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Coachella 2015’s second weekend kicked off at 11 a.m., Friday, April 17, with a bang for local music fans.

Alchemy—which also played at Tachevah earlier this week, and at Coachella’s first weekend—launched the weekend on the Outdoor Stage. While their Tachevah performance was good, their Coachella performance was even better. Vocalist Andrew Gonzalez noted that the audience was much better this week—and some fans even started a mosh pit during the performance.

After Alchemy, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger took to the Outdoor Stage. The band is fronted by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl; it was a homecoming, of sorts, since they met at Coachella 10 years ago. Their music at times sounded like Deep Purple, with a little bit of Pink Floyd thrown in. Lennon made reference to a couple of the band’s music videos, once claiming: “You’ll like it if you like nipples.”

After Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band took the Outdoor Stage. Bjork, the drummer of the pioneering desert rock band Kyuss, should have had a bigger turnout. The crowd was thin, but full of desert rock devotees. Bjork and his band managed to pump out a lot of volume and rock the audience at the same time. Desert local and Throw Rag frontman Sean Wheeler joined in for his last number.

I walked into the show by Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires—and soon discovered that the 66-year-old soul singer had young folks swaying and dancing to his sounds of love. However, Bradley went a few minutes over his scheduled set time—and show organizers cut the sound. Nonetheless, the band continued to play the last two minutes of his song without the PA system.

In the late afternoon, Azealia Banks took the Coachella stage. Banks has taken the world by storm, and I admit I was turned on by the first 15 minutes … however, I quickly grew tired of her act. I like my hip-hop with some rhyme and reason to it.

Speaking of rhyme and reason, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah began playing on the Outdoor Stage toward the middle of Banks’ set. The Wu-Tang Clan’s crowd was huge at the Outdoor Stage in 2013; Raekwon and Ghostface Killah managed to get a pretty large crowd crammed into the Outdoor Stage area for their performance this year. Raekwon handled the first two songs by himself, stating, “Ghostface is out back taking a shit.” After the photographers were ushered out of the photo pit, however, Ghostface Killah appeared. Their set was energetic, and featured songs from their solo efforts along with Wu-Tang works including “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthin’ to Fuck Wit” and “Triumph.”

As the sun began to set, Lykke Li began to play in the Mojave tent. The Swedish indie-pop singer put on a mesmerizing performance with a combination of songs both slower and upbeat. The visual effects at times made it look as if she were performing in a forest; at other times, the effects offered a light show.

I admit I had my doubts about Steely Dan performing at Coachella. Well, now, I can eat my words: Steely Dan performed to a large crowd, including many younger fans who obviously knew the material. The jazz/blues combo sound of Steely Dan was a hit, with many festival-goers screaming “STEELY FUCKING DAN!” in between songs.

While Steely Dan came from the initial psychedelic era, Tame Impala comes from a new era of psychedelic music. The Australian outfit had a large turnout at the Outdoor Stage when they played Coachella in 2013, and it was fitting for them to play on the main stage before AC/DC. The intro was Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” As Tame Impala played, the psychedelic visuals were fantastic; a combination of older songs and new songs filled the setlist. Tame Impala is new and improved: The band sounds a lot tighter now than it used to. When frontman Kevin Parker announced their last song, he told the crowd not to be sad, because AC/DC was going to come out—and it was going to get crazy.

He was right. AC/DC took the Coachella stage crowd by surprise when the stage got dark and the band got down to business—with no intro whatsoever—opening with “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” The setlist was pretty close to the Weekend One show, and the performance was just as good.

I overheard many younger people saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing AC/DC,” and, “My dad is going to be so jealous.” This proves that AC/DC is for everyone, including the children.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery from Friday’s Coachella goings-on.

Published in Reviews

Sales of music have been on the decline—yet vinyl has enjoyed a recent resurgence, a fact that’s apparent on the third Saturday of April each year, a day now known as Record Store Day.

A co-founder of Record Store Day, Michael Kurtz, explained the genesis of the idea during a recent phone interview.

“At the time in 2007, all the media coverage of record stores was negative,” Kurtz said from his home in New York City. “They were all going out of business, and people used to talk about us being the equivalent of selling monkey whips. It was just a dark time. We modeled Record Store Day after free comic-book day after we saw the success they had bringing common folk into stores.”

While the idea is to support local businesses and create enough sales to help them survive, Kurtz said there’s also a sentimental meaning to it beyond the limited editions and special releases.

“People focus on that because of the dollar amount—but it also misses the whole point of celebrating the local neighborhood record store,” he said. “All the stores are doing in-store performances, and a lot of them link up with charities and so forth. It’s all about the celebration, but people focus on the releases.”

