Tag Archives: Dancing In The Desert

Personal Soundtrack

19 Mar


The Song

Xxplosive by Dr. Dre

One guitar line, some xylophone, a backbeat, and hip-hop’s greatest hook man (RIP).  That’s all Dre needed to create a classic track on one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made.  We’re headed to the first weekend of Coachella in a couple of weeks, and I hadn’t really thought too much about what’s in store out in the desert until “Xxplosive” came on this weekend during some iPod shufflin’.  And now I can’t stop thinking about the Snoop & Dr. Dre headlining slot on Day Three.

Even after hearing it well over a hundred times, “Xxplosive”  still sounds as dangerously smooth today as it did upon its release; the same can be said for pretty much everything else on 2001.  In fact, it’s easy to forget how huge 2001 was in the early-2000’s, especially for someone starting to really discover hip-hop at the time.  Of course, there was groundbreaking and and classic hip-hop releases well before 2001, some from Dre himself.  But for a certain generation, the timing worked out so that as singles like “The Next Episode” and “Forgot About Dre” were blowing up and offering a gateway to the world of hip-hop, we were starting to take control of our own tastes in music and actively seeking out new sounds.

Putting 2001 on the headphones (so the parents wouldn’t be horrified) was the first time that listening to music became an entire experience, offering a worldview coming from a whole different planet than my own.  And the world offered up in 2001 was hypnotic and intense – I couldn’t get enough.  Dark and graphic images of drinking, drugs and murder abounded, yet there was often a swaggering, party-loving vibe in the songs to keep things bumping and high-energy.  You could put on the album at a party and get seals of approval from most everyone there.  From the initial release date until well into my high school career, 2001 was a staple during everything from huge house parties to summer afternoons spent sneaking 40s in the backyard.

“Xxplosive” is a great example of the craftsmanship and overwhelming talent behind 2001 – Dre pushed hip-hop into a new era with his brilliant mixture of traditional instruments and wholly unique electronic flourishes.  The sound was menacing, but funky and filled with an endless barrage of hooks to keep you listening.  I definitely couldn’t stop listening to the album after I first heard it.  2001 was the first CD I put on the car stereo when I finally got my learner’s permit, and I terrified at least a few neighbors by blaring “Xxplosive” on repeat with the windows down on the parents’ car.

The album became a hugely influential part of the soundtrack to my early music-exploring years, and the chance to see some of these songs performed live at Coachella will be a special thing.  Expectations are probably unrealistically high, but there’s no way to lower them now.  At the very least, I’m just hoping we get to hear the slinky guitar sample of “Xxplosive” sounding out into the desert night as the good Dr. himself starts up the beat.

The Activity

TBD while Dancing in the Desert on Sunday, April 15.


Dancing In The Desert, Pt. 3

25 Jan


[With the Coachella lineup just announced, excitement is running high again for this year’s installment of the Southern California music extravaganza.  Here at Dan Swanky’s, we wanted to push past the breathless hype and get the gritty details about what the Coachella experience is all about.  Lucky for us, our resident Steed made his first trip to the festival last year, and offered to give us a rundown of his time there]

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

After two days of toeing the line at Coachella, I woke up on Day Three with a little bit less fire in my belly than I had the previous two days.  My head was pounding, and part of me wanted to stay right where I was, curled up in the warm sun on the soft turf of the golf course.  Oh, yeah – I woke up that day on the golf course, 12th hole I think, that ran next to our rental house.  My Australian flag was still around my neck and serving as a blanket, but Ibis was nowhere to be found, and my name had been carved into the soft grass with the hole-marker, which looked like it had been javelined several feet away.  I also wasn’t wearing any pants, once again, so I brushed off the cobwebs and took a brisk jog back to our house, which woke me right up and got me raring to go dance once more.  At this point, I figured I would deal with the emotional and physical reckoning on Monday.  I was going to go all in on this one while I still had the chance.

