Coachella Festival, April 2001, By Mia Hill
In a nutshell... I had a fucking blast.
I'm going to start off with telling you about Fatboy's set, because that pretty much led up to my Chemical DJ experience. Ready? Here we go!
By 8:30 I was higher than a kite. I moved my way into the tent (which was so enormous it seemed like it was a whole city block long) and assumed a spot near the front of the stage right as Fatboy came on. The crowd went totally nuts! I don't care what people want to say about Fatboy. They can say he's a sell out or that he's gone soft, but he really knows how to work the crowd and he enjoys himself while he's doing it. All in all his set was smooth and clean. He had a happy grin on his face most of the time, and kept holding up his vinyl records for all the tent to see, waving them in the air before he put them on the decks. There must have been one turntable that was giving the dj's a hard time though. Norman trainwrecked it once. That same turntable would later on have a beef with poor Ed... Norman gave the crowd a funny 'oooooops!' face when the record skipped, then crinkled his eyebrows, shrugged, and went on with his merry business. Seemed to me like he's a fun loving kinda guy who won't let anything spoil his fun! There were two people in front of me, this guy and this girl. They were freaking out big time. They were hanging over the railing and were exhibiting some serious dj worship. This girl was dancing nonstop, her arms reaching for those lasers being projected on the ceiling. Her boyfriend kept turning around and saying to me, "I fucking love this MAN! I LOVE THIS MAN!!!" *chuckle*
About half way through Fatboy's set my husband brought me outside because he was afraid I was going to dehydrate. Todd and his wife Junko and Frank (three old friends we met up with at the fest) were all lit. They needed to have special weights put in their shoes because they so high they needed something to keep them grounded. It was Junko's first time doing e, as well as Frank's and they were just a happy love puddle just outside the tent. We got separated from our friends from the Chemical list and during Fatboy my husband Jim was such a sweetheart, he kept looking for the them but to no avail - so unfortunately he ended up missing most of Fatboy (and later on the Chem's) sets. *sigh*
After chilling outside the tent, I moved back in about 20 minutes before Fatboy's set ended. When I was swaying in, he decided to be the crowd pleaser and he played Rez/Cowgirl and everybody just went bonkers! Even my husband was digging on it and he was waving his arms in the air like the rest of the glow stick set! The guy and the girl who were in front of me were still dancing and outstretching their arms toward Norman. DJ worship all the way. Hardcore! Then he ended his set with "Song for Shelter"
Jim stood right behind me - I was about three rows of people back. Then Jim tugged on my arm. "Mia! Give me the camera! I see Tom n' Ed! Wow, Tom's hair is a lot shorter than it used to be. He hardly looks like a blonde anymore!" hehe. Jim snapped a couple of shots, then left me with the camera. The Fatboy fans gave me their spot right in front of the stage. From that point on there was no moving me except higher. Jim was going to have to get a crane to peel me off the tent ceiling. The lights went up, and out came Tom and Ed who approached the decks and the crowd just got loco. Not loco enough imo - I was expecting more energy from the crowd as a whole but all in all, the vibe was excellent. Since I wasn't going to move, Jim left me out on the dancefloor again in search of the Chem list crew. We still hadn't found each other from earlier that afternoon and I was just itching to experience this with them.
Back inside the tent. For all you ladies out there that were wondering about Tom's new hair-do... Well, I think it looks great to be honest. He pulls off the new do rather well, he looks a little older, a little more mature. And he looked taller which is always a plus. He had a funky new pair of glasses. Ed pretty much looked how he always had, the same recognizable curly top and warm smile. I realized that for once in my life being short can have its advantages. The crowd were so cool, anytime I felt like I was getting pushed back, people would make room for me to move back up to my original spot. :) I kept a lookout for Chemical list people but in the midst of the crowd and given my short stature I could not find them anywhere!
The second half *cough* - pill - *cough* kicked in and I was looped all over again. There was trouble on the homefront, as Frank had drank too much water and over hydrated, so it was up to Jim to hold his head in-between making the rounds and looking for the Chem crew. Todd and Junko were happy as two clams just outside the tent. I begged them to come in with me, but Frank was so sick they ended up chilling out in the parking lot (Frank heaving all over the place according to the report I just got from Todd) and going home long before the Chem's set was finished. Since I was near the front, Jim (he's over 6 feet tall) didn't want to intrude on other people's space so he hardly danced with me at all. Not like I was in any condition to dance - I was swaying and bobbing my head, all the while gurning like a madwoman. Yep, Jim was going to need a rake with a really long handle to scrape me off the ceiling all right!
