Over the last two decades, Coachella has transformed from a simple music festival to a cultural time capsule. Between the LA Weekly ranked munchies to the immersive artistic experiences, and of course the exceptional musical talent – the Coachella Music and Arts Festival provides an adult playground while tickling the senses in all the right places.
In event, and in ethos, Coachella is an elite gathering of international tastemakers and up and coming West Coast talent, ranging from musicians and artists, to stage designers, lighting and sound techs, production managers and more. The festival curates from the creme of the crop, and the energy surrounding the event is palpable as everyone is operating at their highest frequency. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. For two consecutive weekends, Coachella plays host to 125,000 domestic and international audiophiles, ten stages of music and around 200 musical acts spanning literally every genre, and then creating some live, over a 72 hour span. That’s just on site – so, if you found those numbers overwhelming, now – imagine being there.
That said, one of the many beautiful facets about Coachella is that it’s truly a choose your own adventure type festival, making the weekend anything you want to be. You can go to a punk show at the Sonora Stage one moment, then indulge your inner lyricist with Hip Hop artists from Travis Scott, Denzel Curry, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q. Between the Heinekin Stage, Do LaB stage, Sahara Tent, Gobi and Yuma you can spend the weekend at a dance festival – wholeheartedly embracing the PLUR vibes that the event was made for. Or, you can only go to two days of the three day festival and spend the third having an actual vacation in Palm Springs, attend Desert X and come home revived for once instead of coming home burnt out. It can be a fashion show, a foodie’s wet dream or a family reunion, a chance for musical discovery and treasure trove of timeless favorites. Sometimes it seems like the adventure chooses you, and not the other way around, but either way we all go in with one set of expectations and habitually have them slapped in the face, swirling at 180’s by the time we’re leaving.
The XX, Bon Iver and Bonobo were both gorgeous touches on the main stage, providing an oasis of calm in a colorful, and at times overwhelmingly overstimulating, storm; while in beautiful contrast, Kendrick Lamar closed the stage down on Sunday night, leaving the crowd with something to really think about. Per usual, the Sahara tent opened the doors to significantly more Rap and Hip Hop acts this year, once again providing a proper dance party with artists ranging from SNBRN, Galantis, DJ Khaled, Anna Lunoe, Gucci Mane, Autograf, GRYFFIN and more throwing down while keeping the energy up.
As with previous years, dance music has matriculated through the lineups on other stages beyond the Sahara. The Yuma provided a delightful disco den of deep, tech and progressive house with an internationally acclaimed roster of talent like Nora en Pure, Sasha, Tale of Us, Allison Swing, Dixon, Loco Dice, Hot Since 82, Four Tet-Daphni-Floating Points, and Maya Jane Coles. Artists from Madeon x Porter Robinson, Justice, Tycho, Nicolas Jaar, What so Not, Jai Wolf, and Tourist were scattered from the Mainstage to the Gobi, and the Mojave to the Outdoor Theater. While the Heineken House and KROQ House both provided refreshing reposes from the rest of the grounds, with ample amounts of shade and air conditioning – two creature comforts that you have a hell of a lot more respect for after several days sweating to the beat in the desert. Last, but certainly not least, my home base and the place that always feels like a family reunion – the Do LaB stage.
As should be expected from Southern California’s premiere party planners, Do LaB’s stage designers outdid themselves with the construction of The Beacon, a bright and bold structure that will be coming with the crew to Lightning in a Bottle. Boasting a unique and expertly curated lineup for each weekend of Coachella, Do LaB’s stage is a wet, wild and whimsical artistic experience, fully equipped with dancing DJs, supersoakers, and high flying acrobatics; a festival within a festival, and a stage that’s a party within a party, quintessentially becoming a gateway drug to the beauty and beats of Lightning in a Bottle.
