Weekend 1: A Love Letter
From a First-Time Festivalgoer
Audrey Bachelder, Assistant Artsweek Editor
There’s a certain kind of magic that surrounds the festival called Coachella. It’s the magic of unadulterated happiness, of being with 40,000 other souls who are all connected to the dirt and dust of the polo fields in the same way. It’s the magic of meeting someone from Canada during Diplo and then running into them four times the next day, of running into a friend from high school and bonding over how cool the Oasis House with the scenes from the 1970s was.
The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is one of those rare events that combines freedom of expression, art, survival and limitless happiness all in one place. It is also an event that is hyped up so much that you come in thinking you’ll know exactly what it is all about — that is, until you actually drive four hours to blazing hot Indio and everything about the experience blows your mind and exceeds your every expectation.
So let’s talk about some highlights.
The Postal Service was hands-down the most nostalgic set of the entire weekend for me. When Ben Gibbard came out and started “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” I nearly cried — it was so beautiful. The Postal Service is the seventh-grade jam that I would listen to when I was with my mom picking my older brothers up from high school and we would stop at 7-Eleven and get slurpies. It was one of those shows that reminded me of what a good show is supposed to feel like. I had goosebumps all over.
The jazzy French foursome C2C was the first act I saw at Coachella 2013, and they killed it. It felt like I was transported from Mardi Gras to Shanghai, all within two songs.
R. Kelly showing up at Phoenix: The entire crowd was expecting Daft Punk, and R. Kelly was the one who came out, to the disappointment of everyone — except me! He sang “Ignition” and I was so happy to sing “It’s the freakin’ weekend, baby, I’m about to have me some fun” that I could have left Coachella then and there and all would have been dandy.
My friend Ashley is obsessed with Diplo (of Major Lazer) and would like very much to marry him someday, so she coerced me into going front row for this show. Thank goodness she did; theirs was the best audience-interactive set of the weekend. Stunts they pulled included convincing the entire crowd to take off their shirts, rolling on the crowd in giant Zorb balls and hosting a bigger Harlem Shake than Baauer himself.
The Lumineers: I love them. Their folky soft tunes got me so riled up in the most fantastic foot-stomping way.
Besides the great music, there were other things that made Coachella 2013 one of the greatest weekends in my young adult life. A lot of them have to do with the fact that I camped. Camping just solidified the fact that this was a 96-hour long escapade with some of my best friends.
When camping, you wake up no later than 8 a.m. because the sun starts bleeding into your tent and turns the entire dwelling into a sweatbox. This, coupled with the fact that most Coachiller campers go to bed at 3 a.m., means that you are awake for an average of 76 hours throughout the entire weekend. This creates what I like to call the “Coachforever Effect”: Even though you’re there for four days, it feels like weeks, making it hard to adjust to reality upon return.
It’s different from other festivals, like Outside Lands, for instance, because it is held in this huge expanse where you can stand at the Do Lab, do a 360, and literally see every stage (except maybe the secluded night club in the Yuma Tent). You can hear bits and pieces of every set as you walk by. Maybe you stayed the whole time for 10 shows, but you got to hear lyrics and beats from mostly everyone. In five years, when the people who played at 11:30 a.m. get huge, you have the ability to say, “Oh yeah! I heard them at Coachella,” when really you were getting misted by the Do Lab or rolling around in the grass during someone else’s set.
It’s the idea of being omnipresent — connected with everyone in this small Coachella bubble. Life in the bubble is unreal. It is friendly. Complete strangers high five at the realization that they are from the same side of the U.S., tall men obscuring your vision let those of smaller stature get in front of them and ice cream next to the Mojave tent is free for the taking.
If there was one thing I learned about Coachella, it is this: Enjoy the quiet moments you have. Don’t get caught up in trying to meet up with people and don’t glue yourself to your phone. In fact, leave your phone at the campsite/hotel/house/car.
Just breathe and be present and really take it all in; Coachella is so special. Walking around the campsites and through the stages, it’s a place that begs the question, “How does this even exist? How can 40,000 people be in one field and not have riots?” There is no atrocious fighting at Coachella or intense crime — it has one of the best Lost and Found turnout rates of any venue.
Coachella is a special place where you can lose your wallet and someone will call you the next day and give it back to you. It is a place where you can forget your sunscreen and your next-door camping neighbor will happily hand over their spare bottle. It’s a magical arena of music, unlikely friendships, sharing and organized randomness. It’s a place where you can meet and reconvene with your best friends from high school, and something to hold on to as the yearly tradition that will keep your friendship alive.