At Coachella on Friday, April 17, the craziness started at 11 a.m. when the festival’s store opened, although it calmed down through the day. Jon Halperin, who orders the product and helps manage the Coachella record store, said he expected heavy sales to continue through the weekend.

“We sold well over 1,000 records this morning,” Halperin said. “We sold probably half of our Record Store Day product (even though it was the day before Record Store Day). We had a line of 20 or so people, and then when doors opened, everyone just came in. We sold more product today than we did last year on Record Store Day.”

What are some examples of a limited release for this year’s Record Store Day?

“Everyone is into something different. … The most popular records this year are the brand-new reissue of the Whiplash soundtrack, and The Lego Movie soundtrack was really popular. We only get so many; no matter what I order, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get it. We were supposed to get two Elvis Presley 10-inch records that were put out by Third Man Records, and they weren’t able to pull them in time, and we didn’t get them.”

Halperin said Record Store Day craziness should continue at Coachella through the weekend.

“Coachella has always done it on Friday. Record Store Day might be on Saturday, but the way we see it is most of these kids are stuck here anyway, so why not let them do their shopping on Friday afternoon? For $5, we’re going to hold their bags back here all weekend long in an air-conditioned trailer.”

As for the independent stores who are not at Coachella, does Record Store Day help pay the bills? Kurtz said it does.

“What I hear consistently is that it pays the bills for two months,” Kurtz said. “The neighbors come out and support them and everything, so it’s definitely very positive. I hear, too, that stores that were struggling became sound after (the invention of) Record Store Day. Because of that and Black Friday, they have two very strong things they can do, and it helps them connect with the community so they get more regular customers coming in.”

As for the resurgence of vinyl, Kurtz said he thinks the format will stick around for a while, even though a brief 1990s resurgence quickly fizzled out.

“All the vinyl manufacturing plants are now running at maximum capacity, and turntable manufacturers are seeing their business doubling every year,” he said. “Everything is moving in that direction. We’re optimistic.”

It’s becoming an age-old tradition to gripe about the Coachella headliners. However, if you look past the big names on the poster, you’ll find a lot of great acts. Here are some to consider including in your Coachella schedule.


Friday, April 10 and 17

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

I’m amazed that this band is listed so low on Friday’s lineup. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger consists of American fashion model Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon (yes, John Lennon’s son). After meeting each other and falling in love at Coachella in the mid-2000s, Lennon realized Muhl had talent as a singer. In 2010, they released their first album, Acoustic Sessions, which was warmly received. This band definitely belongs at Coachella.

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band

Sadly, this is another small-print booking. Locals should recognize this name—and if you don’t, you have some learnin’ to do. Brant Bjork was one of the founding members of the legendary desert-rock group Kyuss, with John Garcia and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. You definitely don’t want to miss Bjork’s performance at Coachella, given he’s one of the people who put the Coachella Valley on the map, music wise. Check out our interview with Bjork at the start of the music section.

Trippy Turtle

Last summer during one of Splash House parties, Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto and I were mystified by this young DJ who wore a green hoodie with a turtle on it. His DJ set was upbeat and fun—and you’ll hear a clip of that YouTube video of the little boy saying “I like turtles” several times throughout his set. (See a photo from Prieto at the top right.)

Steely Dan

This was the one listing on the lineup that had me saying “WTF?” when I first saw it. Steely Dan is a delight for true music-lovers, even though many of the people who will be at Coachella did not yet exist (myself included) back in 1972 when they first formed. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are musical geniuses, and while their blend of jazz and rock is considered “soft rock,” Steely Dan shouldn’t be lumped into the same genre as the Eagles and Michael Bolton. This is a strange booking for Coachella—but it will probably still be awesome.


Saturday, April 11 and 18

Parquet Courts

This New York City post-punk/garage band has managed to drum up momentum from the DIY, indie and mainstream scenes since it seemingly came out of nowhere in 2010. I’ve seen them once before, and I can say that if you like an edgier and dirtier (in a good way) sound, Parquet Courts are for you.

Royal Blood

A gentleman I talked to not too long ago at Pappy and Harriet’s suggested this band to me after we talked about the White Stripes and the Black Keys. This duo from the United Kingdom has an impressive sound, and the self-titled debut album is balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see Royal Blood’s live show.

War on Drugs

While the name is amusing, War on Drugs is no joke: Front man Adam Granduciel has exemplary skills as a singer-songwriter. War on Drugs, which once included Kurt Vile, has a sound similar to that of Destroyer, The New Pornographers, and Real Estate. Make sure you check this band out. (Photo below.)

The Weeknd

In 2010, this guy became the talk of the underground-music scene, and his debut album, released a year later, was highly anticipated. The Weeknd has an interesting genre listing: PBR&B, in reference to the hipster culture’s love of Pabst Blue Ribbon and R&B, or hipster-based R&B. Whatever. The bottom line: The Weeknd makes great R&B that is soulful and dark at the same time—and the fact that he’s on the reclusive side adds a little mystery.