I rustled up the DJ Collective from their various resting spots, and we got a couple hours of pre-gaming out of the way before hopping in a party bus that someone had parked on the front lawn the night before and abandoned.  Whoever left the bus there had also left several cases of beer and Ciroc in the back, so we took our time getting over to the concert grounds and were in a fine mood by the time we parked.  I guess I was in too fine a mood, because as we were walking through security, I told the security guard to At Least Kiss Me If You’re Going To Touch Me Like That, and I was briskly taken over to “HQ,” which was a trailer next to the Main Stage filled with sobbing girls and passed out bros.  I was able to muster my charm and kept it coherent enough that the Stern Police finally let me go on my way, but not without taking all of my 5-hour energy stash, and taking my ‘Benadryl’ for Safe Keeping.

As I made my way out of HQ, I realized that I had lost my group, and had no phone or any other way to contact them in the ambiguous mass of people spreading out in the meadow before me.  I needed a cold Heine to rest my nerves after the Security run-in, so I headed over to the nearest beer garden.  After grabbing a drink, I struck up a conversation with a lively group of bros, all wearing mid-90s Vin Baker jerseys, who suggested that I try spotting my friends from the Ferris Wheel.  One of the Baker Bros also handed me a fresh beer, which he said was White Elephant brew.  He winked as he said this, but I figured what the hell and polished it off before heading over to the Wheel, so I could get on there before the good tunes started.

I hopped on a solo car on the Wheel, and as I started to circle up to the top, I felt a quick little surge of adrenaline, that went away almost as suddenly as it came.  Looking back, that was like the first little rain drop you get before the hurricane hits, but at the time I shrugged it off.  As my car went one rung past the top of the Wheel, I got a clear view of Sahara, and amid a sea of waving bods, saw the glorious stuffed bunny that I had worked on the day before.  At that point, I understood that the little fellow had made the bunny to be used as a signpost, and as I was realizing that, the White Elephant from the Baker Bros finally made its presence known.  I could no longer sit still.  The car on the Wheel was slowly making its way down to the ground, but I couldn’t really wait any longer, so I clambered on to the outside and shimmied my way down the scaffolding to the ground.  Security was not too happy about my early departure, but my legs were pumping before I even hit the ground, and I was off running the fastest quarter-mile you’ve ever seen to Sahara.

I got in to Sahara at the start of the Ducks [Duck Sauce] show, and as they pumped out the electro jams, I grooved my way up to the bunny and re-united with my buds.  I was enjoying myself near the stage for a bit, when something about the music must have triggered the other part of the Elephant, and things began to take a turn.  I has already been getting nervous about the giant inflatable duck that was on stage for the show, and when the “Big Bad Wolf” song started, I decided that the duck needed to go and I made a run at it.

To get to the duck, I had to clear the fence around the stage, and my running start for the jump was hindered a bit by the wet grass and the big crowd – I ended up catching my shins on the fence and whipping my forehead into the back of a security guard.  This dazed me for a second but didn’t put me out for the count.  The guards picked me up and shipped me out of the Tent, telling me to Take It Easy, and as I stood in the grass collecting myself, I could hear the faint tunes of Chromeo, and I followed the seductive dance beats to the outdoor stage.

By the time I got to the Chromeo stage, the mild concussion I had sustained earlier had met up with the White Elephant and all I could do was put my seatbelt on and hope for the best.  I saw some of the DJ Collective in the crowd, and they passed me a pair of Party ‘Bans to help with the sensitivity to light.  For some reason, as soon as I put the ‘Bans on, I became convinced that I was actually Chromeo himself, and that it was up to me to put on the best fucking dance show that the crowd had ever seen.  For the next hour, I proceeded to do just that, completely oblivious to the actual band performing on the stage behind me.  I was throwing keyboard licks around like no one’s business, unleashing dance moves that screamed Sexual, and one point I even brought myself to tears.  By the end of the show, I was sweating profusely and wasn’t quite sure how I had gotten there.  One of the Collective buds told me to follow them to Kanye West, the capper to the whole festival, and I obliged.

