emarkably, I’m not sunburnt. It was an impulsive situational decision to go, but I got back from Coachella last week and felt personally pleased and enriched to have survived my fourth Coachella. I went, I listened, I fasted. I don’t know exactly what temperature each day topped at, but the forecasts went 91-97-97. AKA: So not Nor*Cal weather. Still, through careful hydration and conscious under-tent positioning and ponying it up for an on-site bikini change (I’m really questioning why I brought those pleather shorts along…), I made it through!
Charlene was a great partner in attending. While we have different musical tastes, we overlapped on some of the best performances. And we both hate Phoenix. So.
Mario Cotto, Raymond Roker at Yuma
I had to check out the Yuma tent, and it is a godsend in that weather! New to the site, it’s the only fully enclosed space on the fields (unless you count the individual port-o-potties, but yo, that’s gross). Equipped with fans, lit by spinning fixtures, and adorned by classic-inspired art, it was a cool cool place. Initially I breezed through just to get a sense of what the hype was about. I wouldn’t fully realize it until later.
Dillon Francis at Sahara
I just recognized his name and headed to Sahara. It was a great set, and set the energy just right for me for the rest of the weekend.
Metric at Coachella Stage
The first set I caught on the main stage. It wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t mind-blowingly good. I enjoyed it, but the most memorable moment was when they played one of Megan’s favorite songs and I texted her to let her know I was thinking of her.
Alt-J at Mojave
Right about this time I was working to avoid a heat reaction that was creeping up on my body. I sat in the way back, admiring from afar. Alt-J is one of those bands whose singer sounds significantly different from the album, which could be a little jarring to listeners. Also, I did not know they are British, but that’s a fact that I think is more fun to learn at a live show than it is through Wikipedia.
Four Tet at Yuma
Four Tet’s set was right around dinner time: 6 p.m. His ambient music has gotten me through many a work session, and being that I was close to overheating I figured I should strategically get myself into the Yuma tent for shelter. When I got to the area, though, it looked hopeless. The line wrapped around the center food court in an almost complete circle, and there were only ten minutes til start time. I didn’t see any other acts as notable alternates, and I was also too hot to wander around from stage to stage. Whatever. Brain fried, I purchased my “dinner” – frozen lemonade – and got in line, chipping away at the ice.
The line was barely moving. I got to know my neighbors. We talked about how this was a futile effort. People asked us what we were lining up for and walked away because: 1) it wasn’t their scene, or 2) they knew it was pointless to line up.
The Hopeful Four Tet Army started losing faith. People ahead of us started dropping out in small groups, allowing us to move forward a couple feet instead of inches. It still looked really doubtful, though. We were already fifteen minutes into the start of his set when I finished my “dinner.” As we got closer, we noted the doorperson giving high fives to new entrants as they crossed the threshold. “We want high fives!” we said.
At this point I had given up completely on seeing Four Tet live, and instead wanted to at least achieve some air conditioned Yuma Tent amenities. We got through at 6:30 or so (I got my high five.), and I stood in the back for the close of Four Tet music that I didn’t know.
But then. Someone big must have been playing at a different tent, because groups started to leave the crowded dancefloor. Four Tet started to leave, so people were applauding, and then the emcee announced Four Tet, who was arriving – because apparently I didn’t miss a second of Four Tet and instead his set was just egregiously late. It was perfect. I was watching hula hoop dancers under spinning lights, I was generally hydrated, I just had my “dinner,” and I was on a platform with plenty of room to dance and sway. I’m glad I stuck it through in line.
