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Coachella 2010: In one corner, a Ferris wheel, and in another, boozy country rock

April 16, 2010 |  4:42 pm

Deer_tick_2 The 2010 edition of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival opened with a question mark: Who, if anyone, would replace the Cribs' mid-afternoon set on an outdoor stage? The band, stuck in the U.K. due to the grounding of planes from Icelandic volcano ash, was to go on at 4:30 p.m. today, and minutes before the set it was still unclear whether a band had been locked down.

Yet it was going to take more than the absence of a few European bands -- Frightened Rabbit is also grounded overseas -- to dampen the festival atmosphere. This is a song, introduced Deer Tick lead singer John McCauley, "about the miserable old Irish Catholic people who live there," referring to the band's "Smith Hill." Yet the crowd didn't seem to mind the drunken cynicism, answering the country-leaning alt-band by tossing some beach balls near the front of the stage.

New additions to Coachella this year include a "rose garden," which is for the VIP folks only, as well as a Ferris wheel. With three-day tickets topping off at more than $300, Coachella attendees are getting far more than music, as the polo grounds in Indio have been made over into a rock 'n' roll-themed campground, complete with desert art installations and in-and-out privileges, also new for 2010, for those sleeping on the Coachella grounds.


With the sun bearing down on the festival, Deer Tick was saddled with a slightly unfortunate set time. The band's largely mid-tempo western scruff is built for bars, and McCauley, sporting a dress, seemed to recognize such a fact. "We're not going to exceed your expectations," he joked, and then launched into a cover of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses."

Performing on one of the band's two outdoor stages, McCauley used the pulpit to offer up his Coachella recommendations. "There's only four," he said, telling fest-goers to see Them Crooked Vultures, Jay-Z, Lucero and King Khan & the Shrines. When the latter received a bigger cheer than Jay-Z, McCauley said, "Looks like we're playing to the right crowd," and then launched into a sloppy-because-it's-supposed-to-be twangy rock cut, proclaiming he'd be "dead at 23."

Not too far away, As Tall As Lions packed in an already-weary-looking crowd for its emotional indie rock, which caked in the Coachella sun. Better was Sleigh Bells, a Brooklyn rock-dance duo that provides a messy sort of musical cheerleading, with songs full of sirens, chirps and AC/DC-riffs.

-- Todd Martens

Top photo: Musicians John McCauley, left, and Dennis Ryan of the band Deer Tick pose backstage on Friday at Coachella. Credit: Karl Walter/Getty Images

Second photo: Deer Tick performing on Friday at Coachella. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times