Coachella Report 08/10 – The King of Festivals: Radiohead

I planned on making this Saturday report – if you’ve noticed, I’ve been alternating these reports by the days – about Kaiser Chiefs, but I decided against that, because I felt that a report on the effectiveness of energetic performances would be too much like everything I’ve already said – and have only just said – about The Hives. I could summarize what I would have said in only one sentence: They should rename the Coachella Stage as the Kaiser Chief’s Stage, because they were awesome in every way. And with that being said, I should’ve known that one of these reports would be about Radiohead. How could I not write about them, when they’ve been one of my musical treasures for years now? Heck, when I started writing my own music, I basically wanted to rewrite Radiohead songs, because I thought they were the perfect band – I think I still do. Hell, I first heard of Coachella via Radiohead in 2004 – I wanted to go so badly, but it was too late to do anything about it by the time I started thinking of it seriously.

Saturday had a stacked line-up, and I had already seen Radiohead at Glendale (more on that in a bit), but I had decided that I was going to see them again – no matter what! I did watch them, and I loved every part of it. Plenty of my friends, on the other hand, did not enjoy the performance – their complaints pointing toward a combination of performance and audience. I’m not sure what the crowd was like near the stage, because I saw them from very far away – I had to arrive just in time, since SBTRKT’s set ended before Radiohead was scheduled to begin – but from where I stood, everybody around was having a good, civilized time; however, there was this one guy that just lay motionless on the ground, and I thought he might’ve died – which I wasn’t going to bother with until the end of the set, of course – but I realized he was just sleeping. Sure, the performance just looked like a bunch of moving squares and pretty lights to me, and it was a little unfortunate that the side screens were not turned on so that I could see what was happening, but I was too busy dancing to look at the band anyway. I think I danced more to Radiohead than I did to Justice, in fact.

Most of my friends said that Radiohead were better at Glendale, which I think is also true – that concert has been my all-time favorite performance – but I also think that Radiohead were the best band at Coachella this year – at least, during Weekend #1. But let me move away from Coachella a bit and talk about that Glendale concert, because it was too much of an important thing – in my musical life – to not write about. The show took the platinum prize for me, personally, because (1) it was 25th birthday; (2) it was my very first Radiohead concert, after spending many years hunting them down – I missed them around In Rainbows to catch a rare Tom Waits concert; (3) I got to spend the day with family and friends – specifically, many of my fellow Coachella friends; (4) I had ridiculously good seats, which I got from staying awake for the Waste pre-sale; and (5) they played many of my favorite songs – “Paranoid Android,” “Bodysnatchers,” “Pyramid Song,” “Idioteque,” and “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box.” Of course, they didn’t play any songs from The Bends, which happens to be my favorite album; but even then, the concert succeeded in launching me into outer space.

I don’t think this Coachella report will help anybody. I’m just salivating too much, really. But I suppose I just want to reaffirm, in case there was any uncertainty, that if you can go and watch Radiohead perform their music, find a way to be in attendance (unless Tom Waits suddenly appears, then you need to make sure to do that first). Even if you’re saying, “But look at the setlists: They’re playing a bunch of new songs, and I don’t like the new songs as much as the old songs,” which is a reasonable argument… In most cases! In Radiohead’s case, however, I think most people would fall in love with the new material in the live setting – a lot of The King of Limbs came alive during the live performance in ways that differed from the experience of listening to the album. They even played a song that I had never heard before, “Identikit,” which I think may become my new favorite Radiohead song – when I heard it again at Coachella, I hadn’t remembered how it went, but it sort of came back to me like a feeling of déjà vu – it was somewhat strong, and completely great. Whatever: Go see Radiohead.

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