The 2Pac hologram stole the headlines at last weekend’s Coachella festival, but the virtual gangsta was but one small element in a multi-faceted three-day weekend that drew a record crowd of 85,000 fans per day to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif.
Here are the weekend’s highlights and lowlights, through the eyes of one of those 85,000 attendees.
WE CAME HERE FOR THIS?: The weather on Friday was rainy, windy and cold, pretty much the exact opposite of everything you expect from the Southern California desert (except maybe the wind part). This made for lots of sad faces on the fest’s first day, as everyone hoping get a tan at Coachella found their arms and legs buried beneath hoodies and jeans. Alas, the sun would shine again, but Friday had many grumbling about which of the two weekends they chose to come to the fest (although temperatures for this weekend’s fest are hovering around the 100 degree mark, which is unbearable for completely different reasons). Everything cleared up by Saturday and Sunday, but there were a few hours there on Friday where it was looking rough (comparatively speaking, of course).
LAZIEST HEADLINER: Dr. Dre. When Dre and Snoop Dogg were announced as headliners of Coachella’s third day, some wondered if they’d be celebrating the 20 year anniversary of “The Chronic,” or making some sort of announcement about Dre’s forever-in-the-works “Detox,” or if they’d be putting together a special performance for the weekend. It turns out they did none of the above. Snoop, long a festival staple, seemed re-energized to be billed alongside Dre, but Dre barely even showed up for the show. Literally. He ceded the stage to Snoop, who brought out pals Kurupt and Warren G, and later gave the reins to guest stars 50 Cent, Eminem and yes, the 2Pac hologram. Dre was so absent at his own party that he didn’t even bother performing his verse on “I Need a Doctor,” his 2011 duet with Eminem that Em performed all by his lonesome. The whole thing felt phoned in (and outsourced to his friends), which was majorly disappointing. He didn’t even do an encore. Boo.
WISH I WOULD HAVE SEEN MORE OF THEM: Girls. I caught the tail end of their set, which closed with an epic reading of “Vomit,” and it was enough that I wished I’d seen more of them.
ANTHEM OF THE WEEKEND: The songs that kept cropping up in DJ set after DJ set were Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Acicii’s “Le7els,” David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close,” any of which could be considered the song of the weekend. But I give a slight edge to M83′s “Midnight City,” which felt like a movement when M83 performed it — blistering sax solo and all — Friday night in the Mojave Tent.
BEST PLACE TO COOL OFF: The Do Lab. An open-air stage in the center of the Coachella grounds, it’s a spot with non-stop dubstep playing where guys on stage hose down the crowds below. It’s the best place to people watch at the whole festival.
BEST SHTICK: The Hives’ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s attention-starved act (“I love you, do you love me?”) is still incredibly entertaining, and he’s a frontman you can’t take your eyes — or ears — off.
BEST FRONTMAN: Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, who threw grapes at audience members, made sweet love to the stage (during “This is Hardcore,” natch) and flailed and vamped about in the Britpop act’s doggedly entertaining Friday night show. I could listen to him sing “Disco 2000″ and “Common People” forever.
WORST DELAY: French electronic act Justice, who went on 25 minutes late on Sunday night, blaming technical difficulties, the “exhaustion” of performer excuses. Timing is everything at festivals, and a late arrival rudely throws off everyone’s schedules.
SHOULD HAVE BEEN LATER: Buzzworthy Toronto R&B act The Weeknd was given the 6 p.m. slot on Sunday, which seemed too early for the group’s hazy late-night jams. I would have swapped them with Mazzy Star, who played around 9 p.m. on Friday, when the grounds were pitch black.
STAGE BANTER OF THE WEEKEND: Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who told the crowd, “wazzzzup,” appropriating the old Budweiser guys meme for no apparent reason.
ODDBALL ARTIST ENCOUNTER, PT. 1: I was in the photo pit Friday night shooting digital hardcore provocateurs Atari Teenage Riot when frontman Alec Empire heaved himself off of the stage and directly into my body. The unprovoked attack — yes, I’m calling it an attack! — shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since Atari Teenage Riot isn’t exactly known for playing nice, but Empire definitely knocked the wind out of me (and would have broken my camera, too, had I been shooting with a detachable flash). I’ve always been a big fan of Atari Teenage Riot, however, so I found the encounter somewhat exhilarating, and as soon as I found out my camera was still in tact I kept shooting away. Later that night, I found the picture I snapped just before Empire collided into me, and I tweeted it. For my efforts, I got “respect” from Atari Teenage Riot’s official Twitter feed, so I guess it was worth it.
