By: Andy Hermann
It's Saturday night at Coachella, and inside the 145-foot structure nicknamed the “Big Fish,” the party is in full swing. Ooah, one-third of electronic group The Glitch Mob, has just taken the decks and is dropping a bass-heavy set that has the eclectic crowd moving. Girls in flowy boho-chic dresses shake it next to a gaggle of shirtless bros and a guy in a green foam Godzillla costume. From somewhere backstage, a fire twirler emerges and spins expertly back and forth across the narrow stage in front of the DJ booth.
The group responsible for this scene, an art collective called the Do LaB, occupies a unique position in the Coachella ecosystem. For 11 years, they have designed structures for the festival that double as art installations and performance spaces, bringing their unique, colorful design aesthetic to the middle of the Empire Polo Grounds. Originally known as the “Misting Oasis,” because of the Do LaB's trademark (and, in the desert heat, highly welcome) use of super-soaker-sized misters to douse the crowd, the structures change every year, and offer a more intimate, laid-back alternative to the perennially packed Sahara and Yuma tents for dance music fans.
Coachella's “official” stages are entirely booked by festival organizer Goldenvoice, but the Do LaB has always controlled its own booking, allowing them to bring in a more adventurous assortment of DJs and electronic artists. “Our stage is becoming a known place to play for up-and-coming artists,” says Do LaB music director Jesse Flemming.
In past years, such performers as Bassnectar and Gaslamp Killer have played the Do LaB stage. This year, in addition to Ooah, weekend one includes appearances by M.A.N.D.Y., Fort Knox Five and the avant-garde circus troupe Lucent Dossier Experience. For weekend two, the Do LaB lineup includes Mija, the first female DJ/producer signed to Skrillex's OWSLA label; Canadian Native American electronic group A Tribe Called Red; and veteran breakbeat producer Adam Freeland, lately known for his group The Acid (unlike Coachella's other stages, the Do LaB books different talent on each of the festival's two weekends).
Putting together a structure as elaborate as the Big Fish, which includes over 100 curved wooden beams designed to resemble the bones of a whale carcass, is no small task. In the exclusive behind-the-scenes video above, members of the Do LaB show L.A. Weekly how the Big Fish came together. As the Do LaB's publicist Russell Ward puts it, “The builders are literally swinging hammers and riveting bolts up until the very last minute.” The result of their labor is one of Coachella's most visually intriguing spaces — and the backdrop for a pretty great party.
Check out the video of the structure being built below: