Coachella Music Festival in Palm Springs, California

The drive from Anaheim to Palm Springs took about 2 hours. I sort of passed out in my seat as we drove through the desert valleys surrounded by barren brown mountaintops. The most beautiful views could be seen as the pink and purple sun set cast its shadows on the looming mounds. We would be staying for two nights in Palm Desert at my dads friends house (they met each other back in Medical School in The Stone Age). We drove up to their street and were greeted by a set of gates. Apparently these people lived in a gated community, how thrilling. We drove up to their house and I was in awe at its beautiful splendor. None of the houses around here have any grass. Front lawns are crowded ornamental rock gardens, palm trees, cactus and waterfalls. The family name is Thatcher and I have to say their house is one of the most beautiful homes I have ever stayed. I am not accustomed at all to the concept of “no winter”. Their house has two separate open air courtyards with fireplace and decadent furniture. The kitchen is open concept and looks out onto their backyard with waterfalls to boot. I had the most enjoyable sleep in days (my dad’s snoring was found in another room I’m sure). My bed was the size of three pool tables with divine plush pillows I might add. I had an incredible sleep.

I woke up to a consistent hot breeze which flows through the air at all times of the day here in the desert it seems. I had breakfast with Mrs. Thatcher at their dining room table. We had fresh strawberries and grapefruit, scrambled eggs, toast and huge mugs of coffee. We chatted about food phobias, over sized American restaurant portions and Rhode Island. Dad and I drove to Palm Springs during the hottest period of the day. I literally felt as though I might die, straggling and fumbling across the barren desert floor like some sort of intoxicated vulture. These Desert communities truly are an oasis in the midst of a barren wasteland. The gated community the Thatcher’s live in houses I think around 5,000 houses. Within this gated community there is a live theater, several restaurants, a private golf and country club, an athletic center and several pools. It is really odd to see people driving golf carts down the block rather than their cars. We arrived in Palm Springs in a short 30 minutes and parked underground to save ourselves from returning to 350 degree ovens (suitable temperatures for roasting a hen, baking a chocolate cake or toasting English muffins). The downtown strip of Palm Springs was nearly deadly. I apparently can’t handle this hot weather. The majority of people I have been seeing around here are 1) painted old ladies who need to learn to tone down their makeup application 2) obsessive gamblers and 3) fifty-something golf addicts. People seem to come to Palm Springs to tan and then die. Apparently there is a lovely retirement community around here somewhere called 4 Seasons, we simply must check it out! The sidewalks all have cool mists spraying over the tops of the store signs in order to cool down pedestrians (and perhaps entice them to enter the establishment). I had lost my aviator sunglasses on a ride at Disneyland the previous day so I required some eye protection on the asap. We popped into the perfect little store that sold wall to wall rip off sunglasses! My dad bought stainless steel Oakley’s and I bought Prada aviators and black DG’s.

We crawled into the California Pizza Kitchen for lunch and had a nice light lunch:

Lava Colada: Malibu Bacardi Rum with Pina Coloda swirled with raspberry puree.
Sedona Tortilla Soup: tomatoes, tomatilolls and corn with green chili and southwestern spices, crispy tortilla strips.
Waldorf Salad: field greens, chicken breasts, grapes, Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts, celery, Gorgonzola cheese, Dijon balsamic vinaigrette.
Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza: roasted garlic, grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, onion with white wine and garlic-shallot butter.

*Breaking News*

This just in…The University of Guelph just posted their marks for the 2007 Winter semester. I crossed my fingers and checked my undergraduate course marks for the last time in life! I officially have a cumulative GPA average (over the last 4 years) of 86%. My cumulative average for my final and toughest year of university was an ever so thrilling 88%! All of the hours of relentless studying, late nights, starving myself on coffee and Ferraro Roche’s has indeed paid off. That chapter of my life is now officially over. I don’t have to worry about the panic of exams and projects or group members who seem to have a few screws loose. I hope that some time in the not so distant future I can use these grades I worked so hard to attain to further my studies in the realm of grad work.