I don't know what Tom and Ed do, but the sounds that were coming out of the speakers appeared to be transmitting from outer space, and the mothership was getting ready to land right inside the tent! Tom was intently twiddling with something (I don't know the first thing about djing except that it involves vinyl, turntables, some speakers, a pitch shifter, and other gadgets that I don't know the meaning of.) Ed was focused, seemed happy with his mixing duties, and was occasionally raising his fists in the air like he does, smiling at the crowd. I edged my way toward the middle, after my disposable camera was filled with pictures. Wow, I hope they come out! I don't think I was ever, ever as close to a stage as I was last night. I felt like I was a teenager again (and my husband later teased me about having to be in the front, hehe.) I could've counted the hairs on Tom's head I was so close! They played a solid beat backed by the melody of New Order's Blue Monday, which was really cool and I digged a lot. Not to mention whatever neato sounds Tom and Ed decided to slip in at any given chance.
I was kind of behind this woman with flowers around her neck, who was spread over the railing, dancing like mad and waving her glowsticks. It was her first time seeing the Chemicals and she was too thrilled to be at the front of the stage. I looked behind me a few times and there was a young guy who looked like he was dialing a friend on his cell phone. Then he held the phone up into the air so whoever was on the receiving end could hear the music. Behind me there was a cute little boy, sitting on his dad's shoulders, waving a glowstick. The woman in front of me gave me a glowstick, and I gave it to the little boy. It made me want to bring my son to see the Chems so badly! Perhaps when he's a little older I can do that - maybe the next time Tom and Ed are on the road.
Tom and Ed seemed like they were having a grand time, taking turns at the decks, bobbing their heads, taking swigs out of their beer bottles, and smoking. While one was intently working whatever it is they work onstage, the other was kind of dancing/swaying/ bopping around behind the other or off to the side. They were completely enjoying themselves, it seemed. They were singing along to all the vocal samples, patting each other on the backs like brothers, all the while with happy expressions on their faces. Occasionally when a song would climax they'd get up on their feet, throw their arms in the air and shake their hands, begging the audience to just let go and give out a cheer. I don't know what was totally up with the audience, they didn't seem as into it as they should've been. Everybody was dancing, but it had been a long day in the sweltering heat and I think by the time the Chems went on people were just a bit burnt from the long day. Poor Tom, every time he'd summon the crowd he'd get a "Aw, come on! You can do better than that!" look on his face. Then he'd try again to get the crowd to whoop it up and hollar. Usually the second time around, the audience got the hint. I guess the crowd just couldn't let the Brothers down no matter how long a day they spent in the heat. ;)
There were a couple of girls to the left of me, all hanging over the rail that was in front of the stage. They kept shouting out "Tom" and holding up a t-shirt, waving it around trying to get his attention. Finally he saw the pretty girls who were ga-ga He smiled at them, put his hands together and mouthed the words, "Thankyou!" then kissed his hands, outstretched his arms, then pulled them back in to his chest as though he was saying 'Thank you from my heart.' It was a very sweet gesture, especially for these girls because you know that just made their entire night! It always makes me happy to see people on stage communicate with their fans, get them involved in the music. So many artists (and a lot of dj's I've seen) just go out there, bang on their guitar or twiddle with their decks or whatever, then walk off the stage without even making a little eye contact with the audience. This was different with the Chemical Brothers and that was a pleasant surprise - they seemed like they were happy to be there, grateful for the crowd, and they wanted to get the audience pumped. It goes to show that Tom and Ed are still excited about the music, and are still music fans because when they'd put a record on of tunes that weren't even theirs they were just so into it, and they wanted the audience to be as moved as they were.
