Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine performs at the Coachella Festival… (Steven Dewall, Redferns…)
After a two-year hiatus from Coachella, I found myself back in the desert in 2009. I tried and failed to talk my way out of it. This had nothing to do with my general dislike of being outside when it's warmer than 75 degrees or my fear of spending multiple hours in the Coachella parking lots at the conclusion of each night.
When I looked at the bill that year, which included Paul McCartney, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, M.I.A. and more, I saw not a list of artists I needed to see but a roster of artists I needed to avoid. Where some envisioned a pristine view of palm trees and California stars, I saw only a garden that would be populated with exes.
Though I had gone to six previous Coachellas, this was the first one I would be attending alone, as in single. This was not any sort of relief, as the three women I had persuaded to date me during my 12 years in Los Angeles all had a penchant for liking Coachella. I didn't know whether they were going to be there. We didn't speak, and I thought it best to just prepare for the worst-case-scenario rather than risk an email that resulted in a lunch I didn't want to have.
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So out came the yellow pad and red pen, and I started making lists of artists I knew the exes in question were either fans of or might be inclined to see in a live setting. If I knew, say, Ex No. 1 was into My Bloody Valentine but the other two weren't, one red check was placed next to the band.
Some artists, such as TV on the Radio, ended up having three checks next to their name. This was tantamount to a red alert and meant that the area near the stage, on either side of the stage or on the path to and from the stage had to be avoided for 25 minutes before and after TV on the Radio's set. Others, such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, had 11/2 checks, meaning I could see them but would stick close to the perimeter fences as to not be out in the open.
There were other variables too. One ex was a vegan, meaning food concession areas with more vegan stands than others were strictly off limits.
After two of three days, there had been no sightings of any of the exes. This was, admittedly, something of a disappointment. I wanted to know that my plan had been for a worthy cause. I had hoped to spot one during, say, the Black Keys, and then carve out a path all James Bond-like to avoid detection.
Maybe my notebook full of charts and checks had worked perfectly. Or maybe they weren't here at all. Or maybe it's just not that easy to bump into someone in a crowd of 95,000. So on Sunday, I got daring. I kept my sheet of yellow paper at the hotel. I would see the bands I wanted to see. I would pay no heed to the record collections of my exes.
So this is how I ended up seeing My Bloody Valentine, a band I knew was red-checked, at 8 p.m. on the main stage. Halfway in, I was lost in the visuals and the din of guitars. "A giant screen behind the band imbued the field with a purple haze," I wrote in my Pop & Hiss review, "and what looked to be a planet took shape in the static displayed behind the band. The imagery worked well with set opener 'I Only Said,' in which high-pitched guitar tones hovered back and forth like some long-lost interstellar distress call."
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That's when my notebook was ripped from my hand. I feared the worst. That seemed the way Ex. No. 2 would say hello, and I turned expecting an awkward conversation about how we both didn't know each other would be at Coachella, even though we totally knew each other would be at Coachella.
Only that's not what happened. Writing in my notebook was a woman I had never seen before. She was cute, although I don't advise going shoeless anywhere, and she was shoeless. She threw my notebook on the grass and then kissed me. Before I could process what had happened, she was gone.
When I looked at my notebook, she had left me with this message: "Life is great." I still have that sheet, but the yellow pad with the checks? I tossed it that night.
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