Archive for May, 2007

  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • May
  • 07

There is a night sky that much of the world is never so lucky to see.  In the sprawling suburbia of Bay Area California, you are rarely beyond the reach of light pollution that allows you to see more than a couple dozen celestial bodies on a given night.  I wonder privately if that is the cause of the perceived humility of Midwesterners.  Staring up at the far end of our galaxy every night must have some sort of subconscious impact when frequently viewed.  Every night when I look up at the Kansas sky I see a sprawling arm across the sky reminding me of the insignificance of my being and the privilege of its existence.  I wonder how much different California would be, how much different the 70% of the world’s population that lives in urbanized areas would be if they could see the night sky the other 30% see.  I’m not sure if they would be better or worse.

But I am sure they would think of themselves as less mighty.  And might, it seems, is the illusion that keeps us from being truly human.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 02
  • May
  • 07
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Coachella

Rage Against The Machine opened with Testify and the exodus began. Simultaneously the 40,000 in attendance began to riot and streams of terrified hippies and children struggled to make it past. Napalm firebombs of mosh pits tore upon sections of the half-acre crowd at random, catching many of the hapless Birkenstock crowd completely unawares. A sea of humanity steamed like it was less a group of individuals, but one large, terribly angry thing respirating wildly under the strain of unmatched exertion. They struggled in small groups; peaceful refugees suddenly in a sea of anger. Some were bleeding, most were bruised, but they all left clearly broken. Enormous men with shaved heads had finally their druthers. The crowd raged, and by the third song People of the Sun, the sprawling throng had concentrated having purged fully a third of the crowd through fear alone.

Having a fair amount of experience in this, most mosh pits are like a 15 year old boy with his first girlfriend. A few frenetic fits of violent shaking in the tight confines of a parent’s sedan and the the load is spent, followed by an hour of awkward half-attempts at recapturing the virile fury of the evening’s opening moments. Mosh pits are very quick to lose their zeal. By the fourth or fifth song, you’ve likely seen the worst of what was to come. Such an exception was Rage. By the time we were rolling down Rodeo with a shotgun with the sixth song of the night, though people were fainting around us the pits only got larger and more violent.

It was around this time in the middle of the mayhem that I noticed that Zack de la Rocha wasn’t saying anything. He began the night with a terse greeting, “Good evening, we’re Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles, California.” Not a word until the final tune of the regular set where they busted out an instrumental break with “Wake Up” did even a little conversation pepper the set. No mention of where the eff they’ve been for the past 7 years. No new songs or talk about a new record. Fully zero of anything at all except a token tirade against Bush Administration, which, until now they have all conveniently missed. In interviews leading up to the event, Tom Morello mentioned the reunion shows were in response to the “right wing purgatory” into which the country has descended. I wondered in the middle of that chaos if the descent might have been slowed by the grapes of wrath these four gents were so adept at feeding us.

The break before encore gave the Coachella staff an opportunity to (literally) hose everyone down before a most pit the size of a football field opened up as they opened the encore with Freedom.

I finally emerged after Killing in the Name to find the comrades I had so quickly lost. I had a frozen lemonade on my chin to curb the swelling from an errant kick in the face. Drenched through and stinking of the worst kind, I felt I had raged indeed. And during the long surprisingly peaceful dissemination of the crowd through the festival’s labyrinthian gut, I wondered if we would yet again. And if that is what our country needs most right now.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 01
  • May
  • 07
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Coachella

Pressed up against a dozen or so odd people, I waited with baited breath for Rage Against The Machine to take the stage. Over, in front, and around our small cadre was 40,000 people – a sea of electric humanity steaming as a cool breeze swept over the desert. We were at the third barricade in a festival audience design clearly catered to hard rock revolutionaires. A gentleman over my right shoulder commented, “I just hope he doesn’t say anything about Bush.”

Naturally, I had to ask, “What do you mean?”

He replied with the practiced douchebaggery of a native Californian, “Well, I don’t think Zack de la Rocha needs to say anything about Bush. It’s like, we all know he’s bad okay? It’s been said enough.”

Unable to turn around due to the crowd, I quickly replied, “Expecting Zack de la Rocha not to say something about George W. Bush is like expecting Pat Robertson not to say something about Jesus.”

Stammering, he responded, “I’m just saying it’s been done, okay?”

“I know what you mean,” I replied. “It’s been two thousand years since the guy bit it and everyone is still on about him.”

Shortly thereafter I farted into his fannypack from the Gap. It was the only appropriate response to such apathy.

The sleep the night before was restless and difficult. Each of us were sun soaked and hungover, fluffy hair and stinking of the hippies in which we were neck deep. Rich white men teed off in front of us while we listened to Rancid and checked our email. Mildly annoyed, they commented from their golf carts that the neighborhood might be going to hell. I’m not sure what they meant, after all *we* weren’t the assholes that decided to but a golf course in the middle of the damned desert.

The crowd had taken a far more aggressive bent in the last day of the festival. The day before had been populated mostly by patcholi stinking hippies and Ecstasy crunching ravers. Today they were replaced by very angry twenty somethings wearing large boots and small tanktops. A dry, hot current ran through the crowd and it wasn’t the local meterology. You looked at the man next to you and didn’t wonder whether or not he had a pocket with a stash; you wondered if he had brass knuckles.

The Roots were first up on the main stage. I don’t envy the performers during the day. Gathering the motivation to get up and walk to the beer garden was quite nearly insurmountable; mustering the strength to rock would require a fortitude I’m not sure we can fairly expect from mere mortals. The set was passable, my first for the ensemble, but I’m not entirely sure judging any group’s competency live in 110 degree heat is fair.

We hung around the main stage to catch Willie Nelson. Any bill that included Rage Against The Machine anywhere else in the world and it would be easy to draw the conclusion that he might be a fish out of water. Such was the singular event that is the Coachella Arts and Music Festival where 20,000 hard rockers would be slapping their knees and telling all available mamas that they shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. Unbeknownst to me, Willie Nelson can actually shred. Capably handling the majority of the guitar solos during the half hour set, Nelson evidenced himself as quite the picker. By the time their cover of Texas Flood was delivered, all in attendance I think were thoroughly floored.

Placebo would be great, if it weren’t for the fact that they attracted Placebo fans. The same could be said for Paul Van Dyk. In a moment of charity that should be counted among any of those that are argued as evidence of Mother Theresa’s sainthood, some raver popped me in the mouth with a glowstick on a string. He walked away with a shirt covered in glowstick juice instead of his own blood. We both felt it was an equitable solution to the disagreement, given the circumstances.

The big surprise find of the weekend was electronica outfit from Manhattan called The Teddy Bears. Outfitted by two drummers in shades and skinny ties with three front men with large teddy bear helmets. As the screen behind them would reveal, these guys are definitely into Teddy Bears. The passable house they played made for reasonable entertainment, but the real treat was the montage of classic films with heads replaced with the image of a teddy bear. Reservoir Dogs, The Shining, Spinal Tap, and even GoodFellas were all included in their teddification.

After this brief exposure, we joined another 40,000 people for Rage Against The Machine. Little would be the same afterwards.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati