Goa-based DJ and producer Anish Sood shares his experience of catching his favorite acts on the first weekend of the desert music festival
As a touring DJ, I find myself at music festivals pretty often, and I’m lucky to have been to some of the biggest festivals around the world. Coachella has been right up there on my wish list and it’s safe to say I was rather excited when I heard that this trip was going to happen! I was invited by Levi’s along with a bunch of other people from the music community around the world to check out the festival and also hit up their pre-Coachella parties in Palm Springs.
Into the Valley
We drove in Indio Valley on Friday around 5pm and were greeted with gusty winds that delayed the gates and cancelled a few acts as well. We made our way through the huge campsite and entered the festival grounds that looked absolutely stunning. Now in its seventeenth edition, Coachella has really perfected the art of building a music festival. The grounds are covered with a blanket of endless green grass, and an added bonus is the picture perfect blue sky and bright sunny weather. Art installations, illuminated palm trees, balloons and planes writing sentences with smoke trails only add to the magical experience. Once we got done with ID check (You can only drink inside designated bar zones), we headed over to catch A$AP Rocky. He played to a packed audience but more or less failed to get things going early on. I somehow managed to miss Underworld who were on at the same time and decided to quickly switch over to M83 who were fantastic. Their dreamy post rock meets synthpop style is addictive and they definitely created a moment when they played one of their biggest hits – “Midnight City”. I wandered around a bit after this, soaking in the festival spirit and headed back to the mainstage for Ellie Goulding’s hit-packed set which featured everything from her EDM-banger “Burn” to the Fifty Shades Of Grey ballad “Love Me Like You Do.”
Jack Ü, the crowd-puller
I decided to exit early to secure a proper spot on the outdoor stage for Jack Ü but quickly realized I was not the only genius who thought of this. It seemed like literally the whole festival decided to swarm to the stage and the placed was rammed. Arguably the hottest dance act right now, fresh off their double-Grammy win, Jack Ü started at 10.05pm with their smash hit “Take Ü There” with Kiesza live on stage and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” acapella thrown over for added frenzy. Their entire stage setup looked like a Windows 95 console with the coolest graphics and featured Kanye West and AlunaGeorge on stage. Their 60-minute set was tight and packed with energy. Up next on the main stage were the James Murphy-led LCD Sound-system reuniting after 5 years, and the excitement was palpable. I’m not the biggest LCD fan but it wasn’t hard to see what the fuss is all about. Their heartfelt rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes” was the perfect end to the first night and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday kicked off early for us at the Avalon Hotel at Levi’s custom fittings and pool party that attracted a bunch of celebrities. Model/DJ Hannah Bronfman played a mix of hip-hop and RnB while everyone got themselves a super-cool customized trucker jacket and a pair of jeans. I walked into the festival with Scottish electronic act Chvrches on the mainstage playing the perfect sundown set. We got some drinks and found a great spot for my favorite set of the festival, Disclosure. I’ve been a huge fan over the years and this was the first time I got to watch them play live and they were incredible. Such an effortless live set and they really pulled out all the stops on this one. Live performances by Lorde, Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge were all on point and truly cemented the brothers’ position among the top pop/dance acts of our generation.
A foodie’s mecca
One of the many things that set Coachella apart from other music festivals is the food. They feature some of the coolest restaurants from around the region and the variety of food on offer is pretty surreal. There’s everything from lobster rolls, to slow-cooked ramen, ice-cream sandwiches and epic cheesy fries topped with garlic crab (YUM!). We decided to re-charge with some of these great food options and I headed over to the audio-visual assault that is the Sahara tent to watch another one of my favorite acts on the lineup – Zhu.
Zhu is incredibly elusive, has never revealed his identity, plays very few live shows and has been on fire lately. He filled out the massive Sahara tent with ease and I was literally gasping for breath in the middle of the crowd. But most people just stayed put throughout and it seemed like the entire festival kept filling in from all sides. He brought on live guitar and saxophone players and played some of his biggest hits – “Faded”, “Cocaine Model”, and “Automatic” with AlunaGeorge.
We bounced off to catch the last 20 minutes of Zedd closing the Outdoor Stage and caught Kesha’s gorgeous live cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colours”. The set was everything you’d expect from Zedd, filled with pyros and loads of energy. I’m not the biggest Guns N’ Roses fan so I didn’t quite catch their whole set but did manage to watch Slash’s incredible solo on “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Reviews say they were disappointing and they couldn’t manage to hold more than a few thousand people at the Coachella stage- a bit of a let down.
Post Coachella we made our way to the infamous Neon Carnival that’s held on an airfield in Indio. It’s quite literally a carnival with joy rides, shopping stalls and Levi’s had a fully set up airstream and pop-up store. Neon is known for its A-list celebrity attendance and this year was no different with likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna and Taylor Swift hanging out in the VIP.
Day 3 was off to a predictably slow start thanks to our Neon shenanigans. We headed straight to the Sahara tent to catch Baauer who absolutely destroyed the place! His new album is bomb especially the M.I.A. + G-Dragon collab “Temple.” He also dropped Caspa’s dope remix of Buraka Som Sistema’s “Hangover (BaBaBa)” and the place literally erupted.
Mazor Lazer all the way
We made our way back to the VIP to sample the last of Coachella’s food options before settling in at a spot up front to watch Major Lazer. I missed their India tour earlier this year and was keen to check out the new show, which people have been raving about and it’s truly impressive! The cinematic visuals, great dancers and their multitude of hits all combined together to deliver a tightly synced performance.
Two of my favourite techno acts Adam Beyer and Maceo Plex were going on in the Yuma tent next so I decided to skip everything else in the festival and get my dose of techno. Adam was playing b2b with his wife Ida Engberg and they kept things tech-housey. Adam’s trademark build-ups ensured many hands-in-the-air moments and a great vibe through out. I’ve been trying to catch Maceo for the past 4 years and I got myself a spot right up front to witness the mayhem first hand. Maceo’s set was dark and driving with a bunch of big tunes thrown in, including his smash hit single “Solitary Daze.”
That wrapped up a surreal weekend in the desert with many new friends made and much fun being had. Like most great festivals, Coachella manages to create an alternate universe within the festival for a few days and ignites that burning fire within that makes you want to go back every year. I know for sure that I’d definitely go back in a heartbeat!