For the majority of the weekend, there had been loose talk flying around about Kanye’s show and all of the special guests he was going to bring up.  Jay-Z, Beyonce, Will Smith, and Coldplay were all being tossed around as names, but as we waited for the show to start at the Main Stage, I became convinced that I was the special guest the show would have, to take it over the top.  All I had to do was figure out a way to make my epic entrance, and then I could do the Twista lines on “Slow Jamz” and it would bring the whole house down.  As I was looking around frantically to find my way in, Kanye came gliding over the crowd in a crane contraption, and I knew what I had to do.  As soon as he got back on to the stage, I crept over to the base of the crane and started to shimmy up the side, towards the platform on the top.  I figured that once I was up there, Kanye could just toss me the mic and we’d go from there.  I got about 6-7 feet up the crane neck before some Boy Scout spotted me and yelled for help getting me off.  I tried to keep climbing, to keep the dream alive, but as Kanye started in on “Hell Of A Life” some security guard crawled up after me like a goddman spider monkey and I tumbled back to earth after a brief struggle and a taser shot.

It took four security guards to round me and the Elephant up, and after doing a quick check to make sure I hadn’t broken anything, they told me my weekend was over and began to escort me out to the parking lot.  I told them that We Would Meet Again, and they said You’re Probably Right.  The next several days would be a long recovery session, filled with doctor’s visits and marathons of Friends, and even though I eventually came back to full health, there’s a part of me still laying out there in the grass of the Polo Grounds.  Until next year, my friends, until next year.”

Dancing In The Desert, Pt. 2

19 Jan

[With the Coachella lineup just announced, excitement is running high again for this year’s installment of the Southern California music extravaganza.  Here at Dan Swanky’s, we wanted to push past the breathless hype and get the gritty details about what the Coachella experience is all about.  Lucky for us, our resident Steed made his first trip to the festival last year, and offered to give us a rundown of his time there]

Day One

Day Two

“So I woke up in the camping area around 6am, feeling the full weight of the desert sun bearing down on me like a disappointed parent.  It took me a couple seconds to realize that I was in a 3-4 person tent with what looked like about 8 people.  I was in between two of the Flannel Girls from the night before, but they were deep asleep with the rest of the tent, so I figured it was best just to go on my merry way without disturbing anybody.  I did my best quiet roll out of the tent and popped out right in the heart of Coachella’s tent city, which was just shaking itself awake at the moment.  I didn’t have much of a recollection of how I ended up in the campsite, and all I had on at the moment was an Australian flag wrapped around my waist, so I figured I should probably find my pants and boogie on back to the vacation house.  Luckily, my pants, complete with pockets still half full of mystery, were being used as a blanket by a shaggy looking fellow, so I slid them out of his clutches and took off to find my way back and get ready for another trip into the trenches.

I didn’t really feel much like walking to the house in my pants and flag, (now tied around my neck like a cape, where it would stay for the rest of the day) so I put out my thumb and hitched a ride back with an SUV full of blonde girls in matching sunglasses and vintage tees, heading out from their hotel to get Caffe Machs they Desperately Needed.  Most of the girls didn’t seem to notice I had gotten in the car, but the driver was a pretty cool chick, and with my brightly lit charm, I managed to score an invite to their pool party they were throwing before heading to the shows.  With that in my back pocket, I strolled in to the house, which was already vibrating slightly to the sounds of Brazilian free-form jazz dubstep, and told the dudes to get ready for the pool fiesta.  I think I passed out standing up at that point, because the next thing I knew a Corona bottle was being held to my lips and I was in the car headed to the pool party.

