A classical nerd at Coachella: Day 1


Ok, so let's get something out of the way. I'm at a 3-day music festival with eight guys, most of whom went to college together. Just assume we're doing Coachella things at Coachella.

We left for Coachella in a big white van. We hired a driver for obvious reasons. It takes about an hour to get to the site from our rental house. It was a perfectly beautiful day, and riding to the festival in the bright sunshine while everything took effect was lovely and surreal. As we got close to the festival, I decided that we'd actually passed the festival site, and were now being taken to be sold into white slavery. My row-mate (in the last row of the van) and I discussed it, and we decided that if push came to shove, we'd make a break for it out of the back, and all the other guys could fend for themselves.

Then we were there. We got ourselves together before we got too freaked out by the massive security presence. Getting into the festival is confusing and not at all intuitive. Our driver pulled into what seemed like the right place, but we were told to turn around and find another entrance. Our driver said "OK", and then proceeded to not turn around and just kept driving until we hit some sort of security entrance, whereby we all hustled out and walked in like we belonged to the place. It was baller as fuck.

So, mind you, we're all lightly buzzing, and suddenly we're in a huge open space in the absolutely blazing sun with 50,000 other people and this is the first thing we see:

TRIPPY! The "Corporate Headquarters" has guys in suits and Hippo masks playing with money all day. All day. The big caterpillar moves back and forth slowly across the lawn, which is also trippy when you see the caterpillar about a half-mile from where you last saw it. Also, this:

There are six stages at Coachella, two of which are "main" stages and are big outdoor spaces. The other four are large tents, which is nice when it gets hot hot hot in the middle of the day. We settled into the main stage at around 2:15 and got ready for our first cant-miss of the day, Action Bronson.

It was the perfect way to start the day. He clearly loves that people are into his shit, and he gave a very fun and active 45 minute set. He can really get around for a huge guy. When he left, with "Easy Rider" he left the stage, got on a motorcycle, slapped about 5 fans in the head, and left. Great start.

After that, we wandered around, getting the lay of the land, checking out the scene, and enjoying being high in the middle of the desert. There are lot of shirtless muscle-heads and waifish girls wearing next to nothing, mixed with lifers, hardcore music fans, and old guys. Most people are pretty cool about the crowding and jostling, but the smaller the girl, the more likely I get a shoulder or elbow on the way by, which gets tiresome, but I ain't exactly going to retaliate. We made our way to the EDM tent.

This was not my favorite part of the day:

I had to put my earplugs in. It was like an assault. It was not music I was willing to damage my hearing over. I have to say, I don't get EDM that much. I can't really hate on it, because people (mostly under 25) were having a blast. It's just not for me. I prefer music that I can't predict what's going to happen for the next 30 seconds. Oh, drop the bass! Whatever. Time for beers.

Properly lubricated, we stumbled (literally) upon a tent stage where we were drawn to the music inside. It turned out to be Kimbra, who was new to me, and I really dug it. She is a super dynamic front woman with a big voice and presence onstage. The band was great, tight, well-rehearsed, killer drummer. A really nice surprise. I'm a new fan.

After that it was on to the second stage for the end of Angus & Julia Stone. Fine. Didn't make a huge impression on me. Up next on the same stage was Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, which was awesome in a distinctly old-school way. Nothing new, but fun and a welcome break from melodic pop/rock.

Had some dinner, more beers, ate the edibles and mushrooms I had on my person, and then it was time for a band my friend was raving about all day, Alabama Shakes.

I was blown away. The lead singer and guitarist, a large black woman, was special. That's the only way I can put it. Sometimes you see someone and you know they're an artist immediately. Amazing pitch, range, and more soul than I could handle. A great band behind her. So good. I'm a new fan, for sure.

Then it was time for Steely Dan.

Steely Dan is obviously a great band, with killer players at each position, and they gave a show. I don't know, it's just not really for me. I enjoy the high level of musicianship for sure, but it doesn't really move me. It's too clever by half. It was night now:

We walked to the other side of the beer garden to catch Tame Impala. Sort of trippy, post Pink Floyd psychadelia. I definitely dug it, but I was also in the right kind of head-space, so to speak. We were all starting to run on fumes at that point.

Then. at last, it was time for the headliners, AC/DC. I wasn't really expecting to like it much, but it's also amazing to get punched in the face by a wall of sound. The had like 40 Marshall amps on stage, and it sounded like it.

We stayed for about a half-hour and then tried to beat the crowd outta there. Having entered improperly, we had no fucking idea how to get out, and guess what? Neither did the people who worked there! It look us 45 minutes in the dark to find the exit and then another half hour on foot to find our van and then another hour home through terrible festival traffic. Coachella definitely doesn't want you to leave. As it was, we beat the standstill heading into the fest and got home in relatively good shape.

Today, Alt-J, Hozier, Belle and Sebastian, Tyler the Creator, and Jack White. Hopefully more surprises. Stay tuned!