The Chemical Brothers Live at Coachella Festival, April 27th 2002, by Mia Hill
With Captain Paul and his Navigator Josh leading the way, the Chemical listees crew weaved in and out of the dispersing crowd to find a premium spot once Bjork was over. There were so many people and there was so much confusion, and we were all a little nutty in the head, so we thought it would be best to not fight the crowd for the front row. Hey, I saw the Chems front row last year so it was no biggie. Instead we opted for the best sonic experience we could plant our feet into. We situated ourselves in a great spot, straight up from the middle of the stage, dead center in the crowd. I could stand it no longer, I was lit, I was amped, and I wasn't the only one. Paul began to warn us to back off because he was gonna bust a move. Sara asked me a few times if we were ready to shake our asses. Jim and Carl had gurning grins on their faces, I was tripping and shaking with excitement, and my sis-in-law and Eric stood with us as we waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Then it happened. Tom and Ed came out. I couldn't see them, but the cheering crowd let me know they were there. A low hum emitted from the giant wall of speakers at the front stage. A large round screen affixed from the stage scaffolds lit up in a kaleidoscope of color. The hum got louder and louder, the synth melodies crept their way slowly into the opening refrain "Come With Us." And come with them we did. We all just completely lost it!
After the frenzy of Come With Us, the song went into what sounded like the opening of Out of Control. But it didn't tear right into the song in a recognizable way. Come With Us ended by dipping back down to that low hum, then the textures of a few other Chems songs popped up in a kind of weird sonic mosaic - we heard blips and bloops from other songs, a familiar beat a la Exit Planet Dust - the intro was epic... so well done, that all me and Carl and Sara could say was "Nnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiice!" Then the song crashed into Out of Control. But it gets better. It sounded like a completely transformed song by the time the Brothers unleashed it's full potential.
But it got even better. The bass dropped. And when I say "dropped" I mean, DROPPED! To the point of giving It Doesn't Matter a run for it's money. It plunged down so deep I could feel it in the hollow of my spine up to the ends of my hairs. The lights went up in flashes spastic enough to encourage an epileptic fit. Crazy images flicked on the screen which in turn, rebounded off the stage scaffold giving it the appearance of fireworks going off overhead. Then the bass was dropped again, and again, and again. It was ruthless and it almost friggen *hurt.* But it hurt so good! The pulsating bass felt like an electric shock through my whole body. Amazing... And I wasn't the only one feeling this way. People around me were saying in awe, "Woooooooooah!!!!!" and "Oh my GAWD!!!" and "Oooooooooohhhhhhhhh...!"
Then onto Afrika (I think, I'm still a bit jaded) and I went ballistic! The crew were busting their asses, fists to the sky, chanting "Afrika ka ka ka ka...!" as the congas whipped through the air and super sonic noises moved around and around and around us. Oh yes, the spaceship had come to lead us away onto higher ground before the song dropped us back down, slowly but surely, slowing down and down and down again - until a few blips and that smooth electric hum was left...
That hum built up and up, gathering layered textures and familiar melodies along its sonic trek, until it exploded into Music: Response. But it didn't sound exactly like it did on the record or during the last tour. It was somehow different, much more powerful, much more texture and tweaking. The song dropped back down until all that was left were some siren sounds and the hymns of that good ol song from the good ol days, Song to the Siren. But that too was so much different than what I've heard before of that song in a live setting. I went ballistic again in this revamped onslaught of magicically crafted sound, which had the same driving force as Three Little Birdies Downbeats.
"Nnnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!!" We all said in unison. What a great fucking intro! Behind me was my husband, who I have honestly never seen as moved by music as he was last night. At his side was Eric whose eyes were as big as the round screen above the stage. I said to him, "What do you think, man?" And he said, "This is absolutely unbelievable! I am ownt!"
