Archive for April, 2007

  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Apr
  • 07
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Coachella

The real headliner of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival is the burning sun. Unrelenting, it mercilessly roasts with an intensity that feels very personal. It is as though our furnace in the sky is looking down upon the 60,000 person crowd and finding you – you above anyone – to focus with a hatred you can feel. The natives say it is a dry heat, somehow making its sustained triple digits less significant. Though to the non-indigenous this consolation provides the same comfort as the soft look of a puppy that just shit in your cornflakes. By the time the walk through the festival’s labyrinthian admittance process is complete all the women are in their underwear, all the men have pit stains, and all the event staff have a patience worn razor thin from the ridiculous heat and an ever growing pile of confiscated drug paraphernalia.

The first set was Tom Morello’s alt-folk acoustic project called The Nightwatchman. Located in the compartively diminuitive Gobi tent, the crowd spilled out the back and along the sides as hippies and rockers crammed next to each other to catch the first glimpse of Sunday’s headliner. The set was a a meager 45 minutes and fraught with tuning difficulties. Clearly fresh from rehearsals with Rage, Morello struck his classical guitar with an overplayed strum that frequently buzzed and clanged. The combination proved that the veteran rockstar had a genuine naked vulnerability behind the acoustic guitar. Playing a host of covers and tunes from the debut record, the gathered would-be revolutionaires pumped fisted and screamed more at Morello’s furious rhetoric than his 60’s style protest ballads. Tom Morello is an absolute incendiary on the soapbox. The set culiminated to a fever pitch when he introduced Perry Ferrell and Boots Riley (from counterculture hiphop act The Coup) for a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Morello was quick to warn the audience that, “to call this song under-rehearsed is a complete understatement.”

What was delivered was one of those magical moments over the course of one’s life that makes you fall in love with rock and roll all over again. The three have so little in common musically, but united in outrage they delivered a spectacularly occasional event.

Shortly thereafter the crew grabbed a bite and happened upon Pitchfork writer Daphne Carr on assignment at Coachella. She and Amy Phillips delivered a writeup on the festival as well as an upcoming interview with Cornelius. We chatted about some of the acts we saw, the less-than-glamorous side of entertainment writing, and of course the desert heat. I quite nearly confessed my adoration for her criticism, but somehow managed to best the fanboy impulse and played it off awkwardly. The writeup they produced is brief but accurate.
Further wandering produced a remarkable find in the form of a San Francisco “bike rodeo and human-powered carnival” called Cyclecide. Featuring pedal-powered contraptions of various sizes and risks of personal harm, they produced several moments of near catastrophe. To my everlasting embarrassment, many were documented in photograph.

After a few near spills, we soaked our egos in some $6 Heineken and caught Ghostface Killah from a distance. I may be just a white boy from Kansas, but I can’t find a single rap outfit that can produce a compelling live performance. A brief discussion was had on the causes, and I believe the conclusion was with the element of improvisation missing, engagement with an audience is not going to be as successful as rock and roll.

The Mayor of Coachella came out to introduce Ozomatli at the next stop, who delivered one of the highlight performances of the weekend. Executing a 45 minute set loaded with new material off of Don’t Mess With The Dragon, Ozo loaded Gobi with diehard fans chanting “Ya se fue.” The band is consistently disappointing on record, and their set cemented their superiority as a live act.

By the time our shaken and stirred ensemble drifted to catch Saturday’s headlining Red Hot Chili Peppers, we were foot sore and heat drunk. They took their sweet time taking the stage and by the fourth or fifth song about California, I had my fill. The omnipresent complaint around the main stage is that the sound was very empty, and the victim of the greatest cruelity of this failure was clearly Chad Smith. Even had the sound been resolved midset, the performance fell far short from compelling, giving urge to investigate the other late night performers.

Gotan Project was on the second main stage and a complete unknown to me. A fairly large flamenco ensemble from Argentina combines with two Parisian electronica DJs to from the sound, much of which corresponds with pre-produced video. Again, the absence of improvisation made it difficult for anyone to get too excited. But, Gotan Project did deliver one of the few truly original performances of the weekend.

Our first day closed out with The Rapture and Tiesto. The former being a competent electonic rock ensemble hailing from across the Atlantic and the latter being total goddamned rubbish. The superiority of Tiesto’s sound to the Chili Peppers was frequently mentioned as a near criminal trespass. I was quick to remind folks that Tiesto’s set was hardly a difficult mix as it could quite possibly be the CD on an iPod at the board. Green lasers and scattered ass on a five story video screen I guess is all it takes to make it in Holland and the global electronica scene. However, we had sandwiches and beer at HQ, and a tolerance for shit music worn thin by a day of desert heat and unbelievable rock and roll.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 28
  • Apr
  • 07
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Coachella

After the first mildly raucous evening, we awoke from a fitful slumber to the sound of sprinklers in the golf course that was our backyard and the faint soundcheck of the concert’s main stage. Today’s agenda is packed. The Nightwatchman, Fountains of Wayne, Ozomatli, Travis, and the Chili Peppers as well as a handful of suggestions from the assembled crew.

The crew itself is a motley sort. We’re the sort of crowd that barely have any earthly business in a house this nice. Rancid blares over crappy laptop speakers as the weak nurse their hangovers and the strong check their email.

No earthly business staying in a place that has no earthly business existing. Centered quite literally in the middle of the goddamned desert, one wouldn’t know except for the desert hills. Green, meticulously maintained grass extends as far as one can see. However upon closer examination, the grass seems more like a carpet. A genetically engineered turf that is tucked in neatly next to brick and marble patios speaks to a loosely veiled illusion louder than the faux Spanish architecture ever could.

