Words cannot adequately describe the experience of attending the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, but this is a blog so words will have to suffice, and I will just have to hope that you have enough jealousy and empathy to try and put yourself if my now dirty as hell white shoes so that you can try and feel what I am describing.
We arrived to Palm Springs and after a few u-turns and a pit stop to pick up some beer and snacks for the next three days [and some Panda Express – OMG I. DIE. I haven’t had that forever], we headed off into the desert towards Indio, “Rude Boy” blaring and windows down. The 90 degree weather was a welcome change from the slow-coming Spring that Seattle had to offer. The sea of cars that awaited us at the car-inspection check point was only the beginning. Hundreds of cars would soon turn into thousands, and they would keep filing into the fields of the Empire Polo Club where the festival has been held since its inception 11 years ago [and now for the next decade with a new deal signed between the Polo Club and Golden Voice Promotions, the parent company that puts on Coachella and a few other festivals and concerts around the country].
Coming in to the field and setting up shop with your tent, you could feel the energy pulsing through the masses. You were now a part of something truly special, something that, at the time, you felt would connect you personally to each and every person there for all time. This feeling was sealed with my new Coachella 2010 bracelet given to me by one of our awesome self-proclaimed hippie kid neighbors from Ventura. As the cars came piling in, a tent at the far end of the 90 acre polo field lit up with DJ’s until 3 am, setting off a dance party to really give a hard kick to the weekend ahead of us.
After four or so hours of sleep, we arose on Friday morning to clear skies and temperatures rising. Music was drifting through the campgrounds the whole night, and you could still hear it coming from portable docks and car speakers. Morning beers were being cracked open, and we headed off to the portable showers. There were 60 or so showers for the tens-of-thousands of campers, making hot water and decent water pressure a luxury by the time your 1-4 hour wait in line finally gave way to a so-fresh-and-so-clean radiance. This festival is not for you if you can’t handle waiting in line for long periods of time in extreme heat.
The festival had five main stages: The Coachella Stage is where the more notable and mainstream bands played, The Outdoor Theatre, which was really just a slightly smaller version of the Coachella Stage, and then the Gobi, Mojave and Sahara tents. They were aptly named as most of the time it was so damn hot, it really did feel like you were in the respective deserts. The Gobi tent I would say was the size of a small ballroom, and they doubled in size each time, ending with the Sahara tent that probably held at least 15k people if not more.
We kicked off Friday with the incredibly talented Kate Miller-Heidke. This Aussie made her Coachella debut this year and was the first act to perform and get things started. Two very big thumbs up.
[I’m not going to describe at length each act that we saw – that would make for an outrageously long post.. but I will instead give a thumbs up scale and you can interpret that as “meh” “good” and “absolutely must check out”]
We took a break to check out some of the sponsor tents, taking a stroll into the un-branded Microsoft tent to check out their new phone the “Kin” [not bad] and get a free t-shirt made. Free swag was abound at the festival and hey, who doesn’t like free stuff? The sponsor tents also offered a much appreciated break from the heat with their air-conditioning, water refilling stations [you could only bring in empty bottles of water. Water has a set price every year of $2 a bottle, and if you bring ten bottles to a recycling tent, you get a free one] free internet access and cell-phone charging stations where you could check your phone in and come back whenever you wanted to pick it up. Other sponsors included H&M, Red Bull, State Farm, Sony and many others, all offering a unique experience inside their tents.
Iglu & Hartly [two thumbs up] started off our non-stop track for the rest of the day. I ended up running into a very good friend of mine from college at that show, making the weekend even more incredible. From there we hit up the Sahara tent [the electronica tent, graced by Madonna herself a few years ago] for Steve Porter vs. Perry Farrell [0 thumbs up] then on to She & Him with the outrageously adorable Zooey Deschanel. More than that, though, she packs a huge voice on her, which was very nicely showcased on their acoustic encore performance of “I Put A Spell On You”.
Two very big thumbs up! Passion Pit came on after She & Him, and with the sun setting on the first day of shows, they humbly took the stage and professed that they had never played to a crowd that large before [in an interview on YouTube they estimated the crowd was about 40k].
Both of those shows were at the Outdoor Theater, which blurred out into the main walkway of the festival. Two very big thumbs up, and one of the best performances of the weekend. La Roux… oh La Roux. I wanted so badly to like you as I think your singles and remixes are fun, but I could only stand to stay for 3 songs of your set. Her voice just cannot captivate a crowd, IMO. I know I will probably be ripped apart for it, but I’m giving her 0 thumbs-up. We took off from La Roux in the Gobi tent to Imogen Heap in the Mojave tent. She was plagued with technical difficulties from arriving late to the festival due to traffic, but she managed to squeak out 5 incredible songs before her time was up. Two thumbs up. One tent over in the largest tent, the Sahara, we squeezed as best as we could into the crowd for Benny Benassi [two thumbs up]. The place was absolutely filled to the brim. From Benassi it was on to Jay-Z at the main stage. The general consensus of most people I heard talking was that they were going to see Jay-Z for the mere fact that it was Jay-Z – not that they loved his stuff. He put on an incredible show with his live band, which I appreciated over just a DJ spinning instrumentals of his tracks. We took off to see Deadmau5 back at the Sahara tent which was a huge mistake as we missed Beyonce come out with Jay.
