Coachella; the crown jewel of the international festival circuit.  Every year, tens of thousands of people descend on Coachella Valley for the two-weekend extravaganza that robots atop pyramids and blonde girls with flower crowns have defined for the worldwide music community.  I’m just now recovering from my tenth edition of the festival (throwback to 2006) and ready to go.  Here’s how a decade of Coachella culminated in this, our fine year of 2016.

Friday:

Primed with the only full night of sleep we’d get all weekend, our crew entered Coachella 2016 with open eyes and an overwhelming disdain for security lines in the sun.  The layout of this year’s festival was remarkably similar to the last; the Do LaB’s Big Fish was in the corner past the food, the Sahara tent stood hard right in all of its monolithic glory, and the main stage, sporting LED screens that were substantially bigger than any year prior, commanded the left side of the grounds.  We did, however, notice that the art this year couldn’t keep up with the work presented in the years prior.  Not to say there wasn’t a fair share of installations, but the pieces seemed to be more of a meeting spot or a placeholder for the interactive experiences we had last year.  I digress…

Louis the Child was first up, and we were beyond excited to see what lighting system Coachella had stacked the Sahara Tent with this year.  Well, think large, cubist, upside-down pyramid with floating boxes dropping in from the ceiling; tricky right? The tent was packed with fans of the up-and-coming OWSLA all-stars, and the energy was palpable.  They managed to put down a consistent groove throughout their set that had everyone warming up for the big names to come.

Soon after, Sam Feldt, a Beatport favorite, took to the decks.  People started flowing in as soon as they heard the first three notes of his defining track “You’ve Got To Show Me Love.” His tracks were lighthearted and fun, but I was ready to get off the top 40 and check out Bob Moses in the Gobi tent.

I’d heard nothing but incredible things about Bob Moses’ surprise set at the Do LaB from the weekend prior, and I see why.  They were able to put out the kind of vibe you get from an after-hours Lightning in a Bottle set to a crowd in a massive tent at 4:30 in the afternoon.  It wasn’t incredibly packed, but the bodies were rolling in the more they played, and the vibe was just getting heavier.  I was in the zone and all I wanted to hear was more house music, so off we went to see Nic Fanciulli at the Yuma Tent.

This is the crown jewel of Coachella in my opinion.  They literally created an all-hours after-hours experience in the middle of a hundred degree day in the desert.  There are so many things that make the experience of the Yuma so impressive, let alone the incredible works of Nic Fanciulli.  The sound system, paired with the closed design of the tent, is thundering, the crowd is less that of the Sahara, Beatport vibe and more of an older, Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method kind of people, it’s completely enclosed (and thus, out of the blistering heat), and there’s a mother f*cking disco shark.  We spent about an hour grooving to Mr.Fanciulli, and decided we needed a change-up in the department of filthy bass; Protohype was about to take the stage in the Heineken House.

The Heineken House stepped it up this year, there’s no doubt about it.  We’re talking about putting together a festival-grade lineup for what was essentially a pop-up bar.  This was a full-scale production that added an entirely different element to the lineup.  Friday was all about bass; seriously they booked Doctor P as their headliner, I haven’t seen a classic dubstep act like that close out for any of the stages since Datsik in 2012.  The venue was crowded, but not packed, with a mix of head-banging festival warriors and people who mistakenly wandered in for a drink.  As soon as Protohype hit the decks though, we were in for a ride.  I’m talking about a solid hour of a crowd throwing down some of the rowdiest, alcohol-fueled dance moves I’ve ever seen at a Coachella set; props.

Lido_Coachella_2016

Lido and Jaden Smith

We took a little break to eat some of the incredible food that Coachella had to offer, and then made our way to the Gobi tent to see Lido play out his unreleased album.  I was wary on the choice of stage for him considering he’s amassed a sizable following in the last year, but it was perfectly condensed and he wouldn’t have been able to command a stage any larger.  He had his full live setup ready to go, and started off strong, but he lost me during one of the first few songs.  He went off on a small tirade about how “this is not an EDM show” or that he was “not going to tell you how to dance” that I  think alienated the audience that ultimately was the reason for his recent claim to fame. He was talented, but the his “outburst of artistry” at the beginning of the set left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get over.  Next up, the Do LaB.

