A Classical Nerd at Coachella: Day 2

After a marathon day one, we made a rather later entrance on day two. None of us particularly wanted to sit in 95 degree sunshine, especially since we were all different degrees of hazy hangovers. We showed up at about 4:00 after some vigorous pre-gaming. This time we actually showed up at the proper entrance and made the long hike into the site. It takes about 25 minutes to walk the paths and get through security, which is cursory at best.

I was feeling pretty good. As we entered, we passed at tent that was booming the loudest techno music of all time. I wanted absolutely no part of it. The last tent in or out? The end of the line. No thanks.

There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people walking through. All colors, shapes, sizes, outfits, costumes. That kind of scene is bewildering to me under the best of circumstances. In this case, I just decided to hang with the flow and not be concerned. Not so easy. Eventually the crush of people coming through the entrance began to lighten up and then we were here:

Milky Chance was finishing their set as we arrived. The lead singer was quite ill and apologized for not being able to sing, so we didn't feel too bad about getting there late. Then it was another amazing crush to get into the beer garden - hundreds of sweaty people fighting through a chokepoint for alcohol, the smell of pot literally everywhere. I went on autopilot and tried to make sure not to trample any tiny women, who were surely getting the worst of it in the exchange. As the logjam hit its peak, we realized they were turning people back who had "over 21" wristbands from the day before, making the salmon ladder much, much worse. We started to boo the people who were being turned back, until I suddenly realized they were my guys, and so then I shut up.

We lost everyone in the crush, so bit by bit we found each other (and beer) and sat down to wait for Hozier.

By the way, I know a lot of these pictures are from similar angles, but once you get inside the beer garden, you pretty much don't want to go back out into the fray. Anyway, I liked it OK. The crowd, much more sedate today, really enjoyed it, lots of singing along, girls on shoulders, stuff like that. For me it fell short of being really good - there was the pretense of sophisticated music-making, but every time they went for something I could feel the seams come apart a bit.

Back to the crowd. Friday's crowd seemed somewhat overcharged. Lots of jostling and bumping, spilled beers, kids passing out and falling over (amateurs). Today's crowd was older, more well-heeled, and there was more convivial vibe, and even though it seemed like there were more people there overall it felt more relaxed and somehow felt like there was more personal space overall.

While my friends got food and wandered around, I decided to go check out something called the Corporate Headquarters, where there are guys in suits and hippo masks doing random shit all day. Looks like this:

The lines of balloons in the background are pretty cool. They have human anchors, and the anchors move around in different configurations all day. I thought it was my imagination. The balloons plus the enormous caterpillar that prowls the grounds add up to a somewhat otherworldly experience, whatever was happening in my bloodstream notwithstanding.

We got back together as a group to hit alt-J.

Honestly, at this point I have to admit that I don't remember much of this show. I think I thought it was cool, and they used the video screens on the sides of the stage to great effect. My focus hit the wall for a bit, and I spent the set looking around at this:

Pictures can't really do justice to the vivid scene. it's absolutely otherworldly, like some strange desert planet where everyone has gathered to not give a fuck about anything for three days. There were lots of colored lights, including neon-lit palm trees that would change colors throughout the evening. Just beautiful, and something I'll never forget.

When alt-J was done, we wandered over the food tents for some much-needed sustainance (pizza and beer, obv), then chilled out on the lawn. I had wanted to see Tyler the Creator, who started at the same time as Jack White. When he came out on stage, shouting incoherently into the mic with a day-glo Romper Room set and like 1,000 guys with him, my crew immediately turned on the idea. One of my guys called it "angry Nickelodeon". At that moment, a huge explosion of sound came over us from the other side. It was Jack White, and we made our way over with a quickness.

Holy. Shit.

It was like a bomb of absolute awesomeness exploded in the crowd. Everyone around me was flipping out, totally into the set. From time to time, it seemed like people holding onto their heads to keep them from flying off from the onslaught of badassery.

It was, honestly, one of the best shows of any genre I've ever seen. He and his (fucking killer) band hauled ass through the whole output of his career, from heavy rock through four-on-the-floor country to childrens songs. It was extraordinary. When I was a college professor I saw the White Stripes in Raleigh at a small club called the Disco Rodeo, and that was also a great show, but always obviously limited by Meg's rudimentary but essential drumming. Now, surrounded by really badass players at every position, I really felt the full flowering of an idea, a through-line that became almost impossibly great. The band communicates (verbally and non-) constantly. I loved it on every level.

We walked out slightly early to beat the huge traffic rush, and looking back I took this shot:

Pretty much looks like my memory. Making more tomorrow. My last from this evening is walking outside, pulling the screen door behind me, then turning directly back around and walking right into the screen. Winning.