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A crazy weekend with the stars of Coachella 2022

Between airport parties, The DoLaB stage, and the most diverse range of music available

A crazy weekend with the stars of Coachella 2022 Between airport parties, The DoLaB stage, and the most diverse range of music available
Conrad Byer

I thought Coachella was going to be a bunch of drunk girls in flower crowns and nipple pasties asking me if I had any molly, but it was actually one of the most well rounded musical experiences I’ve ever experienced”, a stranger said to my friend and I as she ate her veggie burger, washing it down with a kombucha seltzer. While it’s easy and sometimes comical to reduce Coachella down to a series of memes surrounding, what some might call, elitist and cringe influencer posts, this portion of attendees does not speak to the bigger picture of the annual music and arts festival that returned this year after 2 years of cancellations due to COVID-19. Though I’ve attended twice prior to this year, and I still can’t help but chuckle at some of the memes, this year's Coachella was, in the simplest terms, unforgettable.

The massive festival, broken down into 8 grand stages (3 main stages, and 5 immersive, sensorial dance spaces) provides attendees with an opportunity to jump from performance to performance spanning genres of Hip-Hop, Techno, House, EDM, Folk, Afrobeat, Mariachi, R&B, and much more. The headliners gave the performances that were expected of them, and yet, the real stars of Weekend 1 were the DJs and performers at The Do LaB and Yuma.

The DJ set of considerable mention (and in my opinion, the most masterfully spun set of the weekend) were twin brothers Major League DJz. At the start of their set, there were about 60 people on the dance floor. Fifteen minutes in, there were about 500 people, and by the end of their set at least 2,500 people were on Do LaB’s sunlit, water misted dance floor dancing to the deep house/jazz hybrid named Amapiano. The genre, ever-growing in popularity, is characterized by its resounding percussive bass lines and synths that induce an otherworldly musical and dance experience. The gravitation and retention of such a large crowd is a prime example of what a unifying catalyst great dance music can be, without any of stunts or gimmicks popularized by some of today's media-hungry artists and their teams. This is not the sort of music that can be popularized and then extinguished by social media trends, and by Do LaB stage inviting Major League DJz to share their sound on such a globally recognized platform (this is the first ever Amapiano set at Coachella I might add), the music festival sets out to continue its legacy of introducing artists, both new and well established, to music lovers all around the world. 

Do LaB, technically its own festival within the festival, has been a staple stage at Coachella for almost 20 years, and was also home to Chloé Caillet’s electrifying set. As attendees danced, they were sprayed by a constantly rotating group of individuals with industrial sized floral water guns. I was peer-pressured by a couple of guys to spray the crowd with a water hose, and after they screamed, “DO IT, DO IT”, ultimately slightly embarrassing me and making me feel like a prude, I conceded and awkwardly sprayed the first couple of rows of the audience while trying to mentally Shazam the ID of every track Chloé played. Full of feel good tunes, the high energy performance of guitarist and singer Life on Planets, who recently released Altitude off of his forthcoming Dreamcatcher EP,  provided that West Coast ease and fun that festivals need.

SG Lewis turned it out at Coachella, as well as during A Club Called Rhonda’s “Queen of the Desert '' Friday night Coachella afterparty. Typically a recurring House music-laden disco in Los Angeles, (especially known for their outlandishly fabulous LGBTQIA+ guest list and constantly moving venues) Framework brought Rhonda to Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (in a gigantic aircraft hangar) where angels and devils glided up and down stripper poles on stage while attendees danced and made out under a fabulous disco ball shaped like a set of long legs. (After leaving the party, I drunkenly checked Amazon for a similar disco ball, and after not finding it in 15 seconds, gave up).

Yuma, my deep house and techno refuge, is 1 of 2 completely enclosed, air conditioned dance spaces within the festival grounds. In Yuma, the lights are off, the disco balls are turning, and the party is always at 100%. All day, DJ’s switch out with each other, playing a day long continuum of their unique mixes consisting of some of the deepest house music you can imagine. On Friday evening, wearing flowy, comfortable garments and radiating with an engaging, cheerful energy, Damian Lazarus tore into the crowd with an unyielding set so mystifying and heavy, it almost felt wrong for him to finish. Having recently scored the film Beijing Spring directed by Andy Cohen, and recently dropping Start Over with Gordon City, Damian is certainly staying as busy as ever. The lovely SOHMI, after recently releasing Get To You, played her first Coachella on Friday for a very welcoming crowd, and is set to go on to Lightning in a Bottle Festival next. Her perfectly colored, two-tone, pink and pale blue hair moved in tandem with the sways and swings of her pop-tech sound. 

No bro, I’m staying in here until Peggy Gou goes on! We won’t get in if we try later”, is what I heard over the music in Yuma on Saturday at approximately 6pm. At 7:45pm I tried to re-enter Yuma and, just like the sweaty, shirtless guy with a 6-pack, and lollipop in his mouth predicted, the line was at a standstill. Peggy issued an apology on her Instagram for those who couldn’t get in, and I, of course, accept her apology for having a loyal audience due to being the iconic sound selector that she is. Luckily for those who get to go to Coachella both weekends, they’ll have another chance at catching her next weekend (I’m glad the guy with the six pack and lollipop stuck with his intuition).

Fortunately for me, I was able to catch Peggy Saturday night at Desert Air’s Coachella afterparty.  Produced by Framework and held at the airport of free roaming aircrafts (yes, the planes moved as the party carried on), the climate was light and cool as Peggy bombarded us with a set so clean, the rhythms and beats created a smooth disassociation from current worries, allowing everyone to dance and be free. The Martinez Brothers and Black Coffee, each powerhouses in their individual right, followed up with a back to back set, layering their extremely  distinct sounds over each other. This b2b set was something I hadn’t expected from these DJ’s (almost like the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collab years ago), yet they meshed so well and resonated so thoroughly with their audience, creating an eerily powerful effect on the dance floor. I met a girl from Tel Aviv who I danced with for quite some time, and as I type this article, I am realizing  we didn’t even bother to exchange names, numbers, or social media, but sometimes a great dance partner is put in your life just to tear up the dance floor for just one night and that’s ok.

It seems that this year, Coachella circled back to the glory days of people gathering for the sole purpose of dancing to their favorite artists, and discovering new ones. Hopefully it is to be seen less as the “Clout Olympics” in upcoming years, as it falls out of society’s unforgiving trend cycle, and recovers as an unshakable, culturally relevant music and art entity that it has set out to be.