By: LilyAnne Rice//
Okay, it obviously is kind of about the music. But hear me out.
I must begin with a little bit of a disclaimer. I’m not your typical sheer-dress flower-crown Coachella attendee who went with a gaggle of their hippest friends – not really. I actually worked there for both weekend 1 and weekend 2. People work at Coachella? It’s not just one big hazy daze of desert time goodness swaying back and forth in the sun? Of course not.
By now people know that it takes an army to put on productions of that size, and I was part of that army. Sort of. I was a bonafide pop-slinger. Which means that for about a 10 hour shift daily standing at my little popsicle cart I would provide the good people staying in Indio Valley with refreshing popsicles while they watched the concerts. Not too shabby. Another thing that’s not too shabby? My free admission, camping, and ability to get my shifts covered whenever I wanted to take a break and see a performance.
This year – I’m a returner – I got stationed by mainstage. And when I say by mainstage, I mean I was basically working so close to it that I had a better view of the shows than the stragglers who got held up in line for their dinner of paella and waffles on a stick.
So, my view was great. Besides the fear that I was constantly on the verge of heat induced delirium, which I remedied by turning myself into a walking coat of sunscreen and ice, there was little more that I could ask for. Yet there was more on the way.
It’s time to briefly punctuate the good vibes. So while I was happily munching on a popsicle trying to keep my own body temperature down to a safe, volcano like degree, I was listening to everyone around me. People watching has always been one of my favorite sports, and Coachella is like the World Cup.
Yet this particular instance was more of a foul. During Lady Gaga’s set, one that myself and probably, I don’t know, thousands of other people were highly anticipating, a girl next to me started to complain.
“Oh my gawd,” she said. “Is she going to stand there and talk the whole time or is she going to actually sing?”
I’ve never particularly attempted to hide my reactions to people well, and this instance was no different. Thankfully I was under a big floppy hat, but nevertheless my mouth that had been licking my popsicle hung open, eyebrows raised at her in disdain.
If you want to hear an artist sing and not talk, okay, cool. Go listen to them on the radio. An entire show played with no interjections at all? There’s the CD for that, right?
Coachella for me wasn’t about the music. It was about the talking. After that comment, I realized more clearly than I had ever realized what it is that makes or breaks a performance for me. It’s almost more than 50% based on the story they tell. And that involves whether they talk during their performance.
Before anyone loses their minds over how I’m ignoring the fact that the music in itself tells a story – trust me, that’s not being ignored. But I want to know the story behind the story.
Lady Gaga, for instance, went into detail about how her release of Born This Way got her into a lot of trouble, but she didn’t mind because she likes getting into trouble. She talked about how she and most of her dancers had all been together for ten years. Things I wouldn’t have known if she would have just blasted right through her set, something I’ve seen my favorite bands do time and time again and always left only merely satisfied, and not blown away.
Lesser known than Lady Gaga – because who isn’t – the Arkells were another favorite performance. They spent time before each song to tell the stories of how they wrote it, one being at Coachella itself, fittingly enough. They told stories of how they used to be just a gang of guys sneaking into Coachella themselves.
They told stories of how their friends hooked up here, and, unsurprisingly, there was an awkward aftermath. They told stories. Through both their music and their words. It all combined into a big blend of anecdotes that left me feeling like I knew a friend more closely than when they started.
I could write another entire article about the absolutely outrageous things I experienced while working here. I could write another article about how the people, almost entirely as a group, give off a vibe of acceptance. About how I heard someone talking about Star Wars and then suddenly found myself with ten new friends hanging out in their campsite. Maybe I will. But for now, l’ll stick with my point: Coachella’s about the stories we tell.