The music gets heady in the desert

( LA Times) - Of the many ways to interpret the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one is through the metaphors of anatomy. The fest immerses participants physically and otherwise -- it's intensely hot, there's nonstop visual stimu- lation, friends and strangers are constantly connecting, and the panoply of sounds boggles the ears.

But it's possible to make a decision to honor one part of your being more than another. Hang out in the dance tent to work your hips. Seek out reuniting favorites for that rush to the heart. Or turn to the more philosophical artists if you're into the reverie-stimulating experience sometimes called "head music."

Sunday, after the ultimate body-honoring band played its main stage set -- that would be New York's Gogol Bordello, whose "gypsy punk" celebrates sensuality in both words and raucous, joyful internationalist dance rock -- head music took over much of the festival. The night built toward a dazzling, career-spanning performance by Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd composer and bassist, which included a full rendition of the ultimate "head" album, 1973's "Dark Side of the Moon."

Before that dramatic climax, other notable performers explored how pop can serve contemplative pursuits. Sometimes the music these artists made was pointedly soulful; in other moments, it reached toward the magnitude of the sublime. And sometimes its drive was unmistakably druggy, meant to simulate (if not aid) inward journeys taken with some chemical assistance.

Spiritualized countered Coachella's dominant mood of hedonism with an introverted, beautiful presentation of leader Jason Pierce's agnostic devotional songs. Pierce has been one of the most revered mystics of the English neo-psychedelic scene for a quarter-century, in this group and the earlier Spacemen 3. Though not a practitioner of a particular faith, he's obsessed with the human need to call upon forces -- gods, drugs and lovers, particularly -- that can obliterate or uplift the rational self.

This "Acoustic Mainline" show resembled last fall's performances at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles, with Pierce and keyboardist Doggen (a.k.a. Tony Foster) backed by a string section and three-woman choir. At first, the group struggled with serious sound problems, but after those were solved Pierce and company soon found a delicate sweet spot.

In songs like "Sound of Confusion," the country-tinged "Anything More" and the new "Soul on Fire," the arrangements gently interwove Pierce's warbly voice with the ensemble's other elements, taking the shout out of gospel while maintaining its call-and-response momentum. Many moments were simply exquisite, with the choir's refrains answering Pierce's lonelier ones as Doggen's keyboard gently circled the string section's lines.

Unable to pull myself away from the calm Spiritualized created, I came late to My Morning Jacket 's triumphant turn on the main stage. As I walked across the field, I could hear the roaring tenor of the Louisville, Ken., band's Jim James as he threw down some piercing falsetto lines. Like Spiritualized, MMJ (as the band is also known) pursues the deep feeling of blues and soul, but it's also very groove-oriented, reflecting the interests of a younger generation that's less afraid to dance than its immediate elders.

A five-piece band that incorporates funky rhythms and some electronic elements into its seedbed of Southern indie rock, MMJ has grown more sonically eloquent as it's become more adept. At times, its Coachella set approached the hugeness of a U2 concert, though it also had a bit of the easy transcendence of a classic Grateful Dead show.

Songs from the band's upcoming album "Evil Urges" showed exciting growth; by exploring new territory, especially R& B, the band has somehow become more focused. A few songs built a sense of tension that only great bands can manage in such a huge space. With a summer release, My Morning Jacket is set to secure its reign over American rock lovers' hearts; this big, exalting performance was the true beginning of that conquest.

Of course, when it comes to big, few in the rock world can match Roger Waters. As the prime visionary behind the most successful Pink Floyd releases, he's sold more albums than would fill a jumbo jet and reshaped the thought patterns of countless headphones-wearing young thinkers. Like Prince the night before, the 64-year-old Waters came to Coachella with the intention of owning the festival, and he had the resources to accomplish that goal.

His two-set show was similar to the tour he's been mounting for a couple of years, with a high-definition screen, surround sound and a giant pig, a Pink Floyd avatar, that floated over the crowd and then floated off toward Palm Springs. (Members of this porcine clan are occasionally freed during Waters' shows; this one said "Obama" on its bottom side, with a checked ballot box nearby.)

