The verdict from BOTHCHELLA: mentally & emotionally drained, ready for more
FESTIVAL BEAT is a monthly column in which IMPOSE writers recap music festival(s) in all their rough-and-tumble glory. This month’s festival: Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, CA
If Coachella is a marathon and not a sprint, then BOTHchella is an ultramarathon.
For over two decades, not only has the storied music festival established itself as a cultural pillar – a modern day World’s Fair – but also as a behemoth test of the physical and mental endurance of music fans. Even as it cements its status as a live music lovers’ paradise, Coachella is definitely NOT for every music lover. And that makes sense. Soldiering through three grueling days of 95-degree heat and weaving through endless crowds while spending a fortune on literally everything is not everyone’s cup of tea. But to the average Coachella attendee, the juice is absolutely worth the squeeze.
Those who know me well know that Coachella is my Happy Place. I’ve celebrated my birthday every year there for the last fifteen years (minus the COVID era). Friends from my Coachella Crew have come and gone and returned over and over, but a few of us have remained constants. Having a family-owned condo in the valley has proven to be quite the perk, now that we retired from camping several years ago. The festival has changed and evolved so much since my first year attending in 2007 – shout out to Rage Against The Machine – but it only continues to worm itself deeper into my heart. It’s not a perfect festival by any means. But it feels like my festival.
This year, I was finally able to achieve my dream of attending both weekends. The concept of BOTHchella carries a bit of Holy Grail mysticism to it. Those who partake in BOTHchella are labeled as being either ahead of the game or utterly insane – depending on how you look at it. I’ll accept both viewpoints. For W1 I slugged it out General Admission style, but for W2, I was gifted a highly coveted ARTIST-GUEST pass from a BFF who works for Goldenvoice – something I never fathomed would happen in my life. With the Coachella as a marathon analogy firmly in my mind, I was determined to emerge from the two weekends with both my body and mind intact, while still living up to my heart’s content. Considering my heart was set on the music, and with this year’s Coachella lineup being simply out-of-this-world, I embarked on the most epic festival journey of my life.
Much has been said over the years about the plasticized glitz and glamour of Coachella – the rabid influencer crowd and trust fund babes sauntering around for the perfect Instagram selfie in front of the Ferris Wheel – oblivious to any act that isn’t a headliner. Truth be told, that crowd makes up less than 1% of the entire Coachella demographic. Anyone who rants about this as a knock against Coachella has clearly never been to Coachella before, or is just a giant curmudgeon. In reality, everyone is living a pretty rough-and-tumble existence on the Polo Fields. They just look good while doing it.
Weekend 1 was a bit of a mental exercise in how to split up the programming between two weekends. I chose some acts strategically, based on what my W1 crew wanted to see versus what my W2 crew would prefer. Underworld or BLACKPINK? Jai Paul or boygenius? Rae Sremmurd or Weyes Blood? With conflicts like these, had I only attended one weekend, I would’ve been PISSED.
The early afternoon set times on Friday were peculiar in that the festival seemed determined to make us watch a smattering of jazz. I love jazz, so no complaints there, but why on on earth would you book cosmic jazz greats The Comet Is Coming at the same time as young prodigies Domi & JD Beck? Nonetheless, I chose Comet on W1 and the youngsters on W2. It was an easy split decision, as Comet’s bombastic psychedelic unit laid waste to a scorching Outdoor Theater slot, while Domi & JD Beck powered through an intricate, loungey set of dueling keyboards and percussion in the shade of the Mojave Tent. The latter duo, still in their late teens-early 20s, are well on their way to superstardom as the scene continues to bridge the gap between traditional jazz and pop-infused sounds. Incredibly bright skies ahead for both acts. But if Coachella really wants to represent jazz in its fullest glory, maybe don’t book the two biggest jazz names on the lineup at the same time?
