By Scott Stenholm - Editorial Producer, Larry King Now
For the second year in a row, I ventured 130 miles east (Los Angeles to Indio, California) into the desert to cover the world's most profitable (and likely the most talked about) music festival in the world for the first of two weekends of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Since its humble inception in 1999, the festival - better known simply as 'Coachella' - has evolved into more than a weekend of live music -- it has become an annual "scene." Given its close proximity to Los Angeles, the list of celebrity attendees during weekend 1 rivals the lineup of A-list musical artists that take the stage over the fest's three-day run. It's not uncommon to brush past the likes of Coachella regulars, such as Emma Roberts, Jared Leto, Kate Hudson, Alessandra Ambrosio, Alexander Skarsgard, Vanessa Hudgens, Katy Perry...and any number of members of the Kardashian clan. And while Coachella may come off as an event that mirrors the spectacle of the MTV Movie Awards, especially when viewing through the lens of the media, the festival is about the music to the vast majority who attend.
When the lineup was announced just days after the first of the year, Christmas came eleven months early for fans who learned that the fest would reunite all original Guns N' Roses bandmates for their first major show in over twenty years. GNR joins LCD Soundsystem (another reunited band) and Calvin Harris as headliners. Other featured performers include Ellie Goulding, Sufjan Stevens, Jack Ü, Ice Cube, A$AP Rocky, CHVRCHES, Sia, Major Lazer, Flume, Courtney Barnett, andLord Huron, just to name a bunch.
Following Coachella last year, electronic and pop superstar, David Guetta, joined Larry King Now in-studio just days after headlining day 3 of the fest and revealed that he believes that Coachella is the best festival in the world. Another electronic superstar, Kaskade, echoed Guetta's proclamation. And they voiced this opinion at the risk of offending the sponsors and promoters of other major festivals around the world; festivals that they heavily rely on in their careers. Why do they believe Coachella is the best festival in the world? Both cite the truly eclectic grouping of music genres that are showcased each weekend. This year's line up features an array of artists that satisfies fans of rock, indie, hip-hop, electronic, folk, and even country, with a Chris Stapleton-set breaking the norm in 2016.
M83 on the Coachella main stage (day 1)
The sheer size of the production that is Coachella is often overlooked. Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG - who's a subsidiary of the music and sports event promotion powerhouse Anschutz Entertainment Group - deserves credit for the relatively seamless way it presents this epic theater each year. The entry lines are fairly swift, the space is well managed, and the presentation is pleasing to all of one's senses. Food, drink, fashion and art accompany the music is spades.
Yet, the festival is not immune from criticism: some have argued that the ticket prices (nearly $400 for general admission) have made the festival a darling of the top ten percent (ironic, given the amount of Bernie Sanders cardboard heads I saw over the course of the weekend). There's also the notion that too many of the festival goers are there to "see and be seen," rather than get their feet dirty in the festival tradition of, you know, enjoying the music. T hat said, having attended Coachella six years in a row, I can report that I have not seen a single fight. I haven't witnessed more than a few people acting rudely in transit from stage-to-stage, or in the tents themselves. In fact, I've always left the weekend with a legitimate feeling of melancholy once it was over. When you are actually there, it's an event that provides relief from a world narrative these days that's dominated with talk of ISIS, global warming and unrelenting political vitriol. People who attend Coachella, for the most part, pause for a weekend and simply enjoy each other.
With the help of freelance producer, Mitchell Allen, I interviewed some of the artists, watched musical acts from varied genres, eyed the fashion and forced myself to relax with the masses. Here are just some of the sights and sounds that I was able to capture with my iPhone:
INTERVIEW WITH LOUIS THE CHILD & ICONA POP
Electronic DJ duo, Louis the Child (Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett) had pop veterans Icona Pop (Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt) join them as surprise guests during there first-ever Coachella performance. I spoke with all four musicians just hours after their set.
LARRY KING NOW PRODUCER: Alright, so Robby, having Icona Pop join you during your set was a nice surprise for the crowd.
ROBBY: I definitely think it was. I don’t think they really expected it. We said we had a special guest, we’re gonna do something we’ve never done before and they seemed to really really like it. I liked it… too.
LKN: Freddy, what does it mean for you two to collaborate with such an accomplished pair of artists (Icona Pop)?
FREDDY: It’s amazing, but it just feels like we’re friends. It’s just really cool and a nice situation, it doesn’t feel like they’re some big title, they’re just, you know, they our close friends.
LKN: Caroline, did you guys give them any advice?
