Thursday, 17 May 2007

The great Cadbury's Cream Egg Conspiracy

I knew it. I thought it was just me. Evidence that Cadbury's Cream Eggs HAVE got smaller The people behind this are probably the same bastards that took Smarties out of circular tubes and made Opal Fruits vanish off the face of the Earth. What else are Cadbury's involved in? Could they be responsible for all my odd socks too...

Sunday, 13 May 2007

The battle of Coachella

Firstly, sorry this has taken a while to get up but I've been so busy since getting back from Coachella and snowboarding. Myself, Chris and Travis moved into a new house, which is brilliant (I have a bed now and everything, sweet) and I have another feature to write for Beyond magazine. This time on fake Moon landings, which I spend more than a week trawling conspiracy websites for and rambling to anyone who will listen about cover-ups. But here is the story of my departure from Tahoe, the journey to Coachella, music and frivolity:

The time comes for Sam and I to leave Lake Tahoe. I think both of us are glad to be back on the road. For me it was such an experience going snowboarding and the fulfillment of a long-standing promise with Sam. Reconnecting with my old Utah State partner in crime was awesome. Like me, I hope, Sam's one of those people you pretty much pick up right from where you left off, and while it's a buzz to hang out with him, it is also a welcome familiarity during a time of great changes in my life.

We hire a car for the trip, organised at the morning before we leave of course. Departures are always bittersweet experiences I believe. I'm sad to say goodbye to Stan and Renick, who have been real characters to have met and a total pleasure. But new adventures await. Sam and I plan to stop by Sequoia National Park on our way South through California. We travel through some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable, pulling over constantly to take in the sweeping views free of the confines of the car. After around six hours of driving we arrive at Sequoia. It reminds me of one of the greatest things about America.

So here's the thing with Sequoia, it is home to the biggest trees in the world, the Giant Sequoias. These trees are huge. Driving through the park Sam and I find ourselves slowly down constantly to look up and gawp at these seemingly endless organisms reaching high up into the sky. They are stunning and have the power to remind me how small I am as a human being. We get out the car a couple of time to investigate and see up close some of the more impressive Giant Sequoias we pass. The big thing we miss though is the tree known as General Sherman, considered to be the largest living organism on the planet, standing at 275 feet tall with 2,200 years under its considerable belt. I wish I had time to explore the national park in full, but the light is failing and we still have a lot of driving to do. Still managed to get some pretty impressive pictures though.

I finally arrived at Coachella the following day and met up with Joel, Travis and Chris. The first thing to say it that it is so hot there. I mean crazy hot, it is the desert after all. All those video I’d seen of people seeming to be fairly languid during Daft Punk at the previous years Coachella - well I now understand that that is almost certainly something to do with the heat, which was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit everyday. Camping was a real struggle and I don't think I've ever drunk so much water in my life. We were all talc-ing up our private parts to avoid chaffing, check out Joel getting stuck in there.

Anyways, here's the thing with Coachella:
1) You're not supposed to take booze into camping with you, but security was fairly lax, so we managed to get around this without too much trouble.
2) There is a 2am curfew on the campground
3) There is also absolutely no post-music entertainment to help bring down the people who have just been partying all day long.
4) It's outrageously expensive for the states. Beers were $7 for a 330ml can of heineken. So that’s $7 for shit beer then.
5) The campsite is arranged in rows. Seriously. No higgledy piggledy. But full on rows upon rows with one big gap splitting the site in two. Not that this was big problem per say, but is kind of indicative of the whole festival organisation. Rules rules rules rules and then some more rules.
6) Not wrist bands for the event, only camping. Which means that if you leave the main arena there is no re-entry. Lame.

Right, now before I moan any further about it let me tell you about our weekend.

We queue up for a good 30 minutes in blazing heat and under the sun as we go through the security barriers. The arena is much like Leeds festival I guess. A couple of outdoor arenas, and about 3 or 4 tents. No shopping stalls selling crap you don't need, but that are fun all the same. Only food and official merchandise. Which is disappointing. No new cheap and cheerful festival hats or sunnies for me this year.

