The field was loud, dusty and vivid, which made me feel as if I was trapped in Coachella-land.
A Coachella virgin, I was elated to attend 26 acts over three short days. The highlights were many. I caught the end of MS MR’s act, delighted as I listened to the pink-haired Vassar alum belt “Hurricane.” Lizzy Plapinger, lead vocalist, was cheery and bouncy, standing in stark contrast to many of the other female artists we saw—Lorde, Banks and Lana Del Rey, artists who defy pleas to smile. The audience, largely unfamiliar with the band, at least where I was standing, bobbed happily in tandem.
Haim, consisting of three sisters Este, Alana and Danielle, provoked simultaneous envy and my desperate need to befriend them. A rock band from California, their music lacked the elements of desperation evident in many other artists. Haim, conversely, seduces and surprises their audiences, evoking a comforting mixture of eagerness and satisfaction. The outfits alone were enough to inspire: a Snoop Dogg t-shirt on Alana, the youngest, and a Peter Pan collar and striking lipstick on Este, the one with their legendary “the faces.”
Pre-Coachella, I had heard rumors of Haim’s performance being ultra fantastic because of the many hilarious performance expressions, but I remained unprepared. Este stretches her mouth to unforeseen lengths and laughs and glares at the audience, all within moments. Alana sings so close to the mic she nearly licks it; the audience, as expected, goes wild. Danielle, with a fierce, serious expression, will momentarily whisper the song lyrics so the audience unconsciously leans forward as a group. The Haim sisters are incredible, multi-talented performers and singers. Each sister plays at least two instruments. Alana, with her naughty expressions and sky-high shorts, played at least three during the single performance. My primary regret of the weekend was that I never got to meet them.
Another regret was Ellie Goulding. I was extremely excited to see her. “Lights” was my number one favorite jam freshman year. The song “Anything Can Happen” always reminds me of “Girls,” my number one fave show. How could she possibly suck live? Because she is, perhaps, mildly insane. Ellie, sporting a bindi, came bounding onto the stage—cultural appropriation was common at Coachella.
I spotted no fewer than fifteen white men wearing full Native American headdresses. What Hinduism or Native American tradition have to do with music festivals is beyond me, but the appropriation was rampant among blonde white girls in particular.
Anyways, Ellie Goulding was wildly disappointing. Live, her songs sounded identical to the radio. Her dance moves were similarly lacking. She also maintained a wild-eyed, confused expression for the extent of her performance. I had to stop watching her face, eventually, because it was too off-putting.
Flume, an EDM producer and DJ, was a surprise delight. Australian born and the ripe old age of 22, Harley Edward Streten spun the festival-goers into a fervor. Mashing together variations of his original songs, like “Sleepless” and “Holdin’ On,” the music was uplifting and simultaneously grounding. Easily the best act to dance to. The enormous Coachella tent was stuffed with ongoers, close to 40,000 people jiving and sweating and laughing and enjoying themselves. The young men near me, rolling on ecstasy, paid little attention. They were too entranced by one of their friends, a raver using finger lights and making the colors dance. Their loss. Flume was amazing.
The experience of attending Coachella must not be limited to the musical acts and art pieces alone. A fundamental pull of the festival is the food. Over the course of three days, I enjoyed massive amounts of sinfully good eating. From Beer Belly, an LA-based restaurant that seems to specialize in fattening already fatty foods, I enjoyed bacon fat fries. Cooked in bacon fat, tossed with bacon bits, arugula, and chili morita, and served with maple vinegar dip, these fries delight as quickly as they clog your arteries.
Another source of joy were the short rib braised tacos from Kogi, the original Korean BBQ taco truck. I enjoyed my “extra meat” soft tacos with kimchi on the side. My mouth is dripping remembering their hearty, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth taste.
As a lover of all things dessert, I also indulged in the Portland-based “farm-to-cone” ice cream shop, Salt & Straw. Its blood orange chocolate sorbet was so rich it tasted like ice cream. The scoop was too large, considering how rich it was, but it was perched atop a waffle cone—so how could I complain? A second treat was a raspberry-lime popsicle from Sweet Clementine’s Popsicles, sweet and light, the perfect food for the hot day. At $5, it was one of the cheapest items available at Coachella, but I also finished mine in approximately a minute and a half. The women working the stand were so cool that I did not even want a popsicle until we started talking. Weigh the benefits for yourself.
The experience at Coachella was ultimately amazing. The security and additional workers at the event were extremely helpful and generous, the artists were consistently timely and energetic, and the space was kept clean. If anything, the largest complaint would be towards the 14 year olds in floral headdresses, sitting on strangers shoulders to they could “get a better look” and block everyone behind them. If Coachella could just arrange some sort of an age and maturity requirement, the festival would be perfect.