Coachella—too much of a good thing, or a stench-tastic dramatization of Jean-Paul Sartre's dictum that "hell is other people"? Bizarrely, the truth lies somewhere in between. With events of this magnitude, you get out of it what you put into it, and your mileage may vary—greatly.
Coachella fosters extremes, both positive and negative. Obviously, the former outweighs the latter, or else it wouldn't have reached this year's ninth edition. Transcendental music, kaleidoscopic array of eye candy, crucial bonding opportunities and ample chances to recycle plastic bottles typically trump navigating fragrant waves of humanity, torrid heat, Hacky Sack players and excrementitious toilets. (You may want to bring a gas mask and some Charmin.)
Coachella is its own rich, variegated ecosystem. With about 130 acts performing over three days, it's actually several discrete festivals rolled into one; you determine your own agenda, and it's unlikely your must-see list will be the same as anyone else's.
This year, female performers appear in surprisingly large numbers (from Uffie to Duffy, and many others in between), as do electronic-oriented acts, including an armada of Frenchmen. But there's a shocking dearth of straight-up hip-hop. Aside from Murs, Little Brother and Luckyiam, most of the rap fare consists of hipster faves such as Spank Rock, M.I.A. and Cool Kids. There's plenty of rock, of course, but it seems to be more marginalized than in previous years. And dub poetry has but one representative: Linton Kwesi Johnson. Scandalous . . .
Coachella will always have its haters, but any event that can draw Prince, Kraftwerk, Portishead and Aphex Twin (among many other greats) to a tiny town in the California desert deserves serious props (we'll overlook Jack Johnson for now).