Coachella's Music, Fans Overcome Festival Troubles

ByTroy Johnson

April 30, 2001 -- Approximately 33,500 ravers, hip-hop denizens, and Red Bull-drinking music fans descended into the 95-plus degree heat of Indio, Calif., on Saturday for the 2001 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Tents were sprawled over the 175-acre, perfectly manicured lawn of the Empire Polo Club, lined with palm trees and blown with a balmy desert wind.

A peaceful, bathing-suited crowd paid $65 to see the world's top hip-hop and electronica artists on six stages, including The Roots, Mos Def, Gang Starr, Fatboy Slim, Tricky, Roni Size & Reprazent, Chemical Brothers, Paul Oakenfold, and the Orb. The night would eventually belong to the return of Jane's Addiction, who returned after a four-year absence with a carnival-esque stage show.

Sophomore SlumpSouthern California-based promotional company Goldenvoice inaugurated the Festival in 1999, with acts as diverse as Rage Against the Machine, Beck, and Moby cross-pollinating each other's fan base. The event was considered groundbreaking for granting DJs headlining spots with high-profile rock acts and has since spawned imitators, including Moby's planned Area: One series.

Unlike the first edition, however, this year saw massive organizational problems: Virtually no trash cans on the premises left the grounds piled with trash and water bottles; no drinking fountains and long lines for water made the high heat dangerous (the average attendee would need to spend $32 and three hours in lines to stay hydrated); no performance schedule was issued prior to the show nor upon entrance; food lines were an hour long by mid-afternoon; security was unsure who was allowed in what areas; a poorly lit and non-marked parking lot had many searching for their cars for hours in the dark.. Add a few technical problems and the event had the potential for disaster.

Yet the socially conscious, overtly polite crowd, and 13 hours of groove-oriented music redeemed the day.

On the mainstage, the shirtless Iggy Pop entertained the early afternoon crowd with Stooge rock, followed by alternative hip-hop act The Roots. They opened with new material, with frontman Black Thought hobbling on a cane due to a sprained ankle. Their jazzy set (though stripped of their usually heavy live instrumentation) riled the large crowd with songs like "Clones" and a remix version of "You Got Me," from their acclaimed 1999 album, Things Fall Apart.

Weezer played a typically fun and cheeky set that climaxed with their hits, "Buddy Holly," "Undone (The Sweater Song)," and "Say It Aint So." The same stage saw house guru Paul Oakenfold reign over a large crowd, flanked by 100-foot video screens, draped in purple light, with a sea of glow sticks swirling through the dancing crowd.

Addiction Resurfaces

The night however, belonged to Perry Farrell and the return of Jane's Addiction. Farrell emerged in all white — a zip-up leather suit and a feather fedora. The stage was packed with six-foot underwater flora, stilt-walking Mardis Gras freaks, and G-string nymphs and pixies gyrating around the singer and guitarist Dave Navarro. "How long has it been?" Farrell asked of the crowd before jumping into "Three Days." The band parted through the crowd to two small stages in the center, where they played a stripped-down version of "Jane Says," marred by sound problems on Farrell's mic. In the middle of "Been Caught Stealing," the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea emerged on bass for a solo as Farrell and band returned to the mainstage. Farrell then brought out a Sudanese ex-slave who told of "sleeping with animals" to help prompt the crowd to donate money to www.iabolish.com. Flea stayed on for the final song, a percussion-heavy jam, after which Farrell urged to the crowd, "Go get 'em, kids! Go get 'em!"

On the smaller outdoor stage technical problems ran acts more than an hour behind, forcing organizers to cancel the set by indie rock band Blonde Redhead. Ozomatli's lively Latin hip-hop set previewed songs from its forthcoming Interscope album; Roni Size went through an overly loud set that included "Who Told You" and "Heroes"; Gang Starr's set was cut short due to heavy wind and technical problems — Guru was visibly perturbed with the organizers as he busted through 20 minutes of hits.

Just a short distance away, two tents held the night's heart and soul — several kings of electronica and the first U.S. performance by mysterious Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The smaller tent held a trippy performance by Tricky; an eerie, introspective set by Sigur Rós; and a set by the Orb ("Little Fluffy Clouds") that ran extraordinarily short (25 minutes) due to technical problems. Next door, the larger 8,000-person "Insomniac Tent" held the night's glow-stick-twirling revelry with performances by Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers, who flew out specifically for their two-hour performance.

The massive crowd shuffled out with the sound of water bottles crushing under foot, searched for their cars, and waited in lines until the wee hours of the morning.

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