The word “Coachella” seems self-explanatory. I thought I’d heard it enough to have an accurate depiction of the place before I’d even gone. Little did I know it takes more than a name to revive the festival’s fantasy. It was further from my expectations, but close to a mirage.
Coachella turns a fanatic’s dreamland into a realistic setting. Aside from music, the experience is also an immersion; pink palm tree alleys, sculptures of blown-up carnivore flowers, fluorescent lights at night time, and the people themselves are covered with imagination—where else does one pull off a full-on peacock costume? The desert hypnotizes its visitors into having the time of their lives. I saw little sign of daily constraints in others’ faces, and thus, mine vanished instantly. I was filled with the sense of temporarily belonging to an extraordinary kingdom.
But let’s talk music. Our days consisted in meanders around a shining venue, walking between stages as in a museum, comparing concerts and enjoying our ability to hear Beirut and Justice consecutively. This aspect of the festival was a new experience to me; at first, I felt the music was treated disposably when we’d leave midway if a show lingered. Yet that was also our wealth. Coachella is the right place for an overwhelming amount of music, and that weekend we could afford to change our minds. It also have me a chance to discover new artists—“Here We Go Magic,” a cherished encounter.
This year, each of the three days consisted of about fifty shows. The headliners—Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead and a combination of Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre and Tupak’s hologram—played last; an evil technique that amplified our excitement. So once the awaited artists came on at night, the crowd exploded.
I’d mostly come to see Radiohead, and I religiously reserved my spot two to three hours prior, but it was worth the wasted hours. Their concert was the most moving I’ve attended, a combination of thirty songs and two encores in the midst of a desert. They touched on all their albums and every song was magical. The crowd felt the weight of the band’s legendary status; I walked back to my tent in an uplifting daze.
Snoop Dog’s show was more of an entertainment. Throughout the weekend, the word had spread of Tupak’s recreation, thus the attraction was its appearance. When the hologram came on I stood there, confused. I searched for differences between Snoop Dog’s realism and the screen figure’s; none. Dre casually rapped away with a dead man’s resurrection as it danced like a live man. The sight was absurd and people laughed in amused awe. The show wasn’t inspirational like Radiohead’s, but it brought the crowd together in delivering an unrepeatable performance.
Coachella felt similar to entering the world for the first time; everything was new and at its best. I recommend you enter the venue’s doors yourself. Its colors, tones and vibes may vary in their magic for you.
Images by Clara Cassan, compiled by Katie Marston and Laura Francis.