The revolution wasn’t televised, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, electronic dance music RULES!
So I’m standing in the Mojave tent watching Dawes and Lisa comes up, leans in my ear, and says “YOU’VE GOT TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE NEXT TENT OVER, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT.”
Yes, there are five stages at Coachella. The main one, called the “Coachella Stage”, the one you’ve seen in all the photographs, next to it another outdoor stage, monikered “Outdoor Stage”, and then, side by side, three tents, “Gobi”, “Mojave” and “Sahara”. Not that they’re really tents, not something you’d sleep in for the summer, but giant pavilions, open-sided edifices with high roofs. And as a result, sound bleeds from one to another. If you make soft music, avoid Coachella, you’ll get drowned out.
But if you come to the festival, if you want to know what’s truly happening, you can spend your entire visit at the Sahara tent, that’s where the deejays hold court and the little boys and girls twirl and dance and are mesmerized to the point of ecstasy.
I’d love to tell you the story of Gary Clark, Jr. I saw the man at a private show in Hollywood two months back. Overworked by the label, I just didn’t get it. But Mr. Clark ruled in the Gobi tent, where the audience could feel the energy and experience a guitarslinger for maybe the very first time. He broke his career wide open. That can happen at Coachella, where the rules of radio are thrown out the door, you experience the smorgasbord of music and are open to being closed.
But most acts didn’t close these kids.
And it is kids.
You see Coachella has become a rite of passage. Thank god their parents didn’t come with them. The girls were wearing bikinis even though it was fifty degrees with sporadic raindrops. The boys were wearing costumes, everything from space helmets to raccoon hats. They came to see and be seen. And to dance to the music.
It’s a different culture. The baby boomers are about winning, becoming a shining star, dominating. Gen-X’ers are just pissed they didn’t get to sip at the trough, the boomers ruined it for them.
And Gen-Y and the Millennials are nothing like their forebears. They want to be a member of the group, they want to PARTICIPATE!
This is a radical change. It’s less about being on stage and being a star than being with your homies in the audience having fun. That whole concept of us vs. them, performer vs. audience, that has ruled for decades is toast. Now the performers and the audience are all in it together. And the mainstream music business just doesn’t understand.
If I ran Coachella, I’d eliminate the old acts. And the new too. Everyone with a guitar, everyone with a band. Because most people just don’t care.
Supposedly the Black Keys are one of the hottest bands in America. But they were smoked by Swedish House Mafia. It was no contest.
I’m not saying the Keys were bad. In fact, they were very good.
But most people just didn’t care.
But forty minutes after they were done, when it was fifty two degrees and still raining, Swedish House Mafia took the main stage, the Coachella stage, and blasted a sound that united the masses.
Yes, for the first time all day, there was a crowd, covering the entire field. A sea of humanity, a swarm jumping, writhing, dancing, all the way back.
This is how it works. About thirty percent of the way back from the main stage there’s a sound booth. And until the Black Keys played, not a single act could fill past this point. Jimmy Cliff KILLED! If you ever saw “The Harder They Come”, you’d be thrilled. He hit the stage to the brass notes of “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, it was magical. But almost no one cared. Applause was minimal. As was attendance.
But when Swedish House Mafia took the stage, you were reminded of a rally in Nazi Germany or the U.S.S.R. You know, you’ve seen the pictures, endless people and massive power, scary to those not there. And electronic dance music is scary to the old guard. We were busy debating it in the AEG trailer all night long. Could it fill an arena on a Monday night. What venues, what price.
But what’s fascinating is these deejays are not prima donnas. They’ll do arenas one night, stadiums another, and clubs and theaters thereafter. It’s all about the music, it’s all about the sound.
So I finish watching Dawes play to a limited audience and then Lisa starts telling me the story. That in the middle of the set her eye caught people RUNNING to the Sahara tent. I pulled out my guide as we walked there. Madeon was spinning.
I guarantee you ninety plus percent of my audience has no idea who this guy is. I certainly didn’t.
But the kids did.
Not because of television, not because of radio, but because of the Internet.
And word wasn’t spread by some faux social media specialist. There was no “campaign”. Madeon is owned by the people.
He’s a seventeen year old French kid. Paul Tollett had to get his parents’ permission for him to come.
And you couldn’t even get in the Sahara tent. You could barely get near it. But you could see the lights, you could hear the music, it was infectious.
This week Kraftwerk is playing at the Modern. I saw the band during their “Computer World” tour. At the Santa Monica Civic. Long before many of you were even born. In the very early eighties.
It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And it was all electronic.
Swedish House Mafia is all electronic. They were revealed on stage and the place went NUTS!
And so did I.
I felt the energy, the pulse, the adrenaline that a great show delivers. That the pop acts and the oldsters so often don’t. The three guys are up there like a parody of an SNL skit but it worked.
That’s what you’ve got to know, this electronic music works. It’s owned by the kids. And it’s got nothing to do with what came before, record companies are irrelevant. Hell, Swedish House Mafia is headlining Coachella AND THEY’VE NEVER PUT OUT A PROPER ALBUM!
Think about that. You’re sitting at home crafting ten tunes to make you feel good. To make you believe you’re a musician.
No, a musician plays music. It’s just that simple. And recordings have become secondary to live because it’s all about the experience, that’s what the younger generation treasures.
You should have been there last night. Or in the Sahara tent all day long, it was always full.
It’s a new music business.
And it’s THRILLING!