We decided to throw the task of covering opening weekend of Coachella this year to our new reporter, Noel Teacher. It was her eighth trip to the dessert festival, so, instead of making it peachy, we wanted to put her through the ringer. On her way out of the office on Thursday we handed her a checklist of things to see and attempt to get done. We had her keep a journal along the way. Hope she doesn’t hate us too much!
The best part about Coachella is the freedom to do whatever you want and frolic freely in the polo fields. Unfortunately, the peeps at Stereotude decided last minute to give me a scavenger hunt checklist. This is why I am now writing everything down. It's a ridiculous checklist. Some things will be a cinch; others are just bizarre, and I'm not sure I can bring myself to complete it all. We'll see…
I link up with my Carpoolchella around 9 p.m. Thursday night. Once all five of us, air mattresses, bedding, beers and unnecessarily large suitcases are crammed into the car, we start driving and don't stop until we get to our house for the weekend. We break open a case of beer and the weekend has officially started. Time to relax, except I remember that checklist. Can't forget it in the morning, can't forget it.
It's hot out but not unbearable. Low 90s. Sun blaring with the occasional welcomed breeze. The lines to get through security the first day aren't too bad either, but even with the help of shorter lines it takes us 40 minutes.
Every girl I see is wearing a flower headband… so strange. The first show I absolutely need to see this weekend is Dillon Francis at the Sahara tent. (Side note: if you haven't heard, the Sahara tent this year is a reconstruction of the stage from Ultra Music Festival that was flown in from Miami. In one word, it’s nuts.) Dillon is popular for a moombahton sound and awacky sense of humor seen in his videos, YouTube sketches and hilarious tweets. He's signed to Diplo's label, Mad Decent, and has been blowing up the past two years.
The moombahton king does not disappoint his fans, who were going wild, holding up home-made signs and cardboard cut outs of the DJ's face. On stage, Francis’ face appears on cats, tacos, and the bodies choreographed dancers. (You have to see it to understand.)
Next up, better start tackling this list. OK, lets see, what are some easy ones... "Photograph someone sleeping in an awkward or inappropriate place"—super easy! I catch one raver chick passed out in the beer garden with her rainbow tutu on. She must be saving her energy for when the sun goes down. Oh, and another dude sleeping in the shade of a fence near the Outdoor Theatre, looks nice… Well, it would be if there wasn't puke next to him in the grass… gross.
Speaking of food, I scarf down some amazing fish tacos, then wander the grounds for a bit. There's this giant snail thing this year. I wonder what it does. I hear Of Monsters and Men have started, so I'll go over that way. More girls with flower headbands all around me, this is getting out of hand. Of Monsters and Men are awesome! Super fun and upbeat. Perfect for the Coachella crowd at the Outdoor Theatre.
Passion Pit is playing as the sun gets lower in the sky and by the time they blast off with "Little Secret" it's perfect weather for dancing. The crowd is loving the vibe and is bouncing around in the grass. After their set, our group decides to stay for Modest Mouse, but we leave soon to wander to Beach House for a song, then to find TNGHT at the Gobi tent.
From the first beat, I am hooked. The electro duo sounds like nothing I've heard before. A mix between electro/rap/hip-hop/and trap. They've got a simple lighting setup that just perfectly compliments the music. (Note to self: must download “Acrylics” and “Higher Ground” when I get home.)
Turns out the giant snail thing moves. Very slowly. But this trips out the blazed kids to no end. Some of which are scared of it and refuse to look in its direction.
Checking off another scavenger hunt point: “Score a free meal.” The guy at the hot dog stand is a friend of a friend. I get a free bite and he comes and hangs out with our group later. Free hot dogs all weekend!
Today the lines to get in are much worse. We have to go through three different checkpoints to scan our wristbands and two different security checks. A security guard asks if I have any drugs or weapons on me. I say no and she warns me that if I do I will be going to Indio PD like the kid to my left. A dejected boy, who honestly can't be over 19, sits and waits to be taken away. Oh, the troubles of a music festival…
The weather today is hotter than yesterday, the sun is bearing down on my back, so I find myself being one of the people taking refuge in the shade of the fence to the left of the stage. Ben Howard eases me back into the music for the day: mellow but fresh, and different from other indie bands here. Of course I spot more flower headbands in the crowd. Didn't anyone get the memo from yesterday that there is already a surplus of flower headbands?