If you’re a regular patron of this site, then you know that Magdalena Bay is one of my favorite rising acts in all of music, period. Suffice it to say, being a Day 1 MagBay fan, I nearly had tears in my eyes from watching them slay the Sonora Tent. Their biggest and brightest hits blew the crowd away, as did Mica’s reeling keytar skills and Matt’s undeniable guitar god chops. They’re making pop music for a better tomorrow, and all the clanging beats, whirring distortion, and theatrical bells and whistles (at one point Mica emerged from a glowing box in costume) made for a wholly unique, immersive experience that eclipsed any previous MagBay show I’d seen. I am still not over how proud I am of them.
A couple drinks and one very dull Vintage Culture DJ set later (he dropped deep house remixes of Gotye and “Seven Nation Army”), my crew and I were front row for the surprise act of the weekend, Blink-182. Full disclosure, I’m a bad San Diegan. I’m 34 years old, have listened to alt radio my whole life, and I’d never seen Blink-182 live. So to see that name pop up on set time reveal day felt like Christmas morning. With Mark having conquered cancer, Travis healed up from his hand injury, and Tom performing with them for the first time since 2014, the diehards were treated to a perfect set full of greatest hits, fan favorite deep cuts, and plenty of sexually depraved stage banter – just what the doctor ordered. The crowd’s collective outburst of “WHERE ARE YOUUUUU?” during “I Miss You” shook the Sahara Tent walls. That set obviously had everyone, especially W2-goers, clamoring for more. And as it turns out, Blink were not done “saving” Coachella…more on them later.
As the magical Friday golden hour descended over Coachella, and as Gorillaz dug through B-sides, deep cuts, and the occasional radio hit, my crew felt the intense urge to dance the night away. First up from this year’s storied crop of veteran EDM acts was The Chemical Brothers, who laid down a powerful, diverse, and incendiary 90-minute set on the Outdoor Theater that was nothing short of legendary. A swirl of eye-popping visuals and block-rockin beats, capped off with the one-two punch of “Swoon” and “Galvanize,” proved that the Chems are still at the top of the game, even after all these years. Ultimately, the cream always rises to the top.
The biggest (and best) change to Coachella this year was that you can now bring your beer and cocktails outside of the beer gardens! Game-changer! No more chugging ferociously at the exits, no more stressing about wait times in the long lines, and now you could enjoy a drink while you watched a set. It also should be noted that there was way more trash this year, but hey, small price to pay for the ability to imbibe wherever you wanted. I’m not sure why this hasn’t always been a thing, but let’s just be glad that organizers came to their senses on this one.
It definitely made the rest of the weekend that much easier. Saturday afternoon of W1 was a sleepy one for my crew. We missed a lot of those early Sonora rock bands in favor of an extended cocktail hour (the Watermelon Red Bull Margaritas were as essential and they were expensive). But we finally mustered the energy for Ethel Cain, one of indie rock’s most promising rising stars. Oscillating between simmering, twangy Americana ballads and dark, blown-out grungegaze, the cheerleader-outfitted Ethel charmed us with her hopeful smile, powerful voice, and heavenly stage presence. In her short but titanic rise, Mother Cain (as her fans affectionately call her) has become a hero to the trans and autism communities. As we watched her belt through hits like “American Teenager” and “Thoroughfare,” I was transfixed by her storytelling and performance abilities. She captured our hearts in just 45 minutes, and will capture many more going forward. An icon in the making.
As hype as Charli XCX was, it was a tough ask for us to get really invested in the devastating heat of the Main Stage. Nonetheless, Charli helped us power through with her unreal dancing and choreography, as well as a much-welcome guest appearance from LBGTQ pop icon Troye Sivan. The Main Stage can be a bit of a cluster, but we braved it a bit longer to catch a few songs of Rosalía (more on her W2 performance later) before jetting off to witness the first ever live performance by Jai Paul.