I think I’ve said this every year of Coachella, but kudos to the Do LaB for their impeccable bookings – perpetually and passionately giving us a birds eye view of the top acts in dance music. If you’re in the mood for raw, upcoming talent – look no further than the first act each day: KNGSPRNGS, divaDanielle, Jonnie King, Oscure, Gone Gone Beyond and BOGL. Want a proper Sunday Funday dance party? Try the Desert Hearts squad on for size. And when it comes to big name artists, Do LaB provides an arena for artists to return to their roots – or just forge new ones, allowing for musical exploration and artistic experimentation. For the first time since Chase & Status brought down the Sahara tent nearly a decade ago, Coachella had a true taste of Drum and Bass from Netsky and Liquid Stranger, oh – and then some guy named Skrillex showed up for a secret set and shut the place down, touching nearly every genre of music ever created and even creating a few new ones on the spot. Other secret sets at Do LaB over the two weekends included Classixx, Richie Hawtin, Louis The Child, Rufus du Sol, Tycho and Autograf.
Two years ago, there was a giant caterpillar that roamed the festival grounds, metamorphosing into a lovely, large butterfly. That was amazing. Last year, there were corporate hippos, which were not nearly as cool as the butterfly but art being art, whatever – I liked them a lot more than the giant chairs and lamps which made me feel like my name was Alice, I ate something and now I’m in Wonderland…but Wonderland is just an Outdoor Ikea; anyways. This year…well, this year someone let Dr. Seuss’s dildo collection loose among the main stages and though it provided some laughable moments, I just wanted that damn beautiful butterfly back.
Coachella and the Goldenvoice name have grown exponentially over the last decade: adding more days, stages and weekends. But this year, for the first time in a long time – the festival increased in capacity as well, adding 25% in ticketed attendance and finally feeling the growing pains. As festival population increased, the local Coachella Valley population also exponentially increases – and at a faster rate, to boot: consider the percentage of friends who would come and not even attend the festival, additional amount of event workers to handle the new stages, paired with a gross increase in the amount of events that occur in tandem with the festival – Goldenvoice’s LED Pool Party, Desert X and the menagerie of private parties for and by the musicians.
To combat the population growth, the grounds were expanded and pushed back – but I actually had no idea where three stages were the first day, because fuck a map apparently. Yes, there’s a lot of room for activities but Coachella might finally be at the point of too much room for activities, when you actually get FOMO mid-festival because you simply can’t experience everything. Handling the growth of the festival from inside it became relatively manageable by the end, but what wasn’t manageable was the parking situation which became exponentially worse as attendees trickled in through Sunday: causing up to a 3 hour backup as reported by the Press-Enterprise. And if you wanted to forgo day parking and try using Uber, who has been touted as a partner with the festival itself, users were charged a disgusting minimnum of $175 – sometimes upwards of $250 – due to surge pricing as reported by the LA Weekly. These two factors alone were enough to drive a variety of non-camping festival attendants to either exit stage left early Sunday and forgo favorite acts from Kendrick Lamar to Galantis, or take to social media to rant and rave about their first world travesties.
The adventures we choose at Coachella forge the musically monumental paths of the weekend, but I think the real testament to Coachella are the adventures we choose after we leave – did we find ourselves wanting more of a specific artist or genre? Have we been rock fans our whole lives and suddenly find our niche with Dubstep and Trap? Do we enjoy witty lyricisms in music and have a new appreciation for the incredible hip hop artists that were featured at this years event? Do we snag our ticket to Lightning in a Bottle immediately upon returning home to decompress because we feel like we’ve finally discovered a hub of technicolor creation that mirrors the kaleidoscopic nature of our soul?
Despite the gradients of heat waves we endured for over 72 hours, each and every festival attendant left Coachella left feeling emotionally recharged, refreshed and revived – even if our sore muscles felt anything but. We laughed, danced and discovered – not just music, but the true nature of ourselves: that child who had been forced to grow up that we’ve been shoveling under 40 hour a week jobs, forgetting that there’s another part to our soul that has needs and wants to – and fun in the sun with like minded souls to amazing music that touches every subject and genre is a large part of that. The idea of festival is necessary, when the only difference a stranger and I might disagree on is what our favorite act was – not which way they voted.
Keep your eyes on The DJ List as we dish on our top acts, best musical discoveries from the weekend and so much more. To keep up on all things Coachella and their content curators, follow the links below – and be sure to keep your eyes and ears open because tickets for next year’s gala featuring Beyonce will probably go on sale any moment now.