Sunday, April 12 and 19

The Orwells

This Chicago outfit has been on the rise since 2009. After they toured with the Arctic Monkeys, played at Lollapalooza and recently appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, it makes sense to see The Orwells playing at Coachella in 2015. I suggest listening to the band’s most recent album, Disgraceland, before the festival; you won’t be disappointed.

Chicano Batman

I have had a number of opportunities to see this band—and thanks to bad luck, I’ve missed them every time. These guys are not only one of the best DIY indie-bands in the Southwest U.S.; they also have a unique sound that combines Latin music with soul and psychedelic rock. Check out The Lucky 13 on Page 38 for more info.

Jenny Lewis

When I was a third-grader, I was a Nintendo-playing kid who was fascinated with the movie The Wizard, which Jenny Lewis, then a child actress, appeared in with Fred Savage. Lewis is now all grown up and playing music—and she’s pretty awesome. Her Americana-meets-pop sound is a lot of fun; she was even a part of Bright Eyes at one time. For giggles, look up the Christmas-themed comedy skit she took part in with Megadeth back in 2013 on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds were beloved by some of my co-workers at Borders Books and Music (R.I.P.) back in 2010 after she dropped her debut album, The Family Jewels—and Marina Diamandis has been pushing the envelope ever since. She has a new album out, and Marina and the Diamonds should be a highlight of the festival.

Published in Previews

Benjamin Booker has had a busy couple of years: His blues-meets-punk style has gained him a growing audience, as well as the attention of Jack White and major music publications. He’s made appearances at Lollapalooza and other big-name festivals—and he’ll be at Coachella on Saturday, April 11 and 18.

Booker was born in Virginia Beach, Va., into a military family—his father served in the Navy—and eventually settled in Tampa, Fla. Booker wasn’t available for a phone interview due to the fact he was touring in Europe, but he did answer questions via e-mail.

“We lived in Virginia Beach, which I believe holds the entire Atlantic fleet. It was better than it was for most,” Booker said. “We never moved until after my dad retired. My only memory is passing by huge ships every day in the car, and some (people) walking across a terrifyingly thin metal walkway to get on them.”

Booker said he discovered punk rock through a friend.

“When I was 14, my friend who I used to skateboard with handed me a burned copy of Minor Threat’s Complete Discography, which I listened to constantly in high school,” he said. “‘Seeing Red’ and ‘Filler’ were a couple favorites. I just liked the energy, I guess. I’ve always liked all things noisy and fast.”

He later discovered that punk and blues could co-exist. He also said gospel music was helpful in finding inspiration.

“I guess I realized you could combine blues and soul with punk from listening to bands like T. Rex, the Gun Club, the White Stripes, TVOTR and the Gories,” he said. “There have been several bands who have done it, but I wanted to do something a little different. I was listening to a lot of gospel singers at the time, and I wanted to add some of that, too—people like Viola James and Mahalia Jackson. I think the two genres are both very honest, because you have to mean it when you’re doing either.”

NPR reported that Booker once applied for an internship there; he was rejected and told to focus on his music. I asked him where he thinks he would have ended up had NPR accepted him.

“Maybe I would be doing the same thing. Alex Spoto, who plays bass for me, actually got that same internship the year I applied for it,” he said.

When Booker began to make a name for himself, Jack White came calling—and offered him an opening slot on tour.

“I was surprisingly not nervous,” Booker said. “It turns out that it’s easier to play for bigger crowds than smaller ones. I didn’t get nervous again until our small-club shows afterward.

“I had a good time on that tour. Everyone was very kind, and it was incredible touring with people who have perfected the living experience. Getting to see it every night was like going to the best class ever. We all took notes.”

As of now, Booker said he is focusing on live shows, and he added that he’s excited about coming to the desert—especially to see some of the other Coachella performers.

“I love California, so I’m always excited for a trip there,” he said, “As for Coachella, I’m excited to see Perfume Genius and a bunch of other people playing.”

Published in Previews

Southern California audiophiles and devout music fans know KCRW well: The NPR affiliate is considered one of the best stations in the country for music-lovers.

Therefore, it’s somewhat appropriate that the station’s music director, Jason Bentley, will be DJing at SoCal’s biggest music festival, Coachella, on Friday, April 10 and 17.

Bentley said he attended an underground party while he was in college, and it fascinated him that people from varied backgrounds and places were all able to come together. It was a positive force that he wanted to be part of.

That led to his DJ career, which in turn led him to festivals such as Coachella.

