What's it Like Being An Early Band at Coachella?
For some bands, a noon set at Coachella is great in theory, but hard to actually get up and ready for. Baraboo, WI. natives PHOX aren't discouraged by an early set time, in fact, they can't help but show how excited they are to play the event. Despite the festival being a couple of thousand mies away, they have plenty of friends, spouses and girlfriends coming in. A forgiving tour schedule allows them to attend all three days of the festival, something few bands actually do. Though a noble notion, the band returned to their base in Yucca near 2 a.m., which doesn't sound so bad--unless you factor in that load in time back on-site is at 8 a.m. for their noon slot on the Outdoor stage.
Even on a handful hours of sleep, the indie folk band, for the most part is ready to go on schedule. Packing into three cars, the first two cars zip down the freeways and make it to the venue with time to spare. However, one important person isn't at the soundcheck 15 minutes before they're scheduled to hit the stage: singer Monica Martin.
What her bandmates don't know as they munch French Toast and a tofu scramble is that nearly halfway into her journey, she thinks she forgot her inner ear monitors back at the house, which leaves their tour manager scrambling, even pulling over the car on the busy freeway to address the situation. After scrounging around for a few minutes, disaster is averted, even if precious minutes are ticking away.
Everyone paces, looking at the clock in anticipation until she shows up for soundcheck exactly on-time. For the band, seeing the wide open Coachella terrain at 10 a.m. is welcome. They're fully aware that their early set doesn't end itself to many attendees, but PHOX isn't worried about who isn't coming - they're intent on making new fans.
After soundcheck on the walk back, the band is loose. Guitarist Matt Holmen explains that the week before was a good barometer of what to expect and the group isn't nearly as worried or nervous about their set. And he's right. Walking through the barren artist compound, the group smiles and is relaxed--even with set time rapidly approaching. Guitarist/keyboardist Matt Roberts and bassist Jason Krunnfusz joke around about the latter's choice to conjure up a whisky-water combination and his rejection of drinking beer at "11 a.m."
They also joke that Martin's show preparation is akin to getting ready for a first date. Though the other Matt quickly chimes in that for them, every show is a first date. While waiting, they scroll through their label's - Partisan Records - Instagram account, which they were supposed to take over on Friday. Realizing they only made two posts, the trio cringe, before taking a quick swig.
Soon enough, they hear noise emanating from the outdoor area and realize that it's time to hop over to their stage. But before they do they do that, PHOX huddles together to perform their major pre-show ritual: putting their hands together and saying "folic acid!" The ritual was initiated before their first show and by a member who was only around literally for that one show. Once completed, they're ready to roll.
As for their 40-minute set, the band is pleased at the result. A few hundred stragglers who arrived early are rewarded and though they were initially a bit sleepy, warm up to the group. Once complete, the band is ready to hang out and take in the sites and act any other festivalgoer, except there's one casualty. Seemingly on top of the world, or at least Coachella, via the Ferris Wheel, Holmen drops his iPhone from high above and the result is predictable. However, not even a shattered phone can destroy the good vibes from earlier in the day.
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