So anyways, the music. Well I finally got to see Digitalism and they were brilliant. Not as amazing as I'd hoped, but pretty great nonetheless. They always change up their sets a little, but while the songs were great, I couldn't help but feel the energy just wasn't there in a way it might have been in a small club. Felix da Housecat came out next and was absolutely brilliant. I can't believe I haven't seen him before, but he really did blow me away. Already riding high on the music, me and Joel then danced our little hearts away to Benny Benassi. Got to then see Faithless rock out Insomnia and God is DJ. Wow. Maxi Jazz really hasn't lost it in the slightest. That was such a thrill.

Afterwards we dashed over to see Bjork where me and Joel made friends with a cool random girl in the crowd (hey Evann if you're reading) and her mate in the crowd as we have a habit of doing - also she's cruder than Joel, so of course we instantly like her. Bjork is so much fun. She dances around the stage, belts out her tunes accompanied by a whole choir. She talks to the audience with that delicate childish voice of hers and you can hear everyone in the crowd giggle with delight. She’s amazing. I don’t know how else to describe her really. She’s just so unique and hypnotising. Friday was a great first day.


Joel, er, 'showering':

Day gets off to a bad start when Travis gets busted carrying something he shouldn't be carrying into the venue and promptly gets kicked out, ticket confiscated. I don't see this happen as I somehow got filtered into the slowest queue on the planet and had to endure 1 hour queuing in the heat while security dragged their feet, which was more than frustrating, it was dangerous being at not long after midday. I get in fine but only discover then that Travis got booted out. I’m totally gutted and text Travis and tell him to go find a scalped ticket, he does, gets in a different entrance. I give him my poker winnings from the previous night toward the $70 ticket he paid for so it wasn't as bad as it might have been. We see Travis, which is awesome and I'm so chuffed to hear them rock out 'Why does it always rain on me' under the desert sun. Fran is so nice and charismatic. It's a real moment to see them play finally, though memories of an ex come flooding back, it's all good though.

Next up was Kings Of Leon who are great, but really all I can think about at this point is that Arcade Fire are playing after wards. I’m so excited and ready for a truly emotional experience. Arcade Fire are a dream. They were everything I'd hoped for them to be. Epic, deep, powerful and mesmerizing all at the same time. Rebellion nearly brought me to tears, but I held strong. Joel was not so impressed, and later we have an argument regarding their 'religious' undertones. I try to tell him that some of their songs are a critique of religion and not preaching religion. But we decide to have a row about it instead (this was actually when we were back in Austin and drunk - again).

After Arcade Fire I make a bee-line for Justice but only manage to catch the last 10 minutes which is more than a little disappointing. Course there are so many bands I miss its ridiculous. After Justice, LCD play and blow me away. I had no idea they would be this good, but they are. Chris, Joel and myself dance like the crazy fools we are. They close on the Sinatra-esque ‘New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down’, it’s one of those moments that you remember always from a festival. All there was at that time and space was the music and the moment leaving me and a thousand other people entirely enchanted.

After LCD the guys head to see The Good The Bad and the Queen, but I dash to the front for Tiesto closing Saturday on the main stage with all the rest of everyone from the dance tent. He opens with a remix of Imogen Heap, Hide and Seek, and I could cry there and then. Tiesto may not be my bag, but I loved every minute of his deep beats and trance sounds. So many good tracks and he's a pleasure to watch working. Obviously he loves every minute of it especially dropping those big tunes with thumping lines. He closes with Adagio for Strings and I'm spent. Awesome.

