Coachella from Behind a Lens
You bet your ass it is.
That's right, I'm talking about the photographers of Coachella; the guys and gals behind the scenes (and sometimes blocking your $300 view) seeing it all so you at home can too.
You may think you know the whole story on Coachella after reading a few dozen blog posts on the annual festival, but until you've sweat it out in a security pit with photo gear strapped to your neck, your missing out on some of it... probably 1,000 words worth or so.
|A girl who begged security to lift her out of the crowd.|
|Audience members attempting to crawl into Florence and the Machine.|
|Beyonce backstage at Ra Ra Riot.|
There were tons of folks in the VIP section, but none of them stood out more than Jason Statham. Perhaps it was precisely because he was trying not to stand out, but it was hard not to recognize the action star standing near a polish sausage stand. A comrade asked if she might take a photo of him. He simply said, "No." Not round-house kicking that photographer is why Mr. Statham gets to star opposite Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris gets to enjoy God-like status.
And there are several other tiny details observed from a view finder as we photographers rushed from stage to stage trying to get to the next band before the crowd swallowed us whole. There was the passed out guy still holding a pristine, as of yet unwrapped cigar in his hand. There was the dude dressed up like a banana (who I'm pretty sure is actually from Phoenix). There were audience members speaking Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Russian and several other languages. There were thousands of girls "dressed" in such a way to make their father's blush and thousands of brahs ogling them like 12-year-old boys. There was the photographer "from the largest music magazine in Scandinavia" who was a great guy though very frustrated when he (and several other photographers) were suddenly required to provide a waiver to shoot Them Crooked Vultures.
But every detail I saw from the folks congregating under the giant origami crane on the grounds to the sweat dripping down Thomas Mars' face as the sun set led me to the same question: what draws 75,000 people to the scorching desert to see a bunch of bands play short sets and eat $8 slices of sub-standard pizza?
I mean think about it: It's hot, the lines to get in are disastrous, most of the time you're not close enough to see the bands on anything but the jumbotrons set up on either side of the stage and yet 75,000 people showed.
|See? She has a mustache.|
No, her mustached face betrayed a different answer entirely as the Vultures took the stage. She sang along knowing every word and every inflection. Her eyes photographed this instant in time as though she was claiming it for herself. She was worshipping at the altar of rock.
Coachella is a pilgrimage or religious proportions full of trials to prove your faith. What drives us through the three-hour parking process, the blistering hear, the multitude of churro carts that make it even harder to walk around is that one moment. That brief instant when a breeze sweeps by at the same moment that you're favorite guitarist hits that high point in that guitar solo that you've sung along to millions of times alone in your car. That moment when you claim a little bit of Coachella for yourself.
So what moment did you bring back, Phoenix?