AINO: We didn’t have to... We were just writing, and you know it happened and we decided like, wow, we like this.
CAROLINE: I think our only advice was to just have an awesome time, you know? We know they are good at what they’re doing.
LKN: And you guys (Lewis the Child) have been to Coachella before as patrons?
ROBBY: I have been the past two years. So it was pretty crazy to come and I’ve seen a lot of really cool acts play the Sahara tent before, I saw Skrillex play there a couple of years ago. I’ve seen all sorts of people and it’s cool to be on that stage now where I’ve seen all these people perform. You know, it was kind of surreal in a way.
LKN: Is this the biggest event you guys have performed at?
ROBBY: I think so. Yeah, probably.
CAROLINE: It’s huge!
ROBBY: Yeah, it’s really huge.
AINO: A lot of people. The crowd was crazy, it was so fun to see it.
LKN: Freddy, your hometown of Chicago is considered one of the epicenters of electronic music. I produced an interview with Kaskade last summer.
FREDDY: I was gonna say, you look kind of like Kaskade.
LKN: Ok, when we’re done here I’m gonna show you a picture of Kaskade and I together... it looks like a brother's Christmas card. It’s fucking bananas. He’s a good man. But he talked about his Chicago roots and how it influenced his career. How did Chicago and it being such an epicenter of electronic music influence you guys in your work?
FREDDY: We have great friends in Chicago that are doing some cool things. Like Win and Woo.
ROBBY: I think just being in a place where we have lots of opportunities to work with talented people and opportunities to play shows... it’s a huge city so there are so many more opportunities there to really get out and do stuff. But at the same time, what really helped us the most was like being on the internet and having access to the entire world through Soundcloud and Spotify and all these social media platforms.
FREDDY: Something that was cool for both of us was that Chicago is just such a big hub for artists to come through and play so we’ve been able to see a lot of our favorite artists at some point. And Lolla... I’ve been going to since I was in fifth grade, so when I was like, super young and it’s been 7 or 8 years now that I’ve been going to Lolla with my parents. Growing up in Chicago, you have so much opportunity to see good music so I think that does a lot for you.
LKN: Caroline, what other acts are you excited to see here?
CAROLINE: Guns and roses... Jack U.
CAROLINE: Yeah, Grimes!
AINO: I mean, there’s so many good bands. LCD Soundsystem. Yes! Hell yea. That’s like the big, big one [for me].
CAROLINE: We’re going to dance so much.
AINO: And The Underworld, our manager was talking so much about The Underworld.
(Speaking in Swedish, not even not going to try here)
ROBBY: I'm very excited for Of Monsters and Men, Le Metra, Lido, Jack U. Well, we love Lido. Flume’s gonna be really cool... I think Guns and Roses will be awesome, Ice Cube’s gonna be insane.
AINO: Ice Cube, yaaaaay!
ROBBY: Ice Cube’s gonna be the coolest set of the entire weekend. And definitely Unknown Mortal Orchestra. That’s like a must for me... Freddy, who do you want to see?
FREDDY: My number one is probably Purity Ring. Plus, M83... I love Of Monsters and Men too, so I want to see them. Umm. Halsey. I wanna see Ice Cube if I can. Rufus du Sol is great. Bat for Lashes.
ROBBY: (looking at the set list) These Lewis the Child guys kind of suck, I wouldn’t see them
LKN: This one goes to everyone: last year after Coachella both Kaskade and David Guetta came to the studio and Larry asked them, "Would you say that Coachella is the best music festival in the world?" and they said, hands down, yes, without a doubt. Would you guys agree? Or do you have a response to that?
AINO: We’ve been to a lot of festivals and Coachella is definitely a favorite one, but I have to say the one in Germany, Meltfestival, that one is one of my favorites. But [Coachella] is about the environment. And we’ve been to festivals since we were kids in 2001... this one is definitely one of my favorite ones.
CAROLINE: I mean we’ve been having so much fun here. And this is ONE of our favorite festivals. Yes. So good.
LKN: Freddy, how does Coachella compare to Lollapalooza in your home town of Chicago?
F: Oh I’m not gonna be able to say. I’ve been going to Lolla for like seven years and I love it, but the vibe here is super cool with the palm trees and the blue skies. It just feels really good to me. It feels nice. When you’re just like, chilling on a coach here, you’re just like… "paradise." You know? But Lolla has always been such a big thing for me. I’ll probably say Lolla is the most important for me. But besides Lolla, Coachella is the best festival I’ve ever been to.