"It Began In Africa" is just a great fackin' song! I wanted to take it home with me. There was a thumping solid beat, and the percussion for the most part was near tribal, very earthy and cool elements it seemed - and it worked well with the psychedelic wizardry of the duo. They were so excited to play "It Began In Africa" they had these Cheshire Cat grins on their faces, they'd look toward the audience and mouth along to the vocals while bobbing their heads, throw their arms/fists in the air and wave their hands in the "Come On!" gesture. The pretty girls that got Tom's attention just seemed to melt over the railing, just gazing away as they too bobbed their heads and bounced up and down. The woman with the glowsticks in front of me turned around and gave me a big nod, smiled, and resumed dancing. The little boy on dad's shoulders was on the floor this time so I scooted over and made some room for the two of them so the boy could be up against the rail and have a good view. Lord only knows, I'm more than aware of what it feels like to be so short you can't see anything. I'm not sure if the rest of the crowd knew what was up, I don't think they knew that this was a new Chemical tune and more than likely we were the first people on the west coast of the US to hear it. I was getting goofy, just thrilled to be hearing the Africa song that some people on the Chemical mailing list talked about from the New York DJ set last December. When the crowd wasn't into the song as much as the Brothers wished, Tom got that, "Aw, come on! Please?" sad look on his face again, and the crowd obliged and up went the cheers from the audience. Soon a lot of people around me were chanting "It Began In Africacacacaca" Jim came back in and gave me a fresh bottle of water. He stayed and danced with me for the entire Africa song, no way he'd miss a new Chem tune. And I think he just wanted to make sure I wasn't giving Tom and Ed the ol' winking eye (which I did not do anyway. Honest!) Jim was being really sweet, and took off for the outside of the tent so as not to upset the Chem crowd he cut in front of. I just held on to my water and danced my bippy off. Such a cool experience!
Since I haven't heard the Galaxy Bounce song that's been mentioned in the past, I wasn't able to 'spot' it last night. So I am not sure of how to give it a review. (sorry) That goes for pretty much a lot of the songs that the Chems had up their sleeves. Either I'm the world's shittiest trainspotter, or I was a bit too far gone at that point to notice, or they were playing some obscure tunes because I had a hard time trying to figure out what the songs were. But needless to say I liked the choices they made for their set. Funky at times, trippadelic at other times, solid all around. And very very danceable to say the least. A few times, the boys would throw in some familiar trippy sounds - some of which were the familiar bloopy bleeps from Sunshine Underground and such. The sounds they extracted from their own tunes blended in perfectly with what was spinning on the tables. Talk about an aural assault - my head was exploding! The sound was awesome anyway and it was brilliant just to hear the music at such loud decibels that I can't get at home or in my car. ;)
The last song they put on was "Hey Boy Hey Girl" - the same turntable that fucked with Norman Cook earlier did the same thing to Ed, who just kind of gave a startled look at the turntable. But all was good. By this time the audience didn't need anymore coaxing from Tom and Ed, everyone was on their feet, and all arms were outstretched and all fingers were reaching for the ceiling. Then Tom and Ed waved their goodbyes and bobbed their heads as they walked off the stage.
The house lights went up and as the song drew to a close - and people stopped dancing and walked out into the night. I stayed inside the tent chatting with the glowstick woman for a bit. We came to the conclusion that we were pretty blessed to see an actual DJ set from the Chemical Brothers. I'd say, she had a positive first experience with the Bros! Like me though, she was a bit disappointed that the crowd wasn't into it as much as they should've been. But ah well, our boys did well and they seemed to be enjoying themselves in the process and to me that's all that matters really.
As for the whole Coachella experience, I couldn't have asked for more. What a great day, and what an exceptionally brilliant evening I had! That was my second Chemical experience, like I said before it was cool that I got to see them dj as I had already witnessed a live set back in 1999. Jim had spent most of the Chems set either holding Frank's poor head or looking for the Chem listees who seemed to have vanished into thin air. I'm sure they all had as much fun as I did - my only wish was that I could've been with them so we all could've been a part of it together. If there was any way that the night could've been better, it was if I could've whooped it up with the listees while the Chems were going off.
Well, there will be other tours and I don't think Tom and Ed are going to give up djing anytime soon. ;) We dragged out tired asses out into the parking lot which was blown up with dust. I didn't even care, I still had the music ringing in my ears and since the Chems were the final act to play (and they played a little longer than the headliner Jane's Addiction) there was the 'buzz' coming from other weary festival goers about how cool the Chems set was. Good to know I wasn't the only loopy nad musically satisfied Chem set-goer there. And later on at a gas station en route to our hotel this guy comes up to me. (I think he saw my Chemical Brothers sticker on the back of my car) He says excitedly, "Hey, did you catch the Chems?" "Of course!" I said.
"Aw man!" he said with a big old grin on his face.
"Their set was TIGHT!"
Yep, a good night indeed!