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Coachella: Zach de la Rocha Unleashes the Lion


Zach de la Rocha has a second outlet for his rage, called One Day as a Lion, and on Saturday he unleashed it on Coachella, claws and all.

The trio — named after a 1970 photo of a graffiti piece taken by Chicano photographer George Rodriguez that reads, “It’s better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb” — play an intensely aggressive and raw blend of hip-hop, hard rock, industrial, and experimental prog rock, and their 50-minute set was a vicious attack of all four as one.

On drums was ex-Mars Volta sticksman Jon Theodore, who played with a notable mix of precision and power. Joey Karam hunkered behind a stack of keyboards, including Moog and Fender Rhodes, creating a sonic range from subtle melodies to ambient effects like air raid sirens. Then there was De La Rocha, who, at 41, is more pissed off and political than ever.

On “Ocean View,” from the band’s 2008 eponymous debut EP, he lambasted America’s socio-political system, growling, “Pepper spray over cracked concrete / So vicious make a rich man’s neck split.”

On the raw hip-hop banger “WildInternational,” he spat, “They say that in war / That truth be the first casualty / So I dig in selector I the resurrector.”

And on the sinister, grinding “If You Fear Dying,” he attacked the racist prison system, among other American institutions: “I target more heads than a priest on ash Wednesday,” he rapped.

But what’s next for One Day as a Lion? They’ve played only a handful of shows, and plans for a full-length album have yet to be announced. Let’s hope there’s more to come. Judging by their powerful Saturday set, De La Rocha’s second band is where his musical passion finds its boldest expression.