The Great Coachella Hunt
This past weekend, Grantland editors Robert Mays and Emily Yoshida went to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Because we couldn’t just let them go and have a nice time among the rave kids and B-list celebrities in Indio, we decided to make them do a scavenger hunt. Who won the weekend (other than Daft Punk)? Join us and find out!
Yoshida: We arrive at the box office to get braceleted up. Girl working the booth in the press line does not seem to be enjoying her job very much. I am starting to understand the exact level of mental and physical punishment I am about to endure, and am already worried about how to acclimate to it. This will be a complicated mental exercise.
Mays: Eight minutes. That’s exactly how long it took from the start of my first set of the weekend until I spotted my first ownerless cowboy boot. You can imagine, then, how upset I was when I realized that points for loose cowboy boots weren’t included when the final list was pared down. This could’ve started better.
Yoshida: The rooms in the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California, smell of white tea and aloe as advertised. I lie down and flip through the Westin Home catalogue and discover that, for a price, I can actually own one of its famed Heavenly Beds. Seriously considering just chilling here for the rest of the night. I mean, Coachella has jumped the shark and music is for losers, right?
Yoshida: OK, fine. I guess I should probably check out this Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival thing I’m ostensibly out here to see. I’ve already missed about three sets I had, optimistically I now realize, marked on my wishlist, but I do not intend to miss Dog Blood, a.k.a. the formidable partnership of DJs Boyz Noize and my spiritual twin Sonny “Skrillex” Moore. It is hard to say the name “Dog Blood” with a straight face. I take a Sofia Coppola canned champagne with me as we hike out to catch our ride.
Mays: Because of my lack of familiarity with former Disney Channel stars and the sisters Kardashian, I felt like my best chance to win this thing was with some hustle. That meant almost no down time between shows and having to squeeze in the requisite 15 minutes of bands like Divine Fits on the way to Japandroids. [2 points]
Yoshida: Good god, it takes approximately 1 million years to get from any point A to point B out here. We finally arrive, and I am on the ground at my first Coachella of all time. I had intended to see Four Tet in the new, apparently bougie Yuma tent, but both the bass and the long line to get in are intimidating, so I eat a fish taco on the lawn outside instead and get an accidental back massage from the rumbling ground. I start to worry that I am setting a precedent for myself. I might’ve already come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to win this thing.
Mays: So this is weird, but the desert is really hot. Last year was my first Coachella, and I’ll admit that I was pretty spoiled. It was cool enough on that first night that everyone without a sweatshirt was miserable. This year? Not so much. [1 point: improvisational cooling]
Yoshida: Currently feeling my first wave of Coachella-induced agoraphobia in the beer garden adjacent to the Sahara tent. Why did I agree to do this? I feel utterly trapped in sweaty, loud humanity. There is no way out. I hate people. I never want to see another person in my life. Notice a passed-out guy as I shakily push through the horde to get to the Sahara. I can’t remember if this is a scavenger hunt item; take a picture anyway; immediately feel exploitative. [0 points: not an item, you scumbag]
Yoshida: DOG BLOOD. OH. Is this what Coachella is? If so, I take back any doubt I ever had about the quality of my experience. Agoraphobia: gone. Misanthropy: annihilated. The atmosphere in the Sahara tent is not too different from how I imagine a circa-1987 death metal show to be. About midway through the set, they break out an agonizingly built-up “Wild for the Night” remix (no Rocky guesting, unfortch) and when that drop finally comes, all hell breaks loose. I am jumping up and down with both hands in the air, sandwiched between the same sweaty bros I was loathing less than an hour ago. As a great poet once said, This Is Fucking Awesome. [1 point: set watched; 1 point: photo of Skrillex]
Mays: In my defense, there were no requirements about the quality of Skrillex photo necessary to get points. (He’s the speck on the right with his arms raised.) [1 point: set watched; 1 point: photo of Skrillex]
Yoshida: We cut out early to go catch TNGHT in the Gobi tent, but make a brief detour for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the main stage. The sound is not good. We stick around for the minimum 15 minutes, catch “Maps” and “Heads Will Roll,” then, onward. [1 point]
Yoshida: Big mistake. Maybe it’s my bass-addled ears, but TNGHT’s sound is also woefully subpar, and it appears that Lunice and Hudson are basically just playing their own MP3s while theatrically thrashing at their laptops. I’m starting to wonder if Dog Blood ruined the rest of Coachella for me. (Note: Even though they slayed, it has not gotten any easier to take the name “Dog Blood” seriously.) [1 point]
I would go on to take a LOT of photos of inappropriate Indian headdresses this weekend, but this one is probably still the best. [0 points: Mays's is better, see below]
Yoshida: It occurs to me that the sound might improve if I have another beer. If you had any friends who were at Coachella this weekend, you already know that the beer is nine dollars. But let me repeat: THE BEER IS NINE DOLLARS.