Beach House at Outdoor Theatre
Beach House makes me think of Bill. We caught them at the beautiful Fox Theatre in Oakland once, and that night was so spontaneous and intimate that I’ll forever think of the band as part of a Couple Memory. Seeing them at Coachella was also calming and enjoyable, but in the back of my head I felt a sense of longing for Bill. Maybe that made the mellow music skew into melancholy, which is probably still fitting for their sound.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Coachella Stage
This was amazing. Karen O came out looking like the offspring of Betsey Johnson: bleach blonde bob with unapologetic brown roots, rainbow tinsel cape thing that I totally want, and a neon hippie pantsuit that was something like the Three Amigos in yellow and blue. She can really work a crowd, even through the Jumbotron screens, even when she’s just one rainbow dot jolting across the stage from far, far away. She’s got so much energy, you’d easily take for granted that she carries the group, but then you notice a really excited drummer bang-a-rangin’ behind her. I know nothing about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer, but he looked ecstatic to be on stage. He has intense facial hair that is overshadowed only be his intense long hair with the volume of a marshmallow just released from a vacuum. Every member, every inflatable eye ball bouncing over the crowd, every light change, and every bit of this set was electric.
Jurassic 5 at Outdoor Theatre
Throwback without being too throwback! I was introduced to J5 in high school. I went to a J5 concert on a date with the first guy to break my heart. (If you’re taking notes, he’s the one who I found out cheated on me via Friendster.) My last feature article for my college paper was a J5 concert review including an interview I snuck my way into. I hadn’t seen them live since, and since this iteration of Coachella was barely planned, it was serendipitous to see them again. Their harmonies are so pleasing to the ear, and the fact that they don’t rap about big booty hoes makes them so refreshing to listen to. I’d like Chali 2na to record my voicemail greeting.
My Only Complaint: Too many bros at this show. It was really confusing.
Tegan and Sara at Outdoor Theatre
I’M IN LESBIANS WITH TEGAN AND SARA. It’d take a lot to top the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performance from earlier in the evening, but Tegan and Sara did it. I’ve been playing Heartthrob all week. I have full-on girl crushes on each of the girls. I can’t get over their mirror image haircuts. They are the original Justin Biebers. They are so cute and I want to be their friends.
What’s funny is I wasn’t that into T&S before this show. Bill had been playing Heartthrob for a couple weeks telling me how good the album is, but when I listened to it I didn’t like it. I found it too pop, I missed their higher-pitched voices from before, and I just didn’t feel engaged in the music.
Seeing them live changed everything. Because of the nature of their music, their albums have just a little autotune (thankfully in pre-T-Pain amounts), and I think that’s what I found unappealing at first. The melody is poppy and fun, but overall I found the treatment in Heartthrob to be too synthesized and produced. Live, though, live, these girls can sayng! They are so focused when they perform. They alternate lead and backup vocals. They enunciate perfectly. They dress like I would dress (both of them), and I cannot tell them apart, and that’s fine, because I don’t have a crush on Tegan and a crush on Sara – I have a crush on both of them. Together. I want to date them together. (Involvement of their actual long-term girlfriends optional.)
Day 2, AKA: 4/20
Every show I went to, the scent of marijuana was wafting through the air. Every. Show.
We discovered Fruttare’s “Popsicle Tent” (not the actual name), and it saved our cool. We each ate two free popsicles. Best Coachella breakfast imaginable.
Baauer at Sahara
It’s 2013 and people are obsessed with #harlemshake on YouTube, so sue me. Baauer’s was the first set I caught on Saturday which I am both proud of and embarrassed by. I stayed up in the front through the entire thing, and actually it was great for dancing. Also there was a guy ahead of me in a penguin costume and his girlfriend had a penguin backpack and that was cute.
Baauer wrapped up his set to a completely packed oversized tent, and he left the stage. People started booing and shuffling out of the shade on to the next one. I’d say 15% of the random unidentifiable attendees in the VIP section had left when Baauer reappeared at a yet-unused podium on the stage, kicked off a little something with his finger, and those staccato hits started coming through the speakers. People shrieked and quickly quieted down, standing still. Some humping. The warped “Do the Harlem shake” lyric spilled out, he earth started moving under the weight of a thousand jumping bodies, lights sparked, videos reeled, and we all became wannabe YouTube sensations.
I did the #harlemshake three times that weekend.