Star Guitar stole the show. I can't even begin to describe how it came and went about, other than it was sonic ecstasy. It was done up completely different than the recorded version. That bass, oh my god that booming bass rattled my bones but I couldn't stop dancing! The images on the screen and the lights flickering off the steel in the scaffolds. Everything came together... more than nicely! ;) People were transfixed in a sort of trance being carried by that cosmic wave the brothers were weaving with their onstage gadgets. Wizardry at it's finest, the song was so dense, so built up, then exploded into the chorus "you should feel what I feel, you should take what I take" and I was among the crowd that gasped "Ooooooooooooooh.......ooooincredible!"
After that, the song tore into Hey Boy Hey Girl and every single soul around us had their fists in the air chanting the vocals. The lights flashed and lit up the crowd. People were going crazy but it was a good vibe with no thrashing about. All good times, and the crowd response... unfriggenbelievable. Orgasmic really. It was like everyone there was on the same mental plane as one another. I haven't felt that in a long time, if ever.
Then we thought Block Rockin Beats was goin on, people stopped cheering, they were literally screaming for more. The song exploded and this guy in front of me said to his mate, "This is it. This is fucking IT! This is the song that got me into electronic music!" But Block Rockin Beats ended rather quickly as the song dipped into Setting Sun, then back out again into a myriad of other Chemical songs as Tom and Ed mixed different but familiar melodies from here and there to form another epic intro.
I couldn't stop saying that.
The hum again. And that low soul jacking deep spleen shaking throttle came back to haunt us as the intro to Sunshine Underground took form. Lovely images of sunrises filled the circular screen and the crowd stood there transfixed on the visions and sounds coming from all directions. Now I've heard Sunshine Underground live before and it was all right, but it was nothing like last night I can guarantee you. The song was pieced together layer by layer, slowly but surely, bit by bit, and that bass I keep talking about would burst in just to keep us on our toes and wondering where exactly the song was going to take us.
"Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening!" I turned around and saw Eric, who was shaking. "Oh my god," he kept saying. I looked at the Chemical crew as they stood transfixed as the song built and built, being interjected with spasms of bone shattering bass. People were being jolted. Hell, it seemed like I was being electrocuted! The song weaved in and out with pitched highs and thudding lows, then exploded into the climax of the song and surely the most cynical critics of Surrender couldn't help but get into it. hehe.
Sunshine Underground unraveled into another completely different sonic tapestry which would be the introductory of the last song, The Test. The opening bellows of Richard Ashcroft's voice sounded like it was being pulled from heaven and onto the stage, and the song swept it's way into high gear. The crowd swayed with the melody, spazzed with the bass, and shook to the beat. There was not a sacked out soul anywhere near us! Everyone was on their feet soaking up the music. I have never seen, heard or felt anything quite like this - not even at Pink Floyd which is still the most incredible show I've seen (but damn, I was moved beyond belief and the audience, the host of friends, everything... really put the entire show into perspective for me) It was not just about the music and shaking your thang. It was about the music moving the audience in the most unsuspecting of ways, the intertwined melodies taking form and taking the audience with them. It seemed like the theme of the set was about passing the acid test, where everyone is feeling the same groove and being carried higher and higher on that humming carrier wave. Yeah, I think the Chemical Brothers helped us all pass the acid test. ;)
We were hoping to hear The Private Psychadelic Reel, especially me since I hadn't heard the song live before, but there simply wasn't enough time to make it happen without the authorities pulling the plug. City ordinances ordered the final main stage set to end at 11:45. The clock struck, the boys got up, and Tom gave a humbled yet at the same time proud and pleased, "that's all folks!" gesture, and made his way off the stage.
"It's over?" people kept whispering around us. And the intermittent music, this kind of melodramatic and melancholy classical music filled the air as the houselights went up. We all stood there dumbfounded.
"Whoa.... that was amazing! What the fuck just happened to my brain?" Then slowly the crowd dispersed on the grassy field littered with water bottle casualties. We trudged up the hill toward the exit, still trying to recover our bearings. I don't believe for a minute that I was the only one that felt like they were hit by a freight train by the end of that set!