When the Desert Gets Cool // Coachella 2016


When the Desert Gets Cool // Coachella 2016

by Kat Chapman



One word and you’re either jealous or frustrated I brought it up, but either way you probably haven’t been. I hadn’t either until this year. I was on the former side of my opening sentence, super jealous of the music and the fashion and just the general fanfare of one of the biggest music festivals in America.

Last December, the lineup was announced and my girl Halsey was there right in the center of the page, almost a headliner for both Saturdays. On a whim, I texted my roommate, an avid music lover like myself and suggested we go. It was within our budgets so we said ‘what the hell!’ and decided to party in the desert.

Fast-forward four months, and here we are: driving the three hours from Phoenix to Indio after our Thursday night class got out. We opted for car camping and arrived within about a half hour of the campgrounds closing for the night. Once we got settled, we fell asleep pretty quickly, completely unaware of what the next 72 hours would hold.

Each day, the sun woke us up around 6am and our camping neighbors prevented us from falling back asleep. We nicknamed them the Mariachi Brothers because it was a group of like five guys who felt it was necessary blast mariachi music right as the sun rose. We utilized the extra time and got ready before it got too hot and made our way to the campground activities center where we found breakfast and really got immersed in the fanfare, as well as took advantage of the free wifi at the internet café to post about everything we’d be doing.

And this is where it got kind of weird for us. Social media and celebrities especially help make Coachella look like an oasis, a paradise in the middle of nowhere. And that could not be further from the truth; it is a desert after all. The ground was trying to be a grassy field but was mostly dirt and dust. Throughout the day you could find increasingly more and more trash littered about and the sun brought out the worst in a lot of people, the worst being their b.o. and frustration when all the charging stations were being used.

Once we got passed the physical look of the festival, it started to really set in that oh my god did we really just drive all the way out here the week before finals to lose our minds in the desert? Yeah, we did.

Now, the thing that made it worth it: the music. I saw about 25 acts throughout the weekend who fell everywhere on the music genre spectrum and none of them disappointed. During several sets, my roomie and I had to split up so we could each see who we wanted to see. A little terrifying considering how many people there are and how dodgy cell service could be but we don’t regret it for a minute. As much as I’d love to give an in-depth review of everyone I saw, you and I both know you’re not going to read that much so I’ll be brief.


Friday: Years and Years, Ibeyi, Gallant (with guest Jhene Aiko!!), BØRNS, M83 and Ellie Goulding

Biggest Surprise: Gallant; his falsetto I’m sure could shatter glass and I mean that in the best way possible.

Best Visuals: M83; all of their lights and visual effects perfectly matched with their music no matter the speed or softness of the tunes.

Favorite Set: BØRNS; he was the one set I was most looking forward to and he’s just as angelic live as he is in studio. He was so happy throughout the set, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone literally beaming and singing about love, he was ethereal.


Saturday: Ex Hex, Proteje, Chronixx, Zella Day, Rhye, Courtney Barnett, Halsey, Ice Cube (with guest Eazy E!!), Zedd and Guns N’ Roses

Biggest Surprise: Zella Day; she’s from a small town in Arizona and her vocals were extremely impressive. The surprise comes in when she sang a Prince tribute that brought me to tears.

Best Visuals: Zedd; this guy!! He crushed it with the lights and pyro and streamers that coordinated with the music and remixes he was playing that had everyone dancing.

Favorite Set: Halsey; I hope she’s still my favorite after I camped at her stage for 7+ hours so I could be barricade…she knows how to work a crowd regardless of size. I was again blown away by her ability to connect and bring me to tears. My only negative critique is her pyro oh my god it was so hot I think the first five rows were worried they had lost their eyebrows.


Sunday: Rancid, Matt and Kim, The 1975, Major Lazer, Alessia Cara, Sia, Flume and Calvin Harris (with guest Big Sean!!)

Biggest Surprise: Matt and Kim; their music is so happy and gets you so pumped but their lives shows? Holy shit, people were lowkey moshing and throwing things and tons of people crowd surfed and at one point Kim stood on the crowd’s hands and twerked. They brought so much energy, regardless of your knowledge of their music, you were dancing and screaming along.

Best Visuals: Sia; she played the mainstage but only those lucky enough to be within the first twenty rows could really see her. All the cameras showed on the jumbo screens were her dancers, who were incredible and the highlight of her show almost as if she was the background vocals of her own set

Favorite Set: The 1975; I didn’t get into them until their sophomore album but all my friends have adored them for years and after seeing them live, I get it. Matty Healy, the lead singer, not only donned platform boots and leather pants but also drank a glass of wine and smoked a cigarette during the set which only egged on the die-hards fans further.


This past weekend was a reminder for me about how much I adore live music and the way it brings people together. A handful of artists each day did a tribute to Prince, even if their own music was nowhere near the same style that Prince had. It is so inspiring to see the impact one artist can have on an entire community of music makers. It was also amazing to see people help others in the name of music whether it was getting security to help someone who needs water, help nurse a wound from a mosh pit, literally carrying someone as they crowd surfed or even just snap a few pictures there was no shortage of community amongst the nearly 100,000 people in attendance.

I’m still in shock that two crazy college kids pulled of this roadtrip/camping escapade and still made it back in time for class on Monday. And I’m still upset it’s over because Coachella reaffirmed how important live music is for me. Is the whole thing over-hyped? Yes. It’s dirty and not glamorous and your outfit will be cute for an hour or two before you want to change and it will take tens of tries to get the perfect picture to post but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The music is why I went and I have no complaints. Every artist knew they had to appeal not only to their fans but also to people who’ve never heard of them before and they definitely made a fan out of me. Coachella, I will be seeing you again…once I’ve saved up some more.