The first time I went to Coachella, it was reminiscent of a first date to adult Disneyland. My husband and I ran like milk-drunk toddlers through the festival grounds. We stumbled upon bands as we went along, making no must-see lists whatsoever. We bought expensive sweaters the first night, not knowing how cold the valley gets. Our budget was quickly blown as beers and gourmet tacos stacked up throughout the weekend.
This year, we bought beer and grilled cheese makings at Costco. In the weeks leading up to the festival, we co-ordinated with our camping buddies via an ever-beeping Facebook messenger group. Our conversations routinely turned back to an epic Hans Zimmer vs Tove Lo vs DJ Khaled debate. On the first day, our bellies were full of beer and our minds were full of scheduling conflicts.
It was a weekend of eye-brow raising performances. Radiohead’s silent disco. Lady Gaga’s disappointing iTunes plug. DJ Snake’s…performance. For three days, the campgrounds blared “Humble” in preparation for The King’s Sunday performance (and Kendrick didn’t disappoint). As usual, however, the undercards stole the show.
Preservation Jazz Hall Band beat the heat.
The Heineken Tent on the left-hand side of Main Stage is always a good area to pop a squat early on. As we sauntered past the phallic Dr Seuss garden, I was fairly stunned to hear that the Preservation Jazz Hall Band hadn’t read the heat index. Once called “more EDM than EDM“, the band didn’t hold back, attacking the heat with the kind of rhythm and style only jazz can bring. They actually got my group to chug their beers and dance in the heat near the stage for the last few songs. Hats off to those band members wearing suits at four in the afternoon.
Sunset with Two Door Cinema Club
Saturday saw many hours soaking up the water gun stream inside the DoLab. After a few of Trejo’s jackfruit tacos, we ventured back out into the sun to catch Two Door Cinema Club. “What You Know” is one of my “keep it on repeat” jams, so seeing them live was a dream. The crowd shook off it’s sweaty, sunburnt vibes and danced with wild abandon on the crisp green grass.
Move over, Lady Gaga. Nicolas Jaar is on.
Around 10:00pm on Saturday, we wandered. It’s my personal belief that every time an artist incorporates fire into their performance, Coachella is leading the flies away from something better. So when DJ Snake lit the stage up (literally), we quickly dispersed to Gucci Mane. Two songs in, I was pretty satiated. The crowd was thick and pumped for Gucci. I was dead tired and looking for dance space. We raced over to catch some of Nicolas Jaar. His latest album Sirens is a departure from his usual “Mi Mujer”, more “turned up” fair; the music builds slowly with ambient beats and delicate textures. In a live context, however, the album is dark, foreboding, and definitely “turned up”.
Our zero, Ezra Furman.
For weeks leading up to Coachella, my husband would casually mention, “I can’t wait to see Ezra Furman,” or “Just as long as [seeing some other band] doesn’t conflict with Ezra Furman.” By the time we sat down in the grass to watch, I was pretty pumped to see what all the fuss was about. “We’ve got money enough to be here. How you use your money that lines billionaires’ pockets, you have a say in that,” Ezra Furman spoke with a gentle fervor, quick and concise. His set was tightly wound, with the crowd responding vocally to upbeat favorites like “Restless Year,” “My Zero,” and “Lousy Connection.” In a year where EDM ruled, it was refreshing to hear Ezra’s nasal voice rise up to great us.
Bustin’ a move with Sofi Tukker.
The last time I saw Sofi Tukker perform, I knew they were gonna be big by the next tour. Yet, both Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern seemed genuinely surprised at the large crowd gathered at 3:45 on a Sunday. The EDM crowd was in fine form as they danced in time to “Drinkee.” Hawley-Weld was resplendent in the afternoon sun, dressed all in white; Halpern had his signature coif spray-painted pink and blue for the occasion. The performance featured a few surprises, including Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears joining the duo on stage for a several songs, and an aggressive rendition of “Greed,” a dance protest song that zeros in on Trump’s hair.
Don’t you remember Grouplove?
Honne was the place to be. Yet a few songs into their Mojave set, we were itching to get over to Grouplove. It’s the eternal festival question of “new hotness” vs “old standby.” We shuffle-danced for a bit before running to the main stage just in time to hear “Ways To Go,” which they followed up with “Tongue-tied,” “Let Me In,” and “Colours.” I had completely forgotten my old love of Grouplove. I even found myself singing along to newer tracks like “Good Morning” with wild abandon. Sometimes you just need a little pop-rock in your day.
Hans Zimmer Tears.
Would people show up for Hans Zimmer? It was the question in the back of my mind all weekend. We got to the stage a bit early to get a good spot and already the signs were good: the crowd was amped and had brought along glow-in-the-dark props. There were moments of confusion throughout the show (especially when it came to how to dance), but Zimmer’s 10 minute mashup of the Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, The Thin Red Line and Gladiator soundtracks was the highlight of many people’s weekend (including my own). Oh…and I totally cried when they played “Circle of Life.”
By the time “Kung-Fu Kenny” (a.k.a. Kendrick) hit the stage Sunday night, our group was beat. The sun was so rough that day I’d nearly gotten sick at 2pm. We were worn from dancing in the DoLab to Space Jesus, our skin was burnt despite layers of sun block, and Justice had gotten the last of my sweet, sweet dance moves. But Kendrick didn’t need hype in order to get the crowd on his side. He stood on stage with a giant screen looming and twisting above him, commanding our attention, demanding feedback from us, but didn’t punish us too much. Later, as we sat together in the campground drinking a beer, we blasted “Humble” one more time.