I slam it so that I have time to get a good spot for Blur. My companion needs to use the facilities, so we agree to meet up later. CUE: first Coachella cell phone conundrum. Jeez, y’all weren’t lying about the reception here. I spend the first half of Blur’s set alone, checking my phone, engaged in a maddeningly delayed text battle.
The energy is considerably lower for the acts that have actual instruments to play and a fan base with a median age above 30. I am the youngest person in my immediate vicinity, which is weird — where are all the kids in their 20s who listened to Blur in high school? Damon Albarn actually sounds great — “This Is a Low” is out-of-control emotional — but after a bit I realize this isn’t something I need to be standing for. I go back out and find my friend in time to shuffle on the lawn to “Coffee & TV.” [1 point]
Mays: Naturally, my phone was long dead at this point, so you’ll just have to trust that I saw Tony Hawk in the Mojave tent while waiting for How to Destroy Angels. And really, why would anyone lie about that? Tony bailed right when the show was about to start, and I feel comfortable saying he missed out. Seeing Trent Reznor & Co. was probably the highlight of my weekend. [1 point: celebrity sighting; 1 point: set seen; 2 points: seeing any act in a tent during a headlining act]
Yoshida: I am going home. I want to see Bassnectar, and I want to go to the Guantanamo party, but I’m about to fall over. I promise I’ll do better tomorrow, Coachella. [5 points: best candid photo of five-plus festivalgoers looking sad while charging devices]
Mays: From Mojave, it was back to the EDM-happy Sahara tent, where Bassnectar was the first of my three tent-bound closing acts of the festival — a product of my accompanying group of friends collectively thinking that guitars are inherently evil and deserve to be eradicated. [1 point: set seen; 2 points: seeing any act in a tent during a headlining act]
DAY 1 TOTALS
Yoshida: I’ve been warned about the Day 2 Hangover, but luckily for me, I didn’t drink that much last night AND I slept like a goddamn baby. The only discomfort comes from my neck, which is definitely not happy with all the headbanging I did yesterday. Time to go to one of these Coachella parties I’ve read so much about. Less than 24 hours after strapping on my wristband, it’s hard to imagine how one finds the time for, let alone physically transports one’s self to, the innumerable events scattered throughout the vicinity, but if there’s a point in it for me and I’m in any condition to drive, I’m in.
We arrive at the Ace Hotel for some SPIN party, and I realize immediately that it is exactly where I want to be. The Ace panders so hard and insistently to a certain demographic that eventually you just have to let down your guard and grudgingly admit that they’ve nailed it. L.A. artist Nite Jewel is playing a set in a little covered area, and the atmosphere is incredibly chill. There are novelty floaties in the pool and everyone is just sort of sunning and nodding to the music. If all of Coachella were like this, I’d buy a lifetime VIP pass. [1 point: after- (before?) party hand stamp/bracelet]
[THEORETICAL PARTY PHOTO]
Before leaving (gonna try to make it to 2 Chainz’s set), someone takes a picture of us enjoying a refreshing FUZE iced tea beverage. I have searched high and low on the Internet for proof of this, but to no avail. [0 points: pics or it didn't happen]
Yoshida: Dammit. I arrive on the grounds just as 2 Chainz is ending. I know this is because I am now traveling against the tide of thousands of neon-snapback wearing USC students echoing “2 CHAIIINZ” repeatedly as they make their way to the food court. Maybe it was for the best I wasn’t at that set.
