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What I Learned At Coachella

by Rob Terrell

Yesterday I went to went to the Coachella Valley Music Festival, a day-long concert or rave, depending on where you were standing: by the stages (concert) or in a tent (rave). Just me, thirty thousand of my closest friends, and some seemingly randomly-chosen musicians. It was good that I went, because I learned several things.

1) Concert promoters are criminals. What are you allowed to bring in? "Sunscreen, a big wad of green, and a smile" was how it was described to me. You'd get in with the clothes on your back, even though it was 98 degrees when the doors opened at noon but would be in the 60's when the thing was over after midnight.

Anything else you needed -- the basics like food, water, and clothing -- would be bought or not had at all. I can understand that they didn't want people to bring food, years of moviegoing have acclimated me to that, but no water? At a concert in the middle of the day in the middle of the desert? Greed knows no limits. Water was $2 a bottle and wasn't even available after 11 pm or so.

I guess they relented on the no-backpack rules because a large number of people inside had them -- all of the drugs sales I saw were done from backpacks.

2) Nowadays, raves suck. To be honest, it felt like a bad photocopy of a rave, like you described a rave over the phone to a younger cousin in Kansas who then got all his friends together to have one. The great majority of people there didn't have a wristband, which meant they were under 21. Assume they were 18. Counting back the years to when the first raves took place, the bulk of the attendees were 10 or 12 back then. These kids weren't even in the throes of puberty when the first Chemical Brothers CD came out. Yet here they were in full raver regalia.

3) Fatboy Slim is, indeed, fucking in heaven. I interpret this to mean that Norman Cook likes his job. He spins the vinyl with a monster grin on his face a grin I don't ever rememebr seeing on him while he was the bass player for the Housemartins. This is a man who loves his work.

I like Fatboy Slim, although I wasn't sure if I'd like to hear his music live. Almost every track from his earlier albums, You've Come a Long Way Baby and Better Living Through Chemistry, have been licensed for TV commercials and hearing them live would give me weird flashbacks to states not drug-induced but more marketing-induced. What could be more embarassing than to be dancing to those "funky funky house beats" and suddenly become overcome with the desire to buy an SUV?

But his performance bore only passing resemblance to the music on the CDs. His main job was to provide a thick skein of drum beats for people to bounce up and down to. Everything else was, in reality, pointless. Who would really notice any interesting subtlety anyway? For his CDs he does some incredible spelunking, digging up amazing and obscure samples. But his live show featured samples from...Madonna.

4) Trite as it sounds, white people honestly can't dance. When I went to see Fatboy Slim, through a macro-scale demonstration of Brownian motion, I found myself almost directly in front of the stage, surrounded by the most intense of the dancers, unable to leave. While the incredible bass made me fear defibrillation (if my heart were to stop, the music would supply heart compressions until at least the next break) I got a chance to watch the dancing up close.

There were three dance moves demonstrated:

  • Bouncing, not to the beat of the music, and not for very long. (The built-in rest period seems to help them go for longer amounts of time)
  • Slowly wiggling the body with feet firmly planted, waving hands around with fingers poking out at odd angles
  • A semi-rhythmic stomping of the feet, moving the body a few inches forward and back.

Four hours of watching this and I was ready for a good, loud, violent dive into a mosh pit.

5) What's the deal with NC Tarheel hats? I was wearing one, because, well, I went there, dammit. But so were tons of other people. By far the most popular sports team hat right now must be the Carolina-blue hat with the NC on front (or the tarheel, depending on how you wear it). I lost count after fifty NC hats of various kinds.

This fascinated me, so I kept an eye out. How many hats worn for Duke, this years' NCAA champ (which to his eternal credit Charles has yet to lord over me)? None. How many hats for the local teams, the Dodgers or the Lakers or the Kings or even the godforsaken Clippers? None.

It's not like UNC has the player of the year, or a team of heavily recruited and widely respected names. UNC didn't even get into the sweet 16 while Cal did (represented at Coachella by two caps). I'm guessing that either everyone loves the intense antics of Coach D'oh, or that perhaps after a sixteen year absence, baby blue is back in style.

There you have it, folks. What I learned at Coachella? That I'm an old fart already. What time does Lawrence Welk come on, anyway?


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