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.