One of the boys already snapped off a sprinkler head on the front lawn. I’m pretty sure the screen door to the backyard is in its final days. The neighbors load up their clubs into their carts while whistling John Test. I pick up broken glass while singing along to American Idiot.

They give me a look like I don’t belong, blissfully unaware of the ridiculousness upon which they stand.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 28
  • Apr
  • 07
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Coachella

The long awaited return of Rage Against The Machine is this very weekend, and (d)N0T is there to catch their first show at Coachella. Joining a crew of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells at a conveniently located HQ, this first on location assignment for the blog bringing Gonzo back to American journalism started with a bang.

Fresh off an hour long plane ride of speed cubing, my Lebanese comrade and I had surprisingly little problem going through airport security. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we bopped down to the baggage claim getting ready for the hour drive to the burning desert where the concert of the year was to be held. Evidently, Majed had made a friend.

“Hey dude, these guys are going to Palm Springs.”

I look to his right and the college couple that were sitting next to him on the flight looked at me with a sort of desperate hopefulness.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah dude,” Majed declared. “Do you mind if we give them a ride?”

The spirit of punk rock overwhelming my better judgment, I reply, “Sure! That’s where we’re going.”

Charlie and Sarah were biology majors from University of California Santa-Cruz, which should have been my first tipoff. A pair of hippie majors at a hippie school trying to hitch a ride with two complete strangers. Only in California would this ever make sense.

We embark on the journey, quickly procuring the ride that our humble blog could afford. The Chevrolet Impala’s mileage read 2700, but it already looked twenty years old, such was the sad testament to the engineering produced by 21st century Detroit. Immediately we were cracking jokes about the size of its trunk and its capacity to store human bodies. Surprisingly, our hitches did not balk in the slightest.

It takes us an hour and a half to get to an area that looks remotely like Palm Springs, and Charlie begins to pipe up with the directions. We quickly wind our way through the town of 46k, finding ourselves rapidly into the suburb of suburbs. It was at this point that I began to suspect something was awry. I had accepted their request for assistance as I thought they were college kids trying to make the biggest concert of the year on their meager budgets. After all, I was once a college kid who tried desperately to make big ticket concerts on a Ramen budget. However, the neighborhoods that we were approaching did not suggest the sort of budget from which a hitchhiking request would emerge.

“Turn right here.”

“Into the gated community?” I asked.

“Yeah dude,” he said. “This is it.”

It took me quite a few minutes to stop shaking in anger as we dropped him off. This trust fund baby took us 30 minutes out of our way in order to drop him and his hanger-on to his “dad’s place in Palm Springs.” Property they “only owned because of the golf courses.”

Fuck that.

Typical California gave way to typical California as we arrived to Coachella right after Day One lets out landing us in the middle of a shitstorm of traffic. It took us an additional two hours to finally get the twelve blocks to the HQ. Fortunately, (d)N0T operative Nate had us fully accomadated in the style we deserve.

Sipping on a Caucasian with my feet propped up next to a jacuzzi comfortably seated next to the sixth hole on The Palms golf course, the day’s adventure already seems an eternity ago. There’s a magic that was once America. I sit now in a place that my grandparents cannot even conceive to hear rock and roll they could never imagine coming from the roots they laid. The majesty of my life shines brighter than the three-quarter moon over a still desert night. 2am on a Friday night on a marble patio surrounded by an impossible paradise it is clear that the American Dream remains alive, if only for the people that want to write about it so.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 24
  • Apr
  • 07

Slashdot connected the dots this afternoon that the website for the Secretary of State in Ohio was the subject of some suspicious switcherooing on the eve of the 2004 election.  Publicly available evidence indicates that the website’s IP address was switched right before the election.  The owner of the IP address?  Smartech, whose IP addressing happens to belong to none other than the Republican National Committee.

The evidence is very damning.  The process of getting IP addresses from ARIN is very stringent.  Full identification of the company requesting ownership of an address block is reviewed before the blocks are assigned. Additionally, those blocks must be justified by real business need before they can be received. In short, there is no possible way that it could have been an accident.  The process by which a publicly accessible machine could be identified with that address block requires a set of circumstances that eliminates coincidence is a possibility.  On the Internet, there are no accidents.  These things always happen for a reason.

What are the implications?  The office responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the 2004 election in Ohio was running on a server owned by the Republican Party.  A metaphor that would provide an every day equivalence is hard to come by, but a reasonable stab would be like allowing the voting ballots to be printed by Fox News.  With the primary website for that office running on politically motivated machines, any number of possibilities could be theorized that swing Ohio to a red state.

The illusion of the anonymity of the Internet compelled discovery of a very real threat to the legitimacy of Ohio’s results and, indeed, the election as a whole.  This discovery is fantastic for the future of elections.  By virtue of its very public architecture, the Internet does not allow propaganda to be anonymous any longer.  The days of fictitious 527 groups allowing to be segregated from the very real purseholders that are funding them are gone.  If it is going to be heard in America, it is going to require a website.  If it has a website, the world is going to know who did it.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 19
  • Apr
  • 07

This afternoon the news came in over the wire that the gunman at the freshly dubbed “Virginia Tech massacre” had sent a package to NBC.  Contained was a number of videos and a manuscript of sorts adding more context but little reason behind the tragic event.  The Smoking Gun, of course, has it in its entirety by now along with some of his previous writing.

The world can be such a frightening place to some.  The questions already pour in, even so soon after the storm.  Through the media many wonder how many public agencies the young man passed through before the horrific end.  Others inquire with no small justification as to the speed of the response.  Still others are asking how it was someone who wrote what he did remain free.

Having read only a few pages, “free” is something I don’t think this man was for even a moment in his life.

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