Coachella Valley music and arts festival

by Steven Ward

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival closed late Sunday night to the sound of thousands of screaming music fans, all drawn to the southern Californian desert city of Indio.
Separated into two long weekends, the festival encompassed the most influential and compelling indie, rock, pop, hip hop, and electronic genres of music from all over the world. From California legends like the Red Hot Chili Peppers to a reunion of the masterful flow of the Wu Tang Clan; the upbeat rock of giants like Phoenix and Vampire Weekend to the psychedelic groove of Tame Impala; the electronic tones of Passion Pit to the indie acoustics by Of Monsters and Men; the festival was marked with one bewildering and goose-bump inspiring performance after another. Even in the case of upstart acts like Purity Ring and Modstep, with such aesthetic and mind-boggling sets, managed to outplay some headliners. Coachella after all, has always been a place for aspiring performers to find inspiration for future success, as so aptly stated by the dynamic duo of Tegan and Sara, who mentioned between songs their immense surprise and joy at moving from a smaller venue at an early time slot, to that of the main stage with a late one.
Hidden away in the desert landscape Coachella was the oasis for music junkies to explore and discover new areas of music and artists, each equally represented in a lineup that screamed musical diversity.
Artistic endeavors were sprawled across the green lawns of the Indio field, a white structure titled the “Mirage” stood ominously before the main stage, offering shade during the hotter hours of the day. A massive and hulking form of a giant snail named Helix Poeticus, painted with surreal images and dazzling lights shining out of its shell at night pushed its way sluggishly through the crowd each day. Two large figures of a dog and Tyrannosaurs Rex made entirely from recycled metal, loomed over the crowds that gathered at nearby vendors for refreshments.
Shade was provided often enough, and the heat of both weekends was accompanied nicely in weekend two by a lighter breeze. One venue labeled the Gobi was an enclosed tent, three other stages were positioned beneath larger structures that not only offered shade but at night created a heightened excitement and atmosphere. The center of the field was dominated by the collection of six massive, multicolored tipis known as the Do Lab Tents that housed at the center a seemingly never-ending set of various singers and disc jockeys, as well spectacular acrobatic acts, which played music long into the night.
Coachella has always been a festival meant to span across a love for the aesthetics of music throughout generations, the lineup late Sunday night and presence of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Wu Tang Clan performing back to back is a testament to that. The cooperation of such mega-headliners and old school performers as these two veteran groups; fans holding up the Wu Tang Clan’s sign on their hands, waving lighters and phones, migrated enthusiastically to the main stage for Michael Peter Balzary, Anthony Kiedis, and John Frusciante—only emphasizes the collective musical conscious present the past two weekends.
But the atmosphere has always been what has drawn people of all ages by the thousands. The immense and almost overwhelming sense of separation from the outside world; the indescribable sentimentality of singing along to that one song while the artist is right there in front of you, sweating the emotion and passion plainly seen on the large screens; staring across a darkened field while the stage lights flicker blindingly, phone screens lighting up each person, and balloons with neon beams float high above.
It was and always be considered by those who attend more than just a weekend, because to those who attend it is more than just music. Like awaking from a dream and stepping down from a euphoric, tune filled cloud nine, returning back to reality is bittersweet at best—the memories hazy and ears forever ringing with the echoes of a weekend well spent.