INDIO, Calif. – The past 72 hours have been roughly 15 years in the making.
After years of curiosity about and a strong desire to attend the two-day event turned three-day extravaganza, this weekend, I finally made it to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival.
I opted out of #carpoolchella (caravan, camp and decorate your car and be eligible to win free Coachella passes for life) and instead concentrated on soaking up the scene at the Empire Polo Field in Indio — and at a few of the sponsored parties that now surround the festival.
Of course, Coachella is a for-profit business first. Its two weekends plus another weekend for sister festival Stagecoach makes AEG Live subsidiary Golden Voice the largest imported money making machine in the Coachella Valley. (Which is why Indio’s City Council voted 4 to 0 last year in favor of keeping the festival in town through at least 2030.) Some takeaways from this year’s fest, weekend one.
Just as attendees of San Diego’s Comic-Con expect exclusive footage and news to break at the convention, festival attendees expect musicians to bring something more than their average set list. The 2012 Tupac Shakur hologram may have best exemplified that trend, but this year, older sister Beyonce had a mini dance-off with performer Solange Knowles, and Arcade Fire had surprise guest Debbie Harry. Pharrell Williams managed to get Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani all on the same stage. When performers like Calvin Harris didn’t have surprise guests, however, the social media buzz zeroed straight in on those topics.
Our take: Best to phone a friend to show up on stage, no matter how random or tenuous a connection.
Yes, people camp. Some bring bikes, most bring beer, but when high winds swept through the polo grounds, neither bandanas nor plastic goggles could keep ticket holders on the field. In fact, when Muse took the stage Saturday night, the wind and cold decreased the crowd significantly. Bonus: Navigating the parking lot exit situation became a whole lot easier.
Our take: A little wind definitely hurt everybody. Bands, especially headliners, want a packed house, erm, field.
It’s entirely possible to skip the festival as a whole during weekend one, where the likes of Adidas, H&M, Lacoste and Guess sponsor an array of elaborate fetes at private houses and hotels. This year, the big news that surfaced during the annual H&M party was the fast fashion label’s clothing partnership with Alexander Wang, who runs both his namesake line as well as serving as Balenciaga’s creative director. His capsule collection with the Swedish retailer is due in November.
Our take: The event had to expand onto a second polo field, soon enough the movie studios and television networks will be asking for a piece of the pie. “Orphan Black” already had a plane circling the fields with advertising.
VIP, YEAH YOU KNOW ME
Win Butler, the front man for Arcade Fire, addressed the thought on everyone’s minds – that all attendees are not created equal.
“I just want to say that there’s a lot of fake VIP room bullshit happening at this festival, and sometimes people dream of being there – but it super sucks in there, so don’t worry about it,” he told the crowd. This year, the festival continued to expand its luxury offerings with the likes of a handroll sushi station courtesy of Sugarfish, $10 juices at Clover Juice, a $225 dinner “in the field” (it was actually in the Rose Garden) and VIP access-only viewing areas.
Our take: Keep in mind, general admission tickets are already $375 (VIP is $799), so it’s just a matter of time before the status quo of the festival prices out those who most likely attended from the start.
Yes, the headliners are fantastic and exciting and there are usually about 50,000 people between you and them. Chrome Sparks in the Do LaB were a surprising delight, as were their fans. Then again, I had never experienced anything like the raw energy Krewella were able to draw from a crowd, much less a crowd smashed into a tent midday Sunday. I’m sure I’m late to the party, but I was delighted by Scuba.
Our take: Music festivals, like film festivals, have a mix of big and small acts. Bet big, but go small, and chances are you’ll be handsomely rewarded, or at least turned on to something new.