“Coachella still represents something more: spiritual fulfillment that you can only find here, in those rare, breathtaking moments when the music feels divine and the crowd undulates as one.” Kunal Bambawale gives us an honest perspective of what exactly went down at Coachella this year.
1. Is Coachella even worth it anymore?
The ticket costs $375 —around Rs. 23,000.
That’s significantly more than my monthly salary was at my first Indian music industry job. That’s a lot of money, no matter where you’re from — first world, third world, or somewhere in between.
The ancillary costs add up, too — $85 if you’re camping on site at Coachella. $60 if you’re staying at a house or hotel nearby and need a shuttle pass to transport you to the festival. Once you’re at the venue, you need food and beverages to keep you happy and hydrated.
There are tricks that allow you to manage Coachella on a shoestring, but unless you’re Bear Grylls, there’s no way to escape from Empire Polo Club without significantly damaging your checking account. Is it worth paying all this money for a music festival? Does Coachella’s sublime beauty continue to linger, or has it become a synthetic storm of desert dust, mediocre music, and confused college kids in neon tank tops on designer drugs?
Some people think Coachella is the best party on the planet, and perhaps it is. But only douchebags pays shitloads of money to party. For some of us, Coachella still represents something more: spiritual fulfillment that you can only find here, in those rare, breathtaking moments when the music feels divine and the crowd undulates as one. The kind of moments when you realize: “Oh, this is the exact spot in the universe where I’m meant to be right now,” and you look around, and you see everyone realizing exactly the same thing.
2. Who played the best set(s)?
I honestly couldn’t tell you that because I didn’t see every artist.
The numbers speak for themselves, though: Calvin Harris pulled the biggest crowd when he played the main stage on Sunday night. Which is great news for Calvin — he’s transcended club music to become a genuine pop star and global icon. At the time, I was grooving to Maceo Plex but wishing I was at Little Dragon.
Fine, I’ll tell you, Arcade Fire played the best set. It was everything we needed it to be on Sunday night — energetic, eclectic, emotional, irresistibly danceable, uplifting, inspiring, and generally fucking awesome.
Wait, no, Bonobo played the best set, because it was the most riveting, beautiful, spellbinding music I’ve ever heard in my whole entire life.
Wait, no, Dixon played the best set because I’ve never danced like that before, and the whole time he was playing, I kept pinching myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.
Wait, no, Mogwai played the best set because it sounded like the music the Lord of the Rings elves in must have listened to while they were building their forest city and teaching Legolas how to shoot arrows.
Wait, no DARKSIDE played the best set because Nicolas Jaar is a genius and Dave Harrington is a chill guy and and together they’ve somehow found a way to unite the ravers and the indie kids into a merry maelstrom of spooky music and happy energy.
I just can’t decide, people.
3. Is “EDM” a disease or a doorway?
This was my third Coachella. In my first year, 2011, the rave kids were the minority.
Our home was the sacred Sahara tent. It was a good year: Steve Angello debuted “Save the World”, Afrojack brought Paul McCartney out onto stage (proving even Beatles like bleeps), Magnetic Man played their first ever American show, Erick Morillo introduced me to proper house music, Sasha made me a progressive person. The Sahara tent that year was the perfect mix of DJ Mag heavyweights and dance music legends. I learned so much about electronic music: about its present, its history, and its future.
This year, I felt like I was at Ultra. It was scary. “EDM” culture was everywhere — brash music, loud people, fist pumping, dancing with energy but no elegance. “EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT” is a cool vocal hook for a song, but it’s not a lifestyle, and it’s not a slogan for a t-shirt (unless you’re trying too hard). I fear that EDM threatens to subsume everything that Coachella once stood for — you know, things like sitting in the grass with your friends in the afternoon, having a beer and listening to a laid-back singer-songwriter capture a crowd with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
BUT there is hope — I was once an EDM kid, but that was just the start of my journey into a genreless world of textured rhythms, precise beats, and unexpectedly emotional melodies. A world where music is all that matters.
4. Does the art get better every year?
Yes, it does.
The festival’s official title is the ‘Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival’, and once again, the art wasn’t neglected. At the Do LaB, I felt like I’d left Earth and had somehow landed up on the Nav’i planet from Avatar. It was ethereal and otherworldly, inspiring and emotionally soothing. It was a special place where music sounded better
There were other visual delights as well – a giant, moving astronaut that doubled up as a slide, a prism mirror installation that made for the ultimate #coachella #selfie, gravity-defying volcanoes built from tiny boxes, illuminated by glowing lights.
You know what? I just can’t up trying to describe everything, please just check out the pictures.
5. Why do we put ourselves through this?
Coachella isn’t easy on the body.
It’s too hot, it’s too expensive, it’s too crowded, the staff on site were clueless at times, I had to walk so far, there weren’t as many gorgeous women as last time, the lineup sucked, I lost all my friends and had to dance with strangers.
But we do this because it’s what young people do. Because us millenials are digitally connected but socially disconnected, and we need this. Because Coachella is physical, emotional, and existential release. Because there’s still the chance you’ll meet your festival soulmate, if you haven’t already. Because all your friends from all over the world will be there. Because music isn’t a distraction; it’s an essential solution to the wonderful conundrum we call the human condition.
6. Which weekend are we going for next year?
I don’t know, dude.
Probably Weekend 1 so that we can go back for Weekend 2 and catch all the artists we missed. I’m pretty sure my cousin’s boss’ ex-wife used to be Tiesto’s booking agent’s assistant so she might know someone who can get me a free ticket.