After another night of little sleep, we were up and in line again for showers by 7 am. Bananas, Cliff Bars and beer for breakfast and then it was off to the festival. First up for Saturday was RX Bandits. The sun was way more intense Saturday so we only stayed for a few songs [1 thumb up] and then it was off to grab some beers and shade. Heinekin was the main beer sponsor of the festival and they had an awesome dome where you could grab a beer and hear some deep and funky house. From there it was off to Zoe [1 thumb up], a Mexican band playing on the main stage. It was some good background music as the sun beat down on us mid-afternoon. Temper Trap [0 thumbs up] was next at the outdoor theatre, and while they crowd was packed, it just didn’t fit my mood. We had to grab a bite to eat, and unfortunately missed Gossip, but could hear them from the vendors. After some beers it was off to Kaskade [two thumbs up] at the Sahara tent.
While I have seen him before, the energy in that tent was like nothing I have ever experienced. Hundreds of giant white balloons came pouring out from the side of the stage and continued to bounce around the crowd. His set was similar to what he has been spinning recently and his new songs sound way better live than they do as singles. Right after Kaskade was David Guetta [two thumbs way up]. Talk about a dance party! The energy level only escalated as Guetta spun out most of his songs from his latest album. The place was bonkers, and it only then occurred to me how mainstream he was now.
He played a lot of LMFAO and one of the highlights was definitely “Shots” with the whole crowd yelling along. We rushed from David Guetta to the opposite end of the festival to catch the last part of Muse [two thumbs up]. We managed to weave our way pretty far into the crowd. They put on a truly electrifying show, which was an awesome set up for the night’s closing act, Tiesto [two thumbs up].
Some of the crowd dissipated over to the outdoor theater for Jack White’s newest venture The Dead Weather, so we made our way up to the very front. Loudest concert experience ever. It would have been cool to hear just how loud from the very back or the campground. Most people in the crowd were definitely hitting the peaks of their trips [the guy behind us had a mini seizure, no really.] and let me tell you.. I thought gays were bad with their drugs, straight people take jaw-knawing, binky’s and bugged out eyes to a new level. I am truly surprised that more people were not being rushed out of crowds, especially in the electronica tent with how blazingly hot it got in there. Saturday came to an end and it was back to camp for another short nap.
We woke up Sunday a little sad that our last day of shows was in front of us. We headed into the festival to catch day 3 opener One Eskimo [two thumbs up]. The crowd was small but they put on a beautiful acoustic show. The next band we wanted to see, Delphic, cancelled due to flights not leaving Europe because of the volcano. This happened to more than a few acts over the weekend. We headed to the beer garden and proceeded to finally drink ourselves to a buzz. It was so hot that weekend that it truly was hard to get drunk [for us anyway] because of all the water we were drinking. After an extended break we made our way over to Rusko [1 thumb up] in the Sahara tent. If you aren’t on the dubstep bandwagon, you have some major catching up to do. It was EVERYWHERE at the festival. 3 dubstep DJ’s made their debuts this year at Coachella, and you could hear the sound coming from most cars in the campgrounds. It’s an intense and grimey form of music from the UK garage scene that makes crowds go insane. I say 1 thump up here because we have seen him before and we were just not in the mood at that point for something so hard core. Florence and The Machine were up next and after getting a bit of late start, she blew the crowd away [two thumbs up]. I almost passed out in the crowd – the lack of sleep, food and heat catching up to me. I felt bad that I didn’t know her stuff as most everyone in the crowd sang along to every word. We left Florence early to go secure ourselves a spot for Jonsi [two thumbs up]. Jonsi is the solo project of the lead singer of Sigur Ros of the same name. Some of the happiest music you will ever hear, it was perfect for a sunset show on the last day. Mike Snow [two thumbs up] was up next in the Mojave tent. You must get to know these guys. Now.
Such an energetic show, and another one where the crowd sang every word along with them. After Miike Snow we caught a few songs from Little Boots [two thumbs up] and then mowed down on a burger and caught the last few songs of Phoenix [two thumbs up]. We took a seat on the grass and waited for Thom Yorke [lead singer of Radiohead, if you didn’t know – two thumbs up] to come on, making the most of the time off of our feet. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out and played bass with his band. It should be no surprise, but I was truly impressed with Thom’s voice and show. He played the entire “Eraser” album and few other songs. Last show of the festival was Gorillaz [two thumbs up]. While I like their singles, I was really unaware of just how many people went crazy for these guys. They are most recognizable from their anime videos, which they played on the screens on stage during the songs. They had a 10-piece orchestra on stage and the most elaborate set from anything else that happened during the festival. My exhaustion caught up with me, though, and while they were phenomenal and I am glad I got to catch the rare moment, I was glad to be heading back to camp.
Our neighbors were already gone when we got back to our tent, and cars continued to pack up and leave all through the night. The next day, while some were still keeping the party going until they were finally going to be forced to leave, we packed up the tent and suitcases and sadly made our way back to the airport. Somewhere in our minds we though the weekend could last forever, but really, how long could we have lasted on Cliff bars and beer? We headed out of the campgrounds at sunrise and made our way to the airport. The best weekend of my entire life was now over.
There is truly no experience quite like the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. While some stayed at condos or hotels, or even paid crazy amounts for VIP tents with beds and fine amenities, if you want the true Coachella experience you need to camp. You become a part of a huge community of the friendliest people you will ever meet. It’s hot and dirty, and there is never a moment of pure silence, but what is the point of going to a music festival if you’re not going to fully participate? Worth every single penny and ounce of exhaustion, I cannot wait for all future Coachella’s to come. I had s mile on my face the entire time, making my crow’s feet a little worse, but my heart and soul had grown so large from the weekend’s events, I can take a wrinkle or two.
Submitted By: Scott L.
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