Much has been made about how enigmatic Jai Paul is. For a guy who helped reshape and redefine the sound of electronic music in the early 2010s, it’s incredible how minuscule his creative output has been. On top of that, to have your first ever live performance take place at Coachella is a ballsy move. Nobody in the crowd had any idea of what to expect, but at the very least, Jai Paul gave us what we all wanted. The Mojave Tent screams were louder than any set I saw both weeks. The beginning was admittedly a bit rough; loaded with unreleased downtempo tracks, Jai’s vocals were mixed low, and he was noticeably nervous. But as the set wore on, he turned things around magnificently, wowing fans with his falsetto range and finishing things off with his all-time classics: “Jasmine,” “BTSTU” and “Straight Outta Mumbai.” It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely an admirable first outing. Give it a few more shows and he’ll be fully blowing people’s minds like the glory days of a decade ago.
The first major set time conflict hit on Saturday night. I realize I’m one of the only people at the fest who wanted to see both Underworld AND BLACKPINK, so it kinda made sense. Being able to attend both weekends helped soften the blow, but for the few others like me (and especially my buddy Blake), I imagine it was a bitter pill to swallow. I chose Underworld for W1, and it could not have been a more ideal experience. The old school EDM throng packed out the Mojave Tent and transported the atmosphere back to 1999, the inaugural edition of Coachella wherein Underworld also played. With buoyant synths, vibrant lasers, and hypnotic vocal ramblings, tracks like “Born Slippy” and “Two Months Off” made me feel like I was in a warehouse shuffling to the glory days of ’90s UK rave. Along with the Chems, Underworld proved that legends will never die.
Fast-forward a decade later in spirit, and tech-house giant Eric Prydz took us on an EDM journey that was out-of-this-galaxy. Prior to his set, I was told his visuals would be cool and the music would be slightly cheesy. As it turned out, the visuals were extraordinary and the music was actually great! Crossing through his crowd hammered home the fact that Coachella-goers are sheep. The crowds in the back were packed in like sardines, while there were acres of space to dance up front. Typical, but most welcome. Holographic astronauts, chilling warnings to EVACUATE, and floating cosmos blitzed across the giant screens, layered over one progressive house drop after another. I don’t tend to get giddy over Ibiza-style visual DJs, but even I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. Score another one for the veterans, and thank god this man quit Swedish House Mafia all those years ago.
Shortly after, Calvin Harris capped off an ecstatic Saturday night. My expectations for Calvin are always very low, but thankfully he’s good at doing one thing: giving the people exactly what they want. That means pretty visuals, clean transitions, and a never-ending cavalcade of hits: “Summer,” “Feel So Close,” “We Found Love,” “One Kiss,” and so many more you can’t even count. He didn’t have to do much up there on the decks – in fact I’m not sure he was doing anything at all. But he sent us to bed with saccharine vibes, and that’s all that counts. Then again, he played the exact same set W2, which wasn’t unexpected, but still came across as a bit lazy. So when you think about it, we really did get the full Calvin Harris experience. On the other hand, there’s a reason why he’s the biggest mainstream DJ of all time.
The vibes leaving Saturday night versus Sunday night were like night and day, and by now you probably know why: FRANK OCEAN.
At this point, Friday and Saturday had been two of the best days in my history of attending Coachella. There’s a chance that Sunday could have gone the same way. Unfortunately, my crew got in extremely late on Sunday, drank way too much in the Heineken House, and made the misguided decision to see Rae Sremmurd instead of Weyes Blood and Alex G. Big mistake! After all these years, the Sremm boys have not upgraded their live performance regimen. 30 minutes late, yelling unintelligibly over pre-recorded backing vocals, a song selection front-loaded with early hits to the point where the back half of the set became stale, and I’m pretty sure we witnessed Slim Jimmy rage-quit the band midway through “Black Beatles.” Oh, but that Swae Lee still has buckets of charisma. Kind of crazy this band is still a thing, considering how big he could be on his own. The first big miss of the weekend.
