Coachella Day 1: I Carpathians and the Amazonian Assault of Warrior Queen

Bret Easton Ellis once pointed out that the inhabitants of Los Angeles never stop babbling about the freeways. Then again, he penned, Less than Zero during the comparatively halcyon Tom Bradley days,...
By    April 18, 2009


Bret Easton Ellis once pointed out that the inhabitants of Los Angeles never stop babbling about the freeways. Then again, he penned, Less than Zero during the comparatively halcyon Tom Bradley days, prior to the total arteriosclerosis of the 405 and 101. Nowadays, surviving requires a serenity towards the iron inferno of rush hour. Consider Coachella a proxy for the city itself–if you’re going to survive, you have to channel your inner Gautama towards the terrible, tortuous lines. Waits for everything: the asphyxiating grind down Jefferson to park, lines to pick up your press ticket, lines to enter the actual festival grounds, lines hoovered in the bathrooms of the VIP section. It makes sense–this shit’s held at the Empire Polo Grounds: do as the livestock do, learn to queue.

If you can accept this basic reality, the festival continually lives up to its reputation. Three days in the desert, a backdrop of swaying palm trees and chocolate cake mountains, and every diletantish Angeleno trekking east to partake in a bit of cultural tourism. Thankfully, there’s a VIP section to contain the anti-rabble, ostensibly to provide them with cleaner bathrooms, shorter lines, and a place to wear their fedoras unmolested. But really, the place is a Twilight Zone-type netherworld–the clubs of Los Angeles turned inside out and dropped in the middle of the Mojave.

I’ve made this analogy once before, but after sunset, the VIP section turns into a terrifying place, undercut by a river of foul pink slime oozing beneath the verdant sprawl. Think the hermetic bubble that covers the New York City museum of art in Ghostbusters II. Raw uncut malevolence, Carpathians, people launching bolts of lightning from their eyes. I think I saw Vigo there. He was wearing a pair of $1,000 sunglasses, his lank hair worn in a windswept comb-over, leering at 19 year-old girls in floral print vspring dresses. To get even triter, the place was one big pose, except no one knew that the cameras were off. But who am I kidding? I like clean bathrooms as much as the next neurotic.

The Bug ft. Warrior Queen


Predictably, I’ve squandered most of the day shaking the idolatry (Moz, McCartney, Cohen, oh my), and cobwebs out of my head. This is what I get for devouring a weed twinkie based on the tenuous assumption that Paul would want it this way. Those things will get to you–you think they won’t–but after about an hour or two, you become convinced that you’ve been scammed and your need to beat a hasty retreat to the Cannibis Club and harangue them for the the $15 you wasted on the edible. The next thing, you know it’s midnight, your limbs are unnaturally frozen, and you’re convinced you’re watching a Madame Tussaud’s wax statue singing “Hey Jude.”

So I’m going to be brief here, offering sincere apologies for the scarcity of content. Leonard Cohen, Moz, People Under the Stairs, and the Hold Steady were all marvelous, but nothing touched The Bug ft. Warrior Queen. We’re going to have to forget about the Bug, I wrote about him here, and hopefully it described his mien. Those raucous dance-hall dub-step beats sounded insane live–bass barreling out of the live speakers like a baby at nine months trying to kick his way of his mother’s womb. Drums like tocsins-exploding with nuclear brissance.

But Warrior Queen. Let’s just start with the nomenclature. The woman is in fact a warrior queen–Hippolyta if she’d been born Jamaican, an Amazonian built like gibralter, with a corona of caramel-colored hair, and a practically incomprehensible patois. In a black jacket, fishnet stalkings and dominatrix boots, the women essentially made it so that no one will ever be able to speak about Peaches or Lil Kim without using the word “fraud.” She doesn’t use sex as a weapon, she uses it as an extension of her idea of ecstasy, humping the speakers, herself, the audience’s imagination. Think Sharon Jones but far raunchier, a dervish whose stage presence couldn’t be captured by the best writer, let alone a hastily written first draft.

Penultimate song, “Poison Dart,” brought the climax. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that sort of pandemonium in my life. The show was scarcely attended–maybe only a few hundred people. To think that Bright Eyes was going on at the same time was too much for my fragile skull to handle. Because Warrior Queen warped out of a different galaxy. I’d try to compare her to other dancehall artists, but let’s be real, my knowledge is limited to Mad Cobra, Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Sizzla, and the remaining flotsam and jetsam that guested on mid-9os dance tracks. After it was all over, they turned the lights on. Everyone shuffled out with an embarrassed but sated gait, as though they’d just had sex, and their eyes were awkwardly adjusting to the bright lemon light. The only way Karen O has a chance of topping this tomorrow night, is if she hires Ditta Von Teese, several midgets, a crate of dry ice, and a vat of silly putty.

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