2 Chainz at Mojave
This was just disappointing. I had been warned that Mr. Chainz was tardy to his Weekend 1 appearance, compelling the crowd to chant “Boo Chainz!” at the stage. For his 4/20 performance, he was on time, but it just wasn’t ridiculous enough for me. I don’t think 2 Chainz is a brilliant rapper. He’s basically the ridiculous ghetto fab rapper du jour to me, and so I braved the bros (There were many.) and their girlfriends (for the weekend, anyway) sitting atop their shoulders.
The place was packed, and I think I was the only one who was expecting more big booty hoes (That’s all he wants for his birthday, amiright? He different.). Everyone else was jumping, throwing their arms up, yelling out the lyrics. I stayed hoping for something over the top to happen, but all I got was a chance to see the longest joint I’ve ever seen. It was about the length of a limp pencil. The description of which I know is going to leave savory images in your mind.
Anyway, it was predictable, which made it disappointing. 2 Chainz is one of those rappers who just yells into the mic. I know acoustics don’t favor all verses that are otherwise effective in a closed studio setting. Still, the only thing to write home about was the WTFness of Fall Out Boy’s cameo on stage. Yeah, it makes no sense and I’m not going to force it.
Also I saw a father ushering his three young boys through the crowd at the end, and successfully suppressed the urge to chastise him for bringing his kids to this show with those lyrics in that heat. Instead I tried to sterilize him with my evil glare.
Bat for Lashes at Mojave
What a gorgeous singer and gorgeous voice. After the general shit show that was 2 Chainz, I stayed on in Mojave to see the next Outfit I Want to Own. Natasha Khan came out in a rainbow metallic cape and skirt (with a matching rainbow halter crop top underneath). When she sang “Laura,” the audience cried. Nearly true story.
Doesn’t she look like a grown-up Rainbow Brite?
Major Lazer at Mojave
When you go to a Major Lazer show, you better werk! This was seriously boot camp. 2 Chainz came back out to yell “Bubble Butt” (and actually it was a very fitting collaboration). Diplo rolled around in a human-sized bubble (yawn, Wayne Coyne did that at Coachella before, hello). And before, during, and after we were instructed to jump, put our hands up, get low, catch a vuvuzela, put one hand up, take our shirts off, sway to the left, throw our shirts in the air (actually it was pretty cool when a bunch of people threw their shirts in the air), and generally play into my latest realization:
The Major Lazer Way to Master a Party is to assume the role of a kindergarten educator directing a game of Simon Says.
Sound the vuvuzelas!
Grizzly Bear at Mojave
Both Charlene and I would like to know how to construct these moving jar lanterns. They move something like jellyfish, and even without the extra stage lighting, they read like benevolent, ethereal ghosts:
Grizzly Bear was chill and sway-y. Precisely what I wanted as dusk turned darker.
Spiritualized at Gobi
Spiritualized was certainly skilled and talented, but the music didn’t draw me in. It could have also been that my feet were super tired at this point, so I sat off to the side trying to regain strength.
Pusha T at Gobi
Tsk tsk, Pusha T was late. He did acknowledge his tardiness, but by the time he wrapped up the Neptunes-driven “I’m your pusha” line, I was on my way out.
The XX at Coachella Stage
What great visuals. From my view in the way back, The XX’s lights would pulse and sweep in circles, lighting up the haze (a mix of 4/20, fog machine, and desert dust). This was like a massage-y prologue to the experience we were about to have.
Janelle Monáe at Gobi
AMAZING! Completely, utterly amazing. I don’t understand how the tent wasn’t packed. Instead of bros at this show, Janelle Monáe – the petite powerhouse – brought out the geighs. It was one of only two shows where I saw men sitting on shoulders instead of women. Though things started a bit late, she got us on our feet and grapevining in a group singalong to “I Want You Back.” And she does young Michael Jackson so good it’s great.
And look, my arm was not completely chopped off as I got swept into the crowd surfing her over our heads:
Live shows are nothing if not a brutal reminder to short people of how short they are. I generally consider myself on the lower end of the average quartile, but my arm is so short that I couldn’t pull it down as all the other average-and-above Coachellagoers passed Janelle Monáe over the crowd. I’d never crowdsurfed a performer before. I’m so glad it was her.
