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Cosmochella: A festival for the rest of us

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Fresh off a killer Coachella performance, Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs thrilled the crowd at the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on April 13.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/erikkabik.com
Jason Harris

I, along with many other music fans, don’t like music festivals. In theory I do: There’s no other way to see so many different bands in one place or get as much bang for your buck. But in reality festivals are a pain in the ass, from traffic and parking to overpriced water and underwhelming food. And the truth is, it’s not even a great way to see a band.

This past weekend, the Cosmopolitan came closer to giving me the non-festival festival I actually want. One that just runs at night, when the weather is cooler and more comfortable. One that focuses on fewer bands playing longer sets. And one that allows us to go home every night for a good night’s sleep and a hot shower in the morning. Let’s call it Cosmochella.

While Coachella went down in the Southern California desert, the Cosmopolitan picked off a few of the better acts for shows at the Boulevard Pool. Week 1 featured the stronger lineup, with Canadian siren sisters Tegan and Sara, seminal new wave band New Order, indie-pop darlings Vampire Weekend and New York indie-rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on consecutive nights, Wednesday through Saturday. (Week 2 features Of Monsters and Men and Local Natives, Hot Chip, The Postal Service and Band of Horses.)

New Order drew one of the largest crowds ever to Cosmopolitan's Boulevard Pool on April 11.

New Order drew one of the largest crowds ever to Cosmopolitan's Boulevard Pool on April 11.

I caught all four Week 1 shows, and I expect two of them to wind up among my year-end favorites. On Thursday, New Order thrilled a sellout crowd with a 19-song set that spanned hits (“Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Blue Monday”), fan favorites (“Age of Consent,” “Love Vigilantes”) and Joy Division material (“Atmosphere,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart”). Main-set closer “Temptation” was a gift and the overall highlight of the week for me.

Two nights later, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set proverbial fire to the stage with NYC attitude and monster dance-rockers like “Heads Will Roll” and “Date With the Night.” Singer Karen O is one of the most charismatic frontpersons I’ve ever seen, and I’d say that even if she didn’t shove the microphone down her pants after giving us the business.

I’m enthusiastic about Cosmochella, but there’s room for improvement. Headline sets start at 10, with openers at 9; why not grab a few more young upstarts from Coachella and put them in one of the ballrooms? What about weekend afterparties in the Cosmo’s swank bars and lounges? And how about opening it up to art, clothing and vinyl vendors, to give the crowd an experience more like a full festival? Minus the Porta Potties.

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