Each and every year, my wife and I and a big group of close friends shove our adulthood into a closet, pack up our cars, and head out to Indio, Calif. for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival — Coachella, for short — the biggest and best respected music festival in North America.
That’s right: the best. Sorry Bonnaroo. The glut of jam bands that perpetually clots your lineup keeps you from grabbing the crown.
I’ve been doing this pretty much every year since the festival began in 1999, when my good buddy Eric Solomon and I actually covered the event as journalists. We scored free tickets and photo passes, wrote an epic review of the show and interviewed a staggeringly great roster of artists, from Moby to Underworld to Ritchie Hawtin to DJ Qbert. Security was so lax in those pre-9/11 days that Eric got to use his photo pass to climb on stage with Ming & FS and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz to shoot pics. No one minded.
Now we just attend as fans, and we go with a bunch of people we love, and the point is mostly to spend time with one another — to enjoy drinking mimosas in the morning and beer in the afternoon (and beer in the festival venue’s parking lot, and beer again back at the hotel, enough beer that someone eventually barges into someone else’s hotel room at 4 in the morning to begin drunkenly jumping up and down in their underwear on people who were, until that moment, sleeping peacefully, filming the whole thing because who knows why?). This generally means less pressure to try and cover every single band playing the show (seriously, that first year? I damn near ran my legs off jetting from stage to stage to press tent to DJ tent to stage and back again) and more pressure to resolve schedule conflicts and catch the sets that will really matter, man.
As I said, this goes down pretty much every year. I missed the festival in 2001 and 2002, when I couldn’t afford tickets. My wife and I missed it in 2011 because we somehow made the crucial logistical error of timing the birth of our children to coincide exactly with Coachella weekend. We’re back this year, however, and with us comes the revival of a tradition that I started three years ago (a tradition, mind you, that only I observe / care about), namely: foisting my music obsessiveness on the rest of our Coachella crew by picking out a handful of songs each week and sending YouTube links of them around to everyone under the heading, “GET PSYCHED!” This goes on for 10 weeks or so, right up to the festival. I aim to make the voluminous festival lineup a little less intimidating, enabling everyone to maybe discover a couple of new acts that they might want to see. Just looking at the lineup poster can be a bit overwhelming, after all, especially if you don’t spend a lot of your free time thinking about or listening to music.
I also do this because, frankly, music drives me to distraction. I’m the guy in the group who, literally, sees the lineup and finds 50 bands that I know I will want to see. Just off the top of my head. That’s what I get for spending 15+ years as a college radio DJ and a professional music journalist and an amateur music blogger. Coachella is bigger than Christmas for me, and I genuinely hope to transfer some of my gibbering loon enthusiasm to my traveling companions. I don’t consider these lists canonical or anything. I encourage everyone to disagree or suggest alternatives.
This year, instead of just sending my notes around to our little Coachella traveling group via e-mail, I thought I’d post them all here for the whole world to enjoy. THE WHOLE WORLD. I hope you’re ready for the flood of traffic, WordPress.