Ordinarily we here at SOTC have no great love for or interest in Coachella, given its considerable distance from… us. But monitoring the web chatter throughout the weekend was somewhat enjoyable anyway — Sunday night’s news that Phoenix’s set was way, way better attended than Pavement’s, for example, was tremendously cheering. But Sly Stone’s repeatedly delayed, apparently completely bewildering set was probably the funniest incident to regard from afar.
Our LA Weekly compatriot Gustavo Turner was there, and was not at all amused:
Sly would sing a few bars of the classics (“Stand,” “Family Affair”) but he’d soon stop and start asking what time it was and how long he had to stay onstage to get paid. He also shared with the audience some of his current legal troubles (at length) and berated his band, a random assortment of instrumentalists decked out in absurd outfits right out of a Eugene Ionesco surrealist drama.
But nothing was more surreal than the spectacle of grown people pretending everything was ok and not removing poor Sly from the stage.
This man needs loving care, not to be paraded in front of a music festival in a costume-shop outfit.
To prove the point, he called out a few more titles: “Star Spangled Banner,” “Everyday People,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” each with more breathtaking meaninglessness than the last. The final of these suggestions stuck with him, and the band launched into it. Sly stood, he went into the crowd, he left. Was it a put-on? A put-down? Whatever it was, it was an act of obliterating rebellion. How many pop concerts defy understanding anymore?
I’m glad this happened. I’m even more glad I didn’t have to stand out in the desert while it did.