Coachella ‘11 Webcast | Day 3

With slow, deliberate melodrama he descended from his chariot and walked up to the center of the stage while the music crescendoed.



At this point, it was getting to be a little time consuming to try and squeeze festival viewing into my schedule. Now it was Sunday, the kids had a birthday party to go to, and honestly I was starting to wonder if I should be spending my time doing something else.

This is just another example of why I believe it would be awesome to be able to go back and check out all of the performances at our leisure. (Again, someone please set this up.) My family was not into any of the bands on Sunday, so it was not until after nighttime routines with the kids that I got to check out the National and Duran Duran. And, sentences like that are what make webcasts beautiful.  

Duran Duran made me feel bad about myself. There they were, playing on the mainstage to a festival crowd. It can be argued that they have influenced dozens of bands; certainly their contribution can be heard in the recent new wave synth resurgence. I love Duran Duran’s sound, and who doesn’t have a soft spot their big hits? But, man, they were super cheesy to watch. With the webcast, I was able to look into the eyes of Simon, and they were dead. He appeared as emotionally invested as a teenager running the rides for the summer at Magic Mountain. I didn’t see a “detached cool,” but a lack of presence. But then, who am I to judge? That’s why I felt bad. So I made myself feel better by switching over to the National.

How a band that plays emotional angst so deeply can be the band that makes me feel better probably says as much about me as it does about the music of the National. Lead singer Matt Beringer, all dressed up in a button down shirt, brings the slow burn ruminations of lost love up into the light. Here is a band that consistently shocks me with how different they are live vs. recorded. A mellow song like “Fake Empire” becomes a rocker, and “Mr. November” just rocks.

I have heard of Chromeo (once), thanks to a Canadian friend I made at Sasquatch Festival a couple years back. Apparently, they are huge in Canada. I knew nothing about them, and for one reason or another, I haven’t followed up on my friend’s recommendation (sorry Paul!) until now. What a perplexing and entertaining band to watch. This synth-pop dance duo put on a crazy light show with backup dancers and their own funky and unique style. The sound is straight out of the ‘80s, with crooning, a little rapping, and some funk in the mix. Watching it from home made all of the extra bells and whistles seem a little silly, and also it was hard to tell if they were actually cheesy or just pretending to be cheesy. In any event, they are a band worth checking out.

And, on this perplexing note, where the experience of watching a supercharged live performance at home can be cool, surreal, exciting, and disappointing all at once, is where we find Kanye West.

Sitting at home, watching him enter the mainstage on a riser (Riley would say, “I call it a cherry picker.”), was completely ludacris. While it is true that throughout the weekend many of the bands had done “big” things that fell flat in my living room, this was the most inane. I don’t think that it would make any difference if I was home or in the crowd—drawn out entrances are silly.

With slow, deliberate melodrama he descended from his chariot and walked up to the center of the stage while the music crescendoed. It reminded me of the movie that Mr. Burns from The Simpsons made about himself, in which he depicted himself as a messiah-like figure. But with Kanye, watching this self-indulgence is kind of the price of admission, so I worked my way through that.

And was slowly won over.

As I mentioned, I am a lyrics guy. Musically things can work a certain way, and the melody can save a song, but ultimately, the lyrics represent the message that the artist is trying to convey. While Kanye was out there with dancing girls and (for a couple songs) Justin Vernon on a pedestal, he was baring his soul. Unlike Kings of Leon, who were going all bombastic about bedding chicks and romanticizing it, Kanye is simultaneously putting himself down and talking about how awesome it is that he is actually talking about it. It is within this dichotomy that his genius lies. With “Jesus Walks,” “Hell of a Life,” and “All of the Lights,” he established that he was there to exorcise his demons and entertain everyone (including himself) in the process.

Since this is not the kind of show that I would fight the crowd to be part of, it was even more exciting to watch. When the show started, I was feeling annoyed. He almost lost me when he decided to sing “Love Locked Down” live, without the autotune; it was painful. But, how can you begrudge a guy who is dedicating the show to his mama, something that you know is significant thanks to his ubiquitous presence in the media? Close-ups of his face while he caught his breath between songs or smiled, gazing at the crazy stage show he had crafted, put this performance into the “something special” territory.

For me, the highlight was when the crowd all chanted along with Kanye to “Power,” which I also believe featured the waterfall of sparks that the guys in Spinal Tap must be super jealous about. It epitomized everything about Kanye—and the experience of watching a festival webcast: enjoyable and surreal, energizing and exhausting, charming and self-indulgent all at the same time. | Tony Van Zeyl





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