Every year in mid April, music fans find themselves making the pilgrimage to the Coachella Valley in southern California to get the festival season started. 2011 was my second Coachella (2010, my first) and I left this year feeling the same way I left last year; this is the best festival on the planet. Period. The setting is second to none. Lineups are so diverse that everyone can find something they enjoy. And being one of the older festivals in the country, Golden Voice has experience….and they know how to put on one helluva show. I promise, should you decide to go to Coachella, not only won’t you regret it, but you’ll be hooked for life like me.
Now, I have to admit, when I saw the lineup announcement for this year I was a little disappointed, mostly because I was holding out for the long shot of Daft Punk showing up (I wasn’t the only one, right?). But after a little studying and dissection it’s pretty clear that this year’s lineup was stacked to say the least. There were obvious big hitters like Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Kanye (I consider KOL something closer to Sugar Ray) The Black Keys, Interpol, Mumford & Sons, Animal Collective, etc. Now, I don’t really see the point in telling you all how good these bands were, they all delivered in their own way, as expected. (Although Mumford was especially great; they were stoked to be playing in front of such a big crowd and REALLY fed off the energy. Cool moment.) But what most Coachella veterans will tell you, however, is that this festival was and is built around the undercard (and mid-card for the sake of this article).
2011 was no exception to this rule with bands like: Foals, The Joy Formidable, The Drums, The Morning Benders, Warpaint, Phantogram, Odd Future, Two Door Cinema Club, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, etc. I’ve found that because expectations are often low for these acts, not only are they often exceeded, but I was blown away on several occasions last weekend. (Happy Coachella!) Yet, most of the attention always lands on the names in 24pt. font. But not here at The Fridge, folks. We like the underdog. We are the underdog. This ones for the undercard…
I realize there were way more bands on the lower half of the bill than this, but I didn’t see them. The conflicts were of epic proportions this year if you were unaware, but I digress. These were the five bands that, for lack of a better term, punched me in the stomach with sound and left me gasping for air; in a good way.
Foals: When people ask me who Foals are or what they sound like I give the same answer every time; Foals is the band I was hoping Bloc Party would be. By the time Coachella finally arrived I was definitely pumped for this show, one of the guys in my group is a big fan of theirs and we made sure to get super close to the stage. From the start you could tell they came to party as they opened with ‘Blue Blood.’ But the definite highlight of the show was ‘Two Steps, Twice’ and lead singer, Yannis Philippakis’, stage dive off the stage left speaker stacks (seen in this video http://bit.ly/hRvvCV). Go see these guys. Now.
The Joy Formidable: I had given ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ a listen before, but I don’t think I gave it the attention it deserved before the weekend. Needless to say, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trio out of Whales. By their sets’ end I needed to pick my face and jaw up off the ground. Lead singer Ritzy Bryan went on a rampage that included ripping out her guitar’s strings, beating drum symbols into submission, kicking the bass-drum, giving her drummer and the crowd the bird and storming off stage (maybe the sexiest rock & roll moment I’ve ever experienced), meanwhile bass player Rhydian Dafydd is beating a separate bass drum with its stand breaking it into pieces. If I had to compare them to somebody I might say The Cranberries. I’m not sure I like that’s fitting, though. Never mind the comparison, just check them out.
Tame Impala: If I had known Tame Impala was opening for MGMT last summer at this super small venue close to my house I wouldn’t have been so hesitant in buying tickets, and thus missing the show. ‘Innerspeaker’ seemed to have really flown under the radar in 2010, but don’t count on these guys being on the undercard for much longer. Their album rocks and the sound translates perfectly for live shows.
The Drums: If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for harmonies. So as you can imagine I was really excited to see The Drums perform ‘The Drums.’ Turns out, the harmonies weren’t a big factor in their live performance. At a Drums show, it’s all about lead singer Jonathan Pierce. This is a bold statement, but the dude reminds me of Freddie Mercury. I envision these guys touring with a major act and stealing the show in 2011/2012. Watch out.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears: I’ll make this simple, if you like funky music and appreciate bands that can PLAY instruments, circle these guys on the next schedule you see.
See you next year, Coachella.