Coachella - Everything under the sun

The Coachella music festival in the Californian desert has great bands, palm trees and a far greater chance of sunshine than Glastonbury. But then, asks Gillian Orr, what's the fun of a rock festival without wellingtons?

Imagine Glastonbury with palm trees, temperatures up to 100 degrees and incredibly beautiful people and there you have the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where last weekend Jay-Z, Muse and Gorillaz headlined the sold-out event.

For one weekend in April, the sleepy desert town of Indio, California, most commonly known for its large retirement community, keen golfers and wind farms becomes over-run with 75,000 music fans as it is turned into the location for arguably America's greatest outdoor music festival.

Now in its 12th year, Coachella is recognised as the official start to the festival season and while, sadly, a number of bands had to cancel due to volcano-related travel disruptions, there was too much on offer to take any notice of absences. Having had 11 No 1 albums in the US, it's not surprising that the crowd were suitably "psyched" for Jay-Z when he took to the stage on Friday night to perform an energetic and triumphant set. He played plenty of his big hits, including "99 Problems", "Big Pimpin'", "Empire State of Mind" and even included "Wonderwall", which he famously started his Glastonbury set with two years ago after Noel Gallagher said it was wrong to have a rapper headline the traditionally rock-oriented festival. This time he once again couldn't resist a little dig at the Oasis guitarist by claiming to be the bigger rock star. His wife, Beyoncé, also made a surprise (and rather lacklustre) appearance for "Young Forever" toward the end of his set.

Earlier that day Vampire Weekend had played a tight set to a packed crowd, with tracks from both their self-titled debut and their more recent offering, Contra, but their attempts at audience participation fell a bit flat. Gil Scott-Heron, however, got the audience revved up by refusing to play one of his songs unless the whole crowd was doing their bit too. He may look his age, but his voice continues to impress and inspire. Sadly, it was nigh on impossible to get close to the tent that Grizzly Bear were playing in, but Them Crooked Vultures more than made up for it on the main stage.

From the huge crowd that The XX drew, it's clear that the London band are currently big news Stateside. Their delicate and heartbreaking beats especially suited the eerie desert setting, which was made extra special as the sun set while they played. And in a sartorial shocker, the black-loving indie band were dressed in desert-friendly white shirts. Later that evening, Major Lazer, the collaboration between DJs/producers Diplo and Switch, turned their tent into a grimy club night with their fusion of dubstep, ragga, dancehall and club party music. They were joined onstage by acrobats and Chinese dragons for a particularly colourful and atmospheric show that recalled Notting Hill Carnival. Headliners Muse did their usual strong live set but failed to really inspire. Saturday seemed to be hipsters day, with sets from Girls, MGMT, Hot Chip and Dirty Projectors.

On Sunday, Phoenix, who currently enjoy indie royalty status in the States, drew a packed crowd. The Grammy Award-winning French band's set started off well but was eventually let down by bad acoustics. Florence and the Machine did a characteristically impressive live show, with Florence Welch appearing to be another Brit who is doing well Stateside as she had the audience singing along to every track. The cult '90s band Pavement, who reunited to play their first show in ten years last month, were a joy to watch before Gorillaz closed the festival on Sunday night. Sadly, Snoop Dogg had to cancel at the last minute, but he still opened the set by appearing on screen, dressed as Horatio Nelson. Damon Albarn was joined onstage by Paul Simonon and Mick Jones of the Clash, De La Soul and Bobby Womack. Hits like "Feel Good Inc" and "Clint Eastwood" left the crowd thrilled as their world, hip-hop and pop-fused music provided a suitable Colorado Desert soundtrack.

It's no doubt a great experience, but there were a few annoying things that threatened to ruin the fun. America loves rules, but here you are greeted with a huge poster of endless dos and don'ts that apply to you if you are to enter. There are rather annoyingly strict drinking rules, stating that you can only drink alcohol in designated areas and therefore can't drink while watching a band, which, call me a lush, seems to be a stupid rule for a music festival.

This year, more tickets were made available and it felt too busy. There were so many queues, which seasoned Coachella-goers informed me was unusual: queues to get in, to use the bathroom, to get food. The acoustics aren't great either; bands are often not loud enough and sometimes you can hear two sets simultaneously from the five stages that the festival has. There were so many times that a band was playing a tent which you could not get near to, and you had no choice but to move on. This might happen occasionally with a buzz band at a UK festival, but it was a constant problem here. Also, hold on to your friends as there is zero mobile phone reception on site – and wandering amidst packed crowds trying to find your mates is no fun in such extreme heat (speaking from experience here).

It really is a fantastic experience, however. The Empire Polo Field, with its pristine lush green lawns and the mountains as a backdrop, is truly a treat. It's fun to spot big movie stars casually roaming the site, it has a laid back Californian vibe and everything looks so clean. But it lacks the spirit and craziness of UK festivals. Coachella may look great, but give me the grittiness and soul of Glastonbury any day.

Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes