We wake up around 9am and I make a move to get some breakfast from the convenience store next to our minus 5 star Desert Lodge in Palm Springs. Luckily I manage to get Coco Pops, milk and fresh orange juice and tap up “Harpoon” Harry (our accomodation owner from Bombay) for a crusty bowl and table spoon to complete the mission. The weather channel reports that it’s going to be a 90+ degree’s scorcher in Indio where the festival is taking place. After rubbing in some factor 30 and slipping into our summer attire, we head out for light refreshments before meeting the shuttle coach that will take us on a 45 minute drive to the festival.
We arrive at the meeting point in a location off of Palm Canyon Drive and we are greeted by an excitable, young and fashionable crowd ready to enjoy some good music in the desert sun. Aboard the very welcomed air conditioned vessel we make our way through stunning desert and mountain landscapes and arrive at the Empire Polo Club for the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
After showing our ID and getting our Heineken wrist band to be able to enter the several large beer gardens located within the festival we have a mooch to scope out the arena set-up. I head for the Oasis Dome stage which will be hosting the likes of our very own Joy Orbison, Ramadanman, Kode 9 and Mary Anne Hobbs to check it out and I feel that it should have been located in a more central position, to give it more of chance for people to stumble across and get involved, but that’s me being a selfish patriot.
The whole festival set-up is a well oiled operation where you never have to queue long for drinks, food or most importantly the toilets. You are only able to consume alcohol in the beer garden areas and the whole event is cleaned as the day progresses which keeps everything tidy. During the day the weather is in the 90′s (and even 100+) and everybody is enjoying themselves and lapping it up whilst dancing or relaxing to music from the very impressive line-up. When the sun goes down the festival kicks into a new lease of life where the interesting structures you spot throughout the day illuminate and light up the night sky. The temperature also drops off and a light cardy or hoody may be required unless your off your tits or drunk enough not to care.
So what were the highlights over the 3 days this year? Well on the Friday we stumbled across an electro/dark wave/synth pop band called Cold Cave out of New York and their live performance had the punters in the Mojave tent captivated by the driving guitar hooks and catchy melodies, even in the afternoon heat and their sound definitely pulls at my heart strings as I grew up listening to music of a similar fashion. After that we checked out Detroit’s up and coming teenage protégé Kyle Hall in the Oasis Dome who was playing some really good stuff, then we watched Cee Lo Green arrive late on the Main Stage where he eventually got cut off half way through his set which gave him the right hump. He was effing and blinding and making a right song and dance dance about it, so we dropped a shoulder for a beer and a bit of grub before heading over to catch Kele (Bloc Party) and Marina and the Diamonds in the Gobi tent, both of which were outstanding. We finished the evening off with Crystal Castles on the Outdoor Theatre, where Alice Glass was throwing and thrashing herself around the stage and crowd surfing in a leg cast…love that woman.
Saturday was a delightful mix of indie dance and electronica as the Foals and Two Door Cinema Club braved the afternoon sun in the Mojave tent, Empire of the Sun lifted the Outdoor Theatre and Mary Anne Hobbs categorically smashed the Oasis Dome up, down and sideways. She certainly gave a lesson in mixing and moving across multiple styles and genres and I would definitely advise fledging DJ’s to give her skills some attention.
On Sunday, the final day we decided to check out the charming Ellie Goulding who was a joy to watch and the crowd loved her. A pumped up Tinie Tempah followed Ellie and she joined him on stage mid-set to crash out some collaborative vocal polyphony. Joy Orbison and Ramadanman had the Oasis Dome shuffling about nicely where the highlight track of that stage for me was Julio Bashmore’s “Battle For Middle You”. Chromeo wowed us with electro disco on the Outdoor Theatre and The Strokes and the impressive Duran Duran entertained the Main Stage. My old dear would have loved it singing away to the likes of “Rio” and “Girls On Film”
All in all a wonderful festival that is well worth the cost, 11 hour flight and the several hours driving to get there. Interestingly only 2.20% of this years tickets were bought in the UK and Europe, saying that you do have to act fast as they sold out in a record 124 hours from release. I’d get involved next year if I were you.