Leave the Easter bunny to kiddies and their parents. Our springtime fantasy is a much more fanciful one. We sinners have the Dream of Coachella.
The Dream involves this hazy, golden twilight-tinted image of flowing flower-child hair, copious fringe, adorably impractical sandals and skimpy knits draped over lithe bodies. That’s for the girls. Dudes are cool wearing T-shirts and cargo shorts. Fashion website Refinery29 defines the Coachella look as “gypsy + hipster = gypster.” Jezebel’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd goes further, placing Coachella in the Southern California mythos, describing it as “deeply rooted in Desert Valley bohemian mythologies and an amorphous concept of ‘being free’ that hearkens back to the days your moms were smoking gonzo reefer in Laurel Canyon.”
As the annual festival grows (last year about 193,000 people attended, including many a hip celebrity), the Dream of Coachella has gained traction and become more outlandish. Once “festival fashion” was just what the music fans happened to be wearing. Now it’s crystallized into this monolithic cultural force, one that is often at odds with the original intent of an artist-focused music weekend. Need proof? Hippie chic starlet Vanessa Hudgens spawned a paparazzi cottage industry with her Coachella outfits, but she can’t attend this year because of a scheduling conflict. “Who will usurp her flower crown?” The Huffington Post asks. The website nominates Kim Kardashian’s younger sister, Kylie Jenner. A Kardashian will be the Queen of Coachella. Voila, proof.
Reality stars may be endemic to the region, but it took a Swedish clothing line to really solidify this California dream, not to mention profit from it. Visit Coachella.com and you won’t miss a button featuring three beautiful youths posed along a desert highway with their classic convertible. It’s “H&M Loves Coachella: The Official Collection,” and it’s exactly what the idealized Vegas-to-Indio road trip looks like. In a bit of accidental irony, the image contrasts with a nearby button labeled, “Think Ahead, 2015 Shuttles.” Here you’ll find a photo of non-famous, non-model festivalgoers traveling to Indio via a bus called reality. Their floral headbands are just visible over the cramped seats.
In lieu of “thinking ahead,” I prefer to spend my time scrolling through H&M’s Coachella look book. There’s a red lace dress ($19.95, sold out but still in the H&M window at Town Square) that I could just imagine myself wearing … as soon as I finally get around to giving up sugar, carbs and joy. It’s clear that these Coachella outfits are a ridiculous co-opting of an organic subculture. It would probably be embarrassing to show up at the fest wearing the same official Kimono with Fringe ($24.95) as every other yearning fashionista. But I don’t care. It makes for a beautiful picture. I’d like to be in that car, on that road trip. The Coachella Dream is alluring, even if you know better.
And if you’ve ever been to Coachella or just spent about 12 hours wandering around the desert on foot, you can’t not know better. Sure it’s fine to look good, but you’ve also gotta dress for hot days, cold nights, glaring sun and dust-slinging wind. Think comfy shoes, sunscreen, earplugs and a good hat. Sure all that practicality sounds lame—the very antithesis of any sort of dream—but it allows festivalgoers to, you know, notice the music.
Then again, if you can’t be bothered to trade in fantasy (or don’t want to risk catching Valley Fever from the flying dust spores), you can always just stay home and watch many of the very same bands play Vegas. No special wardrobe required—although we do still recommend a leatherette fanny pack full of earplugs.
How to Do Vegaschella
Since the trendsetting Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (April 10-12 and 17-19) added a second weekend in 2012, Las Vegas has hosted bands looking to fill open dates before, during and after their sets in Indio, California. This year, more than 30 acts will make their way northeast on Interstate 15 to offer full sets and stage shows with better-than-festival sound and no porta-potty lines. If you want to maximize your music-going time, here’s your agenda:
April 10, Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan.
The singer-songwriter’s 2014 eponymous effort topped many year-end critics’ lists, and her stylized stage show both excited and confused Saturday Night Live viewers last spring.
Better in Vegas: St. Vincent’s vision, including staging, can be fully realized when not crammed into a small festival spot.
April 13, The Joint at the Hard Rock.
The British band’s second album, This Is All Yours, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album, and the live show has earned raves on both sides of the pond.
Better in Vegas: Being among 4,000 fans in the Hard Rock is much better than being among 15,000 or more in a polo field.
April 13-14, House of Blues.
Bad Religion’s two-night Vegas stand will include one night solely of hits from the 20th century and a second night of songs from the last 15 years.
Better in Vegas: Try squeezing that dual-set idea into a 45-minute window in a desert tent.
April 15, Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan.
A dependable presence at indie rock festivals throughout the last decade, the band ended a three-year hiatus with November’s release of El Pintor.
Better in Vegas: Dancing is much easier when not at the end of a 10-hour festival day.
April 16, Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan.
With a co-sign from pop stars such as Lorde and appearances on tracks with hip-hop’s heaviest hitters, the Belgian singer-songwriter is set for a breakthrough year.
Better in Vegas: Seeing the next big thing at a festival doesn’t carry the same bragging rights.
April 20, Bunkhouse Saloon.
One of the top bands of the late-’90s college radio scene, Built to Spill releases a new album April 21, making its Vegas stop a de facto release party. Seeing an act of this stature in an intimate venue such as this may be the best argument for avoiding Coachella entirely.
Better in Vegas: A more self-selecting crowd means more “true” fans and fewer teenagers staking out a spot for the next act. – Robert Spuhler