How does one review a Coachella? It is hard because you are taking a weekend that is very much a personal experience that involves close friends, music, and the good times you create (or don’t). Some people go to try and catch as many concerts as possible in three days. Some merely use it as an opportunity to explore how many drugs they can fill their body with in three days. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Some people go for the art. Some people probably just go for their friends. Teenagers go to fit in or to look like a rebel. Old farts go to feel young and seem hip. I even heard Bear Grylls showed up to film an episode of Man vs Festivals in order to properly demonstrate exactly how to drink copious amounts of alcohol in 108 degree weather without dying (I think the trick had something to do with mixing every drink with pickle juice). Personally, I only go for the Ferris wheel.
In three days, I saw thirty-three acts. Some were great, some were less than so, some were just downright awful. The group of friends I was with was beyond stellar. Everyone was in high spirits all weekend, and trying to hit as much music as I was (until the very last set of the festival anyways). So between the jams, the friends, the food, the festival, and the daunting task of having to fuse all of these things together for one review, I have just decided to review Coachella by way of an award ceremony, while making less-than-subtle jabs at Coachella itself to display its inferiority to Bonnaroo. Commence award ceremony:
Greatest Start to the Day Award: Black Lips
It being 108 degrees on Saturday (seriously), you need a bit of a pick me up immediately upon entering the festival. Black Lips couldn’t have been a better choice about 3 sets into the day to revitalize, brutalize, and jump start your festival spirit.
Just Missed: Santigold
Act I Most Regret Missing Out On: M83
Being a stickler for community, I couldn’t part from my group during The Black Keys. It also didn’t hurt that The Keys are among my favorites and they were playing new material. And the fact that I will be seeing M83 this summer at Lollapalooza. Nonetheless, it still was a tough pill to swallow that I was missing these guys.
Just Missed: St. Vincent, Flying Lotus
Most Surprising Act: M. Ward
I’ve seen M. Ward in other forms like She & Him as well as Monsters of Folk, and I thoroughly enjoyed him in both outfits. All-that-to-say, all “M” all the time, was quite the treat. He sounds as classic as they come, with some mad guitar skills to boot. I’ve never seen anyone abuse a guitar by-way-of finger picking so bad in my life.
Just Missed: Bon Iver, Andrew Bird
Biggest Stink-Bomb Award: The Shins
You couldn’t pay me to want to see these guys again. Not only is their music dull and lifeless while performed live, but it doesn’t even sound good. The vocals sound soft and emotionless while the music is as bland as Wonder Bread.
Just Missed: Florence and the Machine
Greatest Dancer Award: Mitchell Burns
Whether he was hopping around dancing on strangers at EDM shows, moshing in the front few rows with me at the Black Lips, or simply getting his soulful groove on at The Weeknd, Mitchell’s moves were a perfect way to set the mood for any show at Coachella.
Just Missed: Thom Yorke
Lamest Coachella Law: Curfew
Coachella isn’t one to stay out late, or get up early. The 1 AM curfew abruptly ends the night before you’re ready to sleep and the 12 PM start time gives you too much time to recover. So it’s unlike most festivals, it’s not constant moving that kills you, it’s the sitting around in the afternoon.
Just Missed: No Beer Outside the Beer Garden (this is most likely due to the fact that 90% of Coachella goers are under 16).
Greatest Performance Award: Radiohead
I don’t care how many times I’ve seen them, nobody can live up to the way these guys hold it together live. King of Limbs was somehow even better to witness in person than it is to listen to through headphones. The extreme layers, soaring vocals (as Wes says), and Thom’s spastic dance moves could have only been better if I was front and center like I intended. Unfortunately, a good friend that had kindly been waiting for 4 straight sets with me in order to hold down front and center seats passed out minutes before Radiohead came onstage due to heat exhaustion. After carrying her through a relentless few rows of people (one guy even yelling at Alicia as she was passed out in my arms to “learn to deal, newb”) she was given water, air, and lemonade, which rejuvenated her enough for us to enjoy the show from a distance.
As I said, it’s hard to review something of such proportion and keep it to a reasonable word count, but hopefully this worked. At LxL we certainly love our festivals. We tend to talk and criticize them a lot, but I feel it’s for good cause. When spending that much money for one weekend it’s good to know what you are getting yourself into. I will say, I enjoyed the weekend thoroughly, but it was with little help to Goldenvoice/Coachella themselves. Average of 40 minute sets, very conflicting schedule, beer not allowed outside the gardens, the curfew, as well as the outrageous ticket price ($390), all stack up nicely for other (cheaper) festivals to be far more worth the money.
Coachella Festival: 4/11
Personal Coachella 2012 Experience: 10/11