We spent the afternoon at Mr. Thatcher’s local Community Athletics and Recreation Center. I have come to understand that these gated communities have some rather nifty amenities. Every member of the community has a membership to this exclusive sports club. We walked outside and jumped into a perfectly crisp pool for a lane swim. The water was perfect turquoise and surrounded by egg shell white patio furniture and flower and palm filled gardens. I swam for about 30 minutes without any goggles. Once I got out of the pool to dry off I realized my eyes were incredibly dry. I think a combination of intense sunlight in the pool and chlorine created a bit of an irritating environment for my cornea. We sat with Mr. Thatcher’s friend as she discussed her current dilemma: her 22 year old daughter is dating a 29 year old gentleman who works at a pharmacy stocking vitamins, has several tattoos on his body and has never had a driver’s license. She then went into great detail about how essential it is to have a golf cart. She said she couldn’t live without hers, “They are essential for quick jaunts to the gym and for a workout or a quick stop by the country club for lunch.” She made me laugh, repeatedly, perhaps that added to my bone dry eye balls. As we walked out of the club I saw the funniest sight: a beautiful 40 something blond haired bombshell decked out in a Versace black yoga outfit, wearing diamond earrings, manicured fingernails and a baseball hat that read “Pampered”. She wore all of this simply to jog on a treadmill, loves it!

We had dinner at a little Italian Restaurant called Mario’s that evening. I ordered a half liter of Zinfandel and a bowl of fettuccine Alfredo. We spent several hours around the dinner table talking about deep philosophical ideas, followed by theological banter.

Many of you may wonder why we drove all the way out into the desert from LA on this “coastal highway road trip”. That question is rather easy to answer. I am a Bjork Live Pilgrim. My all time favorite musician (whom I have never seen perform live) is headlining the first night of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. For those of you who don’t know about this infamous concert, it is an Indie music concert which focuses on independent labels and quarky musicians as well as an outdoor modern sculpture and interactive art showcase. To be honest most of the bands playing I am not familiar with, but that’s just it…the intention is to sort of walk around and see as many different bands that you can and by doing so possibly fall in love with a new artists lyricism. This year’s big bands are Bjork, Interpol, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine. The concerts start at around 2pm and finish at midnight. Each day has approximately 40 performers singing their hearts out on five different stages. Last years two day festival saw over 200,000 people visit, this year they have extended the festival to three days. Many guests take arduous road trips across the country, some even fly in from abroad to use the camping facilities and tent at night on the property (similar to Woodstock). I am really excited for what the day has in store. When 200,000 people get together in the desert for music appreciation there is bound to be some sun burning, exhaustion and smiles (perhaps I may even shed a tear).

The four hours leading up to the concert I was entirely nervous. I had these butterflies in my stomach and kept pinching myself. We took the Thatcher’s out to lunch at their Country Club at 11am. I certainly have noticed the lack of youthfulness in this community as I walked by the tables in the dining room all I could see was an expanse of white hair. We sat by the window overlooking the lagoon swimming pool. The sky is always perfectly blue here with a beaming yellow sun shooting down (today as of 12 noon it is 106 degrees outside. I have been told it will peak at 3pm. Oh Lordy!) I had a huge Southwestern burger with avocado, salsa, red onion, and jack cheese. My waitress asked me how I wanted my burger cooked and my back went up. I told her “I want it cooked so that I don’t die of a food poisoning.” I informed the table after she left that all hamburgers should be served one way, which is “cooked.” Val Allen would have been livid.

Our pilgrimage started at 1:45pm as we drove out of the drive way, 15 minutes later we were in Indio, the home of the concert. We thought we were “laughing” as we expected it to take much longer to get there, how wrong were we. It took us just over 2 hours to actually get from our door step into the entrance gates of the concert! It took us about 1 1/2 hours to drive approximately 1.8 miles. Bumper to bumper hectic. Along the road there were people with signs saying they needed to buy tickets and scalpers were running up and down the cars checking to see if anyone needed to buy their overpriced Ticketmaster slip. The majority of the 200,000 concert goers are between the ages of 18 and 30. One of the vans we slowly crawled beside was full of what seemed like a frat party. Their van was spray painted entirely with many expletives including “Coachella F&%! Ya”. Once we finally got into the parking zone we quickly grabbed our things and walked about 20 minutes to the entrance of the park. Apparently there is a law in the States that men can not “search” woman and give them the ol’ pat down. So men were put in separate lines than the woman as they checked our bodies for explosives and what not. That line up was the most brutal part of the day. I thought I may faint as there was zero shade and, well, I was in a friggin desert! Once we finally got our tickets scanned we turned right and the entire festival grounds lay in front of us. It was truly stunning. The place is huge, “this is what a real concert looks like”, I thought. We ran directly to the water station and bought two bottles each at two bucks a smack.