“There is such a huge surge in festivals now. I’m having festival fatigue,” Bentley said during a recent phone interview. “I understand the dynamics of the industry have changed so much to where recorded music doesn’t sell. … I love playing live festivals and clubs, because it gives me more of the artistic expression, and you’ve got your sound palette: You’re playing more stripped-down tracks and ideas; you’re playing these records, with an emphasis on the word play; and you’re performing the record in a totally unique way. You have control over the EQs, the filters and the arrangement.

“Technology has advanced things so much, and I’m old enough that I remember playing vinyl and carrying around record boxes everywhere I went to DJ—which is now ridiculous.”

What does Bentley show up with at a club or a festival these days?

“I bring all my music on a thumb drive now,” he said. “I keep a couple of thumb drives in my pocket. It’s funny, because when you’d go to get access into a nightclub, you’d walk in with your record boxes and say, ‘Hey, I’m the DJ; let me through.’ Now you’re like, ‘No, trust me, I’m the DJ; here’s my thumb drive.’ It’s comical.”

This year’s Coachella fest features a lot of electronic dance music. Bentley put that in historical perspective.

“In terms of the very first Coachella, it was heavy on electronic music, and that’s where it really started,” he said. “I think Coachella was made possible in large part by the dance culture and rave culture in Southern California—and that wisely provided a larger concept just to attract more people. Truly, the roots of Coachella are in electronic dance music. It’s been interesting to see this music become more important and change the experience. The rise of the Sahara tent to what it is now has just been amazing to see.”

Bentley said he’s had some interesting experiences in that Sahara tent.

“I’ve had a couple of opportunities to stand on the side of the stage during some big sets by young, up-and-coming artists who attract other young people,” he said. “One in particular last year I’ll never forget is Martin Garrix. He’s just another Dutch kid from out of nowhere, has a big hit record that’s all the rage, and somehow has a bazillion fans online. I was there when he started his set, and I’ve got to tell you, the energy level at that moment was just so unbelievable. There’s not much else that comes close to that. Sahara has become this wild frat party on steroids.”

Bentley also discussed the smaller, less-talked-about Yuma tent.

“The Sahara was becoming this gigantic kabuki pinball machine,” he said. “I think they wanted to present something that was more about music that you feel—not a light show or spectacle, but a feeling. Dance music is largely about that. Yuma is just a place that’s a dark room. It’s a discothèque—it’s truly a desert discothèque. There was an interesting disco ball in there last year that was shaped like a shark. They’re doing some interesting things in there, but it’s about nuance and feeling, not about skimpy outfits and big video walls.”

What can fans expect to see from Bentley at Coachella?

“It’s house music. It’s that tempo range of 120 (beats per music), roughly 124 bpm to 126 bpm, so it’s not super-fast or about big synth chords,” Bentley said. “It’s about weirder, underground things—not heavy on vocals. I don’t know; it’s just sort of things that catch my ear. It’s kind of like how I select music for KCRW—things that seem exciting and different.”

Bentley said dance music, in some ways, is his generation’s punk rock.

“Now it’s part of us,” he said. “A younger generation now—the millennials—is coming up, and that’s all they know, and it’s part of their vocabulary. It was exciting for me to be part of the first wave of dance culture (in the 1990s), but it doesn’t make classic rock, blues or folk less important to me. It’s just my view of the field is informed by the ’90s dance-music explosion.”

Published in Previews

If Iggy Pop is the Godfather of Punk, Keith Morris the Warrior of Punk.

The former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman is almost 60 years old, but he’s not slowing down: Since 2010, he’s been fronting his new band, Off!

Off! will be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 12 and 19.

Black Flag was one of the first Los Angeles punk bands to make an infamous name for itself. The band recorded its debut EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978; it contained what would become four of Black Flag’s most-well-known songs: “Nervous Breakdown,” “Fix Me,” “I’ve Had It” and “Wasted.”

However, Morris left Black Flag in 1979 due to disputes with band mate Greg Ginn—and a severe cocaine addiction. Morris soon formed the Circle Jerks with Greg Hetson (who later went on to join Bad Religion). Fun fact: The Circle Jerks also included Zander Schloss, half of semi-local band Sean and Zander. The band was active up until 1990, when it became more of a part-time group. During a recent phone interview, Morris discussed his days with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.

“I was in Black Flag for three years, which isn’t really that short of a time compared to Ron Reyes, who was in the band for six months. Dez Cadena was there for a while; Henry Rollins was there for a while—but Greg Ginn was there the longest.”

Most of the early punk groups that formed in New York City and Los Angeles never saw any career potential in what they were doing.

“My whole strategy was a non-strategy and just being kind of a straggler,” Morris said. “I had no set mentality, because there were no rules, and there was no manager standing over us telling us to line our bank accounts, sell lots of records, lots of CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, T-shirts or any of that fun stuff. There were no rules. That was my saving grace in that. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a follower, but there was a wide-open road, a map and a van. You would get in the van and go wherever the van would go and play wherever the van would stop, and all of that fun stuff.”

