After a considerable break — and with the Coachella Festival now just about a week away — we’re back with more reasons to get psyched about this year’s lineup.
Before I dig into this week’s picks, however, I want to call out that I’ve been curating these posts into one giant YouTube “Coachella 2012” playlist for your viewing / listening pleasure. You can tune in here. I’ll be adding more clips on a near daily basis as the actual festival approaches, so keep checking back.
Seeing as we’re getting down to the wire and all, I figure I’ll start focusing on bands that I’m particularly excited to see, personally (rather than the tack I’ve been pursuing, which has been to mix up stuff I love with stuff I’m interested in and think everyone should know more about).
The Black Keys: Sinister Kid
Shocking nearly everyone and pissing off quite a few holier-than-thou hipster types, The Black Keys nabbed a headlining slot on the first day of the festival this year. This really shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, though, for at least three reasons: 1) the Keys have already played the main stage at Coachella at least twice, and delivered the goods both times; 2) the band’s last two albums have been critical darlings and best-sellers; 3) they just plain fucking rock. Yeah, I know there’s this weird contingent of folks who ironically equate success with sucking, and hate it when their favorite indie bands hit the big time, with commercials licensing their music and what-not … but Jesus. Get over it. The Keys can play, they write great songs, and they put on an uncompromisingly sharp live show. That should be the end and the beginning. It is for me at least.
The Hives: Walk Idiot Walk
I was just beginning to wonder what happened to Sweden’s The Hives when I saw them pop up on this year’s festival lineup. Here’s a band whose records never quite delivered the sales that the group’s record company hoped for, and never quite became the cult icons that everyone just sort of took for granted that they’d become. I mean … look at ’em on paper: impeccable Swedish pop music writing chops; garage rock at just the right time; garish and charismatic front man; synchronized formal wear. They seemed to have it all. It never quite caught on. That’s a damn shame though, because, as this clip demonstrates, The Hives put on one of the deadliest live rock shows on the planet. There’s not a single second that doesn’t deliver maximum, jump-around-like-a-complete-idiot entertainment. The selfish part of me is hoping they play a closing slot at the Outdoor Theater so I can be one of the two hundred folks with sense enough to see them play, and the luxury of enjoying them in front of a small, die-hard crowd.
The Black Lips: Family Tree
I’ve seen The Black Lips live twice now, and can safely evaluate their performances thusly: they are just about the best band in the world to see when you’re drunk. Not, like, falling down ready to pass out drunk. More like, “I’ve had a shot and three or four cheap beers and I’m ready to get rowdy” drunk. Not in a douchebaggy way. Not in a dumb jock way. Just in a loutish, scruffy, miscreant way. Crap. All of those words are really too polite to convey what I mean here. Just imagine, as you listen to this, that you’re pretty buzzed, you’re in a crowded punk rock bar with five or six dozen folks, you’ve all been drinking cheap beer for a couple of hours, and now you’re going to jump and slide around a booze-soaked dance floor while four slightly unhinged garage punkers play intensely loud, intentionally sloppy rock ‘n’ roll for you. At some point, some drunk 22-year-old girl punches you in the stomach, mumbles something incoherent, and you achieve, in the words of Bill Murray channeling the Dalai Lama, “total enlightenment.” The Black Lips will make sure you’ve got that going for you.
Yuck – Get Away
Yuck’s self-titled debut made my end of year top 10 list in 2011. Three months and change into 2012, I’m still really enjoying it. One of my favorite periods of “alternative” music — the late ’80s / early 90s’ (when “alternative music” actually acquired that tag, having evolved from “college” rock, and eventually broke through to mainstream success) — became fodder for heavy duty nostalgia trips last year. Kids a generation younger than me started DJing all 90s setlists at parties, and bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Yuck did an admirable job of not so much mining the past for inspiration as convincing everyone that they’d simply picked up the torch from bands like The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and REM. Are they breaking new ground? Sonically, no … but think about how they found whatever small degree of fame they’ve acquired.
Twenty years ago, a band like this would have been a hero to the British indie kids reading NME, but would have spent literally years touring America in crappy Dodge Econolines trying to scrape together rent money, gas money, and enough scratch to maybe record the next record. The new wave has Facebook and YouTube to leverage as it builds a fanbase,and can score a record deal with international distribution after just a handful of gigs. In 1986, you were lucky to have a zine, a taping trading network, and an independent label that had pieced together a national distribution deal with Caroline or the like.
It’s weird to think about how far it’s come, and I don’t begrudge bands like Yuck their seemingly instant success. Not when their music is this good, and their live chops this sharp.
fIREHOSE – Brave Captain
Speaking of that Dodge Econoline … Mike Watt, erstwhile bassist for LA hardcore heroes The Minutemen, is perhaps the godfather of touring on a dime and returning home with fifteen cents. fIREHOSE formed in the wake of Minutemen vocalist / guitarist D. Boone’s tragic, accidental death, with Watt and Minutemen drummer George Hurley bringing their unparalleled rhythm section skills into a new power trio. Ed Crawford filled in the vocal and guitars in what may be the most flukey story in all of rock (no, really: legend has it that the members of the band Camper Van Beethoven conned Minutemen superfan Crawford into believing that Watt and Hurley were auditioning a replacement for D. Boone; Crawford’s persistence turned the con job into reality, luring Watt out of mourning and retirement to form a new band). fIREHOSE went on to make five albums between 1986 and 1993, in the process garnering a fan base nearly as maniacally loyal as its predecessor (and presiding as elder statesmen of alternative rock as several burgeoining regional underground movements finally coalesced into something of national — even international — significance). If you believe in something hard enough, kids …
Anyhow, I’m a HUGE Minutemen fan, and Mike Watt is something of an icon to me, having played not only with one of my all time favorite punk bands, but also having served time in Porno for Pyros and the reformed Stooges. He and Hurley are an absolute beast of a rhythm section, as evidenced in this live fIREHOSE clip, and Crawford more than holds his own on the front end. CAN. NOT. WAIT.