The_Do_LaB_Coachella_2016

“Big Fish”

The Do LaB’s “Big Fish” was back in full-force this year with an upgraded sound system and LED panels that really set a precedent for the other stages at the event.  The stage is constantly packed because everyone there is always dancing, enjoying the water misters, or just hanging out in the grass under the shade structures.  We made our way into this melting pot to catch rising Scottish superstar Sam Gellaitry.  He had no problem commanding such a willing crowd with his unique tracks, and he made it look so easy the whole time.  It was a shame to leave, but we had holy commitments of sorts.

Now, I’m not sure how many of our readers are Jewish, but during weekend 2 we had just started Passover, and no Passover is complete without a proper Seder.  Luckily for us, our favorite Jewish rapper, Kosha Dillz, was hosting hourly services for free in the campgrounds right outside of the festival exit.  There was a group of nearly twenty people trying to get a Seder snap to their worried mothers back home, and we were all treated to matzah, grape juice, a good ten minutes of badass lyrical freestyles, and a much-needed break before the final push of the night. We said our prayers, shook some hands, and departed Matzahchella to see the late, great LCD Soundsystem reunite on the main stage.

LCD_Soundsystem_Coachella_2016

LCD Soundsystem

First and foremost, James Murphy and the entire LCD squad have an irrevocable piece of my heart for the two times I had seen them before they broke up, not to mention for all the incredible music they put out.  That being said, their position as headliners for the first night of Coachella, while well-warranted, felt out of context.  They opened heavy with “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” in the first few songs, but the energy of the crowd was well behind that of James Murphy’s making for an interesting juxtaposition.  The performance was spectacular, but we weren’t ready to end our night by swaying, so once again we took off to the Do LaB to catch our favorite patchouli-soaked peeps.

Hippie Sabotage was one of the coveted surprise guests for the Do LaB that evening, and the crowd had come out in full force.  One of them acted as a dedicated MC for the set while the other played tracks from behind the comfort of the booth, and the crowd was loving every minute of it.  The MC was an effective hype man in the sense that he got everyone jumping, but the music couldn’t keep up with the energy.  Hippie Sabotage’s tracks are incredibly well produced, but are notoriously slow.  They made the best of their set, and ultimately the Do LaB crowd got with it, but not without some effort.

Hippie_Sabotage_Coachella_2016

Hippie Sabotage

After that, we cartwheeled all the way back to the car with what little energy the festival had left us; day one, complete.

 

 

Saturday:

Day 2! Day 2! We got a solid four hours in, took a dip in the pool, and rushed to make it to the Sahara tent in time to see the f*cking legend, Mr.Carmack.  We parked the car and sprinted to the festival entrance because we were worried about missing his set.  Luckily for us, we made it just in time for a special appearance from Extraordinarily Long Security Lines, which we graciously accepted in lieu of seeing Carmack in the Sahara tent.  Next time buddy.

Either way, we made it in with time to spare until Run The Jewels, so we made a pit-stop in the Yuma to catch part of SOPHIE’s set.  His selection consisted largely of house music, but it was riddled with experimental trap and Jersey house tracks that really made this set stand out.  It wasn’t exactly a classic Yuma set, but the fans were ecstatic to experience this sound system being used for other genres, if only for a moment. We left the shaded oasis to make the trek to Main Stage shortly after.

Run_The_Jewels_Coachella_2016

Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels, hot off their Sanders-endorsed weekend 1 set, attracted a massive crowd willing to bake in the sun to see them do what they do best.  We were stoked just to see El-P and Killer Mike lay it down for an hour, but they figured they’d up the ante.  Their first guest was DJ Shadow who spun during “Don’t Speak,” followed by Travis Barker wailing on the drums for “All Due Respect,” then Big Boi for “Banana Clipper” who was then joined by Phantogram to play the Big Grams song “Born To Shine.”  This star-studded set was topped off with Rage Against The Machine’s Zach de la Rocha joining the boys for “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck).”

 

We stuck around for a little longer after their set to catch the beginning of Chvrches, and I must say that their lead singer is an incredibly talented individual.  The production of their tracks are so spot on, but seeing Lauren lay down the vocals live was so impressive to me.  After that, we took a bit of a detour from the musical scene of Coachella and dove head first into creme de la creme of the culinary experiences the festival had to offer.That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we had to experience Outstanding in the Field at least once in our lives, why not do it when we’re writing a review? (For the sake of this recap, please understand that my partner and I were wearing open-chested kimonos and a flurry of flash tattoos and hair color for this day of the festival.)