Where did the van stop? Morris has stories … lots of them.

“You’re pulling into Mobile, Ala., and you’re playing at Nick’s Fun House, dealing with all of the rednecks,” he said. “The Circle Jerks did the same thing Black Flag did: We played locally and everywhere we could play. We played a birthday party in Malibu on a cliff overlooking the ocean in front of a bunch of rich Jewish parents, and they didn’t like what we were up to. We got invited to play the all-girl Catholic school in Flintridge, where the Los Angeles county sheriff showed up in full force with two or three helicopters and the billy clubs. We had our moments.”

The bands also played shows for all-ages crowds at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. “We’ve actually played places like that where the kids were breaking the showcase in the entrance room and pulling the Civil War bayonets and swords out of the display and actually swashbuckling. They probably didn’t realize the history—they weren’t fighting any kind of civil war, and they weren’t fighting North versus South. They were all being like a bunch of pirates. They were pirates, and it was Black Flag anarchy.”

Morris said that while he’s almost 60, the past several years have been among his most active, while Off! has released three records and toured the world. Morris also took part in a Black Flag reunion called FLAG in 2013.

“I’ve never been as busy as I have been in the last four years,” he said. “All of the other guys have kids, wives, families, relatives, rent and health insurance, and all of those responsibilities, so we don’t get to go out for three months at a time—maybe four weeks at a time.”

Morris said he’s wowed by today’s punk-rock DIY network.

“It exists now more than it ever has,” he said. “Granted, we have had bands that have actually tapped out and mapped out and charted out routes for bands when they go out on tour. But there’s always that place where you pull into town, and the bartender is going to have hemorrhoids, and he’s not going to want to have all the all-ages kids come into his bar.”

Morris recently signed a book deal that he described as “decent” and is putting the finishing touches on an autobiography. One issue that he will probably discuss is his health: In the late ’90s, friends organized concerts to help him with his medical bills. He also became ill while touring in Europe with Off!—and nearly died.

“I’m a diabetic, and I’m approaching 60 years old,” he said. “I love Southern California weather, but I wish that when it was cold, it would be cold for two weeks so we could get acclimated to that. … For me, having been a cocaine addict, I’ve fried all the fibers of the interior of my nose. My sinus passages are completely ruined. Anytime there’s a drastic shift in the weather, I get clogged up; I get post-nasal drip, and wake up with a headache, sort throat and a stomach ache. My deal is that I find myself in this mentality that I’m thinking I’m competing with these younger guys, and I don’t want to get out and jog, so I have to mentally get myself up to the fact that I’ve got to get up there and act like a 19-year-old kid with a cherry bomb that’s been lodged up my rectum.”

Morris said Off! is happy to be playing at Coachella.

“There are a bunch of other bands that are playing, and we hear all the complaints (from fans): ‘I’m looking at the roster, and they want $8,000 for a weekend, and there are two bands that I like, and I hate all the rest of this stuff. And why are you playing with Drake? He’s no good.’ … The bottom line is if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go to it, so shut up and move along!

“This will be our second time at Coachella, and the reason we’re playing Coachella is because the first time we played, we played in a big tent in front of about 8,000 girls trying to find some shade. If you’re in a band, and you get to play in front of 5,000 women, aren’t you going to take that opportunity?”

Published in Previews

The lineup for the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella—was released today, and it turns out some of the speculation was true: Goldenvoice has made AC/DC, Jack White and Drake this year’s headliners.

Of course, opinions on the lineup vary; much of the criticism focuses on Drake being listed as one of the three headliners. Also, many are scratching people their heads and muttering: Steely Dan is part of the lineup? Really?

Steely Dan jokes aside, AC/DC is undeniably a strange, yet compelling addition for Coachella. The classic rock band from Down Under is certainly worthy of headlining honors, but it’s hard to imagine enthusiasm from fans who attend the festival for its large offerings of indie rock and EDM. Also, the timing is unfortunate: Longtime rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was recently admitted to a nursing home due to dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd’s future with the band is in question after his arrest in November on charges involving drugs and making a threat to kill.

Beyond the headliners, I tried to see the lineup’s silver linings—and I found many. Psychedelic rock group Tame Impala is just about to release a highly anticipated new album; the band played the festival in 2013, and a large crowd turned up to see them both weekends. Other notable acts include Flying Lotus, The War on Drugs, Florence and the Machine, The Gaslamp Killer, Bad Religion, Father John Misty, Bad Religion, OFF!, Jenny Lewis and Tyler, the Creator, to name a few.

