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Coachella 2010: Flaming dollar bills, shopping at the fest and Local Natives pack a tent

April 18, 2010 |  5:05 pm


With 75,000 music-obsessed people in attendance daily, one might think the on-site record store at Coachella would be a goldmine. That guess would not be entirely accurate. For the second year running, the small independent chain Zia Record Exchange has set up a pop-up shop on the festival grounds, selling collectible toys, T-shirts and plenty of music, much of it, of course, from the artists appearing at the three-day bonanza in the desert.

This year, said Zia GM/VP Brian Faber, about 75% of the 130-plus artists are doing signings at the shop. Those who want an autograph need to make a purchase at the store, and though some artists have commanded lines of more than 200 fans, Faber said Zia might go home without a financial gain.

But with about 60 people in the small tent-store early Sunday, he had a big grin on his face. Faber was viewing his time at Coachella as a win.

“Our goal is to break even,” Faber said. “If it just isn’t a loss, it is a success.

The biggest signing draw of the weekend were New York weirdos MGMT, whose set Saturday night was a topic of discussion among those who were spending their brunch at Coachella. One fan, who spied my press credentials, noted that the Los Angeles Times “was the only one who liked that set,” while a fan nearby overheard and said it was “magical.”


In the span of 20 minutes at the Zia store, six people walked out with vinyl copies of MGMT’s “Congratulations.” Saturday, said Faber, was a busy day at his shop, as it coincided with an independent retail promotion called Record Store Day,in which mom-and-pop shops around the country were given exclusive, limited-edition content to sell in stores. At Coachella, Record Store Day items from the Hold Steady and Them Crooked Vultures were sold out, and a vinyl piece from France’s Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was performing and signing today, was also moving fast.

Faber said sales at the store are on par with last year’s, even though this year’s event has an increase in daily attendance of about 15,000 people. The biggest difference from 2009 to 2010, he said, was a change in demographics, as last year’s headliner -- Paul McCartney -- brought out a heavy boomer audience. “This year,” said Faber, “has been a younger, more indie crowd.”

So if Zia doesn’t go home with a big paycheck, what’s in it for Faber? He said he’s thinking long-term, and hopes to be a Coachella regular. “To have the fans come here and have access to the artists, and being able to buy their product, it’s an exciting time for everyone to come together and talk about music -- fans, retailers and the artists. I understand the realities of the business, but this gives people a chance to connect.”

And a reminder that some indie stores are still thriving.


Other notes from Coachella’s Sunday:

The dumbest artist moment is awarded to: King Khan & the Shrines.

Nothing goes better with hot desert temperatures, a tired and possibly drunk or stoned crowd, than fire, right? Funk-soul revivalist King Khan instructed fans to pull out dollar bills, and then set them aflame. Ask, and you shall receive, and about two dozen fans in a cramped tent started raving flaming dollar bills, dropping them on the dry grass when the heat became too hot to handle.

But no one was hurt -- apparently -- and nothing burned down. The rest of the set was an all-inclusive vintage R&B party, with songs celebrating the derelicts, the drug abusers and the overweight. Sporting gold, glittering outfits, and a pom-pom-carrying hype woman, King Khan & the Shrines turned Coachella into something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. These were sounds rescued from record bins of yore, but King Khan is not just resurrecting the past, he’s dancing on its grave.

Yet King Khan also owned one of the fest’s more surreal moments. At one point, the band leader brought on a host of dressed-up characters from the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” The Tim Biskup-like costumed characters danced among the soul freaks, and no one was out of place. In an even weirder Coachella moment, a number of local police officers emerged from backstage to take pictures of the “Yo Gabba Gabba!” crew, yet didn’t bat an eye at the flaming bills.


Other artists performing early Sunday included B.o.B., whose good-time rap was primed for fans to run wild on the wide-open main-stage space, and fast-rising Los Angeles band Local Natives. I didn’t stay too long for the latter’s set, as the band will be performing at the Troubadour in the coming weeks (the show should be announced after Coachella, if it hasn’t already been unveiled), but the band made the most of its festival slot.

Given the smallest of three Coachella tents, Local Natives packed them in, and had the crowd overflowing. Its expansive pop songs take an indie-rock scruff -- Pavement will perform tonight, and the latter’s angular melodies is sometimes evident in Local Natives -- but the L.A. kids build their songs around grand harmonies and wide-open spaces. The act’s “Shape Shifter” went down especially well, with a burning keyboard that walks a line between power-pop bounce and soul redemption. The song builds to a more rock 'n’ roll finale, with backing vocals that are reaching for the sky.

Another somewhat local act -- the Soft Pack -- performed early Sunday. The San Diego natives struck a more beach rock vibe. With daydream guitars, the band’s “Mexico” was one of the few songs at the fest that would have actually benefited from a beach ball being tossed around. “Answer to Yourself,” however, went for a more early rock ‘n’ roll drive, and though it packed an upbeat punch, much of the 1 p.m. crowd enjoyed it while sitting.

Updated arrest tally: There were 21 arrests Saturday, all of them for drunk and disorderly conduct or possession of narcotics, said an Indio police spokesman. Health and security officials on the ground did not want to be quoted, but it’s believed that about 35 people were taken to the hospital on Saturday. Look for more details on Coachella injuries in a follow-up post.

-- Todd Martens

Top photo: A fan with a flaming dollar bill at day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival 2010 held at The Empire Polo Club on April 18, 2010 in Indio, California. Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Second photo: Musician King Khan (C) of the band King Khan and the Shrines performs during day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival 2010 held at The Empire Polo Club on April 18, 2010 in Indio, California.  Credit:Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Third photo: Attendees hold up flaming dollar bills at day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival 2010 held at The Empire Polo Club on April 18, 2010 in Indio, California. Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Bottom photo: Local Natives, a Southern California band, performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio on Sunday, April 18, 2010.Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times