I never thought I would post about Coachella here on Pedals and Effects, but a conversation happened a few weeks ago that brought my attention back to when I played bass for Mars Volta in 2003 at this SoCal festival. That radical performance was my second gig ever with the band, and my first time to this crazy desert event.
Back in 2003, Coachella was much smaller than it is now. It wasn't two weekends but one, it didn't sell out a year in advance without announcing the lineup, and it also wasn't as heavily attended as it is now. The festival was a scene, so to speak, as I remember seeing various celebrities and people on drugs wandering around - but I was absolutely consumed with playing difficult music in front of a few thousand people during a hot and windy day.
I remember that my vintage head went down mid-performance, our set being shorter than planned and before I knew it, we were off stage and it was over. After our set, everyone hung out with their family and friends who all came out to the desert to see the spectacle that is Coachella. I hung out with my wife, Anne, and one of my best friends, Manny of Distortion Felix and our friend Manuel. Manny and I have been through so much together over the years...he was a groomsman at my wedding, my bandmate of 6-7 years and he basically recommended me to The Mars Volta. Manuel was Manny's best friend and my friend as well.
Once I joined the Mars Volta, I was basically on tour from 2003 to 2012 and Manny and I saw less and less of each other. We still had our petty fights, our coffee meet ups and we did continue to do a few rare Distortion Felix shows. We even got asked to do the All Tomorrow's Party that the Breeders curated and flew us to England to play at. Manuel, I would hear about via Manny but that was about it.
Distortion Felix was a three piece with Manny, Phil and myself, and for the most part our songs were mostly written by Manny, but there were collaborations. One of the few collaborators was our friend, Manuel Morgan. Manuel was a poet and a sweetheart of a guy and contributed lyrics to Distortion Felix. Manuel was a very sensitive artist type but he concealed it well as he was very quiet. He was so understated that you only became aware of him when he laughed at something you said. I thought highly of Manuel but I wasn't as close to him as Manny was.
Manny and I got Manuel a job where we worked as traffic report producers, and that is where I saw Manuel last back in 2003-4...behind a desk doing work that was beneath his craft but paid nonetheless. The last time I can remember hanging out with him outside of work was at Coachella 2003 and here are the pics of the distant time.
Manuel Morgan died a couple of weeks ago while I was in Europe. I couldn't attend the funeral and Manny filled me in on the details of his passing. Manny and I lost our ghost bandmate and Manny lost a best friend. The throwback to all of this is a lesson to myself. Life is very fast and what seemed like another lifetime, is more important to me now than ever. Your friends that traveled the years with you are very important to who you are as human beings today. Manuel gave so much to Manny and our music and Manny has given so much to me as one of my best friends over the past 30 years.
I don't want to regret not staying in touch with Manuel Morgan but how can I not? I didn't pursue any means of communication with him. I even have let my friendship with Manny suffer over all these years of touring and what has come from this tough time, a whole new perspective has emerged with Manny and I making a pledge to not take our friendship for granted ever again.