by Carlos Esqueda
The drive? Excruciatingly long (but prep a Coachella playlist for at least six hours and you’re chillin). The weather? Windy at mid to high ’90s with the occasional sandstorm here and there. The parking? Two hours long of just vibing between the stop signs at Jefferson street and Monroe. The music? AMAZING!
Coachella 2016 was my third visit to one of the biggest music festivals in the country, and each year the event brings something new and exciting for its attendees. The event hosted between two weekends, takes festival goers through three jammed packed nights of party hopping at campsites, celebrity sightings, music listening at every minute of the day, and the indescribable ‘Chella vibes!… what more can you ask for?
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival most commonly known as Coachella Fest, is an annual music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.The festival origins can be traced back to November 5, 1993, when Pearl Jam performed for almost 25,000 spectators in the Coachella Valley after the band refused to play in Los Angeles as a result of a dispute with Ticketmaster. Such performance, and the struggle that concert promoter Goldenvoice was facing to book concerts against its larger competitors, led the idea of a music festival to be conceived. The success of the concert validated the sites ability to host such large scale events, and thus on October 1999 Coachella Fest was born, just three months after the infamous Woodstock of ’99.
Coachella became an annual festival on April 2001 as a single-day event, and in the following year the festival returned to its original two-day event. Coachella Fest was expanded to a third day event in 2007 and eventually became a two weekend event in 2012. In 2003, Goldenvoice began allowing spectators to camp on the grounds, which was just one of several additions and amenities added to the music festival since its birth back in 1999.
The event features many genres of music, along with various art installations and sculptures. Over three days the Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and the Sahara Tent continuously host live music, and after hours the Silent Disco has just what you need if you’re still craving to hit the dance floor. From morning until dawn there is something to do at every corner, whether partying between camp sites or visiting the various beer garden and food stands, Coachella has it all. But even as the years go and the amenities get bigger and better, we all know that the festival is widely known for its guest appearances and kickass lineup, and this year Goldenvoice did not disappoint.
I do admit that like many, I wasn’t too wild about the lineup this year. However, over the years I’ve noticed that Coachella always has something up it’s sleeve, so whether your favorite artists didn’t make the cut or your favorite DJ clashes with another performer, expect some pretty awesome surprises. This year, weekend one was graced with the presence of many guest performers some of which include; Rihanna, Kanye West, Ke$ha, Lorde, Snoop Dogg, Panic! At The Disco, Jaden Smith, and Walk the Moon to name a few.
The day times included performances by Years and Years, 1975, Matt and Kim, along with other small artists, each bringing the Coachella heat to a close burning temperature. With an emphasis at supporting local artistry and talent, Coachella also welcomed many small DJs and bands to their Silent Disco and increasingly popular Do Lab. Gobi Tent started my weekend with performances by legendary American rhythm, blues, and gospel singer Mavis Staples and house music artist Goldroom. These mere back to back performances are a testament of how varied the festival is offering something for everyone.
Dijon Isaiah McFarlane or more commonly known as DJ Mustard, also took the stage Friday afternoon, blessing Coachella goers with a little “Mustard on the Beat”. Like always the entirety of his set was comprised of 30 second bits of his most famous songs, and his usual foul language in between. The rowdiest set of the afternoon hands down goes to rap radio’s hit-maker as the overflowed Sahara Tent danced to club hits like “Trap Queen” and “Hotline Bling”.
While ASAP Rocky proved to be beyond underwhelming, Friday was also witness to the presence of Yeezus himself. As crowds marched away from the Outdoor Theatre shaking their heads at the let down that ASAP was, the screams that overtook the crowd as Kanye himself took the stage brought everyone back. However because ASAP had started 12 minutes late, and because the Coachella set is on a tight schedule, announcing the presence “legend” Kanye West proved to be a little disappointing as well. As Kanye rapped a portion of his song “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” his mic was randomly silenced, and soon after so was the entirety of the show, having left both ASAP and Kanye angered at the Coachella gods. Fans however were more than pleased to see Yeezus make an appearance again as his song “Power” was played during the Jack U set… even though he just stood there with his arms closed… #thethingskanyedoes.
Matoma, or the next Kygo as I like to call him, hit the stage in the afternoon hours at the Sahara Tent (which has got to be the most “lit” stage (both literally and metaphorically)) on Saturday. With the tropical house blend and spur of hip hop hits in between, Matoma made of himself a household name that day at Coachella. If you’re doubting how good the guy was let me put things into perspective… his massive remix of One Direction’s hit “Perfect”, was basically like a massive 1D karaoke party in a field, exactly what I’d imagine heaven to look like. But if tropical house music ain’t your thing then Grammy nominee James Bay has got to be. The cool waves of his guitar and unique indie rock sound brought the house down as he performed his hits “Let It Go” and “Hold Back The River”, leaving all the girls, and guys… okay maybe just me… in complete love.
Sam Smith lit up the Saturday night sky as he brought in special guest Disclosure (okay yes… I know Sam Smith was the guest performer for Disclosure, but let’s be honest… he pretty much made up the entire performance… am I right?). The Lawrence brothers came ready with a star studded set including Lorde (for “Magnets“), Sam Smith (for “Latch” and “Omen”), AlunaGeorge (for “White Noise”), Kwabs, and Brendan Reilly. Saturday also become known as the day of Kesha’s brief freedom. The singer who has been battling disputes over alleged rape by her producer Dr. Luke made an appearance in the middle the set put on by EDM artist ZEDD. Her performance of “True Colors” and unbelievable talent, spoke volumes about the power dynamics that exist in the music industry, proving that even at the face of adversities music can be a very powerful outlet.
At the top my list for great performances this weekend, Sia and her bizarre looks has got to be one of them. On day three, the wigged powerhouse hit the stage bringing in what seemed to be a guest performance by actress Kristen Wiig herself. With the usual stage set up Sia brought a number of dancers on stage as she sang on the side. It is said however, that the live cameos were actually a play on the whole celebrity guest appearances that many Coachella goers expect. The cameos are said to have been pre-recorded videos shown on the big screen as other look alike performers took the stage. Whether the guests were actually there or not, it is undeniable that Sia’s voice resonated for miles as she hit the high notes during “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart”. Her performance was by the far the most theatrical, yet simplistic setting the scene for the chaos that Calvin Harris was about to bring.
The weekend ended with the top paid DJ in the country Calvin Harris… or Taylor Swift’s boyfriend as most everyone knows him. Harris closed with a crazy set, a load of fireworks, and ohh yeah… Rihanna! As the star began to elevate the scene at Coachella with moving lights and props, Bad Girl Riri herself took the crowd by surprise as she emerged at the top of a sound control tent set up in the middle of the Coachella Stage. As she belted “We Found Love” Coachella spectators could not help but sing at the top of their lungs rejoicing the end of a crazy weekend and shaking the festival grounds one last time with the unanimous crowd jumping everytime the beat dropped.
What keeps me coming back every year is not just the fact that I get to visit my parents and eat some bomb ass carne asada tacos, but rather the luxury and aura Goldenvoice has created through Coachella Fest. This is one of the few festivals where you truly get a bang for your buck, discovering new artist, and spending three whole days without the absence of music or sound is paradise for music junkies. Seeing your favorite artist perform as you stand feet away, and looking into the beautiful desert sunsets is something you can’t really describe unless you’ve been there. So trust me, I will be sitting right at home within the next few weeks waiting for presale tickets to come on sale, but for now I’ll sit here pondering whether what I witnessed last weekend was real life or not!