Traversing Coachella with a Production Pro

By Gregg Little
All Photos By Laura Hunt Little

Always over the top, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival lived up to its reputation in 2014. Effects to accompany world-class music ranged from snow falling on the crowd in the Sahara tent to pyro cannons setting an already hot night ablaze. Easy to appreciate and hard to forget, the festival presented so many offerings that even attending both weekends, it would be impossible to see everything.

We started our Coachella experience on Friday evening, arriving as AFI played on the main stage: Pretty tight band with great sound.

Then on to the Mojave tent to see the Afghan Whigs. Good as ever and touring in support of the new record.

This year’s Sahara tent did not disappoint. More lights than you would need for a small town combined with a full PA and ample sub woofers plus sticks of articulation-truss blanketed with mesh LED technology, made the tent come alive. During Martin Garrix we could literally feel the ground shake under our feet as 20,000 people jumped up and down with the beat.

A few songs from Brian Ferry were next.

Outkast on the main stage did not disappoint. They had a great center scrim that used front and rear projection lighting to highlight members from within and from outside. The controlled low end was enough to shake your core but you could still understand every word – making the entire experience much more enjoyable.

Ellie Goulding was one of the featured performances on the main stage on Friday and she put on a great show.

Saturday started with checking out the Do Lab and the dancing crowd being hosed off from the stage.

Next, we checked out MGMT. They were fantastic, energizing the crowd with loud and clear sound quality.

Over to see Lorde – She did a great job and did not seem as nervous as she was at the Grammys. Her sound was great and she held the crown.

We headed to see Fatboy Slim. He was set in the Sahara and within a few songs he played Star 69 to get the crowd moving. Then he mixed in Sinatra and a classic carol and literally made it snow indoors! Great tech and crowd energy.

After a few songs we headed over to see the Pixies in the Mojave tent. I was sorry to have missed last week’s show at Pappy and Harriet’s. The band was great and the crowd was into it.

Local favorites, Queens of the Stone Age, hit the main stage with incredible energy and seemed genuinely happy to be performing at Coachella. They sounded strong as ever and gave a great visual show as well.

After a few songs we headed to see Pharrell Williams on the Outdoor Stage. His AV package was well produced and he pulled out his current hits as well as Lapdance from N.E.R.D. Then came appearances by T.I., Busta Rhymes, Usher and more.

We had been looking forward to Muse as the headliner on Saturday. Muse was delayed slightly to coordinate all the LED curtains hung around and behind the band. Muse’s show was a barrage of great mix and stunning visuals that made you step back and go WOW!!! The finale included firing propane cannons from top of main stage that could be felt in the audience in front of mix position.

We started our musical experience on Sunday with The Naked and The Famous: Melodic and great energy. From there we moved over to the Mojave tent for Flosstradamus and lots of dancing.

Before the sunset we took some time to enjoy the artwork and ride the Ferris wheel. When you look down from 130 ft, you start to appreciate why the ticket price costs as much as it does. Goldenvoice has employed a small army in order to coordinate all of the great entertainment and manage the 85,000 plus crowd.

After the Ferris wheel ride, we caught the beginning of the performance by Calvin Harris on the main stage, which was very energetic.

We had heard great reviews of Lana Del Rey and opted to go to the outdoor stage instead of the Big Gigantic performance in Sahara, who we also wanted to see. (Props to Big Gigantic for involving local student musicians in their set!)

Lana Del Rey was a great choice. Her ethereal voice over a smooth electronica band compelled me to hit iTunes for downloads

Beck put on a great show on the main stage. His sound was so well done you could hear all his lyrics and tight vocal harmonies. Beck played at the very first Coachella festival in 1999. He reminisced, telling the crowd that the organizers gave them a tour and described their vision of what Coachella would grow into and 15 years later that vision had become a reality.

As an attendee with media access and a photographer in tow, we had the opportunity to get a closer look at a few performances, and were, as always, made aware of new music. Next stop…iTunes to download my own Coachella 2014 playlist to keep the music going.