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Coachella Music Festival Review (with PHOTOS and VIDEOS)

First day of Coachella with Hanna Kirkorian (center left) and friends. (All photos by Hanna Kirkorian)
First day of Coachella with Hanna Kirkorian (center left) and friends. (All photos by Hanna Kirkorian)

Festival-goers frantically made their way to the front gates in anticipation for a weekend filled with music and excitement. One festival attendee may have gotten a little too excited as he didn’t make it to the entrance before throwing up. This set the stage on Friday, April 11, for my first Coachella experience. 

Coachella Music Festival, an annual three-day music and arts festival, is held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. An estimated 270,000 people from all around the globe were in attendance over the weekend, with around 90,000 in attendance each day. OutKast, Muse, and Arcade Fire were this year’s headlining bands.

I’ve never seen so many girls wearing high wasted shorts with flowers wrapped around their heads. This trend, along with minimal clothing, was a must in the 90 degree Coachella Valley sun.

Wind was in abundance the first two days of the festival, which made for a lot of dust. Bandanas were a popular solution to avoid breathing in the dirty air.

Rapper A$AP Ferg, along with Bastille, AFI, Ellie Goulding, Girl Talk and headliner OutKast, were among some of the artists who performed on day one of the festival.

Shuttle ride on the first day.
Shuttle ride on the first day.

My friends and I were front row for Bastille as they performed at one of the festivals smaller stages. Their growing popularity showed as people tried to shove their way to the front. Too bad we weren’t about to give up our spot! The small stage was tented in and overflowing with hot, smelly and sticky fans. One smart man brought a handheld fan with a spray bottle attached, which he was nice enough to spray us with. Aside from the heat, the band performed flawlessly as they sang hits like “Pompeii.”

Water bottle refill station lines seemed never-ending for those who didn’t want to pay for a cold, over-priced water bottle (mostly everyone). No one seemed to care that the water station had room temperature water, or that it was also being used to rinse off sweaty heads.

People were frantically walking in all different directions around us as crowds moved towards the outdoor stage to see Ellie Goulding. Too overwhelmed with the amount of people, my friends and I decided to watch an ant-sized Goulding from the food stands. “I Need Your Love” went great with some Pad Thai.

Next year, I know to get to Girl Talk’s stage early. Notorious for letting people dance on stage, fans jumped at the chance to be part of the excitement. Girl Talk’s performance featured guest rappers Busta Rhymes, who performed his “Look at Me Now” verse over Arcade Fire‘s “Wake Up”, along with appearances from Juicy J, E-40, and Too $hort.

A word to the wise: don’t eat a full edible in one sitting. Bad reactions from edibles was not a good way to end the evening before OutKast’s performance. Two of my friends spent part of the evening throwing up under a food tent because of it. However, it did make for an abundance of laughter.

Ending the night was headlining group OutKast. Trying to get through the crowd and closer to the stage was nearly impossible. Three girls were sniffing cocaine out of a Ziploc baggy in front of us for the duration of the performance. Some OutKast fans were disappointed and felt that the reunion of Andre 3000 and Big Boi made for an awkward performance. Most of the songs performed were renditions of other artist’s hits, but the group finished the night off with their famous “Hey Ya.”

Saturday had arguably the best line-up of the weekend. Artists like Cage the Elephant, Sleigh Bells, Kid Cudi, Fatboy Slim, MGMT, Foster the People, Lorde, Pharrell Williams, Queens of the Stone Age and headliner Muse were among the favorites.

Saturday was one of the more exciting days as we made it front row for Cage the Elephant, Kid Cudi and MGMT.

Cage the Elephant lead singer Matt Shultz was shirtless after performing only two songs. Hopping on and off stage, Shultz had a fun time running around, in and out of crowds. My friends were lucky enough to touch him. The group performed songs like “Come a Little Closer,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” and “Back Against the Wall.”

Cage the Elephant lead singer Matt Shultz was quick to take off his shirt in the hot afternoon sun.
Cage the Elephant lead singer Matt Shultz was quick to take off his shirt in the hot afternoon sun.

Kid Cudi drew in a huge crowd (including David Hasselhoff) and put on an impressive performance. Fans were surprised by his outfit choice, which consisted of a red crop-top sweatshirt and tight jean shorts. He played hit songs like “Mr. Rager,” “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” and “Pursuit of Happyness.” A group of girls behind me couldn’t stop talking about how great Cudi’s performance was, even while MGMT’s performance rang on. 

Kid Cudi during his performance Saturday afternoon.
Kid Cudi during his performance Saturday afternoon.

Mystical creatures and various patterns of color played in animation on screens during MGMT’s show Saturday evening. The group sounded impeccable, nearly identical to songs that can be heard on the radio. Songs played by MGMT include: “Weekend Wars,” “Alien Days,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel.” Leonardo DiCaprio was in attendance and could be seen raging to “Kids” on YouTube. I’d rather have this say “can.” 

MGMT had mystical creatures and colors projected on the screen during their performance.
MGMT had mystical creatures and colors projected on the screen during their performance.

Lorde, who also drew in an impressively large crowd, was a favorite among artists who performed over the weekend. My friends and I made the unanimous decision to watch Lorde’s performance on the outskirts of the crowd. Pushing through thousands of people to the front would’ve taken the duration of her performance. She played some of her biggest hits, including “Royals”, “Team”, “Tennis Court” and “Ribs.”

By the end of day two, layers of dust covered people from head to toe. A wind storm made the air foggy, as dust circulated over the festival. Ears, belly buttons, and hair did the best job of trapping it. Yuck!

The Naked and Famous, Lana Del Rey, Disclosure, Calvin Harris, Beck, and headliner Arcade Fire rounded out the festival on Sunday.

It was definitely worth holding spots near the front of the stage Sunday afternoon for The Naked and Famous and Calvin Harris.

Check out all of Contributing Writer Hanna Kirkorian’s video clips and photos of Coachella 2014 in the Flickr slideshow below:

As first time Coachella performers, the Naked and Famous were in awe of their experience. Lead singer Alisa Xayalith took a photo of the crowd and said “I want to remember this forever.”

She also mentioned how beautiful the crowd looked from stage. Their standout performance included the songs “Girls Like You,” “Punching in a Dream,” and “No Way.”

The biggest crowd of the weekend went to DJ Calvin Harris. The festival turned into a rave as he performed hits like “Feel So Close,” “I Need Your Love” and “Sweet Nothing.” Laser light shows, fire, and smoke intensified the performance that much more, with not a single audience member standing still. Dancing, jumping, and fist pumping were just a few of the ways people felt his music. Sorry to the guy in front of me who I fist-pumped right in the head.

The final headliner, Arcade Fire, rounded out the night by playing a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” and surprised the audience with Blondie leader Debbie Harry. “Sprawl II” and “Wake Up” were of the 17 songs played by Arcade Fire that night. At one point during their performance, lead singer Win Butler said, “I just want to say that there’s a lot of fake VIP room bulls**t happening at this festival, and sometimes people dream of being there — but it super sucks in there, so don’t worry about it.”

After an exhausting weekend, I have left with many life-long memories. I encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced Coachella Music Festival to do so at least once. It will be worth your while.