As a Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival attendee since it's inception, I was underwhelmed by this year's setup.
For the first time in the festival's 11-year history, promoters forced ticketholders to purchase a three-day pass for about $300, with no single-day sales. Organizers claim the new ticket policy was put in place to enhance the "festival experience"; however, it was clearly a move to increase profit margins. The sold-out festival, more congested than previous years, seemed understaffed and disorganized with increased traffic, lines and counterfeit tickets. Thankfully, as the days progressed, so did the organization of the event. Additionally, the weather cooperated, with day temperatures averaging in the low 90s, and nights cooling down to the 60s with a pleasant desert breeze.
Musically, headliners Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Thom Yorke, MGMT, Them Crooked Vultures, Pavement and Muse delivered solid performances, but missing from Coachella was the "wow factor" of previous years. There were no flying pigs (Roger Waters), laser pyramids (Daft Punk) or giant inflatable orbs (the Flaming Lips). There were -- in typical Coachella fashion -- a fury of formidable buzz bands , reunions and DJs, including The Xx, Miike Snow, Yeasayer, Public Image Ltd., the Specials, Devo, Faith No More, Z-trip, Kaskade and Glitch Mob. Additionally, the aforementioned Gorillaz (who rarely perform live), delivered a magical performance that blended music (backed by Damon Albarn, the legendary Mick Jones and special guests) with beautiful animation.
As in years past, celebrities and rock stars migrated to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio. The Hollywood list included Paris Hilton, Adrian Grenier (Entourage), Kelly Osbourne, Danny DeVito, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and her vampire boyfriend, Alexander Skarsgard. Famous musicians cruising the grounds included Beck, John Mayer, Pink, Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine), Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Katy Perry and Jay-Z's other-half, Beyonce. Personally, a highlight for me was running into DJ Lance Rock and the Yo Gabba Gabba cast.
In the people-watching department, Coachella delivered a plethora of new hipster styles, such as sailor hats, men wearing sundresses, feather hair pieces and '70s booty shorts (exposing more booty than shorts). When singer/guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT asked the crowd, "Who's on drugs?" the overwhelming response was of no surprise as adjacent DJ tents bumped into the wee hours of the morning. However, by the third day of the festival, it was obvious that three days of partying (and, enduring long lines) was taking a toll on the crowd. As Thom Yorke of Radiohead put it, "How's everyone's festival been?" followed by a "blaaaaaah," with his arms flailing in exhaustion.