Wednesday, Apr 25 2012 05:21 PM

MATT MUNOZ: Coachella evolves with the times

By The Bakersfield Californian

Despite an encore appearance by the Tupac hologram, last weekend's Coachella Music & Arts Festival belonged to the new kids.

The festival no longer is dominated by long-lost indie and post- punk/new wave reunions, and it may be that organizers have come to the realization that while you shouldn't forget your roots, don't rot in the process.

This is my fifth return to the festival, which has become comparable to a trip to Mecca for me and 78,000 other world travelers. We come from distant lands in search of music, surrounded by desert and the inescapable elements. We arrive smiling and, in many cases, leave in agony but always return because there's nothing quite like the sights, sounds and smells of Coachella.

The repeat weekend two line-up was a cross section of some of the best of the present crop of sonic talents, including: L.A. rising stars Grouplove, the artsy St. Vincent, gritty rocker Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, electro folkies Beirut, and others. Together they rubbed shoulders with many who paved the way decades before, like reggae icon Jimmy Cliff, UK ska misfits Madness, goth romantics Mazzy Star, hip-hop titans Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and of course, the band responsible for inspiring most of Bakersfield's current downtown band scene, Radiohead.

Among my personal standout moments: watching CCR's John Fogerty make a special appearance with The Black Keys to sing The Band classic "The Weight" in tribute to drummer/vocalist Levon Helm, who passed away the day before.

Then there was the space invasion by Friday's electro headliners, Swedish House Mafia, who, in my opinion, have reached the pinnacle of the genre. I usually avoid house music and techno, but the sensory overload of lasers, lights and a perfectly synced wave of people bouncing in unison was jaw-dropping.

Another of Sweden's greatest exports, The Hives, shook up the outdoor main stage in the middle of the scorching Sunday heat with one of the wildest sets ever. Frontman Per Almqvist jumped, shouted, rattled and rolled his way through an hour-long set of sweaty power pop hits, even commanding a large portion of the crowd (including myself) to lay down. I did, only to leap to my feet covered in dirt and grass. It was beautiful.

One noticeable omission during the weekend was that not even a peep was made over the loss of Dick Clark. It may be a generational thing, but I did find it curious that a festival of this magnitude couldn't find a way to honor one of popular music's original visionaries.

That being said, there's really no way to accurately describe the entire Coachella experience in a few paragraphs. My suggestion would be to add it to your bucket list and start tucking away some funny money now. To see more photos, visit Bakotopia.com.

Bakersfield Festival of Beers

The 20th Annual Festival of Beers returns this weekend looking to retain its title as the official kick-off to the summer party season.

Part fundraiser and dance party in the sun, the festivities take over the Stramler Park event complex from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

With this year's party comes a few changes, namely the absence of a theme.

Festival chairman Blake Palla who's been working feverishly to get every detail tightened up, says the choice to simplify the brand name made better sense.

"We're moving away from the themes -- and trying to get more of a brand image, so when people see the logo, they know exactly what to expect. It was also too hard dealing with the marketing end of things, getting new logos every year. Let's take this into a different direction and have more of a corporate theme."

While you won't see any beach balls, tie-dyes or safari décor as in years past, what hasn't changed are many of the event's regular offerings, namely sudsy beer and food samplings from popular local and national chains.

"Beer, food and good weather, why would you not wanna go?" added Palla.

The Bakersfield chapter of the Active 20-30 Club, which hosts the event, is a volunteer service organization that provides assistance to local charities through fundraising. Planning the Festival of Beers takes six months, with all money raised going to children's charities.

Among this year's beneficiaries are M.A.R.E. (Mastering Abilities Riding Equines), the Police Activities League, Boys & Girls Club of Bakersfield and Kern County Special Olympics.

Advance tickets are $30, or $40 at the gate. For the price of admission, you get food and plenty of beer, plus local bands Dub Seeds, Members Only and Velorio, and live DJ music all day with Sound Choice.

The VIP section is back, with more than 10 restaurants inside, and more beer. There are limited VIP tickets available at $100, which allow access to an exclusive gourmet food and drink area. Stop by the Bakotopia booth while you're there and check out even more music and art displays by Bakersfield art gallery The Foundry.

According to Palla, there will be enough security provided to ensure everyone has a peaceful good time throughout the day. The event is for those 21 and over only. For more info, visit bakersfieldfestivalof beers.com, or call 477-5521.

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