The bloom was off the rose. The genie, out of the bottle. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s big reveals – its giant roving spaceman art piece and special guests Slash, Justin Bieber and Beyonce – had long since emerged from the wings and into cultural memory.
In its second back-to-back weekend, the festival was no longer the new new thing it had been in the breathless months leading up to the grand unveiling of Coachella’s 2014 lineup. It was no longer the new new thing compelling fan wonderment at how OutKast’s reunion might pan out (comme si, comme ca, if we’re being generous) or whether Daft Punk would show up during Pharrell Williams’ Main Stage performance of “Get Lucky” (nope).
Moreover, it was no longer the new new thing requiring saturation coverage from music magazines, fashion blogs, gossip websites and national news concerns that commandeered so much social media attention just a few days earlier.
But did any of that make the ironic (but not really) twerking by a trio of young women in crocheted bikinis who could be seen in all their physical abandon during ASAP Ferg’s sunburn set on the Outdoor Stage Friday any less joyous? Could Weekend 2’s seeming familiarity somehow inspire contempt on the Empire Polo Field in the face of MS MR’s fun-loving cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean”?
In recent weeks, some critics have idly speculated about Coachella’s continuing cultural relevancy and about whether the fest can reasonably expect to hold on to its soul as an egalitarian oasis of independent music and thought in an age of plunging male V-neck T-shirt cleavage, rampant celebrity selfies and $6,500 glamping berths.
But in your humble correspondent’s ninth trip to the desert for this festival – and my first covering Weekend 2 – I’m convinced Coachella lives up to the overwhelming din of its own hype.
This polo field. That maddening heat. The careful balancing act pulled off by festival promoter Goldenvoice of trading up and cashing in – with more tickets sold, more plentiful branded tie-ins, sheer economy of scale – without ever selling out. The festival is more than the sum of its buzz-feeding components.
Even in its second weekend, with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram already sagging under the weight of the previous week’s #Coachella postings (and, more likely than not a ton of Tinder hookups too), the fest is still a vibe, the celebration of an ideal, not just for schmucks who couldn’t land tickets to Weekend 1. What Robert Plant was likely talking about when he sings in “Stairway to Heaven”: “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west.”