Coachella 2014: Abandoning game plan and getting lost in festival

Dancers take in DJ Dillon Francis as the sun sets during the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

For those lucky, or crazy, enough to take in both weekends of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, the biggest struggle is mapping out who you’re going to see.

Everyone’s plan of attack seems to be different.

Giving priority to acts missed the previous week is a safe plan. So is trotting over to something new that Weekend 1 critics, or friends, raved about. And don’t forget those favorites from last week that you must catch again.

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No matter the game plan, taking in all 166 acts on the bill is just an impossible feat -- no matter what substance, legal or otherwise, is providing the fuel.


But I decided to challenge myself. How much could I experience in one exhausting stroll around the festival grounds?

I started at the Coachella stage and continued until I ended back there. This is what I discovered.

At the Coachella Stage, Kid Cudi was commanding yet another enormous crowd at his set Saturday evening. We moved through a haze of marijuana smoke to get a better glimpse of the king of trippy, stoner rap, who leaped to the front of the crowd and danced with fans.

“Y’all … gave me a run for my money this week,” he said after leading the crowd through a frenzied dance party to the remixed version of his hit “Day ‘n’ Nite.” He then brought out MGMT for “Pursuit of Happiness.”

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A short skip over to the Outdoor Stage, Capital Cities was getting things going with its blend of jazzy, synth-heavy indie pop. Dressed in all black and matching tropical printed blazers, the L.A. duo and a backing band were firing up “Kangaroo Court” and winning our award for best onstage look by a male -- solo or group.

“Coachella, are you ready to dance?” Capital Cities’ Ryan Merchant asked, as Spencer Ludwig blew away on a trumpet. Yes, the crowd was ready.

At the Gobi tent, Washed Out had just taken his final bow, his name glowing in blue behind him.

Warpaint was in the middle of a sleepier moment during its set at the Mojave tent. I was only there for a few minutes when the L.A. quartet picked things up a bit with “No Way Out.”

“You guys are really sweet,” Warpaint’s Theresa Wayman blushed to the crowd.

The chilled, laid-back vibe gleaned from the women of Warpaint was a brief feeling as the walk to the Sahara tent was its usual game of Frogger, where you hope not to get run down by the ravers. The Sahara madhouse, starring Dillon Francis, was literally overflowing with bodies as revelers twirled, fist-pumped and turned all the way up. At one point, the image of a cheeseburger floating over Patrick Stewart’s face appeared during the DJ’s set. Still confused about that.

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Inside the Yuma tent, a couple of hundred festival-goers kept the rave going as they beat the heat in the enclosed dance space. The waves of air conditioning felt like heaven, but the set by Cajmere (the Chicago electro-house DJ who goes by a million other names) was a pounding, unpleasant experience in such a relatively small space as the bass shook the floor -- and our bodies.

The tent was dark, with just bursts of strobes. Dancers gyrated under the flash of blue, yellow, green and orange lights. Eventually, we caught the sparkly disco shark that hung overhead and served as the center of one dance-off.

In Yuma’s forecourt, brightly colored beanbag benches provided a great respite as Cajmere’s beats carried less intensity. Sinking into a beanbag was a nice flashback to lazy college dorm days.

The forecourt also boasted tables, restrooms and a pizza truck that made the area a quaint oasis -- no VIP pass necessary.

As the last bit of the desert sun ceased, I ventured to the Do Lab’s new site at the Empire polo grounds. The isolated location, in a far corner of the field, was especially eerie because of the heavy haze that seeped from fog machines tucked inside its core, swallowing its guests and Blond:ish, onstage. The female Canadian DJ duo used the haze to its advantage, pulling the crowd deeper into its trancey web of hypnotic beats.

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Things were a bit more sinister, though, inside the Heineken House late Saturday evening. Under the constant green glow, which matched the hue of the beer’s bottle, UZ spun head-splitting hip-hop beats.

When I arrived, a trio of girls were onstage twerking to 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” and looking back at their derrieres before a male-heavy crowd, many of whom hoisted beers in the air and made catcalls at the women.

Back outside, the night sky had taken over.

The cubed mirrors (artist Phillip K. Smith’s installation “Reflection Field”), where folks took selfies all day, glowed in an array of colors. The popular floating astronaut sculpture was making its way across the field as festival-goers crisscrossed toward different acts.

Back on the main stage, I was left with a choice: hop aboard MGMT’s psychedelic trip, hop over to the Outdoor Stage, where Lorde would soon heat things up or go out and get lost again.

I decided to get lost, again.