By the time the first chord of Calvin Harris’ smash hit 'Sweet Nothing' rings out over the largest crowd Coachella's main stage has seen during its first weekend, even the most staunch rock and roll fans must admit defeat; electronic music has taken over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
For better, or worse perhaps if you're one of the aforementioned rockers, the 2014 edition of Coachella will be known as the tipping point when 808s and laptops reigned supreme over guitars and drums.
To blame the festival organisers for this, like many have, would be a mistake; it was clearly what the people wanted.
Electronic music is not in any way new to the festival—in the past, acts such as Swedish House Mafia, The Chemical Brothers and Tiësto (twice) have graced the main stage — yet 2014 will go down in history as the year it became the true dominating force.
This cultural shift becomes blatantly apparent even before the first day of the festival closes out, DJ Mag sitting through an amazing set by reunited alt.
rockers The Replacements in front of an insultingly low number of attendees. Once a band that would have had the Coachella crowds flocking, The Replacements now seem to have been replaced. Instead, most attendees have come to dance, and fucking dance they do. While electronic music branches out to the majority of stages, it is the original crown jewel, The Sahara tent that takes the cake.
On Friday, Gareth Emery pounds through trance classics and new cuts alike, revving the crowd up in the early afternoon. Saturday’s Fatboy Slim performance reminds us all why he is still revered, Empire of the Sun throw one of the most spectacular live dance parties known to man and Skrillex drops heavy bass to an overflowing crowd that dwarfs that of main stage headliners, Muse. Sunday doesn't leave any room for us to rest either.
Dutch hardstyle mainstays Showtek bring the increasingly popular sound of Q-dance, while Canada's Adventure Club bring dubstep to the masses.
The tent is a big room fan's heaven; with LED screens lining the roof and major stage productions upfront, rivalling the biggest venues out there.
It is impossible to deny the heightened popularity of underground techno and deep house music in the US, and Coachella embraced this early on.
Last year, the festival created a tent specifically for these underground artists called the Yuma.
In its first incarnation it had many drawbacks that have been squashed this year. By doubling in size, organizing a more accessible entrance and adding restrooms — available without having to leave and come back in – the horrific wait times that accompanied trying to see acts such as Riche Hawtin and Four Tet last year are now eliminated.
Getting lost in a space like this is easy. With its club-like atmosphere, the tent turns day into night and minutes into hours as luminaries from all different genres throw down first-class sets. Acts ranging from Canadian journeyman Tiga, Chicago house legend Cajmere and Siberian techno queen Nina Kraviz all put on headliner-worthy performances.
And this only scratches the surface. Scuba reminds us why his hype is justified, Guy Gerber doesn't skip a beat and Art Department work the decks with extra jubilance in celebration of the five-year anniversary of Jonny White’s label No.19. Take note other US festivals; this music is here to stay.
Later on that evening, Swedish experimental duo The Knife put on a spectacle so grandiose that it is difficult to describe in words. Part stage show, part musical, part live act, it involves multiple costume changes and tons of backup dancers, unequivocally bringing their latest album, 'Shaking the Habitual', to life.
One quasi art exhibit/stage worth noting is The Do Lab.
Once an oasis in the middle of the festival, drenching those who dared to come by to dance in their creative space, 2014 saw The Do Lab evolve into a destination of its own, subsequently upping their booking game. All types of electronic music artists from around the world are on hand to drench the crowd in funky beats.
At any point during the weekend you might catch Oxford's Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs or Dirtybird label mainstay Justin Martin holding down the stage. However, The Do Lab is far more than a stage, it’s an experience.
Back at Calvin Harris’ overcrowded main stage performance, it's easy to see that the festival has become a product of what the consumers want, and this is not always a bad thing. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival stays at the forefront of pushing boundaries, and always striving to be the best festival possible.
While in the past that might have been booking amazing reunion acts like The Pixies or stadium rockers Muse to bring in the crowds, things have changed, and will continue to change. Out in the desert, electronic music is the new oasis; all eyes are on how Coachella will incorporate and expand upon it next year.
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