Coachella, an evolved festival experience

Festival culture is an integral part of the human experience. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Mardi Gras and Día de los Muertos are all examples of traditional festivals that bring people together from all over the world.

Music and art festivals such as Woodstock and Bonnaroo are about as American as burgers and zombies. Whether Warped Tour, SXSW, Burning Man, Decibel, whatever, people from all over the country take a road trip or fly out in migratory patterns to these cultural magnets.

Coachella takes this post-Americana milieu to a new level for its 15th year. Instead of being an event to pass on to friends and family through non-ironically, poorly exposed film photos and pre-Clinton oral tradition — “Remember the summer of ‘69?” … “Yeah, man” — Coachella with its performers and attendees has become a social, digital experience. With designated check-in locations around the park, like #CoachellaAstronaut, a giant astronaut roaming the festival grounds, and so many Instagram photos that the website temporarily shut down, the festival has created its own sphere of influence in the online realm. And if you couldn’t make it to the festival, CoachellaCast has you covered.

 

 

Coachella 2014 also distances itself from previous years with the sheer amount of celebrity cameos around the festival. Some things that have happened so far: Aaron Paul photo bombing some unsuspecting selfie-taker, Beyoncé dancing onstage with her sister Solange, DJ Elijah Wood spinning for a two-day pool party at a private estate and Debbie Harry of Blondie performing “Heart of Glass” with Arcade Fire.

With digital and celebrity presence skyrocketing, production values and comfort levels followed suit. VIP beer gardens, phone charging stations, #CRAFTchella art studios, vintage boutiques, beauty bars, a Wi-Fi tent with printers, farmers markets, supermarket shuttles and a four-course meal illustrate the stark departure from Coachella’s humble beginnings.

The stage and venue design and the large-scale installations sets the scene for the festival. For the first time in Coachella history the posters feature the names of some of the more non-musical artists, such as The Do LaB and performance troupe Lucent Dossier. The Do LaB, responsible for the Lightning in a Bottle Festival coming up in May and known for their idiosyncratic, multi-dimensional stage design, celebrates their 10th year at Coachella with a private lineup. Poetic Kinetics designed some of the most iconic elements of this year’s installations with their kinetic and interactive #CoachellaAstronaut and giant snail pieces. A build-your-own snail is even included in the collectable wristband ticket box. This year’s focus sheds a little more limelight on the people accountable for the visual environment. Visual artist and musician Abby Porter of Animal Collective design fame leads workshops in the art studios on puppet and video making. Philllip K. Smith III’s “Reflection Field” light installation in the desert is reminiscent of a more modern rendition of the monolith of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Aside from the browned grass and warmer temperatures, weekend two is approaching and will have a few different forces working for it. Each week always has a few surprises and cameos the other didn’t, like Thom Yorke’s appearance last year during Modeselektor’s week two set. Speculation of Daft Punk, Robin Thicke or T.I. showing up for Pharrell’s week two set is all over the internet, but no one will know until it happens. Record Store Day on April 19 falls on Coachella day two, which means its onsite record store might have a few exclusive releases.

Many people compare their time at the festival to a religious experience; this will be especially inevitable during this weekend’s Easter date on day three.

Coachella week two is from April 18 through April 20 and features the same line up and installations.

Reach the reporter at tyler.griffin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @tydgriffin