Yoshida: I grab a drink and then make it back to the Mojave in time for Bat for Lashes. [1 point] This was one of those acts I was just gonna casually drop by out of curiosity, but it definitely made it into my top five of the weekend. “Laura” was the obvious standout of the set, but this recording of “What’s a Girl to Do” should convey at least some of Natasha Khan’s presence. Someone has to fill in for Björk in between Björk albums, y’know?
Mays: There were more ridiculous outfits, but this is my candidate for the best of the weekend. It’s hard to explain exactly what makes it so great (the fanny pack, maybe), but I think that’s because it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. It takes a lot to pull of those socks. [5 points: best overall outfit]
Yoshida: Sticking around in the Mojave for Major Lazer. [1 point] This one started off fun and grated after about a half hour. There was something troubling about the hive-mind atmosphere, and how all Diplo and Birdman had to do was tell the crowd to take off their shirts, wave their shirts in the air, then throw them (“if you don’t give a FUCK”) for thousands of people to do just that. I can even go along with participating in “an even BETTER Harlem Shake than Baauer’s!” but needless loss of clothing is not something I can get on-board with. I like my shirt today; plus, I’m a very indecisive shopper and it would take me a long time to find something to replace it.
Yoshida: I meet up again with my companion, and together we do our first three-set run: Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, and Benny Benassi. [3 points: sets seen; 2 points: seeing three different acts within the same set time] Our final stop at the Sahara tent is not pleasant; the overflow nearly reaches to the Mojave tent next door. After 15 minutes we go sit down to plan the rest of our evening. “You’re doing so well at Coachella!” he tells me. I KNOW, RIGHT!?
Yoshida: We watch The xx from the comfort of the main-stage beer garden. I wasn’t planning on seeing them, but right now I need a set that I’m totally OK with sitting on the grass for, and they’re just what the doctor ordered. At one point Solange comes out for a cover of Aaliyah’s “Hot Like Fire,” which is pretty cool. [1 point]
Yoshida: And the rush to get in place for Phoenix begins. I look around and wonder how many people are here for them, and how many people are here for the strongly rumored Daft Punk guest appearance. DP’s ghost has loomed large over this festival; it would almost seem like a crime for them to not make an appearance at some point. I just hope I’m in the right place for it, because I’m not actually that much of a Phoenix fan. Right now I’m that girl who just wants to hear the song from the car commercial, basically. [1 point]
Yoshida: They play the song from the car commercial, then lower the lights. Oh my god. Is it happening? Everyone inches forward, trying to see what’s going on. With almost no notice, the lights come back, and the band is back on with “1901,” except now, R. Kelly is there. Have you ever had a present waiting for you on Christmas that you’re 99 percent positive you know what it is, and when you finally open it, it’s … not lame, per se … but merely different enough to feel underwhelming? Yeah. Kells sings “Ignition (Remix)” and “Flirt” with the band and it’s cool, I guess? I’m so disoriented it’s hard for me to evaluate the actual performance. Don’t tell Rem.
Mays: This is a replica Native American headdress outfitted with neon blue lights. I don’t know what else there is to say about that. [5 points: most inappropriate/insensitive headdress spotting]
DAY 2 TOTALS
Yoshida: I might actually be dead today and I have no idea why I set my alarm. My companion wants to go back to the Ace for breakfast and whatever party action is happening there. This doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Maybe all I need is a strong cup of coffee and some vegan food.
Yoshida: The restaurant is packed. I spot Aziz Ansari waiting in line. [1 point: celebrity sighting] I am fading very quickly. We eventually get a seat by the pool and I look around in a daze, wondering how everyone is still able to stand up. Clearly, they are all Cylons, and I hate them and what they’ve done to my planet.
Yoshida: We were going to swim, but I think if you would have put me in water I’d drown instantly, so we go back to the hotel and I am out for a solid two hours.
Mays: This point on Sunday afternoon was the only time when the sun really felt like it was beating down. The Gaslight Anthem played the main stage at 3:30, and there just wasn’t any shade to be had. I’m just assuming Emily’s floppy hat and this photo are plenty to get me those sunburn points. [5 points: worst sunburn]
Yoshida: Default theme song of Coachella, Day 3:
It is NASTY here today. The walk from the shuttle lot to the entrance has just turned into a massive loogie contest. I also spot this girl in a wheel chair on the way in, who appears to have sustained a foot injury within the past 24 hours, which I think has to count for a point, right? What a trouper.