As for the much-talked about Björkestra set leading up to Frank Ocean, how much you enjoyed it depended entirely on what mood you were in. Objectively, the Icelandic avant pop queen concocted a beautiful vibe post-sunset, with hundreds of pink light-up drones delivering a gorgeous choreographed routine in the night sky as she belted out classical renditions of tracks like “Joga,” “I’ve Seen It All,” and “Hyperballad.” As much as I enjoyed it, I feel like it was a missed opportunity to have a normal electrified Greatest Hits Björk set that would’ve whipped the crowd into a spellbinding weirdo dance party. Instead, it yielded a Coachella that would go out on Sunday with a downtempo, low energy whimper. That is, aside from Knocked Loose, who were so good and so galvanizing that I saw them BOTH weekends. On W1, they single-handedly saved my Sunday (more on them later).
By now, you’ve either heard or read all about Frank Ocean’s Sunday night headlining disaster. I don’t really have much to add to the play-by-play of what went wrong, but instead I’ll posit a scenario. Let’s say, hypothetically, Frank’s elaborate ice skating rink wasn’t scrapped at the last minute. Let’s say he wasn’t mired in production delays and wasn’t a full hour late to start his set. Let’s go a step further and imagine that he didn’t mix in a random 15-minute DJ set with a dancing security guard that nobody asked for. And let’s say he nixed the off-putting “inner child” bit. And that he didn’t flail around and mime the words to some of his biggest hits. And that he didn’t disappear from the stage several times for minutes on end. And that you could actually see him on stage while he performed. And that he didn’t run into a hard curfew, and actually finished the whole set. Even if ALL of that had been avoided, the set still wouldn’t have been any good. Because ultimately, the actual songs that he and his band performed…sounded BAD. They were loose, meandering, and aimless performances that completely re-worked and obfuscated the melodies of the original recordings, to the point where they were barely recognizable. But hey, at least his voice sounded good?
Nobody expected a high energy set from Frank. We all thought we knew what we were getting into. All weekend, I heard from excited Frank fans about how excited they were to sing-along and cry during his set. Neither mode was even remotely possible. Happy birthday to me, right?
Let me tell you, in all my years of attending Coachella, I have NEVER experienced a vibe like what went down right after Frank cut his set short. First, it was collective shell shock, followed by a whirlwind of dismal emotions: anger, sadness, confusion, and dark humor. Most in the crowd walked away in baffled silence. A lot of people were visibly and audibly pissed off. I saw girls crying with mascara running down their faces. And then there were the few like my friend John and me, who occasionally cackled at the audacity of the situation. I’ve seen a lot of bad performances in my life. I’ve seen amateurs barely hack it onstage to the point of being unlistenable. I’ve seen musicians so wasted they could barely perform. But for the size, scope and scale of a Coachella Sunday night headlining set, Frank’s performance is the most disappointing one I’ve ever seen. In that moment, I felt relieved to have a second weekend to do things over, but felt absolutely terrible for all the die-hard Frank Ocean fans. I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if the man quits music for good after that debacle.
And so it goes…Round 2.
After strapping on my ARTIST-GUEST wristband at Will Call the night before, I was determined to live up every perk I could get. Which, truth be told, wasn’t a whole lot, but it did make my weekend that much more relaxed and stress-free. Most notably, my wristband got me into the front viewing area at pretty much any stage. We had our own dedicated backstage walkway that ran around the perimeter of the festival, making the trips from one stage to another completely devoid of annoyingly large clusters of fans. There was also free water back there. The lines for entry, food and alcohol were shorter, which led to me routinely double-fisting Aperol Spritzes.
I noticed very little differences in the crowd energy between the two weekends. And even then they were subtle. On W1, there was an abundance of people doing fuck all: taking photos in front of the Spectra Tower and Ferris Wheel, standing in line for the boutique booths, waiting around drinking in the bar areas, etc. More people soaking up the atmosphere, and who are there to be seen. W2, on the other hand, definitely had more people who were there for the music. Crowd sizes might’ve been slightly bigger, and the lines to get into the air-conditioned indoor stages such as Despacio, Sonora and Yuma, were absolutely massive – although that could’ve been on account of the W2 heat. Due to all the rain we got last winter, there was a shocking amount of green grass on W2.