So back in the campsite that night, being the night before Rage played (they closed the festival), the riot police (local, state and SWAT cops - plus a helicopter) came into the campsite to break up a party at about 2am. It was nuts. They were armed with tear gas and rubber bullet guns - one guy we saw get beaten up and tazered. I have it all on video. There was a two-hour stand off with campers, of which there was a massive crowd which I was standing in - somewhat inebriated. Canadians were singing 'Oh Canada' English were chatting ‘Oh Lay Oh lay Oh lay oh laaay’, and Rage fans were chanting 'Fuck you I won't do what you tell me'. It was just plain nuts and total brought on by the festival organisers failure to have any post music entertainment for the campers. Music stopped at 12am and there was supposed to be a 2am curfew. Curfew? At a festival. Crazy. It was weird in so many ways it's hard to explain, I mean for sure it was partly due to the fact Rage were playing for the first time in ages and everyone was totally Gee'd up for it. But the festival organisation clearly lacks the foresight to see that people gathered in such a large group need ways to channel their energy. I couldn't believe they sent the police in riot gear in to break up a fairly innocent party. Check out the video and watch out for the dude at the back right getting beaten up by the cops and then tazered!

The only reason it didn't totally kick off was the fact that everyone was filming the cops and if they had fired on the crowd people would have died for sure - can you imagine a stampede in a campsite of all places?!? To the police's credit they did walk away, only after 2 hours of tension though and there were certainly some moments that it nearly happened.

I decide I want to take it easy on the last day. Spend what money I have on beer and see only the band I really really want to see before Rage and no running around from tent to tent all the time. We see the last couple of Tape n Tapes tracks - I'm gonna have to get their album - then pretty much wait around for CSS and Klaxons. Wow, both are brilliant and totally rock the entire place. CSS were just so much fun and so up beat. Klaxons lead singer is totally charismatic and I can see why they are so popular on the scene. Their music is brilliant and I'm totally buzzing when I hear them play Skans and Gravity's Rainbow. Awesome. Afterwards I check out Soulwax who are their usual intoxicating selves breaking up their Nite Versions tracks with some club classics.

Then we make our way to the main stage after another couple of beers to get in a good spot for Rage and with the added bonus of seeing Manu Chao. He is so good. Everyone is dancing, and happy and totally pumped up for Rage. Then Rage play, 45,000 people cram in and push forward to see them. It's like a out of body experience for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I'm jumping up and down like a crazy madman. Zach only speaks to the audience once during the whole show - but it's worth it as he lays into the American administrations past and present. As one point saying that if the laws applied to Hitler and the Nazi's after WWII were applied to every American government since WWII they'd all be guilty of war crimes and should be hung. The crowd, naturally, goes wild.

And then is comes. When they close with 'Killing In the Name' the whole place almost loses the plot. Everyone is singing and jumping and these brilliant white lights start flashing. It was sick. Travis thinks he may have actually blacked out in a state of trance at this point. Oh yeah, and Joel pulled this girl just before they came on and was playing tonsil tennis with her right through the Rage set. I have to tap him on the shoulder a couple of times to make sure he knows a track is about to drop less he gets his tough bitten off. Hilarious.

There's no riot afterwards. No revolution. Just a load of very satisfied customers. Ah well. In the end Coachella was a fantastic experience, mainly thanks to the music and the people I was with. I'll never go back there. Apart from the heat, the rules and restrictions - the fact that someone somewhere thought they needed to send riot police in to campsite to break up a party left a taste so sour that it will probably be my overriding memory of the festival and the place. Maybe it was something to do with Rage, or maybe its just that in a country where the individuals you meet are so easy going, that the authorities somehow fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Policing through force (or the threat of) instead of cooperation and consideration. All it would have taken is dedicated entertainment for festival goers after the music had stopped. Where's the Silent Disco??? Can you really imagine these crazy folks starting trouble at 3am on Sunday night at Leeds festival 2006:

Anyways, the drive back to Austin takes us 24 hours. We decide not to stop by Joshua Tree for a nights camping. It's just too hot. Once we reach Texas we find it is totally pissing it down and I nearly crash the car into a ditch, which came at the end of period where we are all close to killing each other. Seriously, skidding, bracing, and about 3 foot from disaster...oops. But we all make it back alive. Which was nice.

And so that was that. Gonna post a video blog soon, try something a bit different.

"Fight the power"