CH-CH-CHANGES: In the last 10 years, I have ventured out to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival no less than seven times. These treks, often for work, sometimes for play, have, unsurprisingly, been the consistent highlight of my concertgoing calendar year, boasting more music from top-notch acts than even I can feasibly wrap my head around. Yes, the temperatures are scorching, and coming ill-prepared will leave you looking like a lobster. Yes, the crowds are massive, reaching well over 100,000 people this year alone. And yes, if you’re a music fan with a high tolerance for sleep deprivation, it is well, well worth the price of admission.
Now in its 12th year, the festival has become the must-have ticket among West Coast (and many globetrotting) music fans, selling out in a record five days this time around. And growing into a hot commodity means making changes—lots of ’em. For 2011 attendees, these changes included a beefed-up security system, new micro-chipped wristbands, and a no-breach perimeter around the grounds, all put in place to help keep scalping at a minimum and make counterfeiting tickets a thing of the past. In turn, ticket holders were granted much thinner crowds, as well as relatively speedy trips in and out of the fest and its (usually hellish) parking lots.
Ticketing logistics aside, what made 2011 the hands-down highlight in my Coachella scrapbook was the music, which—minus one early Friday misstep—did not once falter. The headliners (Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Duran Duran, The Strokes, Kanye West) were all mind-bogglingly impressive, the daytime acts (Broken Social Scene, Delorean, Wiz Khalifa) hit it out of the park, and the stuff I stumbled upon (Men, The Drums, Shpongle, Gayngs) made for some of the weekend’s biggest pleasant surprises. And while Saturday night’s two-hour-long musical assault from Arcade Fire will no doubt be the pillar to which I compare all concerts from here on out, it’s the magic of overall experience that continues to sit with me today. It seems, even after all these years, the Coachella gods have still got it. For a full run-down of my weekend in the desert, visit independent.com/coachella2011.
JE T’AIME: This week in live tunes, French songbird Jessica Fichot returns to S.B. for a night of buoyant, accordion-filled tunes. The young Fichot boasts an impressively sultry voice and is capable of holding her own alongside some of Paris’s most acclaimed chanteuses. But it’s the orchestration and delivery that make this one a must-see. Together with her four-piece band, Fichot conjures images of street-side cafes and vintage cabarets with a style that’s part laid-back–jazz cool, part indie-leaning quirk, and all delightfully timeless. Fichot plays SOhO (1221 State St.) on Monday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. Call 966-7776 or visit sohosb.com.
FREESTYLE 101: Also this week, Del the Funky Homosapien returns to Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Wednesday, April 27. The Oakland-born emcee might best be known as the rhyme-spitting centerpiece of the Hieroglyphics, but he’s carved out a mighty name for himself in the years since, even working alongside huge name acts like Gorillaz (see 2001’s “Clint Eastwood”). Nowadays, Del is hyping his own solo venture, 2010’s self-released, pick-your-own-price It Ain’t Illegal Yet, which is brimming with the smart, hard-hitting lyrics and old-school, R&B-tinged beats that have long marked his pioneering style. Del plays Velvet at 8 p.m. Visit clubmercy.com for tickets.
ROCK IT OUT: And if you’re looking for more rock ’n’ roll to wet your post-Coachella whistle, there’s plenty to keep you busy. On Friday, April 22, Long Beach psych rockers The Growlers play Velvet Jones. The Biko Co-op Garage (6612 Sueno Rd.) hosts indie songsters Girls in Trouble and Handshakes on Saturday, April 23. Pitchfork-approved moody music maker Alex Zhang Hungtai’s Dirty Beaches hits Muddy Waters Café on Wednesday, April 27. And Washington-based hard-rock band RVIVR plays the Pink Mailbox in Isla Vista on Tuesday, April 26.