Coachella is California’s modern Woodstock

Main (Austin Messick)

Austin Messick

The care-free atmosphere of peace, love, and unity, along with the smell of marijuana in the air and the many partially naked bodies at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival would make any attendant of Woodstock proud.

Coachella is our modern-day Woodstock, in California anyway. Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon might not match the caliber of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, but the spirit of uniting to enjoy music and community remains. Woodstock was set in a lush, green farm in upstate New York, and Coachella takes place at the grassy desert oasis of the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif.

Surrounded by the bone-dry vastness of the California desert, Coachella is a three-day musical utopia that provides its attendants with a fantastic weekend escape from the real world.

For veterans and newcomers alike, Coachella is a sort of holiday where 75,000 people join to celebrate music, art and the incredible people we share them with. This year attendants set aside April 15 to 17 to indulge in the festivities.

This was the first Coachella for Lauren Reisman, 21, communications.

“It was amazing to see how important music was for people, and to be with their friends and to just drop everything for a music festival was pretty amazing,” Reisman said.

More than a music festival, Coachella is a cultural gathering of people from all different walks of life who exist as one tribe under the desert sun. One could meet someone from Australia, Canada and England, all standing within 10 feet, and get your fix for driving electronic bass lines in the Sahara tent, or enjoy the in-your-face rock of Cage the Elephant at the outdoor stage.

Not to mention the art is out of this world. The two Tesla coils emit controlled bright glowing bolts of electricity that sometimes connect to form one large bolt of energy. There were also huge galactic insects with stories about feeding off creative energy, and many other fascinating large-scale art structures.

The Do Lab is an area dedicated to relentless out-of-control partying in a jungle atmosphere fueled by water guns mounted on the stage. The music there ranged from dubstep, tech house, glitch and some unidentifiable psychedelic mashups meant to twist the mind in all directions.

The acts performing on the other five stages rocked all weekend from noon until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and until midnight Sunday. The Gobi, Mojave and Sahara as well as the main and outdoor stages provided non-stop entertainment.

The heat was nearly unbearable at times, but the unstoppable energy of the crowds matched by the power of the performers kept myself and my fellow festival lovers dancing all weekend. This year the promoter Goldenvoice teamed up with the Creator’s Project to produce some of the most stunning visuals I have ever seen.

Animal Collective’s music alone would have made anyone feel like they had been slipped some mind-expanding substance, but their red, blue and green psychedelic visuals took the trip factor to another level. None of their songs sounded anything like their originals, except the lyrics, but their live improvisations captivated me throughout their one hour ten minute set.

For me, it was all about Mumford and Sons. Their incredible energy and enveloping sound kept everyone’s eyes fixed on the stage as we sang along to every word of Mumford’s powerful lyrics.

“Mumford and Sons was my favorite,” said Stephanie Yovin, 21, zoology. “I cried.”

The foot stomping gypsy-punk of Gogol Bordello brought a different and exciting flare to the desert oasis.

“The most fun and upbeat performance would have been Gogol Bordello,” said Ryan Redman, 21, engineering. “They put on such a great show, it was so lively and kept us moving the whole time, I couldn’t see one person through their whole show who wasn’t dancing.”

Cage the Elephant rocked the outdoor stage with their kick-ass style and lead singer Matt Shultz running around the stage in a red and white polka-dotted dress, stage diving and singing part of almost every song while crowd surfing.

The Sahara tent served as the resident rave for most of the weekend, with the puzzling exception of rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, which I think should have been left out and never again invited to play what is widely known as the dance tent. Forget about that one hateful rap group shouting “@#$& the police” repeatedly. DJs like Boyz Noize, A Trak, Eric Morillo, and my favorite dance legend Sasha tore up the dance floor and kept our hearts racing all weekend.

On Sunday two friends led me into the Mojave tent to see Fistful of Mercy, which is a soulful blues, folk and all-out rock collaboration between Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur, backed by the entrancing melodies of Jesse Greene’s violin.

The group sounded like a modern day Crosby Stills and Nash, and their harmonies mixed with their jamming guitar riffs left me amazed and wishing the tech problems hadn’t forced them to start 20 minutes late.

Tech problems were an issue all weekend, and cut short sets by high profile acts like Erykah Badu and the Black Keys. On Sunday I waited 25 minutes past the listed start time to see the Presets play 35 minutes of an hour set, and they still blew me away.

When the music stops playing and everyone packs up to go home on Monday, a serious void is felt. Leaving my third Coachella and returning to reality was not an easy thing to do. On the ride home I began planning my next Coachella in 2012 and how I can make it even better than this one, and I know I’m not the only one who is doing so.

There are 350 days until the next Coachella, and you better believe I will be counting down each and every day like a child does for Christmas. 

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