The resurgence of the rock festival in America, apart from a few failed attempts to re-enact Woodstock, began in earnest in 1999 with the first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Promoters booked contemporary youth-culture music artists—acts as varied as Luke Vibert; Modest Mouse; Medeski, Martin & Wood; Pavement; Moby; and Tool—and a bunch of kids drove out to the middle of nowhere to catch their gigs. Now, Coachella is the premiere rock festival, and it has spawned numerous imitators.
Coachella the film isn’t so much a documentary as a self-congratulatory promo spot. (The film’s nonperformance elements, of which there are many, typically feature artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea waxing pretentious.) That’s not to say that it lacks redeeming qualities; many of the performances are top-notch. The Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)” at sunset hints at a fantastic show. And even the sulking Oasis, the crooning Morrissey and frenetic the Mars Volta prove that otherwise uninteresting recording artists can throw down a good live set.
Perhaps what’s best about the movie is how each individual viewer will tap into his or her own concert-going past. For example, when Radiohead unleashes a rowdy version of “Planet Telex,” I’m instantly transported to 1997 at the Warfield; Belle and Sebastian nonchalantly making their way through “The Boy with the Arab Strap” had me pressed up against the stage at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.
Still, these moments are few and far between: Cynicism inevitably trumps nostalgia. Shouldn’t the Chemical Brothers be banned from stateside DJ gigs? Teenagers singing along with the Pixies’ Frank Black? Anthony Kiedis still jumping around in a poplin shirt and tie? Perry fucking Farrell?
All right; you got me. I’m just jealous that all my friends are going to Indio next week.