Even those who don't subscribe to the very direct brand of social commentary Waters pioneered in rock (like myself, for example) had to give it up for this spectacle. The video displays alone, montages that nearly jumped out from the screen, were worth the foot ache of standing through the long show.

The multidimensional sound caused the voices and other nonmusical elements Waters often uses in his recordings to have exceptional impact. And the pig -- as well as the World War II-style bomber plane and the holographic pyramid (invoking the "Dark Side of the Moon" cover) that beamed prismatic light onto the crowd at show's end -- made one realize that a Coachella performance can have the theatrical oomph of operatic staging, if enough money supports it.

The "Dark Side of the Moon" set that followed the more varied first half of the program was visually similar to the rest of the program. I'm not a fan of that album -- sue me -- and so for part of Waters' rendition I wandered over to see the Canadian "heavy psych" band Black Mountain, which was making a mighty noise in front of a small crowd in the Mojave tent.

Black Mountain represents a recent turn in head music, back toward an earthier sound that dominated before the 1970s, when the Waters-led Floyd took progressive rock into more theatrical zones. With its bluesy, almost folk-tinged music, this young band offered its fans an hour's journey back to the Summer of Love.

Many more listeners stayed with Waters, who acted pleased to be reaching a big crowd of youthful party people instead of grayhairs. Throughout the show he behaved like an afternoon-set newcomer, running around and gesturing ferociously. And the kids responded.

They didn't all know the words to chant along with classic-rock radio staples like "Wish You Were Here" or even "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," but they greeted Waters as if he were one of their more familiar heroes, like Thom Yorke of Radiohead. And that's one part of fans' heads musicians are always happy to hear from: their cheering mouths.

