Invigorated is hardly what you’d expect from someone who had just attended a festival, especially when it involved four days of camping in the blazing desert heat, but my musical escapade at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California was surprisingly stress-free, clean and so much fun!
A relatively new event which started back in 1999, Coachella has risen to become one of the most wildly anticipated music festivals in the world, so much so that the organisers announced this year that they were going to run the three-day event twice, yep, on repeat, for another three days!
I had the pleasure of attending the second weekend, where at soaring temperatures of 39^C, it wasn’t just the weather that was scorching, but in fact the line-up was also hot hot hot!!!!
Like a foodie at a smorgasboard, festival goers were treated to top acts across a spectrum of musical genres, including the headline acts for each day – the Black Keys (above) (Fri), who debuted as a headliner this year, Radiohead (Sat), and Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg (Sun) (below), the last and biggest headliner, who revived hits spanning 20 years and brought out friends 50 Cent, Eminem and Tupac, which sent the crowd wild!
With acts such as Azealia Banks and the Weeknd (below) defining the R&B and hip hop scene, rock stars the Black Angels and Pulp, indie acts Gouplove and We Are Augustines, folk artists Laura Marling and Bon Iver, and electronic maestros Amon Tobin and Justice (below), the world watched as 120,000 festival goers and more than 136 acts meshed together in the hot dustbowl of Coachella Valley.
Set on polo grounds, the acts were spread across two stages (the Coachella and Outdoor stage) and three tents (Gobi, Mojave and Sahara), although Sahara was decidedly decked out as the house/electronic music tent with crowd favourites David Guetta, Martin Solveig, Calvin Harris (below), Afrojack and Kaskade.
There were also the Do Lab and Heineken tent which hosted smaller, up-and-coming acts, the former spraying 50 tonnes of water a day to cool down the baking festival goers.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole host of British bands – Pulp, Noel Gallagher, Metronomy, Arctic Monkeys (below), Wild Beasts, Florence and the Machines (below), Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, most of which I managed to catch – they were excellent and on top form!
Not forgetting that this was also an art festival, there were impressive art installations from American artists and designers dotted around the grounds. My favourite was the Balloon Chain (above), a simple idea but visually pleasing, this was a floating sculpture made up of a string of balloons tied to a base on the ground, and left to drift in the wind. At night, tiny LEDs attached to each balloon lit up a pathway towards the sky. Another art piece, Shacks (below), by renowned artist Shrine in collaboration with California Theaming, was an exotic installation decorated with recycled tin can lids where people could relax and watch the world go by.
The Other Fun Stuff
There were also other fun tents strewn about the festival grounds. Many were happy to seek refuge from the searing heat at the H&M Kiss for A Cause tent, where free water & wet towel wringing were served by cute, friendly ‘watertenders’. A mirror with lipstick graffiti greeted relieved festival goers as they refreshed themselves with wet wipes, lotions and make-up.
Lightbulbs flashed at the kissing booth as H&M pledged $1 photo for every kiss posted to their twitter website.
But what really saved the day was the iced water beds in the centre of the tent, where festival goers had the opportunity to stay cool and rest in between gigs.
To add to ‘cool factor’, there was even a Coachella speakeasy tucked away in the grounds between the two main stages. Anyone could have mistaken it for a white tent, but a doorman stood guard at the wooden doorway asking for a password… shhhh… the secret is.. you can make one up!!!
Although a range of food was available as far as festival food goes, from mexican tacos and pulled pork sandwiches, to Asian noodles, cheesecake ice cream sandwiches, chill dogs, cheese melts, and indian curries, I was disappointed to find a shortage of food trucks for which California is most well-known for, and gourmet snack foods. And having only previously attended European music festivals, it took some getting used to the strict drinking laws, which only allowed one to booze up within the confines of a gated beer garden. On the flip side, this meant it kept the main grounds green and free of litter!
Day 1: Discovering the air-conditioned Heineken tent at the height of the afternoon heat, bumping into Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys ordering a coffee at the campsite cafe, the incredible green lasers at Swedish House Mafia that lit up the sky, turning the Coachella outdoor stage space into a gigantic club, and riding in the ferris wheel after dusk for a fantastic aerial view of the festival.
Day 2: Bon Iver (below, who were hauntingly beautiful!) telling the Americans how to say it properly (Eve-ver not I-ever!!!),
scoffing down a Pink’s chilli dog while Noel Gallagher belts out Don’t Look Back in Anger while everyone chimes in karaoke mode, Sebastian Ingrosso (below) dropping Gotye in the middle of SHM’s The One.
Day 3: Discovering the art studio & making souvenir badges for friends, finding the Coachella speakeasy and scrambling a password to get in (they were nice at the door!), seeing a girl sobbing uncontrollably on the big screen to the Weeknd’s ‘The Morning’, dancing like madwoman at Girl Talk, raining glow sticks at Justice, and of course the HOLOGRAM with Snoop and Dre AND 50 Cent AND Eminem – they really do know how to get the crowd going!!!!
I was slightly apprehensive that some of the artists would bow out of the second weekend, but to my pleasant surprise, everybody made it round again! A highly organised festival, from the clockwork precision of every gig starting and ending on time, to the high-tech chip-embedded wristbands that each festival goer had to wear, allowing facebook check-ins at each gig by a swipe of the wristband against electronic stations, and well-trained staff that were courteous and friendly. It was an amazing experience, and I left refreshed from all that concentration of musical and artistic talent. Looking forward to the next one!