Detroit rules in "Coachella," a concert movie compendium of performances from the six years that the Coachella Music & Arts Festival has thrown up its many tents in Indio, Calif.
With Tennessee's Bonnaroo given more to jam bands, and the Burning Man preoccupied with personal expression rather than rawk-and-rawl, it's left to Coachella to carry the torch -- sometimes literally -- for the music itself.
In a film that's not short on fine performances, the two best come from the reunited Stooges, with Iggy getting down like it's 1969, and the band that might not have existed without him, the White Stripes. The Stripes' Jack White says "Funhouse" was the record that made him want to do what he does, which is play the twisted blues so powerfully and soulfully that on this night he and Meg White may have constituted the best band in the land.
Those who make a yearly pilgrimage to Coachella may be left wondering why some of the more storied sets are not represented; neither last year's appearance by Coldplay nor the legendary 2002 performance by perennials Queens of the Stone Age is included.One will have to visit Coachella Web sites to ascertain who is playing at which edition of the festival, since director Drew Thomas, whose credits include the less raucous "A Supernatural Evening with Carlos Santana," does not identify the year on-screen. That leaves the impression that one concert was big enough to accommodate the Stripes, Iggy, the goofy but often ethereal Polyphonic Spree, a subdued and sensuous Radiohead, Bjork and Flaming Lips, whose onstage shtick is beginning to resemble a Pink Floyd show directed by Monty Python.
The music is occasionally interrupted by peace-and-love endorsements from those in attendance and the inevitable backstage interviews where it is universally agreed that Coachella is just the coolest place to play ever, dude.
Yet the pitches can be put out of your mind when followed by a gorgeous, setting-sun performance of "The Boy with the Arab Strap" by Belle & Sebastian and the Brit-pop heat blast of Oasis, who in the end might know only one song but when they get it as right as they do here, they can hypnotize.
Though Thomas had the advantage of cherry-picking his festival to remember, he does us the courtesy of accurately reflecting the overall experience by including performances from Prodigy, as tedious and tuneless as ever, and an appearance by Bright Eyes talent Conor Oberst in which he seems to be auditioning for the role of Timmy in a new version of "Lassie."
The latest version of Queens is slated to appear at this year's festival, which reminds us that this one-night-only screening is really just an infomercial, both for this summer's show and the impending release of this compilation on DVD in April.
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