Damon Albarn of the band Blur performs at the14th annual Coachella Music… (Bethany Mollenkof/Los…)
On Saturday morning, the collected moments from the night before linger, glistening in the memory, refusing to be snuffed by a long, dusty walk back to the car, a shower, sleep or coffee. You’d think that the sheer volume of notes, beats, measures and breaks that vibrated so many eardrums (80,000 x 2 = 160,000) at Coachella 2013 would have overwhelmed the neurons to the point of collapse. But this is a place where an entire new alleyway of the mind can be forged by a simple melody or lyric heard for the first time -- and once it’s in there it can linger for decades.
Mediocrity blows through unimpressed ears with barely a rustle, never to be heard from again -- not artistically fit enough to make an impression. Others, however, remain.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ singer Karen O’s screech, ridiculously wicked. Bassnectar, standing before the crowd like a long-haired maestro with his orchestra, delivering wobbly, heavy rhythms while bursts of “The Matrix” imagery flashed on jumbo video screens surrounding him.
FULL COVERAGE: Coachella 2013
Los Angeles rapper Earl Sweatshirt, in his first full set in Southern California, inviting his Odd Future brother Tyler, the Creator for a tag-team on "H.A.M. Sandwich." His advice in the hook: "Come through with the sandwich/That's bread, lettuce, cheese, mustard, bread, crumble." Beach House vocalist Victoria LeGrand offering sweet mournfulness while guitarist Alex Scally offered sheets of beautiful noise.
Skrillex bringing his new project with Boys Noize, called Dog Blood, to life with a car-crash set of abrasive beats that drew on EDM subgenres dubstep, acid house, electro, ghetto-tech, and drum & bass. Johnny Marr stubbornly claiming “There Is a Light ...,” the Smiths gem that he co-wrote with vocalist Morrissey, by singing it with as much longing as his former bandmate.
And then, as a reminder, Blur. The British rock band co-founded by Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon recently reunited, and they brought a simple show to the main stage. The band understands how to write a rock song, and amid the 80,000 revelers, sea of flashing lights and far-away strobes, the billions of invisible kilobytes struggling to make their way to the satellites above, Blur offered a simple song that nailed the tension at the heart of the Coachella chaos.
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That song, “Out of Time,” is one of my favorites, a meditation on the chaos of modern life and the quest for moments of wonder amid the volume. Albarn, wearing colorful African beads, sang it as he looked out on the crowd: “Where is the love song to set us free,” he asked while the rhythm section of Alex James and Dave Rowntree offered a gentle base.
Albarn sang of things “turning the wrong way around,” about the fear that accompanies love, but the hope that overpowers it. Then he stepped back to offer a simple reminder: “You’ve been so busy lately, that you haven’t found the time,” he offered with gentle English lilt, “to open up your mind and watch the world spinning, gently out of time.”
Above, a half-dozen spotlights converged in the sky; the Ferris wheel near the entrance glowed in neon. Everywhere fans were texting, tweeting, taking photos and videos. That a pure melody can render such a maelstrom invisible is something to behold. That it will happen somewhere again on Saturday is a certainty. It’s just a matter of where and when.
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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit