Coachella 2014

Last year Coachella was like a spiritual retreat for me. And I write that as someone who really resists the word "spiritual." But that's what it was. I was alone. I was super introspective and emotional, and I had no one to talk to but myself. So that's what I did. I went deep inside and connected to parts of me I hadn't realized a) existed or b) needed connecting to. And I know how silly and navel-gazing that sounds, believe me. But that's how it was. And it was amazing. This year I was with Terence, and save for the few times we separated for short periods, we experienced everything together. So while it was, again, intensely emotional at times, those emotions weren't of the sort one feels alone. And that's what made it both completely different and totally awesome.

There were some changes this year that I had mixed emotions about. For one thing, they moved the Do Lab off to a far back corner of the festival, probably in response to complaints about noise contamination, since last year it sat squarely in the middle of the grounds. And while I agree that it was a good idea to move it, I kind of missed seeing/hearing that big, hedonistic mosh pit of wet, throbbing bodies every so often. They scaled it way down in size and, inexplicably, redesigned the shade structures in an inverted fashion, rendering them sort of useless:

I wasn't particularly into any of the DJs playing the Do Lab, so it was just as well that it'd been relocated to Siberia. We didn't spend any time back there (we didn't really have a lot of downtime, period), but it definitely made for some pretty photos:

The art installations change every year, and this year's showpiece was a massive, mobile astronaut who crept slowly around the grounds and whose mask lit up at night with looped video:

Last year's boat, great for climbing on and getting high-up vantage points for photos, was replaced by a huge, stationary, flower-wielding robot:

The shade structures of the Do Lab that had been so central, and so convenient for both recovery and people watching were replaced by a flower-covered, upside down arc off near the Gobi and Mojave Tents:

One of my favorite moments of the weekend ended up being in here. Sunday night, a rare break, waiting for Arcade Fire. We were a little cold, a little tired, and a lot high, and we curled up against an inner wall of the arc and just held one another, soaking up the last hours of the festival. It was lovely.

Scheduling conflicts prevented us from seeing any of MGMT (though we heard Electric Eel loud and clear from across the grounds - a huge advantage Coachella has over other fests is that acts on the main stage can be heard no matter where in the fest you're at) and Pet Shop Boys, but we both agree that we have absolutely no regrets. Other than those two misses, I saw virtually every show I'd hoped to - and virtually every show was awesome. No sound problems, no complaints about the set list, no issues whatsoever. I felt spoiled rotten by this year's music. Top overall performances: Muse, CHVRCHES, Bastille, Washed Out, Broken Bells, Beck, Dillon Francis, and Frank Turner.

And speaking of Frank Turner, he was just delightful:

I was hoping his show would be something of a singalong, and oh man. He did not disappoint. You want a rock star you can feel good about supporting? It doesn't get more humble, more down-to-earth, and more classy than this guy. Not to mention hilarious, engaging, and extremely talented. I predict (and hope for) great things for him.

His fans were out in full force, as I expected, and they even started a little mosh pit, if you can really call running around in a circle, jumping, laughing and high-fiving one another a mosh pit:

Terence hadn't been to Coachella in ten years, and even then, he'd been hanging out backstage. So this was really his first time attending as a fan, and his first time seeing all of the new developments - including the awe-inspiring EDM cathedral that is the Sahara Tent.

Walking up to the Sahara Tent for the first time - the hugeness, the lights, the unbelievable acoustics - is pretty exciting. It was so fun to see it hit him and to experience that thrill all over again, vicariously. I didn't get stuck in Sahara this year, thank god (it was the reason I missed many of last year's headliners); I feel like we saw just enough EDM to satisfy me: Dillon Francis, Martin Garrix, Gareth Emery, Zedd, some of Duck Sauce - and while Terence stayed at Outkast, I snuck over to a nearly-empty Michael Brun show and got my fill of dancing alone.

I never mind being far back in Sahara. Not only is there room to actually move, the breeze comes in and totally invigorates everyone, and the whole last section turns into a massive dance party, and people actually interact with one another rather than just stare forward. We worked out the perfect meeting place, which is directly in the middle and under the very back edge of the tent. No need to text or worries about miscommunications. Also? Makes for great pics. :)

During the day, Sahara can get pretty unbearably hot, which is all the more reason to stay back where the air circulates. But if you're going to go in, a good spot to get is immediately next to the tech platform. You've got a slightly raised platform that's only wide enough for you (so no one will be standing on top of you), plus a railing to your side for extra room. We snagged this real estate for Gareth Emery (Long Way Home). Perfect for me since I also had the convenience of Terence the Shade Tree blocking my sun:

Dancing with Terence was so fun. He totally gets that I like space and room to breathe. He stood behind me, or next to me, or in front of me, happy (and tall enough) to just watch over my head, while I closed my eyes and floated away, my hand resting lightly on his chest to steady myself. Heaven.

We didn't take a lot of photos together, because I know what a hot mess I am at festivals. Exhibit LOL:

I think we took those just before Poolside, on Sunday, when we were tapped. Exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and definitely ready to wrap up the third day. I may or may not have puked when we got off the shuttle in the morning, in fact. Laying in the shade on the sheet for an hour was just what we needed.

Popsicles, helped, too:

Girls dancing in the fading light, just before Calvin Harris performed at Coachella Stage:

There's nothing like those dusk shows at the main stage. The energy and joy is palpable and infectious. Everyone running around, cavorting like kids, jumping and skipping and laughing and playing. It's like a life recess.

Laying and listening to The Naked and Famous, just chilling and talking and soaking up the scene:

The giant, multicolored pretzel structure that lit up at night:

The first day, recovering from the drive and acclimating to the heat (97 degrees on Friday), laying and listening to Dum Dum Girls while we found cloud shapes in the sky:

The amazeballs show that was Muse:

They doubled the size of the Yuma tent. And while I understand the decision (it was tiny and way overcrowded), this made it, I don't know, less cool? In fact, now it sort of looks like a big gymnasium at the end of prom, with kids scattered and recovering in all corners. But that's okay, because it has a massive disco shark hanging from the ceiling:

And a grab bag of assorted leftovers:

And finally, last year's snail that Terence constructed when we got home, to help us cope with the post-festival blues (which aren't as bad, so far, as they've been for me in the past. I went pretty light on the party favors this year, which helps):

Odds and ends:

Lana Del Rey was absolutely enchanting. She descended on the chaos that is Coachella like some kind of heavenly songbird and soothed us for an hour. I was way gone for her set and just sort of clung to Terence, and we swayed while she serenaded us. It was so gorgeous.

Beck played Loser and Que Onda Guero, and that made me very, very happy.

Empire of the Sun was just as good as they were the other two times I saw them. And Washed Out's set was way, waaaaay better than their Outside Lands 2012 set. Made me cry, in fact.

As far as surprise guests, we saw Diplo join Dillon Francis and Blondie join Arcade Fire, but we missed everyone else (and it's a good thing we did, because Nas's superstar blowout kept everyone's attention and was what allowed us to get so close to the stage at Muse).

Muse covered Lithium as a tribute to the anniversary of Cobain's death, and it was pretty unreal.

Even though I love The Shins, I didn't go to Coachella as a huge Broken Bells fan. But wow did they sound brilliant. I may need to revisit them.

I didn't take much in the way of video, but I did throw a few things up on my Viddy.

Coachella totally satisfied my festival needs this year. I feel more than content skipping OL and Bonnaroo and EDC, partly because holy hell am I exhausted. But I really just couldn't have asked for a better, more rounded-out festival experience.

Okay, sorry for the half-assed effort here but I'm still deep in recovery, so I'm kind of amazed at myself for getting anything up so soon. Serotonin lowwww and I caught a nasty cold to boot. Catch you guys on the so-me circuit soon!