I'm heading over to the main stage for the Violent Femmes. I'm really only dying to see two songs. Just my luck they play "Blister In the Sun" and "Kiss off" straight off the bat and they sound just as good as they did when they recorded the songs 30 years ago. Time to make a run for Major Lazer.
The Mojave tent is insanely packed. The most crowded stage I've seen all weekend. People have spilled outside all three ends for at least 50 feet. I'm forced to listen from a distance. The crowd is wild. Girls on guys’ shoulders, holding up blow-up monkeys and photos of Nick Cage's face—obviously I'm on the outside of some inside joke here. It doesn't take long for Diplo to take off his shirt, jump inside a people-sized hamster ball and crowd surf. Once he gets back to the DJ booth he throws on “Pon de Floor” and the crowd gets rowdy. That's my cue. Head out!
I meet back up with some friends for Hot Chip at the main stage. They play hits like “Over and Over,” “Flutes” and “Ready for the Floor”—flawless. I'm up pretty close in the front with the “real fans.” We all know the words. Now I'm all hyped up and Postal Service doesn't seem like it's going to satisfy. I try Moby at the Sahara tent instead.
Moby kills it. Obviously. I remember I need to get back to my list! “Photo: Someone who looks like a Muppet.” OK. I look around the tent and there are lots of people in furry hats and strange outfits, all out of their minds right now. I take a photo of a dude in a full zebra costume but without flash. The photo doesn't come out. I find a guy in a black unitard, a banana costume, and a crown on top. Muppet?
On the walk back it's pretty windy, kicking up a lot of dust and dirt, which makes it difficult to find our car. Another common Coachella dilemma…
The weather is perfect! Sunny, low 80s and breezy. First up is Grimes at the Gobi tent. Her set is much mellower than I anticipated, but not in a bad way. Her voice is soft and light, and you can't take your eyes off her as she pushes buttons, sings and dances around the stage. She's just got that weird "it" factor that you can't put your finger on…
My friend suggests I head over to Dinosaur Jr. and this friend happens to have great taste in music. Old to young, men, women and teenagers are all bouncing along with the drum beat. It's amazing that these guys still bring out that angst in the audience. A mosh pit forms in the center of the audience. Crowd surfers are getting pulled down by security. It was a really fun show, and the highlight of my Sunday.
Next I'm heading back to the Gobi tent to see Rodriquez. Like many others, I was moved by the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. I’m excited to see the Detroit construction worker in person. The band has some sound issues with Rodriguez's guitar and microphone for the first couple songs. Once he gets his groove, the crowd is sold.
This list is really holding me back at this point. I know I've seen a lot while I've been here. “Find a celeb”—I haven't really seen any or been close enough to get them to talk to me. “Find two drunk people arguing”—surprisingly, I didn't hear anyone arguing; the festival's mostly had a peace and love vibe this year. “Find a band covering Radiohead”—I didn't hear of any.
“Interview someone who looks like Moby as if they were actually Moby”—I couldn't find any bald dudes, and I kind of wish I had. “Get someone to explain the difference between house and dubstep”—completely forgot about this one. “Score a free fashion accessory"—everyone is so sweaty and dirty please, please, do I have to? “Photo: Something ‘meta’”—after reading this a dozen times, I’m still not sure what it means, but I took a photo of what was written on the back of the giant snail's shell and that was pretty strange. It said: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The breeze is turning into a crazy sandstorm. It's so bad that you cant even see the mountains in the distance. The sun has set and for the first time I'm actually cold. The wind is whipping dust in everyone’s faces.
Some people don't seem to mind it too much. I make it to the next stage, but the dust is too much. I make the executive decision that it's time to go home, leaving the day’s headliners to the brave souls sticking it out. It's bittersweet leaving Coachella after another amazing year. But maybe I'm just tasting all the grit in my mouth right now.
For more of Noel’s work check out Electronic Spotlight, and keep tuning in here at Stereotude.