There’s at least one compelling local angle: Former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork will be playing with his the Low Desert Punk Band. The successful Los Angeles band Chicano Batman will also be appearing.

Coachella 2015 takes place Friday through Sunday, April 10-12 and 17-19. Passes go on sale at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 7, at www.coachella.com.

Friday, April 11, was the first day ever that craft beer was offered at the innovative, critically acclaimed, two-weekend event known as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Nic Adler—of the L.A. Vegan Beer and Food Fest, as well as The Roxy—was recruited to develop a tantalizing, foodie paradise within the festival foregrounds. Adler enlisted friend and craft-beer advocate Tony Yanow—of Golden Road and Tony’s Darts Away—to help assemble the craft-beer list.

The result: A fantastic 130 or so beers on tap, many hailing from the Golden State, that proved brews and bands make perfect music together.

Yes, Heineken is still the top sponsor and rocked the festival with surprise artists and mash-ups in the Heineken House. But in Coachella’s 15th year, the genre-bending festival joined the craft beer revolution by serving a savory selection of craft brews in what became known as the Craft Beer Barn.

Located in the marketplace area, the barn supplied music-lovers with some of the biggest names in craft beer—and some surprising cameos as well.

Here are some recommended beer-and-music pairings I came up with at Coachella.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Rooted in gritty rock ’n’ roll, the band draws influences from punk, psychedelic blues, garage rock, rockabilly, soul and R&B. After being founded in 1991, Spencer and co. have helped lead the way in American roots music. With a palm-tree backdrop, the band offered no laser shows at Coachella, but the cover of Beastie Boys’ “She’s On It” was fantastically down and dirty—and a little greasy, too. Pair with Stone/Kyle Hollingsworth/Keri Kelli Collective Distortion IPA: Stone Brewing has made its name with bold, aggressively hoppy and arrogant beers. Thundering in around 9.2 percent alcohol by volume, this hop face-punch is backed by Nugget, Comet and Calypso hops, and then dry hopped with Vic’s Secret, a new Australian hop, cranking up the citrus notes with wild abandon. Stone traced the roots of brewing to the days when Old World herbs were used to spice beers; the brewery added coriander and elderberries here. The lightly roasted golden oats balance the spicy citrus notes in this visceral, cranked-out IPA. Next time you’re looking for a strong and aggressive beer, just ask yourself: “Do you wanna get heavy?”

Aloe Blacc killed it in the Mojave tent. With his crisp white shirt, sharp gray vest and fedora, the Orange County native and USC graduate exuded positivity and rays of California sunshine. He’s been compared to John Coltrane; his horn players danced in unison to “Soldier in the City.” The beats lifted the crowd’s spirits, while the lyrics revealed social awareness. For Blacc, “It ain’t that hard when you got soul.” Pair with The Bruery, Loakal Red: This American red ale has a ton of soul. It’s oak-aged with citrus and floral notes. This beer pays tribute to the growing Orange County beer scene; a portion of the older batch was left to mature in new American oak barrels, and was then blended with the fresh dry-hopped batch. There’s a sugary sweetness and funky, vibrant notes. Tastes of grapefruit, caramel, orange zest, toffee and light pine result in a full body and solid balance. Like Blacc’s voice, the texture is silky and downright delightful.

Fishbone: This legendary good-time ska, reggae, punk, metal, funk and soul fusion band out of Los Angeles didn’t disappoint fans with its indefinable energy and talent. On the second Coachella weekend, the band rocked the main stage with earnest fierceness. Angelo Moore bounced around onstage, pumping up early-afternoon Coachella-goers for another amazing day in the desert sun. The band wowed with complex arrangements featuring instruments including the theremin, saxophone, trumpet and keyboard, inspiring uncontrollable and joyous head-banging. Pair with: Drake’s Denogginizer—DIPA: Like Fishbone’s life performances, Denogginizer has been known to blow a few minds. The hoppy, in-your-face double imperial pale ale features a crazy amount of pungent American hops. This somewhat experimental, high-alcohol brew (9.75 ABV) can’t be contained and will leave you wanting more. Or, pair with Golden Road Brewing 329 Lager: Like Fishbone, Golden Road is quintessentially Los Angeles—and it’s low enough in alcohol (4.8 percent ABV) that you can drink it all day. On a more personal note, Flying Jay, Fishbone’s trombonist, said that many of his favorite beers are lighter in flavor; personal favorites are Hoegaarden and Leffe. When asked what his favorites were, Angelo Moore, the ultimate “Fishbone Solder,” quickly snipped: “I like Guinness, because it’s dark; it’s heavy; and it’s in your face.”

