flitted away with the waning attention of the fans.  The Arcade Fire could either handily keep that attention or the people were just starved for a decent band to end the night with a longer set.  The band had just turned in Reflektor, their recent album that didn’t quite reach the heights of their previous efforts, but it played well enough live.  As it was, I muddled through the set until it was time to leave and we could be done with the day, and the rest of the festival, going out on the highest of high points, satisfied if we never did it again.

Missed: Counrtey Barnett (who we didn’t know at the time but became big fans of later and totally bummed to have missed her when we had the chance); Strfkr (who always seem to be at the fringes); Classixx (some local boys who were getting a lot of buzz at the time).

​OutKast set-list:
"Gasoline Dreams"
"Skew It on the Bar-B"
"Rosa Parks"
"Da Art of Storytellin', Part 1"
"SpottieOttieDopaliscious" (with Sleepy Brown)
"Ms. Jackson"

Big Boi:
"Kryptonite (I'm on It)" (Purple Ribbon All-Stars cover)
"The Way You Move" (with Sleepy Brown)

André 3000:
"She Lives in My Lap" ("Vibrate" intro)
"Hey Ya!"

Ol' school set:
"Hootie Hoo"
"Crumblin' Erb"
"Player's Ball"
"Elevators (Me & You)"
"So Fresh, So Clean" (with Sleepy Brown)
"Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" (Underground Kingz cover)
"The Whole World" (with Killer Mike)

Arcade Fire set-list:
"Reflektor" (instrumental outro tape)
"Get Lucky" (Daft Punk cover) (with fake Daft Punk on stage)
"Normal Person" (with fake Daft Punk on stage)
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
"Rebellion (Lies)"
"Joan of Arc"
"The Suburbs"
"The Suburbs (Continued)"
"Ready to Start"
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
"Crown of Love"
"No Cars Go"
"We Exist"
"It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)" (Régine on B-stage)
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (Damian Taylor Remix intro)
"Controversy" (Prince cover; with Beck)
"Here Comes the Night Time"
"Wake Up"
"Wake Up" (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
"Iko Iko" (The Dixie Cups cover; with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)

The Replacements set-list:
"I Will Dare"
"Nowhere Is My Home"
"Another Girl, Another Planet" (The Only Ones cover)
"I'm in Trouble" (with Billie Joe Armstrong)
"Kiss Me on the Bus" (with Billie Joe Armstrong)
"Achin' to Be" (with Billie Joe Armstrong)
"Color Me Impressed" (with Billie Joe Armstrong)
"Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out"
"I'll Be You"
"Bastards of Young"
"I Don't Know"
"Psychopharmacology" (Paul Westerberg song)
"Left of the Dial"
"Alex Chilton"

"Can't Hardly Wait"

Queens of the Stone Age set-list:
"You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire"
"No One Knows"
"My God Is the Sun"
"Burn the Witch"
"Smooth Sailing"
"Little Sister"
"…Like Clockwork"
"If I Had a Tail"
"The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died"
"I Sat by the Ocean"
"Go With the Flow"
"A Song for the Dead"

Beck set-list:
"Devil's Haircut"
"One Foot in the Grave"
"Black Tambourine"
"Soldier Jane"
"Blue Moon" (Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" intro snippet)
"Lost Cause"
"Sissyneck"/"Billie Jean" (Michael Jackson cover)
"Where It's At"
(incomplete, possibly out of order)

Neutral Milk Hotel set-list:
"The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One"
"The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts Two & Three"
"Holland, 1945"
"Gardenhead"/"Leave Me Alone"
"Two-Headed Boy"
"The Fool"
"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"
"Ferris Wheel on Fire"
"Song Against Sex"
"Ruby Bulbs"
"Snow Song, Part One"
"The Penny Arcade in California"
"Two-Headed Boy, Part Two"

Pet Shop Boys set-list:
"One More Chance"/"A Face Like That"
"Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"
"I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing"
"I'm Not Scared"
"West End Girls"
"Somewhere" (Leonard Bernstein cover)
"Love Etc."
"I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)"
"It's a Sin"
"Domino Dancing"
"Always on My Mind" (Brenda Lee cover)
"Go West" (Village People cover)

Motörhead set-list:
"Damage Case"
"Stay Clean"
"Over the Top"
guitar solo
"The Chase Is Better Than the Catch"
"Rock It"
"Lost Woman Blues"
"Doctor Rock" (with drum solo)
"Just 'Cos You Got the Power"
"Going to Brazil"
"Killed by Death"

"Ace of Spades" (with Slash)
"Overkill" (with Slash)

Pixies set-list:
"Bone Machine"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"Gouge Away"
"Magdalena 318"
"Crackity Jones"
"Ed Is Dead"
"Indie Cindy"
"Where Is My Mind?"
"Nimrod's Son"
"Greens and Blues"

The Afghan Whigs set-list:
"Parked Outside"
"Matamoros" (with Van Hunt)
"Fountain and Fairfax"
"Going to Town"
"The Lottery"
"Heaven on Their Minds" (Andrew Lloyd Webber cover)
"Somethin' Hot"
"It Kills" (with Van Hunt)
"Royal Cream"
"I Am Fire"
"My Enemy"

Bombay Bicycle Club set-list:
"It's Alright Now"
"Your Eyes"
"How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep"
"Home By Now"
"Lights Out, Words Gone"
"Always Like This"
"Carry Me"

"Be My Husband" (snippet; Nina Simone cover)
"Put the Gun Down"
"Til the Casket Drops"
"Hold On, We're Going Home" (Drake cover)
"365 Days"
"Last Love Song"
"Move Like U Stole It"
"Blue Eyes Blind"