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Week II: Coachella, Queen of the Desert

It's time to go back to the desert for the iconic music festival Coachella



    On Friday, It was time to go back to the desert for the second weekend of the iconic music and arts festival Coachella.

    The only way to know what's different week to week, of course, is to go twice -- not a fun prospect for some, even if you loved Week I -- or to stay glued to Coachella's YouTube channel for three days. It's inevitable that with all the choices available and individual preferences, no one person (or two) will experience Coachella the same way twice.

    SoundDiego blogger Scott McDonald came out to cover Week I -- while there was some overlap between what we saw/heard, there wasn't a lot. Of the 54 acts performing on Friday, we only saw a few bands in common -- the ruby-boxing-shorts wearing bling-encrusted reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry, Johnny Marr (Smiths's guitarist; he came onstage with a red rose gritted between his teeth), Alt-J (unlike Scott, what I heard was terrific -- they brought their A game in Week II), England's Damon Albarn and Blur (the show was a giant sing-along; a friend remarked on his surprise that they had so many well-known songs, performing flawless versions of everything from "Out of Time" to "Beetlebum" to "There's No Other Way" to "Girls and Boys" ).

    The festival's physical space is enormous; you have to pick your band battles and decide how far away you want to stand: Closer to the stage= much more time, which explains why some EDM fans just plant a flag in Sahara or Yuma for most of the day and night.

    Here's a few things you might not know about Coachella if you've never been:

    • Make sure you have some in the bank: $7 bucks for a slice! $9 for a Heinie draft! -- but there is everything from water, which is available everywhere to sun-baked fans, to a full bar of mixed drinks, and dozens and dozens of well-prepared food options.
    • Kids under 5 get in free -- that's if you want your tot to broil in the sun, with people smoking freely.
    • Security is serious and time-consuming getting in. There's multiple checkpoints -- one for GA, and a second for GA peeps and the campers, who only go through one line, but 85,000 people gotta make it through those lines. When you're inside, though, it's pretty chill.
    • Merch is pricey, but there'e tons of options. Want that Wu-Tang hoodie? That'll set you back 50, but there are, what?, 300 other choices?
    • There's tons of shade. A 95 degree day isn't bad when you have plenty of overhead options. Still, Mom should tell the frat boys to wear their sunscreen.
    • Footwear is important -- you'll probably be walking or miles and standing for up to 13 hours.
    • You will be able to see every artist you choose -- there will never be a point where there's no more room. The downside: If you can't get inside, say, the Mojave Tent to see Trent Reznor's new project, How to Destroy Angels, you can still see from outside, but you might feel the bass on your back from former Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt spitting next door at the Gobi. BTW, the set/production at HTDA was insane, with projections on a screen in front of the band members and behind them. "And the Sky Began to Scream" felt like you were actualy inside a movie.

    Photon for photon, though, Dog Blood's light blizzard almost put How to Destroy Angels' to shame. The synched screens and colored spots burst into the just-darkened night with a fireworks-like feel. For some, it wasn't long before sensory overload won. Fans leaving after half a set were greeeted by the sight of thousands of others who, either drawn by the AV spectacle or having just learned exactly who the hell Dog Blood were, were running in the direction of the Sahara Tent.

    Coachella is as much an orgy for the eyes as it is for the ears, and giant screens abound, giving fans at the back, in a away, a better view than those up front. They also reveal, in 30-foot glory, things you would never see otherwise -- thanks to the amazing camera work and the folks callling the shot orders -- things like poor dental hygiene (no names) and the fact that performers, too, are stuck wearing a wristband for three days.

    Saturday's highlight was a late-afternoon set by one of the best recent exports from Canada, Metric. Frontwoman Emily Haines whipped the crowd into a frenzy, getting drenched in sweat for her troubles, with the band tearing through everything from "Youth Without Youth" to "Help I'm Alive" to a raging rendition of "Dead Disco" before winding up with a frenzied, guitar-drenched "Gold Guns Girls."

    As is always the case when a great band's last note drifts off, leaving an echo and melancholy behind, that was true when Haines and her crew slipped off the giant main stage. However, at Coachella, you have to recover quickly: There's another seven hours of music to go.