Goldenvoice (the promoters behind the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival) have assembled something rare and wonderful. Their annual concert experience located at the Empire Polo fields far out in the California desert is an experience unlike any other. Vast numbers of intrepid music fans brave long lines, immense crowds and unbearable heat to catch a short set from the best and brightest from the world of alternative music. In spite of numerous uncomfortable conditions, the spirits this year ran high and fans were friendly.Last year’s temperatures ranged in the comfortable high 80s, but this year found each day a step closer to the high 90s. Predictably, the first few hours each day found much of the crowd sluggishly moving from show to show. However, by the late afternoon/early evening higher recognition acts, frantic factions of people could be seen running in various directions to catch whichever hot act was up next on the end of the field.
When moments allowed for it, (like during food breaks or while waiting for a late starting act) attendees happily engaged in conversation. Whether makeup-laden goth, spikey-haired scenester or beer-chugging meathead, all were anxious to discuss who they were here to see (a pleasant surprise was that most responded with Massive Attack as their favorite) or their own recent preferences.
Roaming the grounds, in desperate need of a hat, even an apparel vendor called Breakfree Designs was eager for conversation. Looking to expand the influence of their already successful website (www.breakfreedesigns.com) the company’s representatives happily conversed while sporting some slick swag.
While the festival had the usual impressive array of music, one band without a doubt stole the show: Daft Punk. In what had to be the most unexpected (beyond all hopes for the group) showing, the electronic duo all but shook the Sahara Tent late on Saturday mixing the best of their hits, a whirl of improvisation and a beautiful video/set design. Not surprisingly, Coachella fans have been ecstatic ever since. You had to be there. It was just that good. Hopefully it won’t be another 8 years before they play the US again.
Other notable entries include the raucous energy of Kanye West, the bombastic power of newcomer Wolfmother and the methodical allure of Massive Attack. Smaller acts like Celebration, The Like, The Magic Numbers kept a freshness to the proceedings while established groups such as Franz Ferdinand, Atmosphere, Tool and Eagles of Death Metal made the best use of an open-minded crowd.
Although not quite as good as last year’s lineup, Coachella 2006 was still a concert force to be reckoned with. With this environment and astounding roster of talent, any serious festival in the US should take a long hard look.