LKN: So last year, you were both here for the festival and you obviously saw shows in the Sahara tent, were you at the time thinking okay, that could be us next year?
R: I definitely thought to myself, oh it’d be cool to play Coachela next year. Like it would be cool to maybe play the Dew Lab or something. And our agent was like, nah, I’m gonna get you on the real festival and I was like, shit. Yeah lets, lets do that.
LKN: So somebody got a raise.
CAROLINE: Or sacked. (more laughter by all)
ROBBY: But no um… But I was definitely like, it would be cool to play there some day. You know it would be cool to just play here in general someday, you know I didn’t think it would be the next year. It happened so quickly. But definitely ever since I’ve been going here it’s been like, this would be a dope place to play.
LKN: Last question, I have to ask. Last summer you guys (Icona Pop) said you were available to babysit for Lewis Tomlinson’s (One Direction) kid, have you changed any diapers? Did that go down?
CAROLINE: Not yet.
AINO: We don’t know. That didn’t go down yet.
C: We are such good babysitters.
AINO: Lewis, if you need extra mama’s. We love children.
FREDDY: You guys should put that on your website.
AINO: Yeah, Caroline can take the diaper thing, I would just play with the child.
FREDDY: Actually, fun fact: Icona Pop has babysat us a few times.
ROBBY: They changed my diapers right before the set... and mid-set too.
LKN: So are you guys going to any parties?
AINO: We’re going to the Calvin Klein and Nylon parties afterwards
LKN: Us too.
AINO: Oh cool! And then some pool parties, not really sure which ones yet. We’re going to prowl for a couple more hours. Definitely see you there!
CAROLINE: Now, show us the picture [with Kaskade]!
LORDE JOINED DISCLOSURE MainStage - Day 2
THE CROWD WENT CRAZY FOR MAJOR LAZER MainStage - Day 3
INTERVIEW WITH SAM FELDT
Rising electronic music star, Sam Feldt, played day 1 in the Sahara tent to a packed crowd. I spoke with the Netherlands native a couple hours after his Coachella debut.
Photo courtesy: Sam Feldt Twitter
LKN: You just flew from Miami this morning to LA and then drove 3 hours to the desert.
SAM: Almost missed my set.
LKN: You almost missed your set?
SAM: Yeah, I came in like 5 minutes before I had to play, I was stressing out.
LKN: Did you have enough energy?
SAM: I can be really tired, but nobody will see it because I just get so much energy from playing and from the crowd in general. So no, I was really energized. Now, when I’m finished I can feel my body is actually quite tired, yeah.
LKN: How does that come into play for your setup?
SAM: Well, I knew about the live elements we were going to do so I had Justin, of course, playing the saxophone, I had Heidi doing vocals on Shadows of Love, I had Donnie doing the vocals on Drive You Home, I just premiered new visuals that was a VJ of course, already here, quite early, to set all that up. So yeah, it was just all that preparation mostly that allows me to just walk on and just do my thing.
LKN: All the prep work makes today easier.
SAM: To be honest, before I got on stage I was a bit shaky... I was a bit anxious. But the nerves... of course you know it is Coachella, it’s a huge show.
LKN: That was gonna be my next question. The Sahara tent and electronic music are synonymous together so what did that mean for you to play there?
SAM: Um, well, what I like about Coachella is the fact that it’s such an eclectic festival. There’s bands, there’s Of Monsters and Men playing right now (they were heard playing about 100 meters away from the interview tent) and for me, being a part of that eclectic group of artists that they chose, they hand pick to perform here is such a great honor. The Sahara tent today is filled with a lot of trap music, a lot of rap.
LKN: DJ Mustard played it today.
SAM: Yeah. So I was like, the only one to play [that tent earlier today] representing my genre so for me that’s a really big honor. Of course tomorrow there’s Lost Frequencies, Thomas Jack on Sunday, so I see that they’re trying to give our music some room in that tent and it’s great to see.
LKN: You just got here, what was your first impression of the festival when you arrived?
SAM: I haven’t been to Coachella before and when I arrived all I saw was the inside of a van, then the stage, then the backside of the stage, which looks exactly the same as every other music festival, but I did get a sneak peak of the festival grounds, like 30 minutes ago when I briefly walked out there and I told my PR agent that this was a really cool vibe, really laid back atmosphere and it’s unlike any of the other festivals. It’s really great.
LKN: I produced an interview with Kaskade and David Guetta after Coachella last year and they both said that Coachella is the best music festival in the world, so I won’t hold you to that, but do you see where they’re coming from at least?