It is this extraordinary event that allows people to express themselves in the freest manner and celebrate life and music with thousands of other people. Coachella is about the quiet moment I felt during The Postal Service. It’s about the tears of joy you get from seeing your favorite seventh-grade band.
Weekend 2: A Good Time (Though Some of the Novelty Has Worn Off)
Megan Fisher, Staff Writer
One hundred seventy-five artists and bands, six stages, eclectic crowds, traveling snails, flashing lights and psychedelic visualizers: For those of us who ventured to Indio, California these past two weekends to experience one of the most anticipated yearly music festivals on the West Coast, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was nothing short of an incredible musical adventure.
Tucked away in the hot Inland Empire desert, the Empire Polo Club venue attracted thousands of young music-goers to the three-day music festival, now stretched over two separate weekends in April. Over the last few years of its existence, the festival has become increasingly hyped up as a trendy outing for 20-somethings. This has led to a raise in festival pass prices, a rapid increase in ticket scalpers and outrageous food and drink prices at the festival.
However, despite the rise in popularity of the festival as a growing trend, Coachella really is a magical place to escape from our working reality. The wide variety of artists who perform at Coachella each year pleases a large, diverse audience who embraces multiple music genres. Inaugurated in 1999 after the last Woodstock event in the same year, Coachella is a modernized adaptation of hippie culture in the 21st century.
Having been to Coachella for the past three years now, I have had the pleasure of seeing many of my favorite bands and DJs perform live all on one weekend. I love how I can begin my day singing “Ho Hey” while listening to The Lumineers and end my day seeing Wu-Tang Clan tear up the Outdoor Theater, with Eric Prydz simultaneously soothing me with trance, dropping the bass in the Sahara tent.
The Sahara was a favorite of mine this year as headliners Bassnectar and Eric Prydz put on an incredible set with state-of-the-art speakers and video projections. This year, two new video screens were on the ceiling of the larger-than-life tent, along with lasers and better sound systems than I had ever heard in there before. The experience of standing by the blaring speakers had the crowds going wild. Throughout the day and into the night, the tent was always blaring with new mixes by DJs Dillon Francis, Paul Oakenfold, Hardwell and Bingo Players, just to name a few who stole the show. The DJs luckily did not replay the same songs over and over again either; each one dropped unique mixes with visuals and stimulating lights to match.
Infected Mushroom and Purity Ring were two acts at the Gobi tent that had live singers as well as beats and video projections. The Outdoor Theater hosted Pretty Lights and Wu-Tang Clan on Sunday, who played back-to-back fantastic performances that entertained the audience from beginning to end. As I watched from further back in the audience, the rainbow lights and the energy from the crowd holding up glow sticks and lighters was a sight to behold.
Each year, Coachella features interactive art installations that are active both during the day and at night. This year there was an animatronic T-Rex made out of metal, an animatronic 20-foot high fabric and plastic snail that moved from one stage to the next slowly throughout the three days and a giant moving praying mantis sculpture whose bulbous eyes lit up at night.
Being of legal drinking age also made Coachella a fun new experience for me this year because I got to go in the Heineken Dome, a collection of large, white domes that are air-conditioned and house couches, bars, projections, wooden dance floors and fantastic little-known DJs. The acoustics were fabulous in the Dome, and it was a great place to escape the heat while still partying on.
Every year, Coachella has been a different experience for my friends and me. I have never had the hot and sweaty pleasure of camping on the festival grounds, as many festival-goers do over the three-day weekend. Staying in a house or a hotel has always been a nice escape from the heat and the dust that fills the air of the festival, particularly on the second weekend. The past two years I have attended the second weekend of Coachella, and have noticed that the grass is mostly dead from the weekend before, which brings up the dust and makes it difficult to breathe in crowds without bandanas.
Nevertheless, if you come to Coachella prepared, it can be one of the most memorable musical experiences you will have yet. The people you go with and the vibes of the festival really make the experience, and my friends and our love for the same music made mine.
From getting very few hours of sleep every night to surviving the hot desert climate, it’s been worth it just to see a collection of some of my favorite musicians play in one place. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be at Coachella next year or exploring a new music festival, but I can definitely say that it has provided me with unforgettable memories.
These two essays perhaps encapsulate the Coachella Music & Arts Festical better than any other essays I have ever read. I am not prone to hyperbole and I just felt that I had to let you know that reading this actually brought tears to my eyes!! I have had the pleasure of attending the last six Coachella festivals and my experiences echo every word written here by your two wonderful writers. It truly is one of the most magical experiences and has become a sort of adult Christmas that I can’t wait to share with my soon to be three… Read more »