Speaking of Despacio, James Murphy and 2manydjs’ temple of old school rave was one of the best places to be throughout the two weekends. In two separate 30-minute chunks, I was enamored with the 360-degree sound and the piercing lights off the giant disco ball in the center. Of the songs they played while I was in there, I most cemented a spirited rendition of Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance.” With the AC blasting, Despacio was the coolest space in the fest.
After Soul Glo’s amazing anarcho-hardcore offering in the Sonora, 4 p.m. proved to be a shocking set time to squeeze in Overmono, the rising British progressive house duo who thrive in vibes both dark and moody. They still crushed it and drew a decent crowd, but the atmosphere of the set could’ve been so much better had they been scheduled in a night slot. Luckily I’ll have that chance when they perform at Primavera Sound in Barcelona next month.
With Blink-182 now moved into Frank’s headlining slot, my Friday was opened up to all the bands I missed the previous weekend. That meant a heavy dose of good ole’ rock n roll. First up was Wet Leg, the massively huge breakthrough band whose garage-y licks and sexually charged lyrics have made them the biggest buzz band in recent memory. The British group rocked through a jangly set of hits, and even made way for a midpoint scream-a-thon with a little help from Dave Grohl himself. Lead singer Rhian Teasdale was noticeably drunk and having a great time, which rubbed off on the audience as I guzzled down yet another Aperol Spritz – my W2 drink of choice.
Afterwards we caught Yves Tumor, whose fabulous brand of glam rock made for a titanic and visually arresting sunset performance in the intimate Gobi Tent. That set fared much better in my eyes than that of The Garden, the SoCal garage punk twins who have maintained a stranglehold on the now-shuttered Burger Records scene over the past ten years. The macabre bass and drum set up was too quirky for me to appreciate, and I left that set with the feeling that I’ll never quite “get” that band, unfortunately.
For me, the absolute biggest surprise of the second weekend was Whyte Fang, the minimal progressive trap side project of big-room EDM DJ-producer Alison Wonderland. While I’d never really vibed to Alison’s music before, I was intrigued by the skeletal singles she’d released under the Whyte Fang moniker, and by the set’s obvious visual potential. Alison didn’t let being seven months pregnant stop her from absolutely obliterating the Gobi Tent with skyrocketing future bass that rattled through every part of my body. The crowd was left aghast at the nifty visual set-up, which had her silhouette situated inside a transparent “Flying Lotus” LED-screen box that had visuals flashing in seizure-inducing ways. She also had a light-up drone hovering through the crowd as though it were a little robot friend of hers. It was a beautifully-rendered set that fired on all cylinders. I walked away as a brand new fan of her Whyte Fang music, and will be seeing her in concert again as soon as I can.
After regrouping with my friends for another stunning round of The Chemical Brothers, we made our way through a massive throng for the night’s headliner Bad Bunny, who delivered a set that was night-and-day better than his W1 performance. Benito hovered above the crowd on a palm tree float, collaborated on a medley with Mexican banda sensations Grupo Frontera, and even brought out Puerto Rican legend José Feliciano to perform a smattering of acoustic ballads. All throughout the set, his Latin fans roared and hollered their approval amidst a kitchen-sink-like display of visuals, including the weekend’s heaviest use of pyro. For all the doubters out there, Bad Bunny was a more-than-worthy headlining act.
Unlike W1, the Saturday of W2 was a bright-and-early affair. After getting in through the VIP security entrance around 1 p.m., I grabbed another pair of Aperol Spritzes and met up with my buddy Mike at the festival’s record store. Record Store Day was in full swing with a long line out the door. It’s amazing how coveted vinyl has become over the last decade, and even more amazing that even with all the attractions and distractions of a Coachella weekend, audiophiles will still find a way to turn out for those rare exclusive editions that only pop up on the day.
