Friday, April 13, 2012

Coachella, Smoachella...

Via Hello Giggles

Ah yes, it's that time of year again; when I wistfully think of all those lucky sods living it up "hipster-style" on an artificial green mecca surrounded by the scorching, dusty Californian desert.  Pronounced co-chell-a, Indio has become quite the place to be come April. A festival ... in April? Why so early, you ask? Well, when you consider that the average day temperature hits about 38 degrees Celsius (that's a 100F for you crazy Yankees), imagine how many people's faces would melt off come June or July. Or even worse, August! Now add to that lots of walking around, lovely humid port-a-loos, crushing crowds and very little shade and it's not the easiest festival to attend. 

Via Hollywood Reporter

You'd really want to be into your music... or mashed off your faaaaaace on something. It's not the place for your timely mid-life crisis/rediscovery of youth. A festival like this will literally demand blood, sweat and tears from you as a minimum requirement for entry. Mind you, the sort that attend don't look too flustered at all...  

You generally get a mixture of people at different festivals. Oxegen usually draws the following sort; 
  1. Chart Hit Lovers: People who just love their pop music, the sort commonly found on Top 40 lists around the world. We're talking The Script, Rihanna, Eminem, David Guetta etc... and that one indie/folk band that manages to capture the whole market i.e. Mumford and Sons, Florence + The Machine, Bon Iver (strictly just for Skinny Love tho... totes emotional). 
  2. Die Hards: Fans who would jump off a cliff to see that one band they love. Think along the lines of Kings of Leon, Muse, Coldplay (though there is nothing wrong with Coldplay. I'll fight ya if you disagree...). 
  3. Senior Cycle Teens: Once you're past 4th year, you're in the big league now and thus, basically like totes an adult. Your first move to establish independence? Leave home for a mucky weekend up the country with 40 of your closest friends and trying to survive on packets of Jaffa cakes, croissants from Lidl and a slab of beer you got someone's brother to buy for you.
  4. Sorry to say it but the uh... well.... scummy sort... Maybe we should  just say the frustrated youth, with a passion for tracksuits and a penchant for Dutch Gold and doing nothing except sitting in the camping site and robbing people's tents. Or alternatively, just walking off with them altogether. 

Electric Picnic  attracts a different kind;
  1. Die Hard Music Lovers: The difference between them and the Die Hards at Oxegen is that they are die hard fans of music in general. Everything. Anything. Any band you like, they own the entire back catalogue of. You'll find a few musical snobs in among them, though most of us are susceptible to a bout of "Oh yeah, I heard of them like 45 years ago". These are the people who know that the sample in Avicii's "Levels" is actually Etta James, consider Radiohead as some form of gods (present company excluded; I find Thom Yorke depressing) and know that Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie was part of The Postal Service too, like... duh. 
  2. The Cool Older Set: Just because 2000 was the year you sat the Leaving Cert, doesn't mean you still can't indulge in a weekend free from kids, work and the repressive laws of society. This is when that tattoo of the Guns n' Roses logo, gotten one drunken night 15 years ago, is revealed and suddenly Dave from Accounting is sporting dreads and a toke.
  3. The Alternative Parents: These lads bring their kids with them to festivals. Jury is out whether this is madness or a great way to spend family time and let the adults have a bit of fun too.
  4. The Recreational Drug Users: "No, that smell in the air isn't herbal cigarettes. And there's a reason why you are suddenly giggling." 
  5. "Celebs": Basically anyone who's been on "The DEN" or TV3 or heaven forbid, Fade Street and thinks they are the epitome of Irish society by attending something that isn't Oxegen.
  6. Musicians: Irish musicians like checking out other bands too so you'll find the likes of Jape, Gemma Hayes, Cathy Davey, Neil Hannon, Cast of Cheers and Bell X1 walking around. If you are more of an Oxegen-goer but desire to be part of the EP set, you'd best check these people out. Here's any easy one; Neil Hannon is responsible for "My Lovely Horse" of Father Ted fame.
  7. Young Hippies: The kind of people who perform in the Body & Soul area, are professional fire-breathers, run the percussion work-shops/drum circles or run the tea café. Life is just one big adventure. Many also sport dreads.

Coachella steps it up a notch further, being America and "bigger is better" and all that. Here we find; 
  1. The slightly more than Recreational Drug Users: "No, that smell in the air isn't herbal cigarettes. And there's a reason why you are suddenly giggling. No, that isn't a stamp you're licking. Now why would anyone bring a bag of washing powder to a festival with them!?"
  2. Bros: The lad's lads for whom wearing a shirt is depriving everyone of the opportunity to see their "sweet bod", topped off with a slight D4 attitude to life, money and girls. Much like yobbos from Oz. 
  3. The "Industry insiders": Painful. They parade around, flashing their "VIP: ACCESS ALL AREAS" neck laminated thingy at every opportunity. Often spotted trailing after #8. They think they are at the hub of the festival. In my humble opinion, that's not backstage running around, looking for a bottle of Evian chilled precisely to -7 for Kanye West. I thought it was more about being in the thick of the crowd and getting to know people and having fun. How naive of me. 
  4.  The Older Dirty Hippies: The kind who were at Woodstock, the first. For them sandals are an all-type of weather accessory. Always seem to be a little out of it. Tells stories about the time that they and Neil Young were on the road together and the tour bus accidentally ran over Iggy Pop.
  5. Senior Year/Freshman Teens:  Once you're past your Senior Year of High School,  you're in the big league now and thus, basically like toootallly an adult. Your first move to establish independence? Leave home for a scorching weekend downstate with 20 of your closest friends and trying to survive on Pop Tarts, too much ecstasy and trying to get served at the bars; if successful you'll spill half the pint as you attempt to beer bong it in one. Neon is your favourite colour.
  6. The Extremely Alternative Parents: Again the jury's out on this one. Would you bring your 3 year old into the desert for 3 days with no nappy changing facilities or daycare? Did I not mention the heat?
  7. The Die Die Hard Music Lovers: Half genuine music nuts; Excited to see their favourite bands and making some new discoveries. Half pure musical snobs; will attend any act who has had but two sentences written about them on Pitchfork, We Are Hunted or Rolling Stone, just to say they have, even if said act consists of a man scratching a fork against a bass guitar while attempting to reach the supersonic tones of a dog whistle.
  8. Actual Celebs: Last year's attendees included Ri-ri, Ian Somerhalder, Paul McCartney, Penn Badgley, Leonardo Di Caprio, Usher, Ashley Greene, Danny deVito, Jeff Goldblum and Katy Perry. You mightn't know some of them but they certainly beat "That guy off Tallafornia".

Are you beginning to see a pattern? Yes, festivals are now only partly about the music. As raised in a pretty spot-on article, published by the Guardian, there are so many festivals nowadays, the lineups begin to look a bit samesy. Gorillaz headlined Coachella the same year they headlined Glastonbury. People like Kanye West, Justice, Mumford and Sons and David Guetta have done the rounds a few times by now. So every festival needs their own additional attractions. What has Coachella got? 
  • Location? 90 minutes from LA. Tick. 
  • Weather? See above. Tick. 
  • Reputation? Have you not been listening? Everyone who's anyone will be there and you'll find it hard to escape the blow-by-blow blog, twitter, status, music magazine, fashion magazine and entertainment news updates. Tick. If you really want to torture yourself, like I do when Glasto is on with the Red Button on BBC, Youtube are live streaming so you can have a second-rate experience of it. 
  • Music? I'll get to that in a minute but for the moment... let's just say Coachella brings the best in indie, rock, electro dance, hip-hop and a few mad things in between... Tick.
  • Crazy mad-themed tents and art installations? Can't avoid them. Tick.
  • A lake? I know you didn't ask but they have one... or a few. It is the desert after all. Tick.

Kicking off back when tube tops and cargo pants were still cool and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" was still on telly, Coachella has been the retreat of many an ironic moustache-wearing music fan since 1999. It's like the American equivalent of Glastonbury (which I attended nearly 2 years ago, lucky me) but obviously, with some stark differences. Instead of raincoats, you wear cut-off denims and swimwear. Instead of packing towels, you pack sun-cream. Instead of bacon butties, you eat sushi or ice-cream. Instead of camping in mud, you camp in "style" (they provide the "tents"). Instead of wellies, you wear flip-flops, a fact made famous by this gem of recording from 2010's "sesh".

Why am I wistful? Maybe because I still have this blasted thesis to write (don't worry, procrastination is down to a minimum). Or maybe because I'd like to try and attend a festival where I don't have to worry about getting through the mud quickly from one stage to another, athlete's foot or having extra clothes in case mine are soaked through. Don't get me wrong. I am a seasoned gig and festival goer at this stage. However, neither do I  proclaim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I love festivals. LOVE them. I am generally that person who manages to see 35 acts over the course of the weekend while also having time to check out the art installations, the interactive exhibitions, the comedy tent and the amusement rides. My brother is like me in this regard. 
Every year, we've it allll planned out. Each of us has a laminated timetable, back up timetable, individual cross-sectioned timetables highlighting who is going where and to see what. These are also generally graded on a scale of 1 - 10 so we know the bands we REALLY want to see and the bands we're not pushed about; that gives us time to go exploring. Last year we volunteered at Electric Picnic which was a great experience, to feel involved in the running of the festival. Spotted no acts walking around though but got talking to so many people. Huge perk of the job. So all this considered, I'd think of myself in the category of festival-goer who does go for the music.  Every festival is different and I'd like to try my hand at Coachella, if not for the music then for the famous sunsets.

This year has split the festival over the space of two weekends and while Coachella promotes environmental and charitable causes, I suspect that they're in it for the money this year, due to past losses. Basic tickets are a cool $285 (€217), making it cheaper than both Poxegen and EP and the crowd reaches a max of 80,000. Considering Glastonbury is approx. 180,000 people, that is a seriously manageable figure in my mind. Furthermore, with a history of line-ups to make your knees go weak, I'll be planning my adventure soon enough. If any of my friends are up for a trip there in the next few years, let me know! Maybe we can join a band, playing the xylophone or something, just to go.

While it'll be a few years yet till my feet set down in California, here a few of the acts I'd be going to see this weekend. I won't give ye any biographies or my take on them. I like all this stuff. It's what ye think that counts; 

Andrew Bird - Imitosis

Azealia Banks - 212

Beirut - Nantes

Childish Gambino - Heartbeat

Girl Talk - Play Your Part (Part 1)

Gotye - Heart's a Mess

Grouplove - Tongue Tied

M83 - Midnight City

Madness - Our House

Metronomy - The Look

Miike Snow - Paddling Out

Pulp - Do You Remember the First Time?

Real Estate - It's Real

Santigold - Disparate Youth

Sleeper Agent - Get Burned

Wild Beasts - Hooting and Howling

This isn't anywhere near half of the acts I'd go see if I could. I would include amongst the above;

Arctic Monkeys, At the Drive In, Band of Skulls, Bon Iver, Calvin Harris, Buzzcocks, David Guetta, DJ Shadow, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Dragonette, Explosions in the Sky, Feist, First Aid Kit, Fitz and the Tantrums, Florence and the Machine, Jacque Lu Cont, James, Jimmy Cliff, Justice, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, Laura Marling, Lissie, M.Ward, Manchester Orchestra, Martin Solveig, Neon Indian, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Radiohead, SBTRKT, St. Vincent, Swedish House Mafia, The Black Keys, The Head and Heart, The Hives, The Horrors, The Rapture, The Shins, The Vaccines, tUnE-yArDs, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Wolf Gang and so on and so forth.

Well, after my rant and a half/procrastination, I'll leave ye to listening or resuming your normal life. I'll just sit here thinking about the lucky duckies who get to take a weekend off from everyday life and are currently walking around bare-footed under the Californian sky. At least we can say I'm not bitter...Glastonbury is better anyway...
 Thanks for reading folks.


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Swami Vivekananda


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