Beck is simply one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Before playing a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies),” Beck told a story about how he waited in a rainy line for 45 minutes to see them perform at a bar—the same bar where he’d seen The Black Keys a year earlier. “You know, that little bar down the street sometimes has the best music. Don’t forget about that little bar.” After “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser,” the band rearranged “Think I’m in Love.” The crowd erupted in dance with his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He even joined Arcade Fire onstage to cover Prince’s “Controversy.” Pair with: Faction Brewing, 2 Hop Collab (Nelson/Galaxy): Faction is a brewery out of Alameda that likes to do things a little differently. This is a special beer brewed as part of the experimental and educational “2 Hop Collaboration Project.” Various California breweries have participated, including Alpine, Ballast Point, Beachwood, Berryessa, Drake’s, Faction, Kern, Moylan’s, Stone and Triple Rock. Each participating brewery used the same pilsner malt backbone and then added two hops of their choosing. The Nelson Sauvin hop is named after the sauvignon blanc grape and is grown in New Zealand. Considered by some as “extreme,” it’s one of the world’s most unique and delicious hops. It leans toward tropical notes such as passion fruit, mango and tangerine. Similarly tropical, Galaxy has rapidly become the most internationally recognized Australian hop. Thanks to notes of passion fruit and citrus and a high alpha acid level, this versatile hop is great as a late addition in the brewing process. Beck is no stranger to experimental projects, like the “Song Reader” project, so this cornucopia of awesomeness is a Beck-appropriate craft-beer project.

Arcade Fire: Win Butler started by introducing two special guests in disheveled robot masks as a slightly inferior version of “Get Lucky” began to play. After the prank, the band turned in a set that may have been one of the most passionate and searing in Coachella history. Butler talked about gay human rights and urged people to get behind a cause. The multi-instrumentalist band played “Reflektor,” showing romantic deep grooves and grandiose rhythms. Pair with Blazing World, Modern Times: The relatively new San Diego brewery Modern Times is making waves with complex, flavorful, hybrid styles. The brewery was named one of the "Top 10 New Breweries” in the world by RateBeer. Blazing World has a ton of hop character and makes a presence with bursts of pine, citrus and grapefruit flavors. This effervescent brew has a fantastic complexity, but still remains well-balanced with a malt backbone. This could be confused for an IPA, but has definite amber characteristics. The use of Nelson, Simcoe and Mosaic hops play together beautifully.

As with Arcade Fire, this beer offers something for everyone.  

Published in Beer

The band CIVX has come a long way since three of the members broke from PSSSTOLS to form their own group late last year.

Nick Hernandez (bass), Joel Guerrero (drums), Dillon Dominguez (guitar) and Sal Gutierrez (guitar) were chosen to play at Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, this past Wednesday, April 16—and shocked those in attendance when they announced they would be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 20.

One thing is for sure: They looked like they belonged on the Coachella stage.

At 11:25 a.m., CIVX took the Mojave tent stage. The hard-core fans of the Cathedral City band were on hand to witness it, including Guerrero’s girlfriend, Aurora Jimenez. Ross Murakami, of The Yip Yops, who played with CIVX at Tachevah, was also on hand. The band had a decent-sized crowd, considering the doors had just opened, and fans were trickling in the festival grounds.

At Coachella, Hernandez said he and his bandmates were shocked when they learned shortly before their Tachevah performance that they would be playing at Coachella.

“We’re a new band,” Hernandez said. “We’ve only been together for about four months. It’s just really a shock. It’s definitely a learning experience, and it gets us motivated. We just want to work harder now to achieve our goals.”

Gutierrez agreed. “We’re ready to work hard,” he said.

Dominguez reflected on what it meant to be added to the Coachella lineup.

“When I’ve seen the other talent out here, it’s inspiring,” Dominguez said. “It makes you want to fill up your sound and make it more crisp. It’s exciting that somebody saw enough in us to want us to play here already, and they can see that potential in us. We want to expand on that for sure.”

When it came to the subject of PSSSTOLS, Guerrero explained what led to him leaving the group, along with Hernandez and Gutierrez.

“It was all about differences,” Guerrero said. “The chemistry wasn’t really there in the end. We wanted to do different things. We just kind of knew it wasn’t going to last very long. It just died out in the band, and we decided to call it quits back in September. We kept it on the down low and didn’t want to really say anything.”

During the performance in the Mojave tent, attendees could literally feel Hernandez’s bass: The ground near the stage was vibrating. His vocals were excellent, even though he said he had not been feeling well throughout the week and had some concerns about performing.

The band can now say it’s had an experience that most bands can only dream of.

“It was surreal, and it was one of the beautiful things I’ve ever experienced,” Dominguez said.

Hernandez said it was awesome simply to be on a Coachella stage. “Once you’re on there, you just want more of it. It’s fun; you have a good time doing it; and it feels good. That’s why we’re musicians.”

Guerrero said the band members are in awe at the month they’ve had.