Unfortunately, I had no time to wait around and sift through records, because one of my favorite hardcore-ish bands Scowl were taking the stage to a surprisingly packed crowd in the Sonora Tent. The Santa Cruz rising stars were given the full 40-minute treatment, and they didn’t let a single second go to waste. Charismatic green-haired frontwoman Kat Moss continues to be an inspiration to women in the hardcore scene, and she ferociously led the (cross-dressing) band through a mix of their alternative-grunge-leaning tracks off Psychic Dance Routine as well as older, heavier standouts on Where Flowers Grow. As one moshpit after another opened up, Kat encouraged the crowd to jump up and stage-dive, which I did, albeit extremely poorly (as I landed, my back foot got caught on some poor guy’s Camelback hose and ripped his backpack clean off…I did not stick around to reckon with that chaos). Scowl continue to prove to the hardcore scene that you can absolutely rip on stage while also looking glamorous doing it. Future scene legends.
Later on I took a nap in the Mojave Tent during Snail Mail. That’s not a knock on Snail Mail – she performed some really lovely music to nap to! Someone’s gotta do it! Besides, I needed to rest up for the night’s main attractions.
During the sunset hour on the Main Stage, the gong for best set of the weekend was being pried away by Rosalía. Armed with my front-of-the-crowd viewing area wristband, I took in a legendary set that was pure bliss from start-to-finish. Flanked by a few dozen backup dancers, an elaborate stage design, and one gifted steadicam operator, the Spanish future-pop superstar had the crowd reeling in the palm of her hand. Racing through lush, emotional songs off her smash album MOTOMAMI, she looked and sounded. If you were up front like me, your jaw was on the floor. If you were further away in the back, you were marveling at the unreal cinematography and choreography on display. From uptempo bangers to melancholic piano ballads and one tearjerking cover of Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero,” it was a perfectly rendered set that nobody else managed to top for the rest of the weekend, despite many valiant efforts. I cannot wait to see her headline Primavera next month, where her hometown Barcelona crowd will inevitably make it the cultural event of the summer. ¡Te amo a Rosalía!
Afterwards, I fully expected boygenius to feel like a letdown, but that simply did not happen. Instead, the supergroup of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker threw down a sizzling set that had the size, power and scope of an arena rock show. For all the labeling of “sad girl indie,” the trio is able to turn their intimate brand of indie rock into a truly explosive, stratospheric live affair. Standing right behind my hero Kat Moss of Scowl, I struggled to fight back tears during “Emily I’m Sorry.”
I’ve never given a flying hell about BLACKPINK – they’re music on-record is way too basic, gaudy and repetitive for my tastes – but even I’ll admit that their Saturday night performance was easily the best headlining set of the weekend. Yes, they really did hit us with that DU-DU-DU-DU-DUU. The drone lighting, the outfits, the video screens, choreography, the tightness and physicality of their performance, and the insane crowd energy was peak performance art. Jenny, Jisoo, Lisa and Rose are on a telepathic wavelength when they perform, and while tracks like “Lovesick Girls” and “Kill This Love” aren’t quite my thing, they hit every single mark as they strutted the catwalk and whipped fans into a frenzy. I might not stan BLACKPINK, but I definitely stan LALISA, whose individual performance delivered shades of Beyonce, Nicki and Ariana. When this group inevitably breaks up in the next five years, it’ll be Lisa who’ll have the thriving solo career. Bet on it.
I’m not gonna lie, getting up and mobilized on the final day of W2 felt like climbing Mt. Everest. Six days of Coachella is exponentially tougher than three, and after sleeping in and napping by the pool, we made it to the shuttle around 3 p.m. An incredibly bad traffic jam prevented me from catching verbose post-punk Brits Sleaford Mods, but after another double-fisting of Aperol Spritz, I did make it just in time for the indie rock one-two punch of Weyes Blood and Alex G.
