Out in the midday sun

Keri Carlson

INDIO, Calif. – “You’re going to the desert?” said the man at the car rental counter. “You’re going to hell!”

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is held smack in the middle of the desert in this small, central California town. More than 50,000 spectators came from all over country, and the world, to see big name acts such as The Pixies, Radiohead, Kraftwerk and The Cure.

Though most of the fans of these bands are accustomed to dark nightclubs, they risked the sunburn, heat stroke, runny eyeliner and melted pomade for a glimpse of The Cure frontman Robert Smith’s notorious coiffure. (If you could see the stage, you could see his hair!).

With the 100 degree dry and dusty days with little shade and over-priced water, the festival was quickly dubbed Coac-HELL-a by clever, cynical attendees. The band Q and Not U summed it up perfectly when they shouted, “There’s something beautiful happening in the desert / But it doesn’t come from the sun.” Indio is undoubtedly hell. But that only proves what diehard rock fans have suspected all along: Hell is where the fun is. It was easy to forget the heat when dancing to the charming pop of Junior Senior (along with guest dancer Har Mar Superstar), singing along to the number count on the Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers,” or being mesmerized by Sahara Hotnights’ drummer’s hair. She looked like a rock ‘n’ roll Pantene commercial.

The major reason for the festival’s record attendance was the dual reunions of The Pixies and The Cure. Neither band disappointed. The Pixies had the entire crowd screaming “Wha ho-ho-ho!” on “Debaser.” And Robert Smith melted everyone with “Pictures of You” – thanks to better-than-average sound, his soft cries sounded as though he whispered the lines in your ear. It was all so devilishly good.