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COACHELLA: A DUSTY REPORT

HITS' Samantha Hissong weasels up a photo op with Interscope boss John Janick, Vice Chairman Steve Berman and EVP Joie Manda. Later, Sam snap-tweeted this photo to her Insta-Face, or whatever.

Another year, another desert pilgrimage. Coachella, now in its 19th year, has morphed and grown exponentially and is widely regarded as the gold standard of festivals. But is it too big? Last year’s two Coachella weekends drew a record combined audience of 750k (125k per day), and it’s said that number was matched this time around, although many festgoers have been saying it felt even bigger. The event, which was once frequented by the likes of The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead, has also strayed considerably from its alternative rock roots. In fact, this is the first year that none of the three headliners have represented rock. And that’s fine, change is allowed (and welcomed by many), but it’s also a clear example of a desire to be as mainstream as possible. Give the people what they want and pack ‘em in there; a recipe for financial success. When is enough really enough, though?

On the ground, complaints seemed to be at an all-time high. No one could move with ease. Every inch of the Empire Polo Club was swarming, with zero solace in sight. And the Uber situation was so ridiculous that many attendees found themselves waiting for two to three hours (after a long day in the sun). And on Friday it got so bad that the app apparently malfunctioned, causing guides to release about a thousand people onto the streets of Indio to figure it out for themselves in the wee hours, according to insiders.

Perhaps worst of all, no one this writer talked to said they felt safe, which is deeply concerning. Security was laughable. I walked in with a large backpack, which was pretty full and housed a zipped-up bag (for makeup). Also, most of the contents were concealed by a sweater. They opened the top of the backpack, peeked in, didn’t touch or move a thing and let me in. I overheard another attendee talking about the metal implant in her leg. It did indeed set off the metal detector, but when she simply assured the guard, saying “I have a metal implant in my leg,” they let her go without a second look. They didn’t pat her down. They didn’t ask questions. Another attendee suffers from diabetes, so she had a bag of needles in her backpack—albeit in plain sight—and Coachella security didn’t open the bag.

Less than a year ago, America witnessed the worst mass shooting in history; negligence is not acceptable. Thankfully, nothing like that occurred. Police did riddle the streets, and behind-the-scenes procedures were in place. But, again, I can say with confidence that every attendee I spoke to shared the same concerns and fears, based on their experience with the security checkpoints.

Sam braves sunstroke to weasel out with KROQ's Miles Anzaldo and Kat Corbett, Gang Tyre's Gene Salomon and Ethan Schiffres and Republic's Ben Adelson.

When it comes to the fun stuff, however, there was one word on everyone’s lips at Coachella 2018: Beyoncé. The Saturday night headliner’s groundbreaking, nearly two-hour set astonished, equipped with more than 100 dancers and a full brass band, not to mention cameos from Jay-Z and sister Solange, along with that much-talked-about Destiny’s Child reunion. Queen Yoncé had everyone clutching their pearls (and/or flower crowns).

Other favorites included Friday night headliner The Weeknd, whose beyond-smooth vocals had everyone feeling some kind of way. His creative energy and authenticity was radiating. It’s also worth noting that the singer, overcome with emotion, broke down in tears mid-set. Talk about real. 

HAIM managed to pump the main stage crowd up in the slot that preceded Beyonce’s. Bassist Este told the story of when the Type 1 diabetic asked Kesha if she had any chocolate at a festival that was wearing her out. According to her, the Rainbow singer ended up handing her a mushroom-infused treat (much to her surprise), which made watching Prince’s set her all-time best moment until their own pre-Beyoncé set this year. That said, an invitation to our next office party has been sent to Kesha. Tears and ‘shrooms aside, a bunch of other performers managed to stand out. Post Malone debuted a new Swae Lee collab, entitled “Spoil My Night.” He also brought out Ty Dolla $ign for current hit “Psycho,” as well as 21 Savage for mega-smash “rockstar.” SZA, tantalizing as ever, mesmerized and welcomed guests like Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad and Trippie Redd. Vince Staples, who brought serious energy, also performed with Lamar.

Sam gets her ethos on with Republic boss Monte Lipman.

Kygo’s set, on the other hand, featured a string of guest performers, notably Julia Michaels for "Carry Me," Jamie Foxx for "Sexual Healing," OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder for "Stranger Things" and Rita Ora, who filled in for Selena Gomez on "It Ain't Me." And one of the most-talked-about artists on the bill, Sunday headliner Eminem brought out 50 Cent and Dre to crowds of ecstatic fans. Another Sunday performer Cardi B brought the party to Indio, strutting and twerking her way into hearts—despite her pregnant status. Chance the Rapper, G-Eazy and Kehlani, who are all featured on new album Invasion of Privacy, all came out to support the fiercest of mamas.

Festival favorites on the earlier side, included Sigrid, Tash SultanaBenjamin Booker, AURORA, Jorja Smith, BROCKHAMPTON, 6LACK, First Aid Kit, BORNS, Alan Walker, Louis the Child, BlackbearRex Orange County and Miguel.

As for the industry, weasels were out in force. Plenty of people make the trek out to Coachella Valley and the surrounding areas purely to attend the parties, and it makes sense. Some of these hangs get damn close to serving as their own mini festivals.

Republic and Interscope both hosted A+ parties on Saturday. Interscope’s shindig, which started on the earlier side, took place at Leonardo DiCaprio’s beautifully modern Palm Springs home—originally designed by architect Donald Wexler for singer/actress Dinah Shore. Despite its lavish heritage, the main house isn’t massive, clocking in around 7k square feet. This allowed for a relatively intimate (and exclusive) opportunity for insiders to comfortably rub elbows. Republic’s rager, which went down a few blocks away from the festival, however, could be found in and around an incredible estate straight out of the movies. An infinity pool flooded into a man-made lake, placed not too far from the private helipad. This was tastemaker central.

And then there was KROQ’s annual three-day pool party, which included a stellar lineup of Bleachers, BORNS, Declan McKenna, Dreams, Greta Van Fleet, LP, Marian Hill, Nothing But Thieves, Portugal. The Man, PVRIS, Sir Sly, Tash Sultana, The Neighbourhood, The Regrettes and Vance Joy.   

Hey, are there any of those ’shroom-infused chocolates left?

 

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