Coachella 2011 Friday Recap

Categories: Concert Review

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The Main Stage at Dusk
​The 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival got underway yesterday with the bad taste from 2010's fiasco still in the mouths of many -- myself included. It didn't help that Paul Tollett -- head of the festival's producer Goldenvoice -- recently admitted that he believes as many as 105,000 people were on the festival grounds on any given day last year -- a pretty awful number considering tickets sold out at 75,0000 and Goldenvoice only has a permit for 80,000 to be allowed on the festival grounds. That number is infuriating to many long-time festival attendees who had to witness the catastrophe of 2010, sharing the same space with some 30,000 people who either gate-crashed, sneaked their way in or simply took advantage of Friday afternoon's gigantic lapse in security.

Tollett and Goldenvoice were determined to make 2011 as different from 2010 as best they can. Their work, so far, is a marked improvement over last year.

Michael Lopez
The new wristbands issued this year are already turning out to be an effective measure. Coupled with the police/security checkpoints at various intersections within a mile perimeter of the festival grounds, the wristbands are helping keep out the gate crashers that made last year such a disorganized mess. The wristbands also show that Tollett and co. care about their paying customers and that they want everyone to have the best possible time while attending the festival. 

That was the feeling I certainly got once I arrived in the day parking area. Security were friendly and helpful, rather than trying to hassle people and just be dicks in general like some security personnel were last year. Everyone arriving in the parking lot was understandably excited -- there was a palpable expectation that 2011 was to be nothing like 2010.

I can safely say that 2011 is going along about 100% better than 2010 at this point.

The new camping area is divided up into streets and other sections so it is now much easier to find your camping area in the dark after the shows let out. Located in the camping area are: a rollerskating rink, general store, breakfast buffet and a tent with about 12 vintage pinball machines. I would never have wandered over to the camping area in years past, but this year it is actually a lot of fun to wander around.

Michael Lopez
!!! on the Outdoor stage
On to the festival grounds -- every single stage and tent is different this year. While 2010 was a complete mess, it did make Goldenvoice a whole lot of money. That money has been put back to work in the updated main stages -- the Coachella (main) stage and the Outdoor stage. The lighting rig is much bigger and more impressive and the video screens are also bigger and much crisper than years past. All of three of the tents are now about the same size and they have newly added video screens. There is even a new black curtain in the Mojave tent to help fans bear with the glaring sun that sits behind the stage. The Sahara tent has a new light installation that is timed with the music. Everything just seems better.

Michael Lopez
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in the Mojave tent.
The crowd size feels like it has in previous years. I was waiting for some sort of bum rush to happen right around 7:30pm but everything felt pretty much normal. The crowd itself seemed relax with the general euphoria that comes with being at Coachella, Whatever worry that came with half-expecting this year to be anything like last year died away once the bands took to the stage. There was a palpable sense of relief that washed over the polo fields once everyone finally realized that 2010 wouldn't rear its ugly head.

2010 is dead and gone -- buried with it is all the catastrophe, trepidation and general bullshit that last year came to stand for. 2011's version of Coachella is nowhere near being the one word that came to succinctly define all the chaos and disorganization in 2010 -- cluserfuck.

Random Notes:

  • Yesterday was definitely Brochella -- the bros were out in droves for The Black Keys' set. It didn't hurt that headliner Kings of Leon were to play the main stage right after them. The main stage, at that point in the evening, was operating about 20-30 minutes behind schedule thanks to Cee-Lo's tardiness earlier in the day. The video screens also weren't working for the Keys' set -- utterly dwarfing the duo who already appeared diminutive on the rather larger main stage.
  • I'm just going to say it right now -- I don't like dubstep. I don't understand the appeal of someone like Skrillex -- his music or his look -- yet his 4pm set in the Sahara was insanely packed. It boggles my mind as to why people like his music.
  • Being the hypemachine that they are, I had to catch some of OFWGKTA's (Odd Future) set. Tyler came running out onstage with his trademark green stocking cap covering his face. Their energy was through the roof. Interesting to see them in the normally electronic/DJ-centric Sahara tent.
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    Michael Lopez
    Cedric Bixler Zavala
    Cedric Bixler Zavala -- former lead singer of At the Drive-In and current lead singer of The Mars Volta -- joined his longtime guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez onstage. I didn't know that was going to happen and it turned out to be the best surprise of the festival yesterday.
  • The Aquabats brought out a Chinese dragon mockup of Falcor -- aka the giant flying dog thingie from The Never Ending Story -- for their set. Danny DeVito also got up onstage during their set.
  • Lauryn Hill absolutely killed it on the main stage. That is all.
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    Michael Lopez
    Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti in the Gobi tent.
    Apparently he didn't like the volume during his set in the Gobi, but I really have no clue what Ariel Pink's fucking problem is. He sulked around like a whiny baby, singing whenever he felt like it and pissing off most everyone in the crowd that was eager to see him perform. Someone needs to tell Pink that Coachella doesn't revolve around his selfish ass.
  • I had a brief chat with Chris Masterson, a longtime Coachella fan and costar of Frankie Muniz on Malcolm in the Middle. Masterson worked with Muniz for seven years and had nothing but positive things to say about his costar. It's a shame that we in Phoenix only know Muniz for his, ahem, interesting girlfriend.

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Glad you mentioned Aquabats and Lauryn Hill. They deserve it! And thank you for being the only music-aficionado in the world to admit to hating dubstep. That stuff is utter shit.


The dragon in Neverending Story is named Falcor.


Great review. FYI, the dog from Neverending Story is Falcor. The boy was Atreyu.

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