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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: LA Times

Date: October, 1999

Transcribed by
Marc Strother (

 title: Triumph of the Anti-Woodstock
author: Robert Hilburn, Times Pop Music Critic

Here's the LA Times Tool snub *ahem* I mean, review of Coachella

INDIO -- The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is just too unwieldy
a title, so letăs think of the ambitious two-day affair at the Empire Polo
Field here as simply the Anti-Woodstock 99.

Yes, the weekend event--which was highlighted by superbly revealing
performances by Rage Against the Machine and Beck--was a civilized
experience, a mixture of commerce and culture in which artists, promoters
and fans all treated one another with respect.

That may not sound like such an accomplishment, but the weekend experience
was reassuring after the trauma of Julyăs Woodstock 99, where greed seemed
to outstrip common sense on the business side and where the lawlessness of
a small number of fans left a stain on the whole rock festival concept.

Goldenvoice, the maverick Los Angeles concert firm that hopes to make
Coachella an annual event, helped refocus Saturday and Sunday on the
positive aspects of the festival experience, thanks to a number of key
decisions mainly designed to enhance fan comfort.

Musically, the standards were equally high. The emphasis was generally on
quality and even sophistication, rather than just current hitmakers. How
can you help having a warm spot in your heart for a rock concert where you
didnăt see a single Korn, Sugar Ray, Blink-182 or Kid Rock T-shirt in the
crowd either day?

Despite an ample supply of mainstream pop-rock attractions, including Tool
and Morrissey, the emphasis was on the imagination-rich world of
electronic dance music. Though this music was chiefly housed in tents
around the grounds, some outstanding dance acts got chances both days to
step onto the two main stages--the Chemical Brothers and Underworld on
Saturday and Moby on Sunday.

The only unwelcome intruder was the punishing sun, which pushed the
temperature into triple digits both days. The heat worked during the
afternoon hours against one of the festivalăs most inviting features.

By presenting some 75 groups and DJs in virtual nonstop fashion from 1
p.m. until 11 p.m., the organizers created a giant musical buffet table.
But the heat caused most fans to stick to a single location rather than
roam the grounds, conserving their energy for the long night ahead.

After the sun went down around 6 p.m. both days, however, the sonic
exploration began--and you came away from the weekend with a wonderful
collage of sights and sounds--from the Rootsă "human beat box" Rahzel and
the turntable dynamics of DJ Shadow, to the soaring ambition and
individuality of British bands Spiritualized and Lamb, to the endless,
endlessly tantalizing parade of DJs, to the renewed inspiration of Bob
Forrest, the L.A. alt-rock hero who is back with a new band, the Bicycle
Thief, and some affecting songs about feeling out of step.

On the main stage Saturday, the colorful L.A. singer Perry Farrell proved
once again that he is a remarkable pop conceptualist, putting together an
entertaining package of dancers and singers dressed in exotic clothing to
underscore the various world music influences in his music. English cult
hero Morrissey, on the other hand, was, well, Morrissey, treating his
loyal fans to another serving of his usual music

hall pathos.

Saturdayăs high point was Beck, whose delightfully party-minded, R&B-style
set, which included tunes from his upcoming "Midnite Vultures" album.

Sundayăs top attraction, the politically conscious Rage Against the
Machine, also had new and valuable musical wrinkles to unveil. The
group--clearly the eveningăs main draw--has no equal in the ă90s when it
comes to energizing an audience.

Led by Zack de la Rocha, a singer and lyricist whose passion and
commitment draw strongly from Bob Marley, the L.A.-based group has worked
so hard at honing a lean, raw sound that in recent years it has threatened
to become one-dimensional. Every time Rage stepped forward recently, it
seemed to be throwing the same straight-ahead punch. Though it was usually
a knockout punch live, you eventually began longing for a bit more range.

The band delivered it Sunday.

Rage mixed in some musical jabs and left hooks as it introduced inviting

numbers from its upcoming "The Battle of Los Angeles" album, which is due
Nov. 2.

Every new twist, from the wider range of textures to the contrasting
moods, seemed to lift the band to a new level. But the musical awakening
hasnăt come at the expense of either the groupăs intensity or the urgency
of its message.

In "Guerrilla Radio," which will be on the new album, De la Rocha
continued Sunday to rally support for his crusade for social justice.
Holding thousands of fans in his grip, he screamed the songăs closing
lines: "It has to start somewhere/It has to start sometime/ What better
place than here/What better time than now."

It was an electrifying moment, but it also brought a tension to the
festival grounds.

When adrenaline is so high at a massive public event, there is a potential
for danger. As thousands of bodies swirled and jerked on the lawn with
startling force, you wondered whether somehow it wasnăt going to get out
of hand, a la Woodstock 99.

But the audienceăs fervor quickly ebbed as Rage finished its set.

Two other acts followed--the fiercely independent and primal rockers Tool
on the main stage and the more inspiring and magical Moby on the second
stage--but the Anti-Woodstock 99 was, for all practical purposes, over
after Rageăs performance.

De la Rocha announced early in the set that he was suffering from
laryngitis, but he sang with such force you couldnăt imagine his giving
any more of himself. On this night in the desert, Rage once again lived up
to its own legacy--and the festival itself laid the foundation for what
someday may be a legacy of its own.

Posted to t.d.n: 10/13/99 01:20:03