 

Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 they have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches…and now at a festival. ONE 4 course meal, cooked by celebrated Chefs in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden.

Outstanding_In_The_Field_Coachella_2016

A leftward view from our table

We honestly had no idea what to expect from a sit-down meal from Coachella; I’m barely used to eating regular food, let alone doing it in a formal manner at a music festival.  With nothing but the utmost enthusiasm, we walked to the tent outside of the Rose Garden, nearly 100 feet from the Sahara Tent where AlunaGeorge was then playing, and got our wristbands.  We walked in to find that this event was in a small field that contained a bar tent and a hundred-something foot long table that was to be shared by all the attendees.  This VIP of VIPs experience felt great and we hadn’t even stepped foot into the dinner area.  We got our wristbands checked and walked in to the field where the table was where we were greeted with some of the greatest welcoming cocktails I’ve had in my life.  Okay, truthfully these cocktails were good, but the juxtaposition of embarking on a four course meal within view of the Sahara Tent an hour before Snails came on made everything spectacular beyond measure.  Our meal was curated by two incredibly talented chefs: Steven Fretz of The Church Key in West Hollywood and Lincoln Carson of Lincoln Heavy Industries.  These two geniuses, paired with the organizational expertise of Outstanding in the field, as well as the unbelievable wine pairings of (I had two Mourvedres that changed my life), made for an incredible experience that I urge everyone to try at least once in their Coachella-going experience.  I still cannot believe that this little oasis exists in the midst of all this madness, and it makes even less sense the more I think about the fact we ran 30 seconds from our the end of our meal to the front of the Sahara tent ready to rage for Snails.  A scheduling conflict between him and Ice Cube made for a smaller crowd than I would have expected, but it was no real tell of how well he was going to play.

Our music festival reprieve was abruptly ended as soon as we heard the #vomitstep master take to the decks; the day had officially transitioned into night and all civil behavior was kept at bay.  We spent the entire 50 minutes that our French-Canadian dubstep champion was spinning absolutely head-banging and moshing in every conceivable.  The day may have been filled with surprises, but the night made up for it in strides with the energy of the attendees.  I walked out of that set a sweat-soaked, jew-fro’d, kimono-wearing mess; I needed some water.

Snails_Coachella_2016

Snails behind the decks

I came back thirty minutes later to see that the tent, which was only 40% full for Snails, had been packed to the brim and continued to flow out of all possible openings.  I remember seeing him for the first time at HARD in 2014 in the midst of his mysterious start where the crowd was admirable, but this was something else entirely.  The beauty of this set was in its simplicity; the lighting was thoughtful, creative, and not too overwhelming, and the live performance of these tracks was a genuine treat.  I’d say a fair portion of the crowd had heard some of Zhu’s classic remixes and expected an EDM beatdown, but in reality it was a perfect performance that really showcased the talent behind the project.  That being said, Justin Martin was playing Yuma and there was no way we could miss the end of his set.

Dirtybird Crew represent! I was excited to see this set all weekend considering that JMart was absolutely incredible at Dirtybird Campout last year.  I busted into that Yuma tent ready to groove, and groove I did (for the fifteen minutes I was able to catch of him).  It’s too bad, but in that time he managed to attract an incredibly enthusiastic crowd and put down some absolute bangers for them. It was time for one last push, RL Grime was headlining the Sahara tent.

RL_Grime_Coachella_2016

RL Grime in the Sahara Tent

The crowd from Zhu had nearly doubled in size; seriously, RL Grime could have rivaled Guns’n’Roses for a headlining slot on the principle of crowd size alone.  It was nearly impossible to move, even within a hundred feet of the tent, and it was the first time I had ever acknowledged that the meteoric rise of EDM was over, and that it was in fact a force to be reckoned with in modern society, but I digress.  This trap genius took the Sahara tent by storm, instantly turning it into an absolute madhouse.  Everyone was moving, this was RL F*cking Grime taking control of one of the largest crowds for one of the largest music festivals in the world.  Whomever was handling the lighting won my heart a thousand times over.  Paired with the classic visuals of Susboy, Grime turned his music into a visceral experience unmatched by most previous headliners of the stage.  Day 2, out.

 

Sunday:

Our entire weekend had been building up to the incredibly stacked lineup of day 3, and oh sh*t were we ready.  We were whisked through security (thank god, I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with another hour-long ordeal) and we booked it all the way to the Mojave Tent to catch an early set from our boy Hudson Mohawke.

