Friday, April 30, 2010

Getting Coachella’d

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Occasional contributor and former Boho intern Lindsay Pyle sent this to us two weeks ago! We've finally had the time to put it up. One woman's impressions of the fest.By Lindsay Pyle

I’m not sure I am going to do the last 72 hours of my life justice. I sit here on Monday evening in the San Diego airport, covered in Indio desert dust, and still smelling like Friday’s sweat, waiting to amble onto my flight back home to San Francisco, so that I may fall into a cathartic sleep. I just read an article that described the Coachella Valley Music Festival, held every year just outside of Palm Springs, as something like falling into a rabbit hole… and obviously, still stunned I am, wide brimmed hat in hand, unable to read a book or even listen to my ipod, I agree.

This is my fourth year in a row braving the sometimes treacherous, occasionally aggravating, and always stimulating experience known as Coachella. Every year is good. For those that go, the weight of the desert heat, the constantly evasive meet-up spots, the running around from stage to stage, all hold a special place in the forever changed heart of the Coachella go-er.

Since this year was the first year that the event only sold three-day passes, rather than single day passes like previous years, it is not a shock that the festival sold out. Unfortunately, on account of this, it was seriously overcrowded… For acts like La Roux and Miike Snow, both of whom performed in the smaller tents… I could only peak a view and hear the sound from the outside. For those of us that have been to Coachella in years passed, and cherished the often intimate performances from some lesser known bands in those little tents off to the side, this was probably Coachella 2010’s greatest disappointment.

However, I would argue, that you don’t really experience Coachella until you go all three days. By day three, the desert has broken you. You know better than to fight with her at this point, because she is an awful bitch, and she will always win. While on the first day, it may feel worth it to complain about the heat, or the lines, or the wait, or the walk from the car, by day three, you may realize that all the complaining is in vain, and furthermore, no one is listening. So rather than fight with mother Indio and her Coachella festival… you just comply.

By day three, the walk from the car to the festival is mapped, measured, well-traversed. Traveler beers, drank from the car to the venue gates, are courteously finished as glass is not allowed on the grounds. The bag-check is systematic as we remove all large items from bags to show the volunteers in yellow shirts all the way to the bottom. Water is drank before dizziness ensues. And we simply do not mess with the sun: we find shade, we wear hats, we carry sunscreen.

But being broken by this vast and unforgiving desert, is a right of passage. By day three, shoes come off freely, so does clothing, and the hips and joints are well greased and the muscles are broken in so that dancing feels more natural than sitting still. Joints are passed freely, so are water bottles, and your ears ring in the anticipation of music when it all stops. Plus, by day three, there are certain things you wait for… the hunger that only comes when the sun goes down, the desert winds that blow after dark, the twinkling lights that decorate the palms surrounding the field that glisten and dance beneath a smoke and rose sky.

Going any less than three days would never allow you to experience all of this. Without time to wander, without time to lose yourself, and everyone that you came with, you might never really get into the rabbit hole. Without the full three days, I would have never found the Lucent Dossier experience in the dolab— a show that I would describe as cirque du soleil meets DJ Shadow in a Nickelodeon act of fire and water. I would never have found the best slice of hot pizza pie— cilantro, onions, jalepenos, cheese and chili flakes. I would never have danced with a man in a head to toe light suit, or played the 100 foot organ, or watched the tube of fire, or put on that woman’s large bear hat. But once the desert has broken you, you learn to survive, and life in the absence of a dire need for survival suddenly feels very carefree.

Even the hippest of the hipsters, who deck themselves out in this season’s “most blogged” cut loose. They realize that by day three, nothing that they’re wearing feels as cool as a smile and a good dance break, and all of their urban outfitters uber-retro clothing is as useless as one of those beer bottles we tried to sneak in on day one.

As usual, the talent was up to par. Out of about 90 bands, I got to see around 40… and this was with some considerable running around. Thom Yorke playing with Flea would be a definite highlight, along with Fever Ray, Phoenix, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Jay Z’s Friday night performance will live in infamy, as he began his set with a remix of “Wonderwall” which had every face in the crowd beaming and singing along. Probably more noteworthy, though, than Jay Z’s performance onstage, was his presence offstage. It became a game to find Jay and his wife, Beyonce, in the crowds of the indie rock acts in the smaller tents over the next two days. I saw him bobbing his head to the British duo “The XX” on Saturday, and I caught wind that he was also at Yeasayer on Friday.

There is something very refreshing about that. Where the newest, hippest, smallest, most obscure Indie rock bands are bookended between some of hip-hop's most revered talent (like De La Soul) and contemporary bluegrass (like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) right behind a long list of djs (like Dangermau5 and Tiesto). The list is so diverse, I ended up seeing an mind-blowing performance by Les Claypool that I actually thought was going to be a DJ set by some people called “Flying Lotus”. When I realized that I was in the wrong place, I didn’t care because he was actually slapping a stand-up bass in a top hat and sunglasses in the dark of the night behind a cool, blue light. I heard “Flying Lotus” was good, but they’d be hard-pressed to top that.

But this happens from day one all the way until the end. You hear of groups by word of mouth, or you end up in the wrong place, or you forget which stage you’re supposed to be going to, or you just get too tired and give up on getting there and stop where you are to catch an ear of something new. Often, I use Coachella as a jumping off point for finding new music. The reality is that the sets are too short to really enjoy bands you love, besides the headliners, and even still, I always leave feeling like I could have taken just a hit or two more. But with that comes the promise of new music and new life that has been once again breathed into my lungs like a hot shot of smoke, and I am ready to begin the summer festival season with fresh outlook… ready to tackle the rosters and see every one I missed last time around.

Anyone feeling like getting Coachella’d??

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