“We started playing in local venues here, and then all of a sudden, we’re at Tachevah,” Guerrero said. “We didn’t even think we’d get in the Top 10, and then Tachevah was our first big stage where we performed. From there to Coachella? It’s such a big jump from local venues to such a big venue.”

I had to ask Gutierrez a follow-up question based on an interview I did with PSSSTOLS last year: Does he still have a love for “space wine”—the bag from boxed wine, sans the box?

“No, I’m slowing down on the space wine,” Gutierrez said with a laugh. “I haven’t had any in a while.” 

Coachella Day 3 started off on a much hotter note—but that did not diminish the excitement of festival-goers. After all, this was the last day of the festival, so it was time to savor every moment.

Early in the afternoon, the Mojave tent hosted the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. At the same time, Trombone Shorty was playing on the Main stage, so it sounded like New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

As Trombone Shorty finished up, it was time for Fishbone. The band started off a high-energy set with “Party at Ground Zero”—and when the song picked up, so did the mosh pit. The band then broke into “Fat Chicks/Bustin’ Loose.” The funk/punk/reggae/ska legends have never received the respect they’ve deserved, but they had some big-name fans on this day: Later in the set, Andre 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast showed up in the VIP aisle to catch the band. During “Everyday Sunshine,” Angelo Moore hopped over the barrier to go crowd surfing. Fishbone ended the set with “Sunless Saturday.”

During Fishbone’s set, the Coachella app notified attendees that Chance the Rapper—scheduled for the Main stage after Fishbone—would not be performing. Attendees passed the news to each other, though many fans seemed clueless as they gathered.

The 1975, one of the more anticipated up-and-coming acts, performed on the Outdoor stage late in the afternoon, right as Zoe was scheduled to go on the Main stage. The 1975’s sound seemed straight out of the 1980s at times, with a little bit of modern pop thrown in. While some songs were catchy, others were downright cheesy—even featuring Kenny G-style saxophones.

One highlight of the afternoon/early evening, despite the heat, was the performance by Superchunk in the Gobi tent. The indie-rock band from the era of Fugazi and the Pixies put on an electrifying performance, proving the members can still perform with the best of them.

As the sun was going down, the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel took the Outdoor stage. Frontman Jeff Mangum came out and played a song by himself before he was joined by the rest of band. He has become notorious for asking people not to photograph him, and when he made the request on Sunday for attendees to put their cell phones and cameras away, there were some cheers—but some took photos anyway. Some of the songs were great, but the vibe was ruined whenever the band would leave the stage for Mangum to play solo. While some attendees people were into it, I found it was time to move on to something more lively: The Toy Dolls in the Gobi.

The English punk-rock band is known for their humorous shows, and The Toy Dolls were indeed a sight to see. Guitarist Michael Algar and bassist Tom Blyth would strut in opposite directions while playing; Blyth at one point suffered through some technical issues with his bass. Algar joked, “Sorry, we’re English.” The mixture of confetti, funny sunglasses and humor along with the Oi! punk led even some of the hipsters in the Gobi to get down with it.

As Lana Del Rey was finishing her set on the Outdoor stage, Beck took the Main stage. He opened with a rocking performance of “Blue Moon,” and then followed with “Loser,” his breakout single from 1993.

When Motörhead took the stage in the Mojave (shortly before Arcade Fire took the Main stage), it was clear that frontman Lemmy Kilmister is, in some ways, not the same. He’s always been a Jack Daniels-drinking, Marlboro-smoking ironman who would tell you, “Don’t do heroin; do speed instead.” He’s recently been battling just to stay alive, having a pacemaker installed and trying to get his diabetes under control; it was amazing he was even able to get onstage. However, when he did, he proved that he remains the same in one way: He rocked! “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ’n’ roll,” he said before the band tore into the opening song, “Damage Case.” Their performances of “Over the Top” and “Rock It” were top-notch and proved that while Lemmy might be old, he’s still “God” as far as his fans go. At the end of the set, a huge circle pit started on the left side of the stage as special guest Slash joined the boys for “Ace of Spades,” and the finishing number, “Overkill.”

It was difficult to adjust to Arcade Fire after experiencing Motörhead. When Motörhead finished, Arcade Fire was already about five songs into the set; “The Suburbs” was playing as I approached the Main stage. After “Reflektor,” the group performed a cover of Prince’s “Controversy” with Beck, and the group finished with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining them for “Wake Up.”

Arcade Fire, in a way, got a big boost from Coachella in 2005. Win Butler talked about how back then, the band’s manager was also their road crew, and all their equipment was stored in sleeping bags or cardboard boxes. Now, they are headliners.

Who knows which up-and-coming bands that played in the smaller tents and in earlier time slots at Coachella 2014 will one day headline the festival? Stay tuned to find out.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews