Our brave corespondents have returned from the front lines of Coachella safe and sound. Now that they have had time to digest their experiences we are happy to present the first in our two part Coacella series with:
Following the conclusion of my first Coachella back in 2009, I remember deciding that I had a great time but could cross this particular behemoth of a festival off my to-do list and move on to bigger and badder parties without looking back. Two years later I am returning home from yet another California adventure, sunburned and ears ringing, wondering if such a party exists. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to other festivals that boast more art, better vibes, and a stronger sense of community, but as far as being able to bring the sheer variety and calibre of musical acts together in one space over one weekend, Coachella remains the North American heavyweight champion. Acts like Radiohead, Dr Dre and Snoop Dog, Black Keys, Beats Antique, Florence and the Machine, DJ Shadow, Amon Tobin, David Guetta, Justice and Arctic Monkeys took to six stages to delight bassheads and hipsters in equal measure. Like any massive festival there were dizzying highs and epic fails and this dutiful festival junkie means to lay it for you plainly. We will start with the bad news:
1. Please sir, can I have some water – The hydration situation at Coachella has been a bone of contention for me since my first visit to the valley, and given the arid climate and smoking hot temperatures during the day, this is bordering on inhumane. Anything capable of holding liquid is emptied or confiscated at the gates to the grounds, leaving festival-goers with three choices; buy water at $2 a bottle, spend the entire day standing in line for free H2O, or spontaneously develop the camel-like ability to not fucking die from dehydration!
Solving this problem is not rocket science. Last I checked, America was not a third world country and has the ability to provide clean drinking water for its people. Three free water stations for 70,000+ people does not even come close to cutting it. Add some more! Failing that they could simply allow people to bring water bladders into the festival. There is simply no point to standing in the blazing heat waiting to fill a 500 ml water bottle when you will surely sweat out near that amount before you reach the front of the line.
2. Define sustainable for me… Coachella prides itself on being a sustainable festival, and don’t get me wrong, small efforts are being made to decrease its mammoth carbon footprint, I just think they are a fart in the wind when you look at the big picture. The 10 for 1 bottle exchange challenges attendees to trade in 10 empty plastic water bottles for a brand new one or a chance at VIP or future tickets to the party. While I’m sure this helps keep the grounds cleaner, I can think of one alternative that would cut down on litter all together. Go plastic free! Water bottles take an obscene amount of resources to produce, and for what? Oh right, that whole profit thing. People flock from far and wide every April to this musical mecca.
Carpoolchella is another green initiative intended to encourage festival-goers to ride together to the party in the hopes of being rewarded with Coachella tickets for life. I thought this was an awesome idea, until six of us made the trip from LA to Indio in a single mini-van our first year and were almost denied access to the one of the two car camping spots we had purchased because we didn’t have enough vehicles. Ummmmm ok. My point is, this is California we are talking about, one of the most eco-conscious places on the planet. You can do better Coachella. You know you can.
3. And now a message from our sponsors – If you are looking to be part of a joyous collective, collaborative, creative experience free from the shackles of corporate America, then you took a wrong turn somewhere. I can think, however, of a few gatherings that provide this in spades. The most notable starts with a B and ends in -urning Man. But I digress. If you are looking to get loser pissed in the sun, sample some local medical-grade herb, and have your ears assaulted by juicy beats, then Coachella will not disappoint!
There is one condition… You must consent to a constant barrage of commercial sponsorship and advertising. A small plane circles the airspace above the valley all weekend with its blinking reminder to consume. Every shady, air conditioned refuge from the punishing sun is brought to you by something awesome you should probably buy. Even our arms became unwilling billboards. I fully expect to be required to have a corporate sponsor logo stamped across my forehead next year. I feel like there is an Occupy Wall Street joke here somewhere…
Ok. So now that l’ve gotten that all off my chest let’s get to the good stuff, and believe me there is plenty! After all, there must be a reason I and close to a hundred thousand music-lovers pour through the gates each day of the festival, year after year. This April, for the first time, they managed that feat over two consecutive weekends. Coachella is one sexy bitch. So what is the secret to her allure?
1. Confucius says, Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without – First and foremost Coachella is a music festival and I’ve yet to find a party with more star-power and diversity. The days start with smaller scale but no less talented acts and work themselves into a crescendo in the evenings where spectacular headliners take to the stage in an explosion of light and sound, making Coachella the perfect festival to both discover new favorites and delight in the spectacle of the bands that take top billing.
Smaller gems for me included rapper and California’s own Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, as well as highly stylized, experimental folk project Tune-Yards. Glover, a talented and no- holds- barred new comer to the hip-hop scene was able to coax me out of the shade of the beer gardens during the hottest part of a way-too-stinking hot Saturday with his clever hooks and high energy set. Some might know him as one of the current stars on NBC’s “Community”, or as one of the youngest writers for another NBC hit “30 Rock” from 2006 – 2009. Yes, Glover wears many hats, and he was wearing his awesome hat that day. Think Kanye minus the suck.
To try and describe Tune-Yards to someone who hasn’t seen them is like trying to convince a Bro to ditch the glowsticks and the fist pumping. It’s tough. My music-loving massage therapist handed me a burnt CD at the end of one of our sessions a few months back and I have been looking forward to seeing them since. Front-lady Merrill Garbus is a wonder to behold; looping and layering percussion, ukulele, voice, and various other sounds live. To add to the richness of this unique sound is a bass player and saxophone section. I have truly never seen nor heard anything close to it before. A must see for sure.
My absolute favourite show of the weekend probably comes as no surprise. Quite simply, Radiohead’s performance on Saturday night was the stuff of legends. I have been a fan of their quirky, deeply emotional, and experimental sound since the release of ‘OK Computer’ in 1997 and have been waiting to see them perform live since then. Staring spellbound amidst thousands of bodies at the giant stage where intense visuals and bewitching vocals tantalized the senses, I remember thinking, “Don’t you dare get the urge to pee!”. Thankfully, my bladder gave me a much appreciated reprieve throughout the entire two hour set. There wasn’t a second of it I would have cared to miss. They opened and closed with crowd-pleasers like “Fifty-Step” and “Paranoid Android”, but proved they are still making brilliant music to this day with a heavy offering from 2011’s “The King of Limbs” studio album and a smattering of songs I’d never heard before. At the risk of sounding gushy I’d say they are the most three dimensional band on the planet and that night I was sucked into a mysterious fourth dimension, occupied by only the most supremely talented. My only complaint is that they performed on Saturday, thereby making everything I saw on Sunday seem juvenile and ‘meh’ in comparison. Thanks a lot Radiohead!
2. My but she is pretty – Apart from all the obviously wonderful ear candy at Coachella, she has also got her share of eye delights. Glorious sculptures and art installations dot the festival landscape. Stand outs this year were a temple-like structure made entirely of up-cycled trash material and a 140 foot lotus flower that lit up beautifully at night and provided a unique vantage point to watch the comings and goings for those lucky enough to be hoisted to its pinnacle. An impressive giant lobster also served as a handy meeting spot for our group over the weekend when we inevitably strayed from the group.
Not to be missed, is a longstanding interactive piece in the centre of the party known as the Do Lab stage. Amidst the five merely functional big rig stages that host most of the weekend’s talent, the Do Lab is an oasis of circus-like spectacle, toe-curling bass, dirty beats, and innovative design. Brought to you by a Los Angeles based company, the Do Lab does it right year after year and for this, their eighth build at Coachella, showcased a forest of technicolor trees set back from the stage and a series of canvas-covered structures which provided much needed shade and refreshing misters. Many stumble into the Do-Lab to cool off, either by said misters or the arsenal of high-pressure water guns being wielded by those on stage, but then stay because it’s just that rad.
If all this wasn’t enough, look no further than skyward at end-of-day for a real masterpiece as the sun sets over the San Jacinto mountains and basks the entire party in a glow of brilliantly rich colors. The best part is there’s an encore every night.
So there you have it; Coachella 2012 in a giant, festival-sized nutshell. Don’t take my word for it though, put this one high up on your to-do list and have fun discovering your own many reasons to keep coming back again and again and again. Happy Festival-ing fellow awesome seekers!
By. Kelly Lippold.