Coachella: One of the most iconic, forward-thinking music festivals in North America. It has become highly regarded as a trend-setter for music that crosses genres, shapes the leading sounds and sets the tone for summer around the world.
Our first trip to Coachella, we wanted to share this coverage not from the vantage point of backstage, but from the fans’ side of the stage. Even our photos were taken solely from an iPhone in the crowds.
Let’s put it this way… Weekend 1 alone was not enough to fully grasp what the festival could offer, so we had to stay for Weekend 2. Here are 10 reasons why…
Coachella is both progressive and timeless
There is a certain timelessness to Coachella. On the grounds, you realize you are part of a rich history that has shaped the movement of music since its inception in 1999. The spirit and tradition of festivals are as old as music itself. The beats have certainly evolved since then, but the essence of escaping from our busy, urban lives to a retreat in nature to create an alternative community centered on the appreciation for music, art and self-expression has remained the same. Coachella is the epitome of what we idealize music festivals to be.
The settings are surreal by day…
By day, Coachella looks like a postcard. It’s a vast green pasture dotted with spectacular, colorful artwork, fenced by palm trees and mountains in various shades of purple. Strings of balloons arc over the grounds like a rainbow, attached to nothing except the hands of excited festivalgoers eager to take an Instagram-worthy photo. And there’s really nothing quite a California sunset, when a pink and orange haze falls over the valley to the tune of Electricity by Hot Natured being performed live at Gobi.
… And utterly another world by night.
When the sky turns completely dark, the scenery is cognitively the same, but appears in new form. You wonder if this is what Alice must have felt like when she fell into Wonderland. Palm trees morph into technicolor animation, the labyrinth of the grounds becomes even more confusing to navigate, but you trust the lights and sounds that guide you. The dots in the sky that were once balloons changed to electronic orbits giving boundary to the festival limits, and the Ferris Wheel becomes a Northern Star in the west coast desert.
Every aspect of Coachella, including the people, is art.
Coachella is a canvas and it is painted by its people, who bring their own artistic flair to the festival. Bohemian fashion and attitudes rule free of boundaries and constraints. You feel comfortable knowing that everyone else around you is released and uninhibited, giving a vibe that signal we are all here as one.
The wannabe model is of course the Coachella staple, but she is just as important as the Sahara court-jester or the van-brought rock-age hippie. Everything from the trashcans to the larger than life art installation are creative works of art. Coachella bring 300,000 unique fans to the venue, but it probably took close to a million individuals to create it year after year.
Naturally, the production value is second to none.
Coachella is ingeniously designed to appear both big and small simultaneously, an expansive maze where every place and corner is unique and offers a new surprise to be found, be it a special guest on stage or a structural spectacle sure to stop you in your tracks.. It’s a festival capable of catering to hundreds of thousands at its outdoor stages, and offer an intimate experience for a few hundred in a dreamcatcher-inspired Do-Lab or the AC and underground oasis that is the Yuma tent. Everything you need is exactly where you need it, and when. And despite eight massive stages in relative proximity, there is minimal sound bleed.
Its greatest production highlights are noticed in the details, both big and small. A giant caterpillar replaced last year’s dancing astronaut, roaming the grounds to dubious but impressed expressions. But during Axwell /\ Ingrosso’s set on Day 2, tiny butterfly confetti fluttered through the air during the finale of Something New, suggestively hinting to the giant art installation evolution that resulted on Day 3.
And where there is out-of-this-world production, there is Sahara…
You are part of the tradition shaping electronic music
We owe much of electronic music’s popularity today to Coachella and her legendary Sahara tent, a desert shrine dedicated purely to dance music in all forms. Sahara has presented some of the best electronic acts, ever, and housed some of the most legendary performances that influenced the genre to date. Who can ever forget the trademark performance by Daft Punk in 2006? Or Skrillex’s 2011 Coachella debut with Korn, which led to four collaborations thereafter?
Like electronic music, Sahara has grown from one of the one of the smaller stages to a main attraction – literally and figuratively – the structure is now larger than a football field. And with such a broad spectrum of coverage of dance music, I couldn’t help but wonder what would be most remembered this year? Would it be acts like Porter Robinson who we expect to bring us to our knees, or the come-out performance by What So Not, who proved himself ever worthy as a solo act. Ratatat performed for the first time in four years, and Duke Dumont dropped a set so smooth, the entire crowd rediscovered their pelvic floor (at least, I did).
Part of Sahara’s unique magic is owed to V Squared Labs, who provide the mind-blowing visuals that make the stage such an entirely immersive experience. Something we didn’t know? The graphics are created in real time to the music playing live. This is the one time I’ll admit I was granted special access to Sahara’s Front of House to check it out.
You get to see the very best acts in your favorite genre, but some of the best performances are from music you hadn’t yet discovered.
The showing of alternative rock, pop music, electronic dance, and hip hop is strong – with headliners across all genres offering up their best to the crowd that came to see them, and the crowd that saw them unintended. Some of the most memorable events of Coachella were the performances I wasn’t expecting to see. I was walking to the familiar trap sounds of Flosstradamus, but stopped in my tracks when I heard the ethereal R&B voice of FKA twigs. This year I found twenty minutes of The Weeknd to be just as rewarding as the full set by Kygo I aimed to see – for the people made their mark. It was just as fun to get Fancy with Drake as it was to hear Gesaffelstein regale the crowd with his moving, power-house hits (and last live performance, ever?!)
The festival is only one of the parties
Weekend 1 is jam-packed with events outside the Empire Polo Club, from massive pool parties to private soirees hosted by some of the trendiest brands. At at my very hotel, the PANDORA Jewelry Fashion Experience featured designer showcases and much needed yoga, massages,and juice before heading to the festival. Pandora Music and T-Mobile held their annual Indio Invasion party – this year, ?uestlove and SOSUPERSAM provided the perfect pre-party tunes and poolside vibes.
Coachella is childhood reincarnated
It’s the place you can be a kid again, a world of wonder and discovery. You find the beauty in a blade of grass, the freedom to run around in barefeet. Every experience shared with an uninhibited point of view that no one is watching – and if they are watching, they want to join you and share in your moment with you. Together the patrons of Coachella all seem to be engaged in the same thought – let’s escape and run free, for this is how life should be.
It’s the gold standard!
Coachella is such a shared experience – every aspect of the festival is an impact on your heart, body, and soul that will never be forgotten. The people, the place, and the power of the music is truly moving and an aspect of our youthful culture that even if it does not exist twenty years from now; will have had its’ place in the rightful sun.
I’m so glad I received the opportunity to head out to Indo and experience all that Coachella had to offer. I urge everyone who can find it in them to go, to make the journey out to Indio Valley and to engage in this multi-genre festival that will certainly lead other festivals around the country to seek this format to bring people together under the unifying sound of music.