HudMo, known to some as half of the duo TNGHT, cranked the system early.  I remember seeing Run The Jewels in the Mojave Tent the year prior and being heartbroken over how awful the sound was, but that was simply not the case this time around.  HudMo played a set of longer, more drawn-out originals that was reminiscent of Flume’s live performances.  It was a set of predominantly 808-fueled tracks, but he did switch it up with a hardstyle remix of TNGHT’s classic, “Higher Ground,” that threw people for a spin.  We got our buffer set out of the way, we were warmed up, and Baauer was about to man the helm of the Sahara Tent.

Baauer_Coachella_2016

Baauer in the Sahara Tent

Thank god the “Harlem Shake” fad only lived a couple of weeks because Baauer had recently released his album “Aa,” and it was time to rage.  The tent was packed, the sound system was primed, and off he went.  He played through several of the tracks from his album, some serious throwbacks like “Coke In My Nose,” and still no “Harlem Shake.”  All in all, Baauer put on an excellent performance, but we felt like he was holding back from some real sh*t that would have melted the crowd, so to speak. Til next time.

Up next was Major Lazer on the main stage.  It had been awhile since I’ve seen a Coachella EDM act capable of holding down that behemoth of a venue, but they were ready.  The crowd was pouring in from every conceivable direction, so naturally we went with the flow and ended up directly in front of the stage in front of the right speaker tower.  It was really impressive to see this genre of music represented here, let alone with this much support.  Major Lazer themselves have a formula for their live shows that they implemented here, just like any other.  The formula involves getting the crowd to dance together, taking off an article of clothing, maybe sitting or doing a cartwheel; point is, they have it down to a science that worked perfectly for this main stage.  We left that shindig around the third progressive house track we heard to go check out Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes right next door at the Outdoor Stage.

The vibes there were on another level. For everything Major Lazer failed to capture with their main-stage method, Edward Sharpe made up for and then some.  The crowd was sparse, but it felt like such an intimate gathering of friends when paired with the music in the background.  Their soft-spoken rendition of “Home” nearly had me in tears when the entire crowd was singing, something I’ve never experienced at a show.  Unfortunately, at several points in the set, Major Lazer’s sound bled so heavily into the Outdoor Stage that I had genuine trouble hearing the performers I had visited that stage for.

We took a short break for some food after Edward Sharpe, and had no real plan for who we were going to see.  At one point my friend texted me “PAAK.  NOW.” so we got up and ran to Mojave to see Anderson. Paak and The Free Nationals playing to a monolithic crowd.  I had heard his name before, but as soon as you see him on stage next to the likes of Dr.Dre and Kendrick Lamar, you instantly recognize that he is a force to be reckoned with.  He pulled out some seriously heavy hitters while maintaining his right to command that stage, it was a really impressive experience. After that, we made our way to the Do LaB to close out our Coachella with some cult-classic sets.

Anderson_Paak_Coachella_2016

Dr.Dre and Anderson .Paak

Last year (2015), Kraddy was the breadwinner of Coachella in my book.  This former Glitch Mob member had made his way into a Saturday night set last year and absolutely shattered any potential bar that had been set by artists that weekend.  I could not convey to you how hard people were dancing to some of the dirtiest trap and dubstep on the planet, but this year was no different.  The only thing that set apart this year and last year’s set was the exorbitant amount of bass and LEDs they added, so you can imagine how hard we were going.

We patiently waited at the end of Kraddy’s set to find out what special guest would have the honor of closing out the Do LaB for Coachella 2016.  There was a lot of hustle on stage to get set up; I saw people who were fresh off the playa plugging in cables, guys in suits with Jack U laminates handling mixers, but then I saw a Mad Decent bomber jacket and knew what was coming.  Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, Major Lazer had taken their main stage appeal all the way to the Do LaB’s “Big Fish.”  The instant they hit the decks, everyone made a mad dash to get all of their friends to this humble stage for an intimate Major Lazer experience.  It was incredible to see the Do LaB pull such a massive name into their domain, but the music was still the same as what we heard on the main stage earlier that day.  With that, we took our snaps, raged face for a bit, and said goodbye to our tenth year of Coachella, sweaty and content.

Major_Lazer_Coachella_2016

Major Lazer at the Do LaB