Coachella: The Land of Music, Art, Happy People, and Really Good Food

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It is really hard to capture in words the atmosphere of Coachella. The three day festival held on a desert surrounded by mountains in Indio, California, attracted people of all ages to come, listen, dance, relax, eat, and take in all that is Coachella. Over three days over 50 bands played every day, each performing around an hour set on one of the five main outdoor stages. Not to exaggerate, but Coachella feels a bit like another world, filled with happy music lovers who want to soak up the sun and the sounds, bust some moves, and eat fresh watermelon or maybe really good paella, or gyros, while sipping on a coconut, filled with coconut water and interacting with really friendly people. IMG_3485

The grounds were decorated with a variety of giant art structures, each presenting a sort of trippy/futuristic theme, and providing shade for festival goers to cool off from the blistering sun- as the Violent Femmes would sing during dusk on Saturday.

A large festival like this could be very overwhelming with the range of loud music coming from speakers, at certain cross points, the sounds possibly overlapping one another, from bands such as Passion Pit, Dillon Francis, Jeff the Brotherhood, Grizzly Bear, Of Monsters and Men, Bat for Lashes, or Purity Ring. Or maybe the crowds forming around the stands filled with an array of food brought in from restaurants, or the 80,000 people frolicking in colorful clothing, or what was left of it in the heat, some covered in face paint and sparkles, and often seen holding a decorated marker in the air to keep their group from getting lost.

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But Coachella was very organized. There were three sets of security checks going inside, bracelets that scanned, and shuttles coming to and from the festival from different surrounding areas. There were signs near each stage, listing the times that every band would go on, along with a free Coachella app you could find on your phone that provided a list of the food vendors and a scheduled grid of who you chose to see from the line up. Coachella staff and volunteers covered the grounds, working different stations- like the bathrooms, lemonade/pretzel stands, beer garden, safely hid the VIP section filled with celebs, water station, and recycling booth. If you collected 10 empty water bottles you could trade them in for a free, full water bottle. There were also three bins that separated recycling placed all over. Though the grounds were large, by the end of the first day we had the stage names down and found a way to use the Ferris wheel as a marker and the white structure as a meeting spot and we were soon able to navigate our way around.

During the performances from Vampire Weekend and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I felt the crowd really come together. You could tell the audience was filled with long-term fans, who knew all the words to almost all the songs. People really took these two shows as a chance to rock out, jumping up and down and screaming at the top of their lungs. This was really fun to be a part of, both bands filling me with the happy memories I associate with many of the songs. Late Sunday night a bit of a dust storm coated the crowd watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but we put on our sunglasses and danced even harder.

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My personal favorite shows—due to the music, but also determined by excellent dance space and the mood set by the time of day and energy of the audience- were The Violent Femmes, Grimes, Local Natives, the XX,  Wu-tang Clan, Sigur Ros, and Bassnectar. What happened at the XX, while waiting for them to come out on stage was one of the greatest things that I have experienced.  My friends and I were standing in the far back of the packed audience, and heard sounds coming from the front of the crowd. It seemed like the sounds moved with the wind and gradually reached our ears as some sort of tune. We stood on our tippy toes and cupped our ears eager to hear what was going on and a few moments later this tune was more audible as the people in front of us began to smile wide and sing, and as we realized what the song was, we joined in top and passed it to the people behind us. As the entire crowd belted Lean On Me, and then the entirety of Bohemian Rhapsody (along with the instrumental section), and lastly Wonderwall, I felt a strong sense of community that I do not feel often enough. At the end of the show, I was moved by the last song played, called Angels, and the tightly packed crowd moved almost like the tide, weaving out as the people coming for the next band on stage moved in. I heard a girl near me say, “ I feel like we are all dots stuck together.” This made me think of the quote, “I am you and you are me,” and the connectivity and sense of communitas that Coachella allows you the opportunity to feel.

P.S. Phoenix, thanks for bringing R.Kelly out for Ignition- probably everyone’s guilty pleasure… brought back some middle school dance moves- good end to Day 2.