The party was in the pool of another housing complex, so once again we followed the gentle thumping of bass to a pool full of tattoos and sunscreen – and lots of cold ones.  For the next few hours, we quickly made friends with the grab-bag of concertgoers, and at one point I found myself helping a smiley little fellow put a giant stuffed bunny on the end of an 8-foot pole.  I asked him a few times what the bunny was for, but all he would tell me was that I would Understand Later, and I figured why not and let it be.  At one point, someone started a “Sahara” chant, and people started getting their game faces on for the official start of Day Two.  I followed a cute little lady in a sundress, who had told me her name was Ibis, and we hopped in the back of someone’s Scion for the ride over.

When we rolled out of the Scion and back into the dusty waiting room that was the parking lot, I took a deep breath and mentally prepped to keep it together this time.  Ibis grabbed my hand and pulled me through the gate and towards the Sahara Tent section, and as I got closer to the Tent and neighboring beer garden, the quotient of tanned bros and babes began to rise and I could feel the wave of sun-drenched hormones start to loosen my grip on self-control.  Before I knew it, I was in the beer garden with a Heine in each hand and Ibis’ girl crew was grilling me on what exactly I had for party favors.  I tried to hold out for as long as I could, but as the sun began to go down and I finished off cup no. 6, all bets were off and I was toting water bottles with my new group to the slick grass of the Sahara Tent floor.

After several Build-Drop-LoseYourMind musical sequences, Ibis tugged on my flag/cape and led me outside the Tent, where she asked if I would go with her to the bathrooms.  I said sure, and she said Maybe I’ll Even Give You A Hand Job In The Porta-Potty.  I was still at the lower level of the party favor scale, so this made me queasy more than intrigued, and I told her I was fine waiting outside for now.  She went on her way, and I quickly became distracted by a bunch of flashing lights at a sculpture in the middle of the meadow.  Before I knew it, I was lying on my back in the grass and getting a stomach rub from a couple of Australian ladies, who helped me finish my party favors and told me to follow them to Empired Sun [Empire of the Sun].

Follow them I did, and was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy at the outdoor stage until Empired started playing, and I was frozen in place by the scene that was unfolding in front of me.  The band’s costumes looked like they were conceived in a Mayan’s fever dream, and as I frantically looked around to see if anyone else noticed these demons, no one came forward to explain what the hell was going on.  Halfway through the first song, I couldn’t take it anymore and I took off running, with no destination in mind but worried that my life was in danger.  I’m not sure how long I ran for, but I eventually came to rest in the front of the Main Stage, where I found Ibis, who told me that this place had Good Vibes, Let’s Just Sit For Awhile.

So we sat, and huddled together as Arcade Fire took our hands and led us back to safety, a safety punctuated by the white balls of Good Feelings they threw our way at the end of the show.  As we clutched our GF ball and slowly inched out of the meadow for the night, I felt as though I had just ran two marathons in my mind, and I needed an emergency solar blanket.  Coachella had won that round, but I had one more day to tame the beast, and I would come back ready to duke it out.  In the meantime, I needed a Shame Burrito and a hot tub.”

To Be Continued….Day Three…

Dancing In The Desert, Pt. 1

13 Jan

[With the Coachella lineup being announced this week, excitement is running high again for this year’s installment of the Southern California music extravaganza.  Here at Dan Swanky’s, we wanted to push past the breathless hype and get the gritty details about what the Coachella experience is all about.  Lucky for us, our resident Steed made his first trip to the festival last year, and offered to give us a rundown of his time there.]

“So last year, on the Monday before Coachella, I got a call from my buddy [name redacted] out of the blue, and he offered me a free 3-day pass to the festival.  I had heard word of this thing over the past few years, but until that point my only festivus experience had been a 4-day stint at Burning Man 2009, which ended with a cloud of body glitter and a false paternity test.  But everything I had heard about Coachella pointed to a weekend full of sun, music, intoxicants, and beautiful women, so it was pretty much a no-brainer to take that pass.  After locking that down, I put my ear to the pavement and found a ride and a place to stay – my co-worker [name redacted] is an up-and-coming DJ/producer/poet and he had rented a big house situated on one of those golf courses out by the festival grounds.  I spent the next couple days working on my base tan and filling out my tank-and-jorts wardrobe, and I was primed to go by Friday.

