Coachella 2016: The Final Chapter

12 May

tentI’m excited to talk about day three of Coachella, because it demonstrates how you learn from your horrible, horrible mistakes and make much better decisions later in life because of them. The first time we went to Coachella, we did not pay attention to certain details. We simply bought our car parking pass, bought our plane tickets for an early morning Monday departure from LAX, and drove with the (freezing) wind at our backs to the desert. To our great frustration and exhaustion, we only realized when it was too late that the camp grounds shut down on Sunday so that they don’t let anyone in or out until 2AM Monday. We had an almost 3 hour drive ahead of us. We did not sleep. Our flight was at like 7 a.m. so we barely even had time for breakfast before our flight.

Flash forward to take two this year. Zack and I lazily slept in, had breakfast bars and played Uno, then took a delicious hot tent nap* before changing into day 3 clothes and packing up our campsite. We then moved our car to day parking (with a bike-police assist*, thanks guys!) which was totally free, and then sauntered into the festival, assured that we could leave at any time we wanted to. FOR. THE. WIN. Y’all. This was a life-changing move. While I will grant you that we didn’t stay for the entire wind-down of the festival (we left at 10:35PM, after Miike Snow), we encountered almost zero traffic and were on our way to a hotel (thanks, Cousin Jon**!!) for a more elevated final night of sleep in California.

*I did get a funny back of the leg sunburn from napping half in the shade.

**My cousin runs a hotel in downtown San Diego and it was amazing to have a bed and shower waiting for us after the fest.

Kamasi-Washington-The-Epic-560x560Before we kissed fresh pillows and luxuriated on a raised mattress, there was much music to enjoy. Day 3 of a festival is always a good day to take it easy, so after our third (and final — sniff sniff) magnificent Goddess salad, we made it to the Gobi tent just in time to see the Vandals, a snarky, obnoxious punk band whose claim to fame is covering a Disney song. We left early to get a good shaded spot against the railing for Kamasi Washington.

Kamasi was an artist we wanted to check out because Zack’s jam band-loving friends insisted that we do so*, and I’m SO glad we did. Mr. Washington plays a mean saxophone, and heads an impressive troupe of musicians in rousing jazz that gets your heart pumping. It was danceable, it was groovable, it was just plain fun to sit and enjoy the musicianship. It’s one of those festival moments that really makes festivals worthwhile** — a regional music hero blows your mind with music that you don’t need to be intimately familiar with going into the show, you just need to surrender yourself to it in the moment. Truly one of the highlights of the day and weekend.

*After I told Andy I wasn’t sure I wanted to see jazz on a hot Sunday afternoon, he got Big Bri to implore me to go. It worked.

**This was always something that drew me to festivals. Getting to see acts you wouldn’t see otherwise and becoming instant fans of them.

We bounced around to various fine-but-forgettable day acts after that. Meg Myers is like a gothic Alanis Morrissette, Wolf Alice is great for lying in the sunny grass and letting rock wash over you, Pete Yorn is as smarmy as his name is to say out loud. I ate a pizza while the Cold War Kids played the few songs I knew of theirs and sounded pretty much like the radio version of themselves. The 1975 were interesting — a weird mix of self-indulgence, glam rock and social awareness, but with a hollowness that made them never really quick for me. All these acts were various degrees of good to OK, but no one I’d go out of my way to see on their own. I was more amused by the dudes pictured below, especially the guy with the troll doll hair.

partyI was excited to finally see Edward Sharpe live, because I’d never had the chance. In the end, I walked away with mixed feelings about the self-created-and-anointed Jesus figure that is the Edward Sharpe character (I don’t even know if Alex Ebert knows who he is anymore*). They played a number of my favorite songs, and they sounded good, but I couldn’t help but notice that none of the women who were in the band at the start are in the band anymore. In fact, there are NO women in this band. There’s something about that that concerned me. Obviously I don’t know the back story at all (other than the fact that Alex broke up with cohort Jade Castrinos so it’s not totally shocking that she’d need some space at some point). But what once felt like a semi-serious rejuvenation of the free-love hippie era now feels like a weird band of dirty hobo dudes, and as a woman it just doesn’t feel safe anymore without one of my kind represented in the group. There’s nothing quite like a festival sing-along of “Home,” though, so I still walked away with a whistle in my heart.

*He’s a guy who took a joint from the crowd, took a long drag and then kept singing.

Sunday night and the festival ended with a huge bang. Zack and I made the very difficult decision to skip Sia* altogether (I’m sorry, my lovely, strange musical goddess!) because we felt we had a better chance of being in the front for Miike Snow. So, we headed into the Mojave tent for the first time that weekend, and got close for Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals. We’d seen a bit of Anderson and his band at SXSW and were impressed in the daylight, but I don’t think we could have guessed at how explosive this group would be in the dark, with lights and fog. Anderson .Paak is a killer lyricist and incredible drummer**. As with all of my favorite rappers, it’s the music that really gets you pumped — he goes outside of normal rap-music tropes and plays with all kinds of different sounds to keep you entertained. Despite sound issues that were surely frustrating for this breakout artist, he played through them like a true professional, and his guests (Gary Clark Jr., apparently, although we never saw him, and T.I.) were just icing on a delicious, rich cake of a show. This is the next artist on my list to devour, after I get my fill of Lemonade (which could, admittedly, be a while).

*Truly tough to miss such a rare Sia show, but we wanted to dance and sing along to songs we knew and loved.

**The guy oozes talent and overcame some early sound issues to put on a dynamite live show.

frontBy the time Anderson’s set had ended, Zack and I were squeezed into the second row. When I spied a trio holding up Anderson fan gear, I befriended them so that when they left, we got the railing where they stood. We were front row for Miike Snow*!! We chatted with the fans around us, getting more and more pumped for the multinational group we always love to dance to. Miike Snow were our favorite act at our last Coachella, so our hopes were high. I wasn’t totally sold on the new songs**, so I was also just a little bit nervous. I didn’t need to be. Our Swedes plus one weird New Yorker always bring it at their shows, and this time they brought even more — this time, Andrew Wyatt played a guitar along with his normal synth set-up, and there was a brass*** band to boot! They played lots of old favorites, and the new jams sounded amazing live, and were given new life for me in this re-imagined setting. We used all of our remaining energy to dance and sing as hard as we could, and listened to the band’s new album on our drive to the hotel.

*As evidenced by the pic above.

**I already loved the new album so I was exceptionally excited.

***I love the full sound and a brass section is always welcome.

mssAll in all, Coachella 2016 will stand in my memory as one of my all-time favorite festivals. Not just because of the killer music, but because of how it felt to be with the love of my life* in the desert, playing Uno, eating salad, living in the moment. These memories are so special, and I’ll cherish them always. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I can close my eyes and picture windmills, sequin suits on stilts, a giant disco ball**, and peace.

*D’awww. It really was a lovely weekend away together.

**Truly the things dreams are made of.


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