We walked to the Mojave Tent where we sat in the shade and enjoyed the slight wind that passed through our hair. One of my favorite new bands, Tilly and the Wall played a great set for 50 minutes. The band is very folky rock and all of the band members were wearing crazy bedazzled 70’s skimpy dresses with flowers in their hair. There are two male guitarists and three female singers. All three singers wear tap shoes and actually tap dance during their ballads. The tap dancing pretty much is the percussion. People were throwing confetti into the air and I was swaying to and fro in the wind to my three favorite songs: Restless, Misbehaven and The Living Dead.

Beside the Mojave tent is the largest tent at the festival. The Sahara tent is used throughout the day for House/Techno/Dance DJ performers. I didn’t expect to actually see any of the line up as I was focusing more on rock bands with my preconceived notion of how the day would pan out. As soon as I walked into the Sahara Tent my mouth dropped (again). The tent was ridiculously huge, full of beautiful Californian half naked men and woman dancing to music one would expect to find at a rave at 3am. On the ceiling at the center of the tent hangs the largest disco ball I have ever seen in my life. Green and red lasers shot across the sky. A serious light show! We watched three DJ’s and my solo dance party experiences in this tent will forever be memorable. DJ David Guetta, Digitalism and Felix Da Housecat had asses bumping and grinding for a solid day of desert sun. Felix Da Housecat was probably the most popular DJ there. He came on stage with huge white sunglasses on and threw his Louis Vuitton satchel on his spin tables and started dancing like crazy as the several thousand onlookers (including myself) screamed at the top of their lungs (for no apparent reason, simply because we could). I danced for a good 90 minutes and chugged a bottle of water as I stood by a few huge bass stereos. I could barely stand as the bass vibrated and shook ever cell
in my body, exactly as it should be.

After the insane-o dance party we walked to the Heineken tent and each bought a beer. We sat on the grass overlooking the grounds and I realized this may just be the best location for a concert. Surrounding the festival were lines of huge palm trees and looming mountain tops. Once again, I had to pinch myself. We walked into the AT&T Blue Room Experience Tent which was magical. The entire tent is air conditioned and dark with sparkling star lights on the ceiling. There were about 100 laptops affixed to several rows of tables so that people could use the Internet. There were also hoards of televisions and stereos above playing edited montages of the bands that had already played that day. We walked in just as the Tilly and the Wall video was being played which was kind of neat as we could see them performing the songs up close just after we had seen them live. We then decided to take a walk throughout the entire park before the big bands of the evening started. The organization of the concert venues really was incredible as over 30 art exhibits were available to interact with as you walked to and from the various stages. There was an exhibit on solar energy and many of the art installations used solar panels to operate the various moving parts of the exhibit. The Do-Lab was my favorite little cluster; huge green and brown leaves swept over the sky so that people could dance or chill out under them. Sprouting from the center of these leaves were giant red tulips that lit up at night so you could see them from all over the park as these red Japanese lantern beacons. One of the tulips had a DJ within who was playing a crazy assortment of Indian techno. Reeds sticking out of the leaves about 20 feet in the air rotated and sprayed water on the dancing minions bellow. It was at this moment, when I was staring directly into the sun and allowing huge droplets of rain to hit my sunglass lenses that I realized some people seriously can not dance. I embrace people who have no rhythm because they tend to always look so care free, and they entertain me to bits.

We walked past the Coachella main outdoor stage and listened to the Arctic Monkeys play a few songs as we chomped down on slices of gooey pizza. Near the entrance of the concert there is a huge shop that sells several Coachella Festival T-shirts. I was amazed at how amazing they were, typically concert t-shirts are bogus and uncreative. Seeing that we were at a Music and Arts Festival it was nice to see that the t-shirts really were stellar. We each bought a different t-shirt as a memento of the concert of a lifetime (which we were currently indulging).

