By: Taiga Koda
Despite being in the midst of exams, papers, final projects, and sleepless nights, I made the journey across the country to Coachella. The Coachella Music and Arts Festival takes place on the lush Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California. The multi-genre line-up provides attendees with a taste of, what is ostensibly, the “hippest” alternative, indie-rock, hip-hop, and electronic—at least that’s the intent.
Prefaced by an unendurable line of waiting cars in the blistering heat and seemingly endless row of tents, I made my way to the Sahara Tent immediately upon arrival. The event organizers, Goldenvoice, had prepared a strong selection of well-known DJs. The Sahara Tent was located on at one of the corners of the sprawling venue and was adorned with an overhead light sculpture that complimented the visual elements of each DJ set.
When I got there, Excision had just started his set and was already throwing dark dubstep drops onto the gradually building crowd. Drenched in sweat, the growing crowd swayed to the bass-driven wobbles. Next on the decks was the Los Angeles based artist, Skrillex—no disappointment, there. Despite being 3:30 p.m. in the dry desert weather the tent was packed and the fans were dancing. He was joined by Jonathan Davis and Munky Shaffer of the nu-metal act Korn for two tracks, including a performance of “Get Up,” a Skrillex/Korn collaboration that had premiered only a day before.
I left the Sahara Tent to take a break, re-hydrate, and explore the rest of the venue. After a slice of pizza and a couple bottles of water, I made my way back to the Sahara Tent just in time to see A-Trak show off his top-tier scratching skills. His vinyl and mixer skills were projected on the big screens, reminding the EDM crowd that there was more to DJ-ing than mixing music. A-Trak’s set featured a pleasant blend of hip-hop and electro, getting both the hipsters and ravers down. Afrojack hit the decks next. His Dutch-house set rocked the audience with a remix of “Louder than Words” and David Guetta’s “Little Bad Girl” while Paul McCartney and Usher danced backstage.
I returned to the dance tent later in anticipation for the U.S. debut of the dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man. Comprised of Skream, Benga, and Artwork, they combined visuals with blasting bass to create an intense, multi-sensory dubstep envirionment. The trio rocked the Sahara Tent for their entire hour and fifteen minute showcase, sending the crowd into frenzy when they played “I Need Air” and Skream’s “CTO.”
Exhausted from the stellar performance by Magnetic Man and drenched from the sweat of my peers, I left the tent to rest in the cool desert night, returning just in time for Boys Noize. His set started later than planned as the crew set up the massive panels of lights on stage, the result of a collaboration between the DJ and The Creator’s Project, an artistic partnership between Intel and Vice. The German electro/techno artist, donning his signature flat brimmed hat, threw down heavy beats to close out the first day, keeping the crowd on its toes with unexpected electro loops; the lights complimented the music, flashing in perfect synchrony to the beat. He opened his set with “Kontact Me” and played other widely recognized tunes such as “Yeah” and “Oh!” His remixes of Daft Punk’s “End of the Line” and Modeslektor’s “Monkeyflip” got the crowd moving. Boys Noize shouldered the closing spot valiantly, a perfect way to end the epic first day.
After experiencing the brutal heat of the spring desert the previous day, my ride decided to wait until later on in the day to go to Coachella. I arrived at the Sahara Tent to catch the last five minutes of Joachim Garraud who was DJing to a considerably smaller audience than the day before.
The next two artists threw in a bit of a surprise during their sets. The first was Chuckie, who rocked the crowd with his rendition of a Dutch house set. The surprise came when he mixed in two dubstep songs during the first half of his set, and closed with another dubstep track. Laidback Luke held his own, as well, spinning house music to the steadily growing crowd. However, instead of closing his set with a one of his classic tracks, Laidback played Dr. P’s “Big Boss” making the house fans wonder, is dubstep the future?
Excited by the dubstep two major house DJs played, I made my way over to the Oasis Dome to catch Mary Anne Hobbs. In 2006, Hobbs, a BBC Radio 1 personality, brought dubstep to the mainstream audience with a 2-hour special titled ‘Dubstep Warz.’ She performed a set that was unlike any other I had heard before. The drops didn’t rely on the wobbly whomps dubstep is known for in the states. Instead, she commanded the audience with a bass that was easier felt than heard, complimented by simple percussion.
Following Mary Anne Hobbs’ enlightening dubstep set, I ventured towards the stages I had not yet explored. I caught a few indie bands at the Coachella Stage and Outdoor Stage, but was most satisfied with my discovery at The Do Lab. The Do Lab’s line-up was not publicized the same way the rest of the Coachella line-up was; there was only one page in the set times for The DoLab with three days worth of artists crammed onto one page. But on Saturday night, The DoLab was rocking. We stumbled upon the end of Emancipator’s set, attracted by the grime emanating from the oddly shaped tent. When we made it into the tent, Emancipator was coming off the stage, quickly replaced by another DJ. We later learned it was NiT GriT. He played his tracks to a crowd that looked like it was hypnotized. I watched as the audience slowly grew—many of the people there had no idea who was playing, but they knew they were listening to something special. For an hour, the worn down enthusiasts pushed themselves to keep moving to NiT GriT’s brand of melodic wobble.
Nuclear Sky (clip)
I returned to the Sahara Tent, already content; my final mission was to catch Steve Angello. One-third of the Swedish House Mafia, Angello brought the party back to the Sahara Tent. Guys and girls alike were jumping up and down to the Swedish house Angello was bringing. He built up and dropped “One” multiples times, but the crowd went crazy every time. For a stacked line-up of house artists in the tent on Saturday, there was no other way to end the day other than Angello.
Despite being exhausted from the first two days, I made a point on Sunday to arrive in time for Caspa. Despite being mid-afternoon on the third day, the slightly skinnier and dirtier crowd was still pulsing to each series of wobbles Caspa dropped on the crowd.
Feeling as though I had seen too many EDM artists throughout the weekend, I left the Sahara Tent towards the end of Caspa’s set to see other artists perform. I traveled between the different stages listening to a number of different genres, but managed to find myself at The Do Lab again. Like the previous night, The Do Lab was blasting more bass-driven dubstep. Sugarpill was on the decks, playing some heavy, grime-filled dubstep blended with hip-hop vocals. Throughout the weekend The Do Lab’s bass could be heard from the other stages, and the artists that performed there deserve more recognition.
Mind Machine Mixtape
The last two acts I saw at the Sahara Tent before leaving were Duck Sauce and Chase and Status. Duck Sauce is the joint venture of Armand van Helden and A-Trak. Although the bass was turned down for Duck Sauce’s set, the two DJs still put on a show that put the crowd into frenzy. They got the audience grooving to “aNyway” and “Big Bad Wolf” and sent the crowd crazy when they played “Barbara Streisand.”
Next up was Chase and Status, the drum-and-bass and dubstep duo from the United Kingdom. Chase and Status performed the loudest set at the festival, cranking the bass up higher than anyone else who performed that weekend. Their set consisted of a balanced blend of dubstep and drum-and-bass. The performance was complimented with a guest appearance by Delilah to perform “Time” live, but the tent went craziest when “Saxon” and “Flashing Lights” dropped.
We left the Empire Polo Fields early Sunday night, faced with a drive back to Los Angeles and an early morning flight that would take me back to the reality of group presentations, research papers, and final exams. However, I left the venue tucked away in the California mountains and desert, knowing that while I got to see some big names that I couldn’t wait to see again, it was the lesser-known artists I discovered that made the experience such a good one.
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