With each passing year, Coachella organizers are tasked with finding new and innovative destinations to add to their already well-established haunts scattered across the festival grounds. Though the focus of the event has always been the live music experience, the often overlooked technological side of the two-weekend affair has rapidly begun gaining more and more traction as concertgoers are starting to seek out adventure beyond the typical stage performance.
This year, attendees were gifted the brand new Antarctic dome, a Coachella-exclusive from the brains behind HP and Obscura Digital. The 360 degree experience was so much more than shelter from the heat and a comfy beanbag chair to rest weary bodies on. Nestled inside of a large-scale projection dome, viewers are treated to a 3D short film that whisks them along on a wild journey beginning on earth, floating up to the cosmos and aboard a space station — even spinning around on a cellular level before returning to the familiar desert landscape from the opening sequence. The best part about it — other than the air conditioning — is that the audience is able to enjoy the mind-blowing, ten minute video without the need of special glasses.
Once inside of the Sahara tent, you quickly realized that the real show wasn’t only taking place on the stage, but actually above your head and on the surrounding walls. Carefully synched and lit to music cues, giant, levitating triangles danced above the crowd, forming shapes and creating the effect of a larger, less confined space. Special digital panels were seamlessly blended into the side paneling of the tent, which the audience was unaware of until pulsating lights or a video suddenly appeared. The all-encompassing visuals were a fantastic distraction for those way in the back who ordinarily wouldn’t see much if any of the stage itself.
The one constant highlight of Coachella year after year is the continuously evolving dance haven, the Do LaB. Here, lovers of electronic music can come dance their cares away while being doused by SuperSoaker water guns attached to hoses. Previously situated at an inconvenient location on the grounds that didn’t allow for the best crowd interaction, the Do LaB has since established itself as one of the premier venues inside of the festival
“I’ve been out here for the last six years, back when we used to be in the middle of the field which was a great placement but our loud music started disrupting some of the quieter acts on the main stages,” says Megan Young, Assistant Music Director at Do LaB. “We used to have hours when we had to be quiet. Eventually we started growing enough that they moved us over to this side of the grounds on The Terrace, and at that point it was ultimately a destination and not just a place that people wandered through like before.”
But the transition wasn’t easy. Because of the distance between the various stages and tents, it took a few years before guests were purposely venturing over to the far side of the fields, attracted to the lights and synthesizers like moths to a flame and looking to explore the EDM-focused tent more thoroughly. Unlike the surrounding stages, the Do LaB boasts an untraditional approach to entertainment: non-stop music. Instead of having extended breaks between each DJ set, the company ensures that its dancers won’t be left without something to groove to. From the very start of the day until the end of the night, the bass continues to throb continuously, only stopping if absolutely necessary.
“Here at Coachella, there’s so much going on at the other stages and people have short attention spans — they’re always focused on what’s happening next instead of what’s happening right now. When you come to the DoLab, you get lost. You end up in the experience because it’s more than just music, down to the stage design, everything about it is meant to be an experience that inspires people. When people come here they tend to forget about their schedule and end up spending a couple of hours here dancing and having a good time.”
The tech team behind Do LaB has been working on everything from virtual reality to drones as a means of enhancing the overall visit, incorporating different software strategies from programs like Grasshopper and AutoCAD in order to envelop the congregation in a complete, audio-visual experience. Their time spent in the geometric tent is an immersion in sound, art and entertainment engineering.
“I think there are over 15 different softwares used on this,” says Josh “Fritz” Friedensohn, Technical Designer at Do LaB. “All of the lighting, video and sound guys spent the whole week between shows refining, perfecting and utilizing new techniques. The people who are seeing the video this week are seeing a completely different show than it was last week. In the future we want to branch into things like kinetic sculpture and sensor-based installations; there's something to be said for the structure itself being this solid thing but little smaller, more decorative elements being more interactive. Our merch booth at LIB is actually going to be Do LaB's first parametrically designed structure using Grasshopper and parametric design in a full structure. We’re going to keep digging deeper to see what we can get of out it."
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For those who weren’t able to experience the wonder of the Do LaB at Coachella, don’t worry — the same team responsible for bringing the dance party to the Indio desert also hosts some other famous affairs, like the Dirtybird Campout, the Dance Temple at Portugal’s Boom Festival and the ever-popular Lightning In A Bottle Festival.
“We focus a lot on our own festivals and curate other events too,” says Young. The DoLab stage at Coachella is really just one taste of what we actually do and we like to create an entire festival based on these experiences. Every stage design and every environment are like little portals to different places.”