Part X: The States – LA LA Land to Coachella

So the City of Angels, aka La La Land, beckons me from my love affair with Central America with its bony low-fat non-dairy wheat-free finger. Touching down a matter of hours after me are members of Team Awesome, an assorted supergroup of collectively and independently brilliant London-based friends with whom I usually rock a festival.

Our plan is simple…rock a festival. Namely, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. But first, a few days out and about in the city. There is, after all, four months to catch up on.

Our home is the Andaz West Hollywood, glamour that I have certainly not become accustomed to during my quality time with my backpack. Well if it is good enough for Led Zeppelin…
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We decide to celebrate our long-awaited reunion the only way we know how…with quite a lot of fizz.
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We take to the rooftop pool to survey the glittering city below us.
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For the long haul members, jet lag is taking hold so we head out to Pink Taco to eat, drink and celebrate the LA Lakers getting to the playoffs with seemingly the entire city.
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There is even a pre-Coachella warm up act who rattle up on the sidewalk with horns at the ready and fingers steady.
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Once the jet lag has been tended to, we head to beautiful Venice Beach for brunch and a saunter to watch the boarders and surfers.
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I had quite forgotten how slightly insane this neck of the woods is, and the award for highest end of this spectrum goes to the bearded guy roaming the boardwalk trying to sell ‘a slightly soiled tissue.’

The sun is high and the wind is low as we dip our toes in the Pacific and lark about on Pamela Anderson’s lifeguard station.
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And it is really brilliant to have the team back together again. I have definitely missed this.
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The Griffith Observatory is next on the list, to download the vista…
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…and arse around like children…
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The flowers in the beautiful gardens at the Observatory impress us with their ability to look like geese.
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This incidentally is aligned with our manual GPS of choice at festivals. If ever we can’t find each other, we only need to look for the team member ahead goosing. In its natural habitat, it looks a little like this…
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Keep it to yourself mind.

Back in the car, we manage to find a radio station that plays us Foreigner’s ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ AND Toto’s ‘Africa’. For those who know him, you will appreciate that it might as well be called Colin Spence FM. All we need is ‘Easy Lover’ to complete the triptych of excellence.

No trip lording it around LA would be complete without dinner at the legendary Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel. It is here, in the snug pin-striped booths, where Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin insisted on having their production meetings back in the day. So we, along with Keith Urban, Mario Lopez and Harvey Weinstein, head there the night before Coachella for a slap up meal. (Not together of course, not after the last time…)
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The dungeness crabcakes are ridiculously good, followed by a tender and succulent lamb, completed with a chocolate and peanut butter soufflé. We also give a few bottles of Californian Malbec a run for their money.
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At cocktail o’clock, my old mucker Oz and wife Mel join us. Oz was one of a very special group of friends I made while living in Paris, and he is now LA based. Seeing him before each Coachella is always a highlight.
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We are clearly our waiter’s favourite table.

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He even gets in on the act before home time.
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The next day, it is time to get our show faces on the road as we motor to nearby Palm Springs in the desert to the lovely Riviera which will be our home for the next four days.

Coachella festival is set deep in the valley of the desert, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio. It has two main, wonderfully unbranded, outdoor stages and four tented stages named after desert counterparts; Mojave, Gobi, Yuma and Sahara. One of the other brilliant things about the stages, is that they are uncovered, a risk that just couldn’t be taken in the UK for weather reasons. The strangely beautiful exposed metal frames of the stages set against the palm trees in the background make for a stupendously captivating setting…as if I needed a reason to love live music more than I already do…

Day one (aka Friday) is an embarrassment of riches line-up-wise. We all know that it is going to take extreme dedication to see everyone that we want to. And, as with every other festival since time immemorial, there is an act we want to see on early doors at 2pm (Youth Lagoon) So, the first we see of Coachella 2013 is running at breakneck speed through the 40 degree desert heat to try to catch his last track. Ill advised…but so worth it.

From there we settle into our surrounds with a few beers while we watch Stars and Metric on the Coachella Stage from VIP, then a short walk to Mojave to champion British act Alt-J.
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They sound great, and I’m surprised by just how well they seem to be doing in the States. Everyone in the packed out tent is singing every word back at them. It’s just like Reading innit.

Local Natives are next on the list on the Outdoor Theatre…
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There is time for just a little arsing around before the fancy footwork starts to make sure we cover all musical bases.
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Ten house points if you can spot Claire and Jess…
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So, back to the music. Onwards to Modest Mouse, closely followed by Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the Coachella Stage. I can’t remember the last time I was as excited about an album release as I was about Mosquito when it came out last Monday. So this is one of the acts I have been most excited about seeing. They were sensational. I also can’t remember the last time I danced that hard barefoot in the desert…(footnote: it was Coachella two years ago) Rather disappointingly, this is the best photo I have of the show.
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I think you can probably blame the homemade blackberry lemonades (with double shots of vodka) for this. Panasonic can certainly not be held accountable.