Iran interior minister arrived in Tajikistan for bilateral talk
Iran interior minister arrived in Tajikistan for bilateral talk
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan discuss major issues of strategic partnership dev’t
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan discuss major issues of strategic partnership dev’t
Reconstruction of power transmission line on section between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan begins
Reconstruction of power transmission line on section between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan begins
Loading Bars
Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine closes in on U.S. approval
Pashinyan shows anti-Russia stance, denigrates 'Iskander' missile fired on Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani FM, European commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement discuss situation in region
Azerbaijani FM meets Ukrainian deputy FM (PHOTO)
Visitors show great interest in Azerbaijani products at Gulfood 2021 exhibition (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan discloses amount of investments in economy of Turkic-speaking states
Assistant to Azerbaijani president meets with Ukrainian deputy minister for foreign affairs (PHOTO)
Japan eyes to support development of Georgian agrarian potential
Airlines expanding their activities in Georgia
Georgia reports three cases of UK coronavirus strain
Azerbaijan talks state-supported domestic SME market researches for 2020
Iran's Khatam Al-Anbia Headquarters to begin second phase of Chabahar port development project
Georgia to receive AstraZeneca Vaccine from South Korea and India
Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of technological equipment
Port of Baku records growth in annual turnover despite pandemic
Uzbekneftegaz to accelerate sale of gas stations serving farms
Azerbaijan sees growth of long-term loans to legal entities in real estate sector
Kazakhstan's Parliament approves amendments to bill on uranium mining
Iran's Shahid Tondgooyan Petrochemical Company fulfills its production plan
Georgian Hualing FIZ to begin serial production of furniture
Ukraine International Airlines receives permission to operate flights to Baku
New free economic zone established in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan
Precious metal prices down in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani industrial sector's lending notably grows
Turkmenistan's Project CA Desert Initiative opens tender for purchase of motorcycles
Inspectorate International Ltd. wins tender launched by Azerbaijani mining company
Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Turkmen FMs adopt joint statement following trilateral meeting (PHOTO)
Programs of Azerbaijani Communications Ministry to raise local startups to world standards
Uzbekistan to sale jewelry via e-commerce
Azerbaijan's Jan. 2021 import of goods increases
Azerbaijan sees multifold growth in bank mortgage lending
Georgia eases some COVID-19 restrictions
Marketed gas production resources set to change by 2050
Azerbaijan discloses volume of goods exported in Jan. 2021
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 24
JCPOA signatories require to take big steps towards commitments - Iranian MP
Iran to jointly produce COVID-19 vaccine with Russia by March
Azerbaijan talks use of 'smart' services in liberated lands
Most of lending in communications and transport sector accounts for foreign currency in Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan's banking sector faces pressure from global economic slowdown
Iran declares volume of exports-imports via Shahid Bahonar port revealed
Denmark to ease some COVID-19 restrictions from March 1
Georgia simplifies entry rules for citizens of Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender to rent lifting equipment
Iran to export five pharmaceutical products
Kazakhstan's Karachaganak Gas Debottlenecking Project progresses despite COVID-19
Turkmenistan prepares to harvest licorice root
Karachaganak Petroleum Operating reports historical maximum liquid production
Iran to begin its human trial phase of Razi Cov-Pars vaccine
Central Bank of Iran allocates funds to buy Indian COVID-19 vaccine
German economy to shrink some 1.5% in early 2021
Iranian social media influencers to pay tax
Azerbaijan reports 145 more COVID-19 recoveries
South Korea grounds all local airlines' Boeing 777s with PW4000 engines
Azerbaijan's Innovation Agency becomes first full-fledged member of IASP in region
Huawei's solutions to help communication operators to simplify 5G network deployment
Azerbaijan reveals Jan. 2021 crude oil exports to Croatia
War crimes of chief of Armenia's General Staff - new facts revealed
Azerbaijan releases footage on airstrikes of Su-25 attack on Armenian Armed Forces during Karabakh war (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Production of machinery and equipment up in Azerbaijan
India, Bangladesh to heighten diplomatic engagements in run-up to PM Modi’s visit to Dhaka
Azerbaijan to become Eurasia’s third largest gas producer – GECF
Plan for restoration of small mines in Iran overfulfilled
Kazakh power networks maintenance company to buy containers via tender
Deutsche Bank upgrades U.S. GDP forecast on stimulus push
Number of real estate transactions in Tbilisi down
Turkmenistan’s Union of Industrialists, French MEDEF sign MoU
Koo targets 100 million users this year with 'micro-blog of India' tag
Indian Air Force chief reaches Dhaka on 4-day visit
India signs free trade agreement with Mauritius, delivers additional 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines
Demand for notes of Central Bank of Azerbaijan exceeds supply
Indian defence ministry clears military purchases worth Rs 2,920 crore, rifles from US among them
Harmful microorganisms found in Russian chicken products imported to Azerbaijan
Turkmenistan working on cybersecurity upgrades at Center of Digital Systems
Azerbaijani currency rates for Feb.24
EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan increases gas supplies to Turkey by nearly 19%
Azerbaijan shows footage from Aghdam village of Khojavend district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
President of Turkey to visit Turkmenistan
Foreign investments made in Iran's agricultural sector
Uzbek telecom enterprise to buy metal structures for communication towers via tender
Uzbekistan, AIIB eye accelerating modernization of water supply systems in Bukhara region
Georgia reports 443 new coronavirus cases
Georgian TBC Bank predicts short-term fluctuations in lari exchange rate
Turkey reveals January 2021 volume of cargo shipment from Spain
German clothing brands interested in co-op with Uzbek clothing manufacturers
N. Macedonia talks on financing project to connect to Southern Gas Corridor
N.Macedonia to get Azerbaijani gas via interconnection with Greece – minister
Non-OPEC crude, other liquids’ supply to rise in 2022 – JP Morgan
Demand for compulsory insurance prevailed in Azerbaijani real estate market in 2020 - AIA
MOL to reduce group-level emissions by 30% by 2030
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil transportation to Turkey down y-o-y
Service industries play significant role in Turkmenistan's economy
Uzbekistan Railways, Indonesian travel association agree on operating charter flights
Uzbekistan, Singapore discuss project on creation of cotton-textile clusters in several Uzbek regions
Uzbekistan, Qatar consider development of interaction in tourism sector
RON-80 gasoline at Uzbek commodity exchange sold at starting price
Azerbaijani oil prices continue to grow
Turkey discloses number of Mersin port's received ships in January 2021
Turkey records dropping revenues from cement export to Georgia
All news