When I first heard about the Coachella Festival when it started many years ago, I was excited about the idea and disappointed that I couldn’t attend. After all, Iggy and the Stooges were to be performing, and it would have been worth any price to me to see that. After seeing “Coachella,” a documentary that combines interviews with fans and performers with a selection of performances from the last two festivals, I am happy to say that I am no longer disappointed at my failure to attend this event. Why, you ask? Simply put, if the festival is anything even remotely like this film, then it is something that I would go far, far out of my way to avoid.
The backbone of any good documentary is its interviews, and “Coachella” is sorely lacking in this arena. Most of the time the filmmakers seem to focus wholeheartedly on finding the most stoned person in the entire crowd and asking them to elaborate on the meaning of the festival, which ultimately leads to 10 minutes of regurgitated, stale flower-power bullshit about the musician’s responsibility to share energy with the attendees, or a pseudo-political rant about the power of people united against evil.
The funniest part about it is that, while going on and on about materialism and greed, no one seems to notice that everyone there paid $200 to get their dreadlocked heads into the damn festival. The filmmakers never really bothered to interview any musicians, either, with the notable exceptions of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and Noel Gallagher from Oasis, who unsurprisingly chided the naivete of everyone at the festival’s boring “summer of love” attitude. And that’s it for the interviews. No elucidation on the festival’s history and origins, examination of different perspectives on the event, or anything relevant and interesting like that, just some doofus-y white kids with activist complexes spouting the same “music is togetherness” bullshit we’ve all heard a hundred million times.
Despite these crippling flaws, the film does manage to have some entertaining performances, which couldn’t save it from being an utter waste of time, but at least punctuated the grueling ordeal with moments of enjoyment. Iggy and the Stooges, being the greatest rock band in history, ended up dominating the rest of the acts. I’ve never seen anyone so sinewy as Iggy, and his dancing skills haven’t faded with age.
The White Stripes turned in a so-so “Hotel Yorba.” I really would have preferred a higher energy song to rouse me from my near catatonic state, but it was nevertheless a highlight.
Bjork was of course good, but it’s fun just to look at her so she really couldn’t have fucked anything up on stage. The Flaming Lips did an alright “Yoshimi.” The Pixies’ performance of “Where Is My Mind” clearly showcased Kim Deal’s overall badassery. I would have preferred a different song, but as with all the other acts in the film, the band was shown playing its main hit, which I thought was an annoying and hacky move on the filmmakers’ part. It just gave me the impression that no one involved in the film knew anything at all about music, which is too bad since Coachella brings together a diverse slew of musical acts.
The movie also forces you to sit through some truly bad, and many irrelevant, performances. Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst lost-little-boy whimpering was brutal, and the shots of crying, bandanna-clad girls in the audience brought forth the bile from the back of my throat. The awfully overrated Morrissey performed, with bouncers prying middle-aged women off him for his entire set. The mere existence of The Prodigy is embarrassing, let alone seeing their baggy-pantsed selves jumping around the stage. And, while I admit that I once enjoyed The Chemical Brothers, their set was so boring to watch that any fond remembrances I might have had of them are now completely erased.
Another inexplicable inclusion in the film was a whole group of fringe electronica acts that I had never heard of, which might have been interesting if a) they hadn’t sucked and b) their sets hadn’t been accompanied by video medleys of people dancing with fucking glow sticks. I mean, come on people, what is this, 1996? And this happened during like three or four performances, so it wasn’t just a filmmaking fluke. Nope, the director intentionally scheduled several five-minute blocks for the burned-out raver montage.
I could go on forever about this movie, but at the risk of alienating you, dear reader, with my invective, I will say this: If you have two hours to kill and don’t plan on paying attention all the time, rent this when it comes out for the handful of good musical performances. Being trapped in a theater hearing every hemp-headed bozo’s comments about “togetherness, man,” was truly excruciating. I wouldn’t wish that on my enemies, let alone you.