There is time for just a slice of Purity Ring on Gobi, before it is back to the Outdoor Theatre for Band of Horses.
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Then, Team Awesome divide and conquer; Claire, Kerry and Jess to Stone Roses, and I to delightedly await the return of Jurassic 5. And I have got expectations to unify the nations.

Once all of the Band of Horses fans have vacated the dance floor, I head down to assume the position. For me, this is one of the acts of the weekend, and despite a miserable clash with the excellent Foals, it is a no brainer for me to choose them.
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Like the polite and talented lads that they are, they front-load the set with all the tracks I want to hear allowing me to shimmy over to Foals to squeeze in their last two tracks.
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We reunite for Blur, slightly losing our shit when Phil Daniels arrives on stage for Parklife…yes that’s a figure of eight you can see happening below.
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And with that rousing finale, day one comes to a close. This is how fabulous it was.
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At worst, a mild hangover awaits us eagerly on Saturday (aka day two) so it would be rude not to go for a swim (sloth around the pool) taking on board liquids (piña coladas) in the morning (early avo.)
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The sun helps to recharge the batteries for another day of music.
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Then it’s hello Coachella.
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We catch up with the delightful Craig McLean for a few scoops since he has finished his interviewing work for the weekend. Somehow, God alone knows how, I find myself agreeing to go watch Major Lazer at Mojave.
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About 60 seconds in, I check myself, moments before I wreck myself. Realising that this is not my area, I sidle off to watch The Make-Up at Gobi and the Kerry-recommended Portugal the Man on the Outdoor Stage. Definitely worth the detour.
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There is time to meet back up with the ravers and have a little Hot Chip while we refuel. Then Yeasayer on the Outdoor Theatre quietly blow my mind. It was another tricky decision as they are up against Spiritualised, but I saw the latter at Bestival last September where they were a little disappointing.
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The Postal Service is accompanied by a meet up with buddies Russell and Jane. I only ever run into Russell at UK festivals, so it’s very fitting that we are here, minus the wellies.
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Flying the figurative Scottish flag, we head to Mojave for Franz Ferdinand who are brilliant. Ashamedly, I actually forget how many amazing tracks they have. It is a veritable indie-sing-a-long.
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The Scottish invasion is punctuated with a fond farewell to Craig who will be making his escape back to London.
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Then another mega-clash is forced upon us by promoters Golden Voice. It is New Order versus Sigur Ros versus Phoenix. The latter win out for me and Jess, again the former two were at Bestival which doesn’t feel like that long ago for those who are perennially on holiday…
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Day two draws beautifully to a close…
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Back at the hotel, we celebrate a successfully tuneful day by running merrily through the lawn sprinklers like giganta-idiots. Photos censored…

On the final morning, it is all dancing in the pool after breakfast…
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…and fizz in plastic bottles on the bus to site…
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…we really are a classy lot.

Kurt Vile opens proceedings on the Outdoor Theatre.
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We stick around for Dinosaur Jr (excellent cover of The Cure ‘Just Like Heaven’ lads), Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend.
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We also make a few new friends (hi Peter and Richard) along the way. Imagine coming all this way to Indio, and meeting someone from Carnoustie! Fife for life…

We take some time to refuel at VIP, and finally manage to catch up with the delightful Dan Walsh off of Red Bull. We worked together years ago on T in the Park, latterly T4 on the Beach, now he is swanning around Austria ‘working’ and is here under similar pretences. Bloody great to see him.

We head over to the Rose Gardens for a glass of fizz, but end up ordering a bottle (thanks to Mrs Whitbags)…and it is right around now that things start to go awry.
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The fizz accelerates proceedings. With just a dash of Wu-Tang Clan and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the music comes to an end. On the plus side, I finally manage to catch up with buddy Brantley who I haven’t seen for a few years. Despite the meet up being brief, it is a complete pleasure as always.

So, Coachella 2013 nears a bitter end. But you wouldn’t expect us to leave without just a little arsing around first right? RIGHT.

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All back to the Riviera for a cheeseboard…
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This chapter has been absurdly great fun, I have missed my friends during this trip. The only live music I have been party to has been dodgy merengue and questionable reggae…so this was a great start to festival season. Roll on the 20th T in the Park!

Team Awesome gather at the airport for the farewell. Same time next year right?
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And finally, the Coachella outfit of the year award goes to these…
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Excellent work people.

And the soundtrack was:
Foals ‘Holy Fire’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Mosquito’
Phoenix ‘Entertainment’
Modest Mouse ‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’
Metric ‘Live It Out’
Jurassic 5 ‘Quality Control’
Band of Horses ‘Cease to Begin’
Local Natives ‘Gorilla Manor’
Alt-J ‘An Awesome Wave’
Youth Lagoon ‘The Year of Hibernation’
Yeasayer ‘Fragrant World’
Franz Ferdinand ‘Franz Ferdinand’
Wu-Tang Clan ‘Iron Flag’
Vampire Weekend ‘Modern Vampires of the City’
Dinosaur Jr ‘Start Choppin’

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