Reflections on Coachella

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The advent of low fares, lower expectation airlines has seen a boom in travel to overseas festivals. It’s almost as affordable to take in Primavera in Porto or Exit in Serbia than it is to venture to Glastonbury these days. Moreover, the intrepid explorers us Brits are, we love sampling the festival delights laid on at our European neighbours. Although Nick Grimshaw’s regular attendance means Coachella isn’t exactly an ‘in the know’ festival, it takes a flight to LA and onward transport the 150 miles to Indio’s Empire Polo Club before you can pitch your tent. Here are three reasons why your correspondent thinks it’s worth the effort:
  1. The weather. While the UK endured the Never Ending Winter, the temperatures at Coachella got up to a tasty 30+ degrees. That, mixed with a complete lack of rain, meant no mud. Whatsoever. Indeed, the Polo field grass held up remarkably well, allowing the spectacularly trendy to go bare foot (with others bare chested, save some painted on nipple tassles). Result: a dry, wonderfully comfortable experience.
  2. The design. For starters, you have the option to camp next to your car. No mucking about trying to find a piece of marginal land that you later discover is situated on top of a cess pit. This guarantees you a regulation space and the ability to store valuables in your boot. Then there’s the site itself which, even at capacity, takes a mere 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Hardly the Glasto travel hour. Finally, the space is filled with interactive art installations that actually warrant a look. This year, a huge snail wended it’s way around the site at a comically slow pace while ‘Coachella Power Station’ – some dudes in overalls and animal masks confined to a replica energy facility behind glass – entertained the masses with a mixture of high jinx and ‘lightning’ shows. Result: a perfect stage for the music.
  3. The programming. The weather and festival design wouldn’t have counted for much if the music had been so-so. Thankfully, the problem was more who to fit in and who to sacrifice. Our weekend started with one of the many UK artists playing, Beardyman. His boundless talent and decidedly quirky style set the tone for the event, unashamedly finishing with a vocal rendition of gabba for the benefit of those lucky enough to avoid the 200 bpm noise previously. TNGHT and then Blur made the night for me on Friday with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing the business on the main stage. All three acts benefited from a strong front man/woman (that was Lunice for TNGHT, who dances at the front of the stage like a member of the crowd). Other highlights were seeing the place erupt when Bauuer himself dropped Harlem Shake, James Blake performing his recent LP Overgrown on a sunny Sunday afternoon and Jamie XX, first delivering a seamless set along with fellow band members Romy and Oliver then playing a huge DJ set in the Yuma tent the next day. Result: happy go lucky punters.

Yes, there are some oddities. Drinking is allowed in beer gardens only, it took hours to get past the security check on the way in and R Kelly was the surprise act, which surprised just about everybody. But these were petty gripes in an otherwise mega festival. Go West.

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Festival sounds (2011)

With Bestival marking the end of the festival season t’other week and summer dying long before, i thought I’d share my 2011 festival highlights with you.

It started for me at Glastonbury, a festival I’d always wanted to go to but never had much luck (or conviction) buying tickets for. Snapping up tickets by travelling from Taunton, nothing could stop me now. And it didn’t disappoint. I was impressed first of all by Metronomy whose lp The English Riveira has been a summer favourite. Everything Goes My Way set the tone for the rest of the day; we found ourselves wiling out to Wu Tang, on the periphery for the ever popular Beardyman, getting revived by Little Dragon (Swimming off their second lp standing out) and entranced by Radiohead, even if they didn’t play Feral.

On Saturday we indulged in proper pop: I’m unabashed to say Tinie Tempah was good. I was really happy about arriving at Gold Panda in time for Marriage – his lp Lucky Shiner has been on heavy rotation since it came out last year. Friendly Fires were typically energetic and the hula girls for Hawaiian Air made it the biggie of their set. James Blake was a little self-indulgent but the crowd came alive when he dropped his up-tempo stuff, cmyk smashing it as the kids might say.

Sundays highlights in a crabshell: Laura Marling (Rambling Man), Paul Simon (call me al), Jamie Woon (Spirals – so good) and of course Beyonce.

V Festival was a different beast altogether. I found myself enthralled by Bruno Mars and Example, digging Arctic Monkeys and avoiding all manner of acts, not least chipmunk for the second festival running. The controversial decision to miss Eminem paid off big time when we had a rumpus to Jaguar Skills.

Third and finally, we traded rock gods for chef gods at Jimmy’s Harvest Festival. Here, Jamie Oliver got a huge cheer, James Martin was electric and Gennaro Contaldo was my clear favourite. The food was immense and, er, The Feeling played.

A number of the tracks noted above can be found at the YouTube channel here.

So, what swept your hair off this summer?