Clem’s Coachella review Weekend 2 Day 2

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Like it, love it or be befuddled by it there really is nothing like a RADIOHEAD concert. One of the things I love about it is that you really can choose how you enjoy it. You can just listen to the surface groove that, whether on live drums or sample loop, drives pretty much every tune…and…well “jam” isn’t really the right word but you can simply enjoy and be mesmerized by what’s going on. Or you can really dig in and try to listen to all there is. Like a rich Indian vindaloo there is so much happening all at one time that it is impossible to identify all of it’s ingredients. To deconstruct it and figure it all out is a daunting task but the fun and true experience is in the trying. These guys are functioning on a different plane musically and one where very few can exist. My fellow WE reporter Behrnsie here on the ground with me at Coachella put it best…”someone asked me recently what I thought of the new Radiohead album and I told them I don’t know yet… I’m only on my 5th listen.” Whether live or on record Radiohead can be wonderfully confounding to listen to and you truly don’t “get it” until living with it for a period of time. But as I say some don’t care about all of that and you can just sit back and get lost in the vast musical landscape that comes from one of our generation’s truly most important bands.

Who knew ST. VINCENT kicked ass? Well, not me that’s for sure. I’ve heard her recordings and seen various TV appearances but I was not prepared for her great set and show yesterday. This is quirky alt/indie rock at it’s finest and really defines a new style in the chic singer/songwriter vein. Her guitar playing whether the main riff of the tune or one of her signature wild solos kept bringing Prince to mind in it’s freneticism. But like His Purpleness, it’s never just noise — there is always something very cool going on musically. Her marketing does not capture her wild and ballsy stage persona, and even though her’s isn’t really music that lends itself to it, her stage dive and crowd surfing was some of the best I have seen. Put this totally unique songstress on your “to be seen” list and do it soon.

I have gone back and forth on BON IVER. I really have enjoyed his albums but he really pissed me off when he bitched and moaned and was so indifferent about the Grammys until he won a couple and boy did his tune change… you didn’t see him giving them back did you? But ultimately it’s about the music and he brought the his normal brand of beautiful high-lonesome, falsetto-harmonied modern singer/songwriter fare to Coachella’s main stage. What I did not expect were several big bursts or rocking out a la My Morning Jacket. I truly didn’t know he had it in him — I don’t remember this sound from the recordings. So if you think you know what a Bon Iver concert will bring…think again. It was my “good surprise” moment of Coachella.

File under: unique, different, enigmatic, truly nothing else like it, etc. Whatever you want to call it, tUnE-yArDs gave me one of the most interesting sets I have ever seen on a stage. There is nothing uncommon about a performer looping vocals, percussion and synth grooves but tUnE-yArDs (a.k.a. Merrill Garbus) starts each song from absolutely nothing and builds several different loops (in full view of the audience) of vocals, percussion and whatever else is on hand and uses them as the base for the tune—even switching between 2 or 3 different loops she has created. In yesterday’s set the ukulele-wielding Garbus realized her mic stand could be hit in different places and make 2 different pitches and that was in the loop. The construction of the songs themselves are obviously set but this technique allows for a bit of spontaneity that makes for a unique performance of each tune. While maybe not on my everyday listening list the most recent album is good and found it’s way onto many of last year’s “Best Of” list but seeing the songs truly get created gives the audience a truly unique vantage point.

I would normally have thought 7pm on the #2 stage might not be the right time for solo singer/songwriter fare but erstwhile Neutral Milk Hotel frontman JEFF MANGUM was impossible to miss. His strong legion of fans turned this into a really enjoyable set that somehow fit perfectly at this slot. It’s a modern take on the troubadour sound but uniquely crafted songs and a strong performance make Mangum completely worth your time.

A great bill is on tap today with SANTIGOLD, GOTYE, FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE and SNOOP DOG/DR. DRE all bringing what is sure to be their A-game to close out Coachella 2012. Look for thoughts on all this and more tomorrow.

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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.