It’s been a few days but the dust has barely settled. Coachella 2014 was an amazing experience, as it has been the past two years I’ve gone. But what I’m noticing now is that each year always has something new and unique to offer, whether it’s the lineup or the conversations or the people you meet. That’s what I love so much about these festivals – they’re not so much escapes as they are opportunities to learn more about life in the presence of old and new friends and good music.
This year marks the first time I’ve gone to the festival and camped. In the years past I’ve always booked a motel with my roommates and friends and done late-night post-festival drives to clean beds and nice showers. I have to say, car camping was an entirely different experience, and I was glad to have done it. Since I camped, it was much harder to write in real time, so for Coachella 2014 my recap will be a single post spanning all three days. Don’t worry, I’ll just highlight the memorable parts and hope you get a little sense of the festival as a whole!
Our weekend started off in the Bay Area, as we made an early-morning drive to LA and finally into Indio, with a couple of fast-food stops in between and lots of miles covered. Getting there was the easy and straightforward part – getting in among the traffic and confusing signs for car camping was the much more tedious part. It took us a couple of hours to navigate the streets close to the campgrounds, get our cars checked, and finally settle into our car camping spot. We set up our campsite surprisingly quickly, putting up a five-person tent and large canopy next to our SUV before heading to our first set of the day – at 7pm.
The wait was well worth it though because our first set was none other than Chromeo. Putting on an insane electrofunk performance, the group easily got the crowd grooving to hits and new songs alike. Everyone in our group loved the performance, and we knew that we’d started Coachella off on the right foot. Our next set was in the popular Sahara tent – a massive dome of lights, hanging ceiling monitors, and more lights – with Zedd. The crowd was so big that it spilled outside of the tent, and through the course of the performance we gradually inched our way inside, enjoying the thundering bass and synchronized light show. We capped off our day with headliners Outkast. Since we were pretty tired we sat near the back to enjoy the music. Pretty soon we found ourselves back at the campsite, with day one complete.
Our second day at Coachella was our most intense. We caught a total of ten (yes 10!) sets over the afternoon and evening. It was absolutely exhausting but so much fun! We started it off pretty low-key, grabbing lunch at the food stalls and getting some much-needed juice for our phones at the charging station inside the festival grounds. The music festivities began soon after lunch as we caught the middle school metal band sensation Unlocking the Truth at the Main Stage. What a set! Imagine three middle-school-aged kids absolutely killing it with metal songs, firing the crowd up to start a circle pit, then finally crowdsurfing after the set to the back. It was that good! We also stopped by the Internet, fronted by a talented and soulful 21-year-old phenom, to enjoy some mellow neo-soul tracks.
Soon came the trifecta of Headhunterz, Banks, and Chvrches. I especially enjoyed Chvrches since I’d been listening to their album since it debuted, and it was otherworldly to experience the songs live. Lead singer Lauren’s child-like soothing voice and adorable Scottish accent won over the crowd, and people danced and really got into the performance. After a break we headed over to Kid Cudi’s set, which was so much fun and felt like a giant block party, with crowds stretched all the way back to the beer garden dancing to the music.
After dinner came another memorable set – Lorde was amazing live. From past live performances I’ve seen on TV I wasn’t completely sold, but her voice, presence, and sincerity blew me away. Plus that bass, oh that bass was deep and we could feel it in our hearts. We camped out at the Outdoor Stage for the rest of the night, catching sets by Sleigh Bells (always fun and loud), Pharrell Williams (guest celebrities/performers galore), and Nas, one of my favorite sets of the entire festival. It’s been twenty years since he dropped the legendary Illmatic, and we were in for a treat as he performed the album in its entirety, bringing out special guests such as Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Puff Daddy for some additional tracks. The entire crowd was jamming to the tracks and the atmosphere felt so electric. It was a perfect end to an absolutely crazy Saturday.
This was it – our final day at Coachella. We slept for eight hours and still felt exhausted from the previous day’s musical trek. But we bit the bullet and went through our usual ritual of grabbing lunch and charging our phones at the festival grounds. Little did we know we were in for a serendipitous treat. As we were enjoying our pizza lunch, we felt the music and energy come from the neighboring Mojave tent, and we had to check out the performance. Turns out Irish folk singer James Vincent McMorrow was playing a set, and his falsetto cut through the crowd along with the intense instrumentals his band provided.
We stayed in the tent after the set to catch another truly interesting performance – this time by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. With gleaming brass instruments (and a clarinet), the band played traditional New Orleans-style jazz, a nice little break from all the other music we’d been listening to at the festival. After a quick stop at Flight Facilities, two of us went to Chance the Rapper’s set at the Main Stage. It was the hottest point of the afternoon, but we were glad we went. Even with the strange guest cameo by Justin Bieber, the set showcased the energy and talent of the up-and-coming hip hop star.
After a chaotic (in a good way) Krewella set at the Sahara tent, several of us chilled on the grass while listening to 90s indie band Neutral Milk Hotel. It was such as nice time to relax and enjoy the surroundings, and the chill music sent out some good vibes to everyone in the area. Evening came and we caught Lana Del Rey’s performance before another one of my favorite sets of the festival – Disclosure. This was my second time seeing the duo live, and I was still blown away by the live production, deep bass, and impeccable taste in tracks and guest performers (Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith to name a couple).
And what better way to close out Coachella than with Arcade Fire? It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to see the band live, and even though I wasn’t in the front, I still enjoyed their career-spanning set, with songs from Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs, and Reflektor. The crowd sang, chanted, danced, and just experienced the music, and it was a beautiful thing. Arcade Fire closed with “Wake Up,” one of their most well-known songs, and walked among the crowd after the performance continuing the song with the crowd singing along.
Coachella 2014 was an unforgettable experience. Like I mentioned earlier I’d expected the years to begin to mesh together, but each year I’ve gone I’ve been surprised by the new things I see and hear. I’m more than happy to have gone this time around, and I’ll most definitely be returning in the future years for good music and great people. Here’s to many more Coachellas to come!