Music masterminds light up the desert for three days

Reporter Scott Gallagher describes his first time at the world-renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

I wouldn’t trade my three days in the desert for anything. Not the sunburn, the nauseating sunstroke or even my dilapidated feet, run down by the lengthy hours without a seat.

Why? Because I got to experience Coachella, the world-renowned music and arts festival and because I got to see every one of my iTunes heroes on stage.

In the 100-degree heat, under the blazing sun, I watched thousands pull into the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, Calif., as I arrived at the festival at the start of spring break.

Girls dressed in bikinis and oversized Ray-Ban Sunglasses pranced around the grounds. Guys in their tank tops and multi-colored bandanas did the same, as if on vacation at Indio’s latest resort.

Complete with art pieces, jumbo-sized structures taking on animal forms and a glittering Ferris wheel, the polo grounds were dotted with six stages – Coachella, the Outdoor Theatre, Gobi, Mojave, Sahara and the Oasis Dome – each unique.

Playing host to some of the biggest names in the music industry, headliners such as American rockers Kings of Leon, critically acclaimed Arcade Fire and hit-machine Kanye West graced the stage equipped with their own magic tricks.

The band Warpaint, like china dolls swaying back and forth on stage under the California sun, delivered a hypnotic and endearing set. The local Los Angeles lasses, who have made quite the name for themselves in the indie music sphere, dished out charming slices from their debut album, “The Fool.”

Taking their rightfully earned place in the music industry, American blues-rock duo The Black Keys took to the main stage Friday night and absolutely killed it with tracks such as “Everlasting Light” and “Tighten Up” from their most recent record, “Brothers.”

The only downside to Coachella was the conflicting schedule. Because of that, I ended up catching Canadian duo Crystal Castles for a very short five minutes – and what an incredibly insane five minutes. Shrieks and addictive bass carried the electronic, frenzied “Baptism,” as singer Alice Glass crowd surfed under the neon green lights of the stage.

Saturday showcased a variety of acts from bands such as Cage the Elephant to Dutch disc jockey Fedde Le Grand.

However it was Northern Irish indie trio Two Door Cinema Club who stole the limelight that afternoon (although you could say I’m biased, being Irish myself).

Going from seeing the band play to an audience of 20 at a birthday two years ago to watching them perform to a Coachella-sized crowd as I recited every lyric of the band’s whizzy, electro pop was pretty surreal. The crowd whooped, clapped and sang in unison as the band ripped through their debut album, “Tourist History.”

Normally, banjos, keyboards and the odd mandolin don’t occupy the main stage at Coachella, but Mumford & Sons isn’t just any band. Having taken the world by storm with their folksy, heart-wrenching melodies from debut album “Sigh No More,” the English quartet performed to their “biggest ever crowd” that night.

But it was the incredibly humble Arcade Fire that triggered my goose bumps. Jumping straight into “Month of May,” a track from their Grammy award-winning album “The Suburbs,” the Canadian music troupe bedazzled and at the end of their set, showered the audience with blinking beach ball-like orbs – a spectacular feat you should not hesitate to look up on YouTube.

The reformation of dance-rock-punk duo Death From Above 1979 proved to be a performance not to miss. Taking to the stage five years after their breakup in 2006, the band proved they still had the key ingredients that propelled them to success in the first place.

But it was Kanye West who stole the show. Closing the festival in unforgettable fashion, the rapper rose up from the middle of the crowd via crane, to thousands of gasps of amazement, and asked, “Can we get much higher?” – a line from “Dark Fantasy,” a track from West’s latest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”

Kanye delivered an impressive two-hour set that was a spectacle of sorts and theatrical to the last detail. He featured ballet dancers on stage and appearances from Pusha T, not to mention Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon. Unlike the other headliners, Kanye produced hit after hit during his three-act set, showcasing tracks such as “Gold Digger” from his sophomore album, “Late Registration,” and “All of the Lights” from his latest.

A weekend of weekends, I wouldn’t trade my three days in the desert for anything. But next time, I’ll most definitely bring a higher factor sunscreen and a better pair of shoes.

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