I was lucky enough to snag a VIP pass to the 2007 Coachella Festival. The pass came to me via, who else, Cousin Mike.
After a 3 hour leisurely drive through the desert, my friend and I meandered our way onto the fairgrounds. It was still early afternoon and sweltering. We found a nice square of shade and parked ourselves by the main stage. Our plan was to revitalize with water and food after the long trip. By the time dusk hit we'd be ready to rock.
While in this limbo phase, we saw The Roots tear a hole in the fabric of the universe. They inserted a mini-set inside of their larger show which consisted of a mad guitarist/singer fronting a power trio with drums and tuba. I can't explain how perfectly this worked and have forgotten what the name of this weird little combo actually is.
As the sun set, the true appeal of this particular festival became quickly apparent. The lights began popping out against the sky, the sounds were loud but given such space that they never overwhelmed.
Manu Chao took the stage. Having heard SO much buzz about this fellow, I was rather shocked at how quickly I disliked everything about his music and performance. All rhythm no melody all bounce no groove. We tolerated this for a while but it was Manu Chao that forced us to leave the pampered VIP area and head out into the festival itself.
We bounced around checking out different tents. Nothing really captured our attention. We headed into what appeared to be a hallway of fabric. It slowly spiraled inward until you realized that you must be approaching the center of a nautilus. As it spiraled, the passageway imperceptibly shrank. When you entered you could fit 10 people across. After 15 minutes inside you were shoulder to shoulder. After 25 you were in single file. The ceiling fabric was also lowering and lowering until you stooped. All of a sudden you were enveloped in fabric from above and below which forced you to crawl through a small opening. You came through the other side on the inside of the spiral but now there was no ceiling fabric. The claustrophobia had given way to a gorgeous protected open air path which reverse mirrored the one you'd taken in.
After exiting the fabric birth canal, we found a tent with the band The Klaxons. This was the highlight for me musically. I'd never heard of them before this and their rock came with such an infectious sense of polish and pop that they seemed like the perfect live band for 40 minutes. We were singing along even though we didn't know the songs.
And then, the headliners back on the main stage. We made our way back to the main stage VIP area to get a good seat for the historic reunion of Rage Against The Machine.
I'd not been a fan when they were together. Well, not totally true. I thought the music itself was incredible, flexible, funky, powerful. But Zach De La Rocha's bark/singing and juvenile junior high poetry protest song lyrics are embarrassing, especially in light of how underground and radical he THINKS he is.
I know music is subjective but I truly believe that if I had a couple of hours with the most diehard of Rage fans I could make them see that what De La Rocha writes is not protest but propaganda. Of the worst order.
All that being said, I still thought that if there was ever a time or space for me to enjoy a Rage Against The Machine show, it would be Coachella. I was very interested in how they recreated that sonic battering ram in a live environment.
Unfortunately, my optimism was ill conceived. All nuance was crushed. De La Rocha's vocal became the focus point which means that the show remained in a narrow strip of faux release and impotence masquerading as power.
I can't get the snark out of my head when dealing with Rage Against The Machine. What machine are you guys raging against, anyway? The espresso machine? The answering machine? The washing machine?
The totalitarian machine? Really? Didn't you make millions by EXPRESSING YOUR OPINIONS FREELY?