There’s not much to say about Coachella that hasn’t already been said in the past eleven years. Or maybe that’s not true, because every Coachella experience is unique. And no matter how much it is talked about, or built up, the actual experience will always be beyond any and all expectations. As much as Coachella is about the music and the art, the festival wouldn’t be complete without the atmosphere: Every single person is there to have an awesome time, and as a result, people are extra nice to each other. Two of my friends lost their phones, only to have someone call all their recent contacts within 30 minutes to say they had it. Ask for a cigarette, it comes with a smile and a “Happy Coachella!” (But please bring your own cigarettes). And that’s it. You’re stoked to be there, and so is everyone else, including all of the musicians. That’s what makes Coachella so fucking awesome.
Our Friday started with one of the most anticipated Sahara tent acts of the weekend with Proxy’s second set ever in America. The Russian DJ threw down one of the nastiest sets all weekend and had the crowd absolutely freaking out at four o’clock. The bass lines were so hard they continually would knock the wind out of me, leaving me practically gasping for breath at the end of his set. He gave the crowd exactly what we wanted with a slew of his own remixes such as “What You Need” by Tiga, “Let’s Buy Happiness” by Boys Noize and “Home Zone” by Digitalism, as well as some of his original songs. Check out this video of “Raven” being dropped and you can see how Proxy gained and retained his reputation of the hardest DJ in Eastern Europe—and perhaps the world:
Up next was Aeroplane, and although he had a good set, it’s hard to follow any DJ when people have been raging their faces off, especially considering that Aeroplane’s music is pretty low-key. During this period I also got to catch some of Street Sweeper Social Club (which I still can’t say out loud without slurring) on the main stage and see Tom Morello jam on the guitar. I also got to catch a little bit of Passion Pit’s set, but they still suck. Wolfgang Gartner’s set in the Sahara was pretty massive and a great way to begin the night. He’s really been proving himself lately and his set had a nice mix of huge house hits and remixes, some choice electro bangers, and his own songs with their signature loose and hard-as-shit bass lines like “Firepower” and “Undertaker.” Some lovely soul caught the entire set on video; you can watch it here:
Pretty Lights was up next with one of the best acts of the entire weekend. I’m a big fan and I’d always expected great things from a Pretty Lights live show (which consists of Derek doing his thing, accompanied by a drummer), but they blew me away. My roommate and I got so buck both of us almost threw up—from dehydration, or ecstasy, I don’t know, but we had to go sit down outside for a moment, missing crucial moments of an extremely tight set (technically tight, that is). Check it out:
After the insanity we headed over to the main stage to watch LCD Soundsystem, who were great opening for Arcade Fire in American Fork a few years ago, but honestly brought a lackluster performance to Coachella. Although “Yeah” will be fun to dance to until the end of time, the set was pretty boring.
And then it was time for Benny Benassi. Benny gets a lot of flak from people, but I honestly don’t know why. His live sets include all the dirtiest music that you haven’t heard yet along with all of the dirtiest music that you’ve heard a thousand times and still love. He dropped the number 1 and 2 bangers heard over the weekend, “Babylon” by Congorock and “Lyposuct” by D.I.M. & TAI, in addition to many other amazing songs. For this set he was the most engaged I’ve ever seen him behind the decks—usually he just stands there all Italian-like and barely moves, but he was throwing his arms up in the air and pointing at people in the crowd. Way to get into it, Benny.
Deadmau5 finished off the Sahara tent on Friday night with a visual set that absolutely was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. He sunk $40,000 of his own money into a setup that was designed by the people behind the Daft Punk pyramid: an LED mau5head that talked along with the music and an LED stage (a block of cheese with a chunk bitten out of it). I was actually pretty disappointed by his set; it was pretty boring, but the videos of it are definitely worth checking out for the sheer awesomeness: http://www.youtube.com/user/therealslimfigge#grid/user/E3935AEE3A03B07
Saturday we had some time before the first show we wanted to see, so we wandered around a bit and also caught a glimpse of Camera Obscura, who sounded better live than what I’ve heard of their albums. At four it was time for Craze & Klever in the Sahara tent. It was one of the sets I was most excited for, and those boys did not let me down. I love when turntablists turn to electronic music, and Craze is the shining example of this transition. Electro and scratching? I’m down. Check out this video I took of the two of them tag-teaming the decks, it’s one of the coolest things I got to witness over the weekend:
After this it was Dirty South, who is one of the frontrunners of the electro-house scene. He played a great set with some of the hardest electro-house songs I’ve ever heard, as well as a lot of his own remixes, which really don’t get enough recognition. Then it was Bassnectar with the best set in the Sahara during the weekend. I mean, he fucking killed it. He had two brand-spanking-new songs, one he had produced specifically for the festival, and one that had just gotten back from mastering an hour before. When the show was over he came out in front of the stage and said, “Thank you, for the best show of my life.” A prime example of musicians bringing their very best to the festival.
For some reason on Saturday night Major Lazer was in the Mojave and Z-Trip in the Sahara, which probably is the exact opposite of where they should have been. I have as much respect for Z-Trip as the next DJ enthusiast, but I think the placement was detrimental to his set, because he was trying to please the crowd (which at that point in the night, just wanted house music) and not be himself. All in all, it was a really good set, but he was just not in his element.
While we were waiting for 2ManyDJ’s an interesting outfit called Die Antwoord came on. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen; I don’t even know if I would call it music. Later in the night we heard someone talking about it, and he just kept saying “God awful” over and over again. I wholeheartedly agree. During this time we actually went to the next tent to catch a bit of Devo, which was really cool, although my friend got pissed because one of them wasn’t wearing his hat.
And then it was time for 2ManyDJ’s with an amazing audio and video set. They animate the album covers of the songs they are mixing to create a really cool effect that goes along with the music. They had an amazingly eclectic mix of songs, old and new, popular and unheard of. They played some famous Soulwax remixes, and some less famous. It was a great set and we were honored to be seeing the men behind the icon. Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQhfyl-bWWw&feature=related
Sunday for us began with Club 75, a French electro super group which consists of Xavier from Justice, Cassius, Busy P and DJ Medhi. For this performance, Xavier was absent, so his partner in Justice, Gaspard, took his place. Now, Gaspard doesn’t usually DJ (I assume he’s the production mind behind Justice), and he probably should continue to abstain. He absolutely butchered a remix of “We Are Your Friends.” That said, Club 75 was great. Between Busy P, Medhi and Zdar from Cassius, they were throwing down some fun beats, including the nastiest remix of Justice’s “Genesis” that I’ve ever heard.
We caught Orbital (awesome) and Plastikman (was that a joke?) before heading over, with the 75,000 people there, to see the Gorillaz. I’ve always liked them as much as the next person, but this show absolutely converted me. It was the perfect experience to end Coachella on:
Coachella is an event that needs to be experienced to know, in any way, what it feels like. In many ways it is a similar experience for everybody. By the end of the third day, you’re dirty, you’re exhausted, your phone is dead, you probably lost a few things, you may not know where your friends are and you’re broke. But you saw some amazing things, and some hilarious things, and you are the happiest you’ve ever been. I promise.