I just loved how every aspect of Janelle Monáe’s set was a performance. Not only did the brass section sway, but even the string players danced in their seats. The sound crew was dressed in full suits and collared shirts. Her emcee was funny and charming. Everything was crisp and energetic without being overly polished or over-rehearsed. This sensational songwriter must be seen live.
Sigur Rós at Outdoor Theatre
I remember when I stopped depending on radio for music and I was like Omigod, ( ) is such a good fucking album! These instrumentals are amazing! But here is the problem. Sigur Rós music is so instrumentally driven, ethereal, and ambient, that I nearly fell asleep while standing. It had been a long day. You gotta be a trooper to to get through an entire Sigur Rós set after eight hours of live music in desert terrain. I was not a trooper. We headed to the car to beat the out-of-lot traffic.
Yes, we each had two more popsicles for Coachella Frutarre Breakfast Special again.
DIIV at Mojave
I literally knew nothing about DIIV. Charlene skimmed a Coachella 2013 playlist, reported that they were kinda dance-y, and I was sold. The long-haired New York boys (Charlene theorizes that the extra shag allows them to hide in moments of stage fright.) weren’t dance-y in the ways of EDM or hip-hop, but more like sandy swaying. They made me think of a beach bonfire at dusk, particularly if the Beach Boys were a post-millennial band and the lead singer was a slightly acne-ridden Kurt Cobain. Vocals are light, but the instruments make for a chill, comfy ensemble.
Thee Oh Sees at at Gobi
San Francisco pride! What a great live band. Couldn’t blame a portion of the crowd for being passed out while Thee Oh Sees played. (It was the Day 3, after all.) Every individual in this group is excited to be on stage, and watching them is a whole lot of fun. Honestly, it’s not the type of music I’d queue up in my Spotify with cravings to hear, but they are the exact type of band I’d want to hear with good friends and a beer in arm’s reach.
Grimes at at Gobi
SO ADORABLE! Grimes is super cool. Let me tell you how super cool. She wears a scrunchie and she repeatedly introduces her brother even though he’s embarrassed by it while she’s performing. That’s how super cool.
Like so many other shows that weekend, I really wished there was more room to dance. For one, Grimes has a couple of inspiring dancers (doing somewhat modern genuflects in fairy wings). Second, she’s got so many different sounds and inspirations up her sleeve that dancing to a live set really keeps you on your toes – challenged just enough that it might take work to feel light and on the rhythm and in the genre just right.
She’s just so talented. When she wrapped up “Oblivion,” a cool breeze descended on the tent, and the whole crowd was relieved.
Tanlines at Gobi
I love their music. They’ve definitely got an indie band “look,” that is – and this is going to make me sound like a superficial suit – if they were more cookie-cutter good-looking, they’d be signed to bigger labels. (Also if labels weren’t starving to save themselves and had the money to sign new artists these days.)
Great to dance to, in a let-me-hold-your-hands-as-we-spin kind of way, and also great for being called not unappealing “for being an Asian.”
La Roux at Mojave
You know. I love “Bulletproof.” But in the end, I just don’t think Elly Jackson can sing.
The Faint at Mojave
So early college days! This tent wasn’t as crowded as many other things that night, and thankfully I was surrounded by other dance-y people, so I actually got some dancing in!
I also just appreciate how class clown some of these bands are. The keyboardist strides up to the mic like he’s all ’bout to make some big announcement, an’ he goes, “We’ve got a real special set for you tonight, Coachella. We’ve got a very, very special guest. I’m one of the guys from Daft Punk. I know you wouldn’t recognize me without my helmet.”
On-stage Peanut Gallery for the win!
Wu-Tang Clan at Outdoor Theatre
I couldn’t see shit because when you’re five-foot-three-and-three-quarters and you don’t even try to get into a crowd, all you see is shoulders. But sometimes it’s enough to know the Wu is on stage. And whatever, cause you met Ghostface Killah before. BUT YOU STILL BOUGHT A SWEATSHIRT.
And this is why you say yes to sudden opportunities. #YOLO