Day One

My co-worker picked me up in his Element bright and early Friday morning so that we could get out there before the good music got started.  On the way out to the desert, I cracked some road sodas and got to know the other carpool passengers, who were all part of a DJ collective that specialized in Brazilian house music.  It was tough keeping up with their muso-speak, but luckily they all liked to party, so we got on fine.  A few hours and three cases of Bud Heavy later, we arrived at the rental house and had some time to suit up and warm up before taking the plunge into the festival, which was a few miles down the road.

As I was rubbing some dirt on my “too-clean” shoes, one of my new Collective friends asked what I had in stock for the concerts.  I asked what he meant, and the rest of the crew emptied their fanny packs to show me.  Feeling like a veritable canoe without a paddle, I confessed that I had nothing, and they generously pooled together some resources and gave me a grab-bag to keep things going, at least for the first day.  With that settled, I put the party ‘Bans on and we headed out.  I had a heart full of hope, a pocket full of mystery, and was ready to get Festive.

After getting dropped off, we made our way through the haze and dust to the white tents marking the entrance.  I could hear some thumping coming from behind the festival fences, and the combination of the Bud and the ‘grab bag’ had me feeling like I was Braveheart standing in line, with the war drums beating ominously before battle.  The pocket full of mystery became the sock full of mystery as we safely made it through the high school Security Squad, and walked past the ferris wheel [Ed.’s note: Don’t worry, this will come up later] into what could only be described as an electric meadow of debauchery.  There was plenty going on, but our first real show up was Skrill It [Skrillex], some strange-looking fellow that I wasn’t familiar with, but I was just going with the flow at that point.

Skrill was playing in what they called the Sahara Tent, which in reality was a small airplane hangar, but in Coachellareality was a hotbed incubator of dance that over the next three days would be a source of bliss, confusion, aggression, seduction, fulfillment, and fear.  Sometimes all at once, if you were lucky.

My first step in to the belly of Sahara was with Skrill at the helm, and at first I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I knew I was in the right place, with all the shirtless bros in party ‘Bans and neon hats, so I waited for my next cue, which came as the bass dropped and the bros and babes lost their minds to the wiggle.  I wiggled along with them and was lost in the womping for a bit, but was brought sharply back to reality when I looked up and realized that a bunch of aggro dudes [Korn] were yelling something about something, and the rest of my group were slowly backing away to the safety of the open meadow.

After Skrill had broken the music ice, the next few hours were a slight blur of ‘grab bag’ experiments and Sahara tent light shows with Afrojohn and Ajax [Afrojack and A-Trak].  I remember a ton of smiles and jumping, but not many details until I realized I was straddling the fence at the Main Stage Beer Garden and yelling for Kings of Lee [Leon]  to Play Fucking Freebird.  I’m pretty sure I was getting my request across, but at that point I was shaken down by a few security guards and took a tumble to the Main Stage side of the fence.  My instincts kicked in when I hit the ground and I took off running into the huge crowd assembled around the Kings doing their thing.

I came to a stop in the middle of the Stage field, and as I collected myself I realized that my tank was gone, and I had yellow highlighter all over my chest and an American flag bandana ’round my neck instead.  Which was pretty alright with me.  I sat down to take a rest and found myself on a blanket of cool babes in flannels who were Checking Out Those Fucking Stars and Just Resting For A Sec, so I just rested along with them and before you knew it, we had a tight little massage train going on, and my ‘grab bag’ was up for grabs.  This is about where the lights went off for me, as I wasn’t fully acclimated to Chella Time yet, but I know at some point I went with the Flannel Ladies to their campsite, because that’s where I woke up – Day Two staring me straight in the face and asking What Else Do You Got.

To Be Continued….Day Two….