SAM: Well to be honest, I can’t really say that right now because I... haven’t seen any of the other acts. But the whole production, the whole stage looked amazing, the crowd was great, the whole vibe here was really great, so I can see myself saying that in 24 hours when I’ve had the time to really experience the festival.
LKN: Outside of being an artist, have you experienced other festivals?
SAM: Yeah, definitely, I’ve always been a festival goer since I was 13. My dad, whose a musician, would take me to all the festivals, I’ve been to Pinkpop a couple of -- eh, I’m sure those names won’t mean anything to the US crowd, but they’re big festivals in Europe and I’ve always loved the whole festival vibe.
LKN: How would you compare American crowds to European crowds?
SAM: Well I think the Coachella festival compares really well to the European crowds. I think Ultra is a different world, for example I played Ultra like three weeks ago and it was just a crowd where people wanted to go crazy and rage and take a lot of drugs -- just lose their shit and we don’t really have that in Europe. The festivals in Europe are mostly like Coachella, they’re a bit eclectic, like there are a lot of bands, people go there to chill out, have a beer, meet some friends. I think Coachella is more comparable to European festivals than Ultra.
LKN: Billboard described you as a modern house superstar, is that how you would define yourself?
SAM: I wouldn’t say I’m a superstar, that’s a bit weird to say.
LKN: How would you describe your music?
SAM: Well, it’s modern house, it’s melodic, it’s emotional, I want people to really feel something when they listen to my music or come to my sets. I don’t want them to only have fun, I want them to walk away with a feeling like this has evoked some kind of feelings... I hope it’s happy feelings, but some of my songs are also quite melancholic and emotional so I think emotion is the key word here.
LKN: Tropical house is obviously a big trend right now, do you think that it will stick around?
SAM: I’ve had this question like three times already today and...
LKN: Oh, sorry.
SAM: No, no, no worries, like tropical house is a sub-genre and like other sub-genres its going to evolve and there’s going to be new sounds because after a while people get tired of every sound if it’s repeated for 10 times, you know? People are gonna get tired of the Kygo lead, of the saxophone, of the flutes, maybe, as an artist, I’m trying to like evolve and innovate and keep putting out fresh music.
LKN: If you could work with anyone, for example, if you could work with any vocalist, who would you work with?
SAM: Paul McCartney.
SAM: Oh that would be so sick.
LKN: That’s an incredible answer.
SAM: Not like, as a vocalist, but as a musician and a songwriter he’s one of my idols.
LKN: Unexpected. Awesome. What other artist are you hoping to see while you’re here?
SAM: Well, I think I’m missing Of Monsters and Men right now
LKN: We’ll let you go! (laughter)
SAM: No, no, no I really like them. I think Lido already played... Of course Guns and Roses. Maceo Plex, bunch of different stuff. Underworld definitely. They’re playing today right? In a couple of hours?
LKN: Yeah, we’ll see you over there.
ATTENDING WEEKEND 2? HERE'S SOME QUICK TIPS
- Avoid "desert lung": invest in a bandana or painter's mask to protect yourself from the inevitable inhalation of dust.
- Steal a view of the main stage: most people filter in from the other stages without bypassing the crowd that bunches in the middle and stage left of the main event. Go up and around and walk down along the VIP area near stage right (left side of the grass if you are looking at the stage).
- Mainly at Coachella for the EDM? While I recommend taking in acts from all genres, if electronic dance music is what you crave, know that this year the festival is peppering the DJs throughout all the stages, not just Sahara. Also, you cannot go wrong at the DoLab. This smaller stage is tucked away for day-long sets from an electric lineup of DJs and features overhangs that shield you from the desert sun.
- Download Coachella's official app. It's the best way to have a digital lineup with set times at your fingertips.
- Save your battery! Speaking of your phone, battery life is short lived at festivals because EVERYONE is trying to send texts and post to social media. So, set your iPhone to low-power mode before you arrive.
- Be social! Without fail, one of the main regrets I hear from friends at the festival's end is that they didn't make new friends. So put down your phone, stray from your crew and mingle -- the euphoric atmosphere invites it.
THE CHAINSMOKERS Sahara Tent - Day 3
Electronic pop DJ/producer duo, The Chainsmokers, known for their hits 'Roses' and 'Don't Let Me Down' made their Coachella debut this year. Days later they joined 'Larry King Now' in-studio to discuss their set. The interview airs in early May. A thanks to Victor from V Squared Labs for this unique view.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.