What word singularly drove approximately 180,000 people from around the world into the raging heat of the Southern California desert? Coachella.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bj”rk, and a re-united Rage Against The Machine headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio last weekend, the biggest music festival in the West.
Music-lovers from around the world flocked to the small California desert city in order to see an array of favorite artists and bands. A group of Australians flew to California for the festival weekend with the express purpose of seeing Rage Against The Machine, a band which played their first show Sunday night since their break-up seven years ago.
Faithful fans stood in over 100 degree temperatures and braved the dewy scent of sunscreen, sweat and grass clippings to see 122 artists consecutively adorn five stages from approximately 1 p.m. to midnight during all three days of the festival. An occasional breeze provided an escape from the dry heat, which finally cooled after 5 p.m.
Despite the unfortunate luck of having to perform in the early afternoon heat, British artist Pop Levi and his band “Woman” appeared on stage dressed in long sleeves and layers, which they continued to wear throughout the extremely energetic set.
Levi leaped and shimmied like a madman across the stage, his eyes possessed and locking with audience members as he and his band roared with their instruments.
What’s more, Levi’s guitarist had literally warmed up before the set. Dressed in black pants, black boots and a black turtleneck, he jumped rope with a vivid orange cable backstage only moments before he performed in 100-degree weather.
For those without his heat-resisting abilities, the venue provided a mist tent where overheated Coachella-goers could cool off.
Water bottles were also sold in all food areas for $2, a price which Coachella’s Web site boasts has not risen since the festival’s opening in 1999. Despite Coachella’s satisfaction with their water prices, many fans complained throughout the festival.
Numerous shade tents, often disguised as art pieces, were available for protection from the sun, although finding a vacant spot was often a problem. Shade tent designs ranged from giant flower petals to a white dome with hanging art inside.
Interactive art was everywhere at Coachella, and provided both a method of entertainment between bands as well as a uniquely beautiful setting.
Giant metal sunflowers with solar panels charged under the desert sun, lighting up and flashing colors at night. A 40-foot-tall spider-like metal creature called “I.T.” stood across the horizon, while Coachella-goers could rotate a 14- foot-tall metal tree titled “Babel.”
Mazes, dragon sculptures, rocking horses partially made of old tires, and the largest twin Tesla coils in the world contributed to the array of art at the festival.
Coachella-goers could also experience bike-powered carnival rides in the Cyclecide Bike Rodeo. Pedaling a bicycle provided the energy to either propel riders or to propel the cyclist in altered fair rides, located in the middle of the festival.
Fans with low cell phone batteries could also plug their phones into an altered bicycle and pedal to recharge them in the “Energy Factory,” an exhibit which also featured biodiesel-powered music and screen printing.
Coachella provided a lot for ticket-holders to look at and listen to.
Other much-anticipated bands included Interpol, Sonic Youth, the Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Regina Spektor, LCD Soundsystem and Lily Allen, among many others.
And the star sightings were plentiful.
Actress Scarlett Johansson took the main stage and weakly accompanied Jesus and Mary Chain on the backup vocals for their song “Just Like Honey.” The song appeared on the soundtrack to Lost in Translation, a film Johansson co-starred in.
Heiress Paris Hilton danced offstage while Brazilian band Cansei de Ser Sexy, popularly known as CSS, played their song, “Meeting Paris Hilton.” Lead singer Lovefoxxx screamed the lyrics, “I wanna take you home, bitch,” at Hilton, which were inspired by the heiress’s 2003 sex video.
Other celebrity sightings included actress Lindsay Lohan, singer Kelly Osbourne, porn star Ron Jeremy and on the D-list, Jael of “America’s Next Top Model.”
But while wandering celebrities caused fans to take double-looks, music was the main focus for Coachella-goers. When Osbourne abandoned her VIP seat to the side of the stage and joined the crowd during DJ Steve Aoki’s set, the audience was indifferent.
No one abandoned their spot on the dance floor to swarm her or beg for an autograph.
This year’s Coachella was about the beats, strums, drums and vocals onstage and the crowd’s connection with them.
Guitarist and vocalist Daniel Auerbach of The Black Keys said their Coachella show was different because they knew that their audience chose to see them over other bands that played at the same time.
On the last day of Coachella, guitarist Mike Stroud of Ratatat took a picture of the wildly dancing crowd his band had drawn in with its infectious beats. “This was so fun,” he told the crowd with heartfelt sincerity before leaving the stage.
There’s no doubt everyone who attended Coachella agrees.