It’s a sad fact of life that, after two full days and nights of festing and after partying in 90+ degree desert heat and an inordinate amount of substances willingly or unwillingly consumed, I’m not always going to be in tip top shape by the time Sunday of Coachella rolls around. I tell myself every year: it’s a marathon, not a spring. Rarely do I listen. So apologies, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Hannah Wants, Noname, and Japanese Breakfast – I wanted to see you, I really did, but my body had other ideas. It didn’t help that my prediction that Sunday would an easy ride in proved horribly, horribly wrong. For no discernable reason whatsoever, event staff allowed concertgoers to wait in line for over an hour at various parking lots that ended up already being full, thus necessitating subsequent re-routing and even longer waits at other overflow lots. Not sure how this happened given the relative fluidity of previous days, but maybe there’s a lot more Eminem fans than I thought.
Luckily, Sunday’s offerings were fairly sparse compared to the abundance of riches that flowed from noon to midnight Friday and Saturday. After catching a few minutes of raucous LA garage punks FIDLAR (a left-field choice for your average Coachella attendee, but good for some chuckles and some yells), I hurried over to the Outdoor stage to see the entirety of Jessie Ware. Although technical problems delayed the start of her set and Ms. Ware hilariously complained that the desert heat was too much for “a Jewish princess,” her and her crack backing band, all dressed in angelic white, nailed down a woozy, dreamy ten-song set of electronic-tinged R&B. Ms. Ware’s voice remains a singular entity, able to arc into high, cord searing ranges while also deftly moving around the lower registers, fleshing out emotions and syllables with equal ease. The audience size was abysmal given the competing attention given to Cardi B’s hotly anticipated set at the main stage, but Ms. Ware rolled with it, bantering playfully with the audience and taking some hefty swigs from a beer throughout. Give her another chance Coachella.
As a press member, I’m granted a free 3-day general admission ticket; given the relative cost of not only a regular GA ticket (close to $500), I’ve never even considered grabbing a $1000 VIP ticket to access the cordoned off VIP areas that dot the festival. Shorter lines, cleaner bathrooms, better food, and more beautiful people are certainly bonuses, but the media tent gets its own bathrooms, free waters, and, uh, free popsicles. Who says no? But while catching Portugal. The Man play an unusually fiery set as the sun set on the main stage and I watched with a friend from the beer garden, an opportunity presented itself. One, two, and then three people began jumping over the chain-link fence separating the GA beer garden from the models over in VIP. My friend and I watched, amused, as a couple made it in, although the third was apprehended shortly thereafter by security. But the repeated climbs and jumps dislodged a section of the fence, letting it slip open about a foot – just enough to let my friend and me slip in and walk hurriedly over to the bar to lose ourselves in the crowd. For most of the rest of the night I used my journalistic powers for good: investigating how the other, richer half lives. The answer? They generally get very drunk and look very good while doing so, although I got the impression they were they more for Instagram than for whatever was going on stage. The tequila was great, though.
Oh, and the Portugal. The Man show? Few bands are more suited to play the sundown set at a modern day festival, as the size of the crowd attested to. They certainly know it too – not only opening with a Metallica cover (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”) but also closing with a “Sleep Forever” medley that included snippets of a “Hey Jude” cover AND a “Smile” cover is certainly one of the ballsiest moves I’ve seen from a band that has veered towards cheesy mainstream-baiting recently more often than not. Based on the crowd’s reaction, though, it paid off.
I would have preferred to leave the main stage to catch Welsh DJ and Hot Natured member Jamie Jones blow up the Yuma tent as soon as he came on around 9 p.m., but the lure of VIP kept me around to see ODESZA. I’ve never really been a fan of the Seattle production duo’s live show, who generally like to keep it slow, steady, and mildly groovy, whereas I was desperately searching for something up tempo. Whether it was the steady supply of booze or the stunning light show they pulled off, but their brand of future bass seemed kicked up a notch Sunday night, including a particularly forceful version of their hit “Sun Models.” The real treat, however, was the live drone show sponsored by Intel that danced hundreds of feet overhead in time to the group’s music, at one point creating the geometric logo of the duo and at others re-arranging itself into various shapes and colors. Intel said the drones emit more than 4 billion colors, which in my addled state of mind sounded about right.
After watching a few minutes of Eminem feeling sorry for himself, the rest of the night was a blur of four on the floor and breakneck house grooves. From Jamie Jones destroying a packed, sweaty house of zombie festivalgoers in the Yuma tent to a surprise B2B set from Saturday artists the Black Madonna and Jackmaster closing the Do LaB, Sunday night was essentially a blur of good vibes, better drinks, and worse (much worse) dance moves. After assembling a crew of random attendees that my friends and I had met over the course of the night in the VIP, we trekked from dance floor to dance floor and then beyond, somehow ending up at an after party at a massive Indio estate several blocks east of the festival grounds. Featuring performances from Bedouin and Guy Gerber that went nearly until the sun went up at a villa that included a pool the size of a lake and, shockingly, also offered an open bar, the event was another opportunity for the more well heeled degenerates of Coachella to keep the party going. After three days of doing nothing but partying in the desert, I must say I was impressed with the stamina of the attendees. As for me, I’m happy to say I made it to the end and back to the rental in one piece, alive and very much fried. My Monday was certainly no picnic, but surviving the latest I’ve ever gone at a Coachella gives me hope: perhaps year 10 at Coachella for me in 2019, and my dreaded dirty 30 to go along with it, won’t be so bad after all.
- This is certainly the first time I’ve put two headliners in the “Quick Hits” section of this feature, but, like the Weeknd on Friday, Eminem didn’t really do much for me Sunday night. Whether it was the number of newer songs sprinkled throughout the setlist or the fact that a single rapper rarely plays well alone in the headlining slot (Kanye was the exception that proved the rule), it wasn’t the sort of good vibes needed to end Coachella with.
- Migos were certainly one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, but their closing set at the Sahara tent crashed before it even had a chance to get off the ground. After running nearly 45 minutes late, technical problems continued to plague their set, leading to a rarity at Coachella these days: boos. Hopefully they’ll get it together for weekend two.
- Jazz isn’t something that usually graces a Coachella poster, but Kamasi Washington isn’t your standard bandleader. His set at the Outdoor stage, which I had to catch at least a couple songs from, was predictably excellent, if also predictably under-attended.
- Claude VonStroke playing under his given name, Barclay Crenshaw, in a typically innovative, suitably weird closing set at the Gobi.
- In another play for a dying rock crowd, A Perfect Circle played to diminished crowds as they closed the Outdoor stage. Unsurprisingly, the band was unable to enforce their “no camera” policy given the size of the crowd. Perhaps surprisingly, on the other hand, the setlist was a bit disappointing, largely taking from the band’s new record Eat the Elephant. One song from Mer de Noms? Play to the crowd Maynard.
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
- Hannah Wants
- Japanese Breakfast
- King Krule
- The Drums
Top 5 Sets
2. The Black Madonna
3. St. Vincent
5. Tash Sultana