ODDBALL ARTIST ENCOUNTER, PT. 2: I was standing in the photo pit shooting Calvin Harris on Sunday night when I noticed a woman I was fairly sure was Katy Perry standing next to me. I played it cool and kept shooting, rather than shooting 500 pics of her and tweeting all my friends, because THAT’S HOW COOL I AM (duh). And then I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was her, and when I turned around, she put her sunglasses on my face. Returning the gesture, I put my sunglasses on her, but only then did I realize her glasses were special — they were 3D, or something, and were reflecting all sorts of cool light inside the lens. Also, at this point I had no idea what was going on? Why was Katy Perry putting her glasses on my face? Around the same time I got another tap on my shoulder; this time it was security telling me my time in the pit was up. I traded back glasses with Katy Perry and tried to sort through the whole incident in my head, still somewhat dazed. As I was exiting the pit, I walked by Rihanna and Usher, who were standing on the other side of the photo pit, but neither of them offered me their glasses. So yeah, safe to say I’m glad I went to Calvin Harris’ set instead of At the Drive In’s, which was across the field at the same time.
WORST ‘I DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR THE PATIENCE FOR THIS’: Amon Tobin, the electronic act whose slow-build show I no longer had patience for at midnight on Friday, after dealing with a full day of cold and windy temps. The production looked incredibly cool, playing out with projections on a series of cubes, but I just couldn’t wait for it to build any longer and I gave up after 15 minutes. (He’ll be at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in September, I’ll check him out then.)
BEST CAMEO (HUMAN EDITION): Rihanna, who jumped on stage with Calvin Harris Sunday night in the Sahara Tent to perform “Where Have You Been” and “We Found Love.”
BEST CAMEO (HOLOGRAM EDITION): Hologram 2Pac, who managed to outshine real life megastars such as Eminem and 50 Cent during Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s fest-closing set Sunday night, although the general feeling in the audience was closer to uneasiness than celebration.
WEIRDEST BRAINWASHING: French electronic artist SebastiAn, who filled his set with images of election propaganda, and who made his intentions to run for President of the United States clear by the end of his set. Vote for SebastiAn!
FAN QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: “That was sick. Should we bounce?” -fan I overheard following M83′s performance of “Midnight City”
HEADLINERS? WHAT HEADLINERS?: Apparently the Black Keys performed at the fest on Friday night — they had top billing on the Coachella poster — but I didn’t hear one person talk about their set. Radiohead closed out the main stage on Saturday, but talk about their set was curiously small as well. Need further proof EDM is taking over the festival landscape?
BEST STAGE PROP: Noel Gallagher, who had his NME Godlike Genius Award — shaped like a giant middle finger — on stage on one of his amps during his set Saturday.
MOST OVERFLOW: Gotye, who had a massive crowd — at least 100 people deep — spilled outside his tent Sunday evening at the Mojave Tent. (I also heard crowds were huge outside the Sahara Tent for David Guetta, but I had no perspective because I was inside the tent for the performance.)
FOOD OF THE WEEKEND: There was a stand serving Mahi Mahi Sliders, and I’m already looking forward to getting them again next year.
SLEEPIEST SET: Mazzy Star, the reuniting L.A. group that made its Friday night set on the Outdoor Stage the equivalent of nap time. (Photographers also grumbled they were performing in near darkness, but photographers are habitual complainers anyway.)
COACHELLA MVP: Coachella has long been known for its cutting edge DJ talent and dance presence — Daft Punk debuted its pyramid stage there back in 2006, which changed the landscape for the live presentation of electronic acts forever — but this was the year that Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, completely took over Coachella. The Sahara Tent, which presented wall-to-wall DJs, incredible lighting and production and a non-stop party vibe, was the place to be all weekend long, with huge sets by Sebastian Ingrosso, David Guetta and Calvin Harris, to name just a few. But the Sahara Tent couldn’t house all the dance music, and acts like Swedish House Mafia and Justice — the latter of whom had the loudest set of the weekend* — spilled out onto the main stage, while reliable party starter Girl Talk brought his act to the Outdoor Stage. Suddenly this weekend, bands with guitars seemed quaint and outdated, as EDM completely took over the festival. The next generation has made their voice heard, and it goes untz untz untz. All they want to do is party hard, throw their hands up in the air and maybe hoist their girlfriend on their shoulders. Rock acts, consider this your eviction notice.
*The security guard at the airport Tuesday told me Justice was the only act that “shook” her house, which in a surprise twist actually made her a fan of the group.