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Was Coachella 2013 Worth the Drive from Phoenix?

Coachella can take a lot out of a person.
Coachella can take a lot out of a person.

If you went to Coachella last weekend, you're probably still sunburned, dehydrated, and physically exhausted. Sleeping in your own bed is a glorious feeling after camping out or crashing on a friend's hotel room floor, but some aches and pains are bound to persist. Fortunately, if you had a good-enough time at the festival, none of that matters. No pain no gain, right?

$349 is a fairly steep price, and all the driving and hanging out in the sun is exhausting. So was seeing Blur and Wu-Tang Clan worth it?

Friday

Friday sucked. Festival Fridays almost always suck, because the first few hours of the day are spent getting used to the festival. There are people everywhere and it seems like no amount of water is enough. Once the sun goes down, the music magically seems to get better, and Passion Pit was, in fact, enjoyable.

See also: These weird Coachella campsites might change your decision for next year.

Most of Friday was a blur. I only vaguely remember Johnny Marr performing The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before," because my main focus was getting hydrated. The Gobi tent was running significantly behind, which was a bummer after leaving Metric early to check out Japandroids only to find a vacant stage.

I hadn't quite got my timing right for seeing overlapping bands. I watched Beach House for a bit and it sounded beautiful, but I really wanted to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I enjoyed Modest Mouse, but took a brief break to check out Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, which worked out since I arrived just in time for "California Uber Alles." Hearing original Smiths and Dead Kennedys songs in the same day was pretty rad.

I don't know if it was a matter of minor heat exhaustion or not being in the right mood, but The Stone Roses didn't do much for me. I was excited to hear "I Want to Be Adored" right off the bat, but it didn't seem like the right band to be watching at midnight after a long day. I ended Friday with Trent Reznor's How to Destroy Angels, which was a great call. The band sounded good and had cool visual effects, but they didn't quite have the gusto I was looking for in a closing band. Jurassic 5 would have been the right call, in hindsight.

 

Saturday

My hotel roommate and I drove separately (he came up from Tucson), but we decided to carpool Saturday. We were both pretty worn out from the heat, so we planned the day based on our can't-miss bands. I wouldn't have minded watching The Evens or Danny Brown, but neither was enough for me to get there early. My first must-see was Violent Femmes and his was Major Lazer, so we aimed to get to the festival around 6. I'd never gone to Coachella that late. It was a weird feeling to take my time and casually hang out in downtown Palm Springs, but it was really nice to arrive at the festival as it was cooling down.

I've seen Violent Femmes before, so I didn't mind leaving after the first few songs to check out Major Lazer. I'm glad I went, because Major Lazer ended up being one of my favorite acts from the festival. Diplo and Walshy Fire walked on top of the crowd in big plastic bubbles (think Wayne Coyne's schtick) and got the massive crowd to dance constantly. The group asked the crowd to take their shirts off and throw them in the air on the count of three, which was awesome to see from the side of the stage.

The next band to perform on the Mojave stage was another favorite -- Grizzly Bear. It was a little jarring to go from Major Lazer's party atmosphere to the mellow beauty of Grizzly Bear. Watching the lanterns move behind the band was stunning, and the cool weather certainly didn't hurt. Picking Grizzly Bear over Yeasayer and Hot Chip was a tough call, but I stand by my decision.

Most people will probably think I'm nuts for my next call -- I watched all of Descendents and didn't see any of The Postal Service. Descendents are one of my all-time favorite bands. I drove to Los Angeles for FYF Fest a couple years ago without hesitation because they were playing the festival. Watching them was a no-brainer. The only time another band crossed my mind is when my roomie texted me to say that Jenny Lewis was performing with The Postal Service.

The end of Saturday night was a tough call. It would have been nice if a couple of these bands were moved to Friday, because deciding between Phoenix, New Order, Knife Party, and Sigur Ros was difficult. I checked all four bands out but stuck with Phoenix. I'm glad I did, because just after I got settled at the main stage, the band played "1901" and R. Kelly joined them for a remix and "I'm a Flirt."

 

Sunday

Arriving in time for the first must-see band panned out quite well, so we took the same approach on Sunday. For me, it was Gaslight Anthem, and for him, it was Lumineers, so we aimed to arrive around 3. I finally got Foursquare to work, so I found out that it took me a full 44 minutes to get inside. Within that time frame, I saw a girl high-five her friend and say, "Yay, you're not getting arrested!" which turned into a discussion of good places to hide drugs.

While waiting in line for the last security checkpoint, I recognized "The '59 Sound." This made me even more eager to get in, but I knew I'd be spending the next song or two in line. We got in about 20 minutes into Gaslight's set and spent it relaxing. If you've never laid down in the grass while listening to one of your favorite bands, I'd highly recommend it. "Flying" the balloons is pretty fun too, though the operator wasn't too thrilled about my doing so in the wind.

Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend both had solid sets. My roomie once again made a great recommendation with Pretty Lights. The DJ sampled Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me" which didn't sound like Avicii or Flo Rida's versions, which have been done to death. Plus there were plenty of, well, pretty lights to keep things entertaining.

We checked out Father John Misty, but Pretty Lights' sound bled into the Gobi tent too much. I could recognize "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" and tried to get into it, but Pretty Lights was too distracting.

We watched most of The Faint before heading over to the outdoor stage to see Wu-Tang Clan. The Faint played two of my favorite songs during the overlap period, which is unfortunate. Wu was quite entertaining, I have never seen such a large crowd at the outdoor stage. Watching a bunch of white kids with bandanas over their faces due to the dust storm dance and sing along to "C.R.E.A.M." and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit" was the pinnacle of festival people-watching. I also spotted J. Mascis on the side of the stage, near a group of people smoking weed out of a bong fashioned from a water bottle.

Parov Stelar Band canceled without a formal announcement or explanation, so I bought a ticket for the Ferris wheel. Somehow after going to Coachella for three consecutive years, I'd never ridden it. Jumping on in low visibility probably wasn't the best call, but I did have a pretty awesome seat for part of Red Hot Chili Peppers' set. Plus, it was awesome to sing along to "Otherside" with a bunch of drunk Australians dressed as "party animals."

The lineup may not have been as strong as it was in previous years, but this was still a fun Coachella. Saturday night alone justified the trip for me, but watching Vampire Weekend, The Faint, and Wu-Tang Clan on Sunday was an added benefit. The blisters make it hard to wear shoes, and even though I religiously wore a bandana and used a netipot, I can already feel the post-Coachella sinus infection nightmare coming on. In spite of all of that, I'm already going through Coachella withdrawals. Listening to "The Knife," "Pon de Floor," or "Giving up the Gun" has nothing on seeing Grizzly Bear, Major Lazer, or Vampire Weekend live.

I doubt the weekend two folk will have to deal with a sandstorm, which is great. Heading back to the hotel Sunday night was nothing like driving in a haboob. The winds were so strong that all I could see was the brake lights of the car in front of me, which was not fun for the drive back to North Palm Springs. But would I do it all again? Hell yeah. Coachella is usually my favorite weekend of the year, and I'm sure 2013 will be no exception.

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