We make it over to the Gobi for Tanlines [1 point] and then immediately over to the Mojave for James Blake. [1 point] Also now deeply regretting the omission of “life size Taylor Swift cutout” from the list.
Mays: My biggest misstep while we put together the scavenger-hunt list was not including a best/worst jersey category. It’s really the only place I have an advantage. I documented a few anyway, and this Portland Trail Blazers Travis Outlaw jersey I saw during Vampire Weekend (shocker) was easily the worst. My favorite Travie story is probably when he told his coach that sometimes on breakaways, he just felt like pulling up from 20 feet and shooting. Never change, Travie. Never change, dude in Travie Outlaw jersey.
Yoshida: We watch about half of Vampire Weekend [1 point], but the wind and our hunger are getting to be unmanageable, so we go grab a bite in the nearby food court — wait wait wait. Why am I discovering the food court in the main stage beer garden for the first time on Day 3 in the middle of a murderous windstorm? If you couldn’t tell from that description, there are beer AND food here. I get a kale salad from the Green Truck and sit at a picnic table illuminated by the Ferris wheel overhead. Sharing the table with us are a group of party girls and a middle-aged couple who have struck up an amusing conversation about their shared love of Lake Tahoe. “I après-ski better than I ski,” says one of the party girls. Before we move on she gives me a glow stick from the fistful she’s carrying, and obviously I wrap it around my glasses frames. Don’t judge me. It’s the last day of Coachella, I’m cold, I’m tired, and my decisions aren’t going to be the coolest right now. The wind whips it right off my face within minutes, anyway.
Yoshida: Our options for our final Coachella moment are OMD or Excision, because, I’m sorry, but the Nick Cave set would probably put me to sleep at this point and I secretly want to end my weekend where I started, making a fool of myself in the Sahara tent. We stop at the Gobi tent for a bit for OMD’s rather under-attended set. They are all old men now, but sound pretty great, and “Tesla Girls” inspires lots of good-natured dancing. I see my first Coachella baby of the weekend. This set has me feeling very warm and fuzzy. [1 point: set seen; 2 points: seeing any act in a tent during a headlining act]
Yoshida: There’s still time to see Excision, so we make our way to the Sahara tent for ONE LAST DROP. [1 point: set seen; 2 points: seeing any act in a tent during a headlining act] I am very excited to see that it is not nearly as packed as it was for Benny Benassi, so I can get in and rage my last rage before I get blinded by the dust storm. Excision plays a variety of brostep that is probably indiscernible from Skrillex to the casual listener, but I am NOT A CASUAL LISTENER. As soon as we’re in I’m jumping around and headbanging like the last 48 hours never happened. A great way to end the weekend, until my friend accidentally swallows a mouthful of airborne dust and we are forced to retreat.
Mays: Much of Sunday night was marred by heavy winds that made a mess of the desert setting. The breeze had been great earlier in the day, but as the sun went down and the wind picked up, the dust and dirt started swirling to the point that my eyes still don’t feel right. If we were going to add any 2013-specific hunt categories, mine probably would’ve been as follows:
Pounds of dirt unintentionally consumed: 2-3
Best shot of unhappy festivalgoers:
Most definite proof that permanent damage has been done to my respiratory system:
Yoshida: Just as we’re about to make our final exit, the Coachella gods send me one last blessing: This girl getting tossed by security. She’s not cuffed but, COME ON. She was crying! It was very dramatic! I’m still going to lose this thing anyway, so give me a pass here. [1 point: someone getting removed from festival not in handcuffs]
Mays: There were some, though, who wouldn’t let a little dust or cold keep them down. The photo below was taken outside the Sahara tent about 10 minutes after the final set ended, as everyone was filtering out. Our girl in the leather jacket was dancing for a good five minutes, no music necessary. And if Coachella really is all about endurance, I’ve got to say that she’s the real winner. [1 point: non-performer dancing not during a set]
Yoshida: I deboard the shuttle at the hotel and am immediately blown into a cactus, which actually does cut up my legs a bit. SO PUNK ROCK. Great time, Coachella. Now I’m going to go rinse the dirt out of my mouth for an hour.
DAY 3 TOTALS