All You Need is BASS

Coachella 2012: Festival Wrap-Up

It’s been two weeks & the dust has settled on the Empire Polo Field. Its well manicured grasses no longer feeling the weight of 80,000 bodies, eagerly trying to soak in as much of the Coachella 2012 experience as their sun-baked bodies will take. Tales of amazing music and resurrected rappers have been shared. But what about the side shows?  The supporting cogs that make the Coachella machine run?  Allow me to sing some praise and throw some jeers from my own experience on the grounds.

Talkin’ Trash

  • The trifecta of awesome waste management was in full effect. Landfill, compost & recycling was available at every waste station. They were plentiful and emptied frequently.
  • Compostable plates, cups and cutlery at almost every food vendor.
  • Amazing artist designed recycling bins were peppered throughout the grounds.  This provided for amazing photo-ops and was a delightful reminder about the value of recycling.
  • A water bottle exchange program. See old disposable water bottles littlering the ground? Grab ten of those puppies in exchange for a free bottle of water. Mobilize & reward the green-minded folks!

Interactive Art

  • On demand live silk screened festival shirts in the Coachella “Boutique” tent.  On demand means less waste and it’s a ton-of-fun to pick & place your design.
  • Also in the boutique; Original artwork made on site by amazing artists like Luke Chueh, Angry Woebots, Beast Brothers and, Sket One. Those pieces are now part of a charity auction in support of the art-focused organization: Raices.
  • The Coachella Art Studio Tent: A great way to get some shade, listen to some chilled tracks and get your art on. What kind you say?  How about DIY up-cycled jewellery, a PVC pipe kalimba station, a button press, counter-culture zine selection, or a vintage tee distressing table. Oh, and yes it was all free!

The BIG Art

Beautiful sculptures and artist installations were large and in-charge this year. If you cant make it to Burning Man this year this was a great sample platter. Highlights included:

  • A gigantic 140 foot moving orchid by Poetic Kinetics called “Solitary Inflorescence“.
  • Garraplata the giant fire-breathing stainless steel lobster by Christian Ristow.
  • A 55 foot curved bamboo piece by Gerard Minakawa called Starry Bamboo.
  • The Do Lab. Both full functioning bass-tastic stage and living art piece. Wow as always!
  • The 3D video mapped piece called the Gateway by Sensory Sync.
  • The return of Robert Bose’s beautifully simple Balloon Chain.
  • The beautiful recycled temple known as Shacks by artists Shrine and Natalie Goldfinger.

Eatables & Drinkables

  • Free accessible water?!  Sorry Coachella this part still needs a little work. Free water stations were few and plagued with long line-ups. No hydra packs / camel backs were allowed on the main grounds. In that heat you were nearly guaranteed to have to buy bottled water. The Plus side: water vendors we’re plentiful, non-gouging, placed throughout the grounds and separate from food & liquor vendors.
  • Fresh Farmers Market: Fresh fruit & treats direct from farmers & local food artisans. A simple and delicious idea.


  • RFID Wristbands & Car Tags: Hello Fast Moving Lines. Also Facebook check-in stations at stages if you’re into geo-locating yourself in the social media sphere.
  • Since we’re all connected to technology and our smart phones there was a shaded tent with free WiFI & power charging station. Plenty of spots to jack-in and generally well managed.

We all know festivals are so much more than just a music experience. There are so many elements that go into making a great festival. It’s true Coachella is perhaps one of the more commercially sponsored festivals you could attend but fortunately they appear to be tempering that with great artwork and a eye for the environment. A few kinks still need to be worked out but judging by attendance there will be many opportunities for tweaking in the future.

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James is a creative currently in Calgary, Alberta.

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