from coachella, with love (and anxiety)

Posted on April 27, 2008

Guest thickwitness, Jose Vadi, is originally from the 909.
He is a national collegiate poetry slam champion and music and film freelance journalist. If there were a prize for someone least like a girl with hips, we’d give it to T.I.– but the runner up would be Jose. Thickwit would like to congratulate Jose on almost winning T.I.’s imaginary trophy. In the event T.I. can’t perform his duties- Jose will get his tiara.


i really enjoy popping people’s Purple Rain cherries.

my old roommate Nate in Washington DC being one of them. for a white man from Milwaukee who demanded to the dj at Saint Ex on 14th and U to play “Ridin Dirty” so he could helicopter his ass across the dance floor before last call (knocking over several drinks and their respective owners in the process),I was surprised this obviously musically inspired chap had never seen Purple Rain in its entirety.

“I’ve got the album…somewhere”
“I know you do, you’re a former dj, that’s mandatory. But, you –“
“You mean there really is a Lake Minatonka? It’s not just something Chappelle made up?”

that’s when i ran upstairs, got the dvd, popped it in, and watched Nate’s entire existence crumble. 22 years on this earth, and he had never seen Jerome prop up Morris Day’s mirror. and of course, Prince is much more than Purple Rain, but the shit’s classic (“Thriller with more fucking” as a friend of mine once described), and people will still line corners for our favorite Jehovah’s Witness from Minnesota who saved Coachella from being equated solely with Jack Johnson as this year’s headliner.

which leads to the point of this blog: to recount my Coachella experience seeing Prince.

a friend of mine, a music journalist, couldn’t make the show, and passed down the gig to yours truly. Free tickets and a Press Pass, plus a stipend, to see Prince? Word. Called Adriel, heard him scream in an excitement for a good ten minutes over the phone, and plans were made for Palm Springs.

should be noted that since 2004, this poster has been on every bedroom wall i’ve inhabited…

somehow, at 23, my love for Prince has left me sock less, stoned, and stranded on some polo field in over one hundred degree heat, music blaring from all directions, cell phone dead, and surrounded by white people with dread locks. it was as if the desert scenes from “Lawrence of Arabia” fell into the living rooms of a half-baked frat house with Death Cab blaring in the background. it was only mid-afternoon, the second of this three day festival, and i was over it — fuck Prince, fuck Portishead, fuck all the bros/bras here, fuck any awesome band that I could see right now because I’m about to die of heat stroke and that totally sucks worser, dude.

that’s when all the hate seeped in. separated from the pack with very little cell phone juice to meet up with friends, i people watched alone with glaring eyes amidst the stifling Saturday heat. I decided that as a youth I heard Kurt Cobain’s shotgun blast as the last bell for a generation’s musical potential. I decided that everyone at this festival was a cultural, musical dick rider. I declared that music festivals were designed the be a buffet for the uninformed that are looking solely for a good time, and for music heads who are pissed that all their favorite bands overlap within the weird-band-mid-day-time slot.

i sat up. i noticed that when the bands change, there were so many tens of thousands of people walking from stage to stage that you can literally see the patron’s popularity sway in flesh amidst the waves of desert heat rising from the polo field. and i wondered, “what’s driving them to their favorite artist? how’d they get into them? are they even into them?” I decided, right then and there, that when these bands die everyone here will play catch-up to the memory of their ashes. I knew that no one here had heard of any of these bands, that this was just some party that Prince was playing to them, and that everyone should really spend the other 362 non-Coachella days of the year following these bands in their natural club environments instead of trying to get the most bang for their buck through all this festival business.

I mean, that’s how I got into music — didn’t everyone? Why couldn’t they do the same.

finally, i got some water. i took deep breaths. “It’s just anxiety and heat” I told myself. i found Adriel. we smoked and waited for Animal Collective to come on. halfway through the song “Fireworks”, i saw a girl who looked like every trashy peroxide-blonde beach-bunny from high school i hated singing along to a song that had lifted me out of many a psychological gutter. and i couldn’t be mad. a little while later, watching Portishead, i saw a girl in a white blouse and cut off daisy-dukes who I’d seen looking for tickets at the Box Office before the show. she had come alone, ticketless and got in somehow. and she was loving it. every bar of imported British trip hop, she was feeling it, allowing herself to have a good time.

maybe this is truly the state of music — you go to the desert once a year, drink a lot of water, smoke a lot of weed, drink even more water, and hopefully come out a fan of some new bands and see old favorites. who am i to judge who comes to these things? aren’t you freelancing for clear channel? i suppose hindsight got the best of me when really I should have just realized outdoor multi-day festivals in the desert just aren’t my thing. i prefer the intimate over the spectacle, but if big time entertainment is what Coachella and its followers long to generate, mission accomplished.

Maybe it’s on me to realize we are living in a time when a band’s three songs on their MySpace are more powerful than any of their albums; when young acts like Black Lips and M.I.A can already be considered veteran musicians; when a festival is one of the few chances kids from the sticks will have to see all their favorite bands at once, bands they’d never see otherwise. Who knows.

I don’t go to shows nearly as much as I used to. If anything I follow the protocol of the punk rock retirement program and just stand in the back and drink beer instead of jumping on some dude’s shoulders and propelling myself toward the front. Either way, people are still interested in music. Good music. Like Prince. The man who saved Coachella from the grip of Jack Johnson.

He killed, by the way. Morris and Jerome showed up. SHEILA E CAMEO! It was amazing. I almost cried during the slower version of “Little Red Corvette”. He had two encores. He covered Radiohead’s “Creep”. Radiohead themselves rarely plays this song, and this fool does it first encore!

now all i have to see left on the MUST SEE BEFORE I DIE list are stevie and fugazi…

reporting live from palm desert,
jose vadi

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