Weyes Blood and Alex G were both immaculate in their own special way. Weyes Blood’s heavenly Carole King-Laurel Canyon balladeering led to tearjerker singalongs, especially during tracks like “God Turned Me Into A Flower” and “Grapevine.” Meanwhile, Alex G’s signature aloof stage presence conjured a spiritual DIY rock experience as he raced through a set made up almost exclusively of tracks off recent masterpiece God Save The Animals. This block of sets was a nice course-correction after unwisely choosing Rae Sremmurd at this time the previous weekend.
But the set I really want to talk about is Knocked Loose, who I saw BOTH weekends. On paper, the Kentucky beatdown metalcore heroes are about the furthest thing from what the average Coachella-goer is looking for, and singer Bryan Garris was self-aware enough to acknowledge that. At the same time, the novelty of seeing such an indescribably heavy band yielded a massive line to get in, and just about the most intense energy I’ve ever seen at any Coachella set in all my years of going. People online and in the hardcore communities were skeptical that Coachella could show out for a set like this. But we did, and those in the crowd and those catching the stream online were downright flabbergasted.
Knocked Loose absolutely fucking sent it. Thunderous breakdowns. The biggest circle pit in Coachella’s history. Bodies, bodies, bodies flying off the stage with reckless abandon. At one point, the entire crowd became one giant series of moshpits. Nobody was safe. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand. When Garris screamed, he sounded like a pissed off preteen hopped up on too much Code Red Mountain Dew. For some people, that sounds like nails on a chalkboard. For me, it’s exactly my shit. Eventually, Garris graciously thanked everyone in the crowd for turning up, and shouted out the few other like-minded acts who held it down throughout a thrilling weekend in the Sonora Tent: Soul Glo, Ethel Cain, Scowl, Destroy Boys. If this leads to Knocked Loose becoming the next-big-thing on the festival circuit, then they won the weekend. If the success of their performance convinces Coachella to book more bands like them in the future, then we all won. In any case, ARF ARF.
Finally, the weekend was set to come to an end, and mercifully, we didn’t have to endure another Frank Ocean meltdown to get there. Instead, a b2b of Blink-182 and Four Tet, Fred Again.. and Skrillex closed it out in euphoric fashion. Blink did their thing once again. Same setlist – except we also got “Stay Together For The Kids” – and all the power of a fireworks-laced main stage headlining spectacle that they didn’t have in the Sahara Tent on W1.
And then there was the big surprise of W2, the Pangbourne House Mafia guys themselves. Ironically, they set up in the space vacated by Frank’s abandoned ice skating rink, situated in the middle of the Main Stage crowd with fans wrapped around them in a circle. It felt like the world’s most expensive Boiler Room DJ set. Four Tet, Fred and Skrillex telepathically traded off mixing duties and conjured a hyperkinetic blend of dubstep, breakbeat, future garage, house, and any other whims they felt like acting upon. Most notably, Four Tet presented himself as the ultimate EDM troll, building off whatever energy he was given and fucking everything up in glorious crowd-pleasing fashion. That meant mixing a snippet of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into dubstep troll-banger “Country Riddim,” (he would transition into “Country Riddim” three more times during the set) and randomly dropping “Call Me Maybe” and “Party in the U.S.A.” in seemingly inopportune moments. The songs, the lasers, the set-up, and the combined telekinetic mixing powers were something truly not of this earth. It wasn’t my favorite set of the weekend. But it was the most fun I had at any set, and the perfect way to bring Coachella to an epic end.
Later, as I sat basking in the glow on the shuttle on the way back to our condo – my mind and soul completely drained from my aching body – I was suddenly reminded of my own mortality. I’d put my mental, physical, and emotional health through a fucking ringer two weekends in a row, and I could barely formulate a thought in my head beyond “I feel like I’m gonna die.” But that therein lies the rub of Coachella. The juice is 100% worth the squeeze. Moments later, sat on the couch watching Survivor reruns, my group and I made a somewhat tenuous pact to attend Coachella for as long as we are willing and able. For me, that means up until the day I die. At this point, outside of a global pandemic, Coachella will always be there.
Coachella will never die, but I will. And until that happens, I’ll always be ready for more.