We finally parked ourselves as close as we could to the main Coachella Stage as approximately 150 000 people would be pushing and shoving their way through the crowd to get to the front of the stage to see tonight’s headliners. As we continued to wait (as any good pilgrim does) we listened to the rock hard Jesus and Mary Chain. A supreme-o treat was when Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood damsel, came on stage and sang with the lead singer in a vintage 70’s dress, huge brimmed hat and red stilettos. Men in the crowd were screaming “I love you”, I joined in of course. A little more restless waiting and another one of my favorite bands Interpol came on stage. The crowd went wild and it was claustrophobic to say the least. We had an amazing vantage point as we were on the left side of the stage directly in front of one of the huge screens. I sang along to Interpol as they went through my favorite songs: Evil, Hands Away, Not Even Jail, Say Hello to the Angels and Stella was a Driver and She was Always Down. My feet were killing me, my eyes were almost stuck together from the dry heat of my desert filled day. I closed my eyes as the bass passed through my body. I could still see the flickering lights through my eyelids and thought “get yourself together you have two more hours of Bjork love ahead of you.”

Bjork played for 90 minutes. The crowd went crazy for her, people cherish her indeed. Before she came out they had to set up her stage which required music stands for over 50 members of the choir and orchestra which would be playing brass (French horns, sax, trumpet and trombone) along with all the other synthesizers that are clearly a necessity for the most famous Icelandic songstress on earth. The stage was now decorated with dozens of flags and kites. One of the flags had an x-ray of a human lung, lizard feet, a cute bunny and a fish skeleton. If she weren’t as weird I don’t think I would like her as much! My heart was thumping and just as I was getting my second wind many little red flags on tall posts started to whisk their way in a line towards the front of the stage. The lights went completely dark and the crowd went nuts. Crazy beats started to play and green lasers shot themselves into the sky. And then, for the first time in my life, my heart stopped beating. I instantly new the first song of the evening, her first single of her new album Volta entitled “Earth Intruders.” The song is produced by Timberland and has this incredible guttural energy that makes (make that forces) anyone and everyone who listens to it to bob their head. When she finally came on stage the crowd went nuts (again) and I laughed out loud as she was wearing a huge costume that looked something like an Amoeba. She sang the song perfectly and danced her little heart out. It was at this point I realized how large the orchestra and choir was. The members of the choir were all dressed in fluorescent green, yellow and red dresses that looked something like potato sacks. The rest of the concert consisted of some of my favorite songs from all of her past albums. It was so nice to hear her scream out in her quarky outrageous voice. She had the entire crowd laughing when she finished singing Hunter she chirped “It is very nice to sing in the desert with you,” followed by her trademark Icelandic high pitched “Thank You!” The following is the set list of what she played tonight:

01. Earth Intruders
02. Hunter
03. Unravel
04. Oceania
05. All Is Full Of Love
06. Pleasure Is All Mine
07. Jóga
08. Pagan Poetry
09. Vökuró
10. Army Of Me
11. Innocence
12. Wanderlust
13. Hyperballad
14. Pluto

We actually started to weave ourselves through the crowd to the back of the concert grounds in order to avoid spending two hours in the parking lot trying to make it to the exit with thousands of other cars. As we jostled ourselves through the crowd all I could see on the desert floor were shadows of people dancing to Hyperballad. The palm trees were glowing across the horizon and Bjork vibrated through my head. We jogged down the sandy back lot, past the Woodstock camp ground where thousands of fellow music lovers would be sleeping tonight. As we finally made our way to the car we noticed a thick layer of desert sand on all of the cars. I like to think it was magical Bjork infused pixie dust. As we started the engine I closed my eyes and tried not to complain about how dehydrated I was, how nasty dirty I felt (apparently 40 SPF sunscreen collects desert sand onto ones body rather nicely). I heard the scream of the crowd in the distance and wondered if Bjork had said fini. Just as we lined our car up with the exit sign I looked into my side mirror and saw thousands of bodies walking up the dirt path. There was a quick silence, and then my side mirror started to vibrate from the intense stereo bass down yonder. Silence and then bass was soon followed by a thud in my chest as my heart started pounding to Bjork’s final song of the night, Pluto. As we drove past the concert grounds I closed my eyes for the short 25 minute drive back to Palm Desert.

My heart was full of good things. One pilgrim (moi) says in a high pitched chirp “Thank you Bjork!” She made all my dreams come true, far better than Disney ever could.

 

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