Thirteen-year Coachella veteran Chris Martins and trusty photographer Wilson Lee hit the Southern California desert to document Coachella 2015. Day Two begins…
3:27 p.m. The desert cops are looking to score. As we walk the dust trail from the parking lot to the main gate, we’re greeted ahead of security by a curious black can: the “Amnesty Box,” donations of all contraband accepted, no questions asked. I’ve gotta get one of these. The Indio Police put their name on the thing, which lends a little intimidation to the fake friendliness. But it’s basically a trashcan with a funny opening. The lesson is simple: Don’t let your jittery friend hold the drugs. The only way security’s gonna find your stash is if you hand it to them. They aren’t looking.
4:04 p.m. Valhalla. I’m through the gate and… in a record store? Unbeknownst to most, Coachella has one of the best used-vinyl shops you’re ever likely to see. Plus it’s air-conditioned (as is the trailer where they store your purchases until pickup). New Wave. Soul. Rock. Rap. Punk. Metal. Blues. Reggae. Country. They even have a “Trucker” section and a couple of rare boxes behind the counter. We find a Wire 7″ — Live in London 1978, only 250 made — that retails online at close to $50. Here it’s $30, and the bulk of the 45s are a buck. This is where the real addicts hang.
4:20 p.m. Or, you know, in the Yuma tent. Maybe it’s just that time of the day, but the foggy air in this enclosed space made to look like an underground U.K. dance club (but mostly resembling a high-school dance) smells very vape-y. People are hitting the pens hard in here and I can’t blame them. It’s dark, there are about five gillion disco balls (one shaped like a shark), lasers abound, and the sound comes from all angles. When Berlin duo Tale of Us drops bass, the floorboards rattle.
4:46 p.m. “Day Two baby,” says a voice next to me, then with the slightest tinge of reservation, “All right, let’s do it.” Two lanky young bros drop something into their water bottles that turns the Crystal Geyser red. Then they open up a cellophane bag of joints and spark one of those. Over my shoulder, a different dude’s gone zombie, jaw hanging open, eyes blank. Then the girl in front of me pulls a mushroom out of her shoe and devours it. But Cashmere Cat is fucking with them.
The Norwegian DJ opens with three minutes of sampled solo piano, RPMs that up until it becomes a beautiful crystalline beat, and then spends the next ten teasing a drop. The kids look at each other nervously. One compares this to the final scene in Whiplash, where Miles Teller slows down and speeds up his drum solo ad nauseum, and it really is that tense for them —the fate of their high is hanging in the balance! It’s too much for me so I bounce, but I hear the euphoria hit as I cross the field.
5:13 p.m. Milky Chance’s singer looks like hell and his voice is even gruffer than usual. Turns out Clemens Rehbein has a cold, but while few can utter his band’s name without adding an incredulous interrobang (?!) to the end, everyone knows the words to “Stolen Dance.” The sing-along is massive, and Clemens is grateful.
5:17 p.m. Chick with tie-dye Tee that reads, “Free acid, lick here” (you already know where the arrow goes). Further proof that amnesty cans don’t work.
5:35 p.m. There’s an honest-to-God funk band tearing up the Mojave tent. JUNGLE look like a Benetton ad and sound like Earth, Wind & Fire on ‘ludes — seven in-the-pocket players complete with trip-hop beats and enough falsetto to choke a Bee Gee. It’s lush music, disco-slick and destined to score the next Miami Vice reboot.
6:07 p.m. Forgive me for liking Hozier, but he’s selling it. Yes, there’s a soupçon of white cheese in his soul and, sure, he looks a little too self-satisfied when he sings, “We’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson, raise ’em on rhythm and blues,” but he isn’t from here (Bray, Ireland, is a long way from Detroit, Michigan), and breezy isn’t always bad. He also doesn’t take himself too seriously. On the one hand, there’s “To Be Alone,” the dirging stuff of river baptisms. On the other: Esme Haim showing up to help cover the Time’s “Jungle Love.” Also, regarding the blowout performance of “Take Me to Church,” anyone who can make an unwitting fan with a “believe” tattoo sing words inspired by anti-theist Christopher Hitchens is doing something right.
6:54 p.m. Chicken shawarma break. Belle and Sebastian are giving their best to the Outdoor Theatre, but the audience simply isn’t there. “Was anyone here in 2002?” Stuart Murdoch asks pleadingly. Yep. It was on the same stage with the same eye-popping Indio sunset off of stage right, and the music sounds as light and fey and magical as it ever did. But Glass Animals and Run the Jewels weren’t playing then. B&S got the short end of the scheduling stick, and sympathetic though I may be, I’m horking down the wrap so that I too can betray them.
7:08 p.m. I’m rewarded. El-P and Killer Mike bring out Zack de la Rocha for “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).” Travis Barker and Gangsta Boo show up too. Belle better pull whatever Scot clout they’ve got to get that Calvin Harris collab for 2028.
7:27 p.m. A bunch of Australians are cross-legged on the grass in the midst of the standing main-stage crowd. They are snorting white powder off of an iPhone screen. I guess there’s an app for that too. As Alt-J fire up their moody, Miley-sampling art-rocker “Hunger of the Pine,” a tall guy in a blue shirt sells a couple of brown pills to an American couple. Then, during “Fitzpleasure,” a man collapses into my legs. He recovers after a few scary seconds, in time for “Left Hand Free,” which people love despite the fact that it was written as a joke to cater to American audiences.
8:36 p.m. Father John Misty has: hauled a female fan onto the stage; sat her down in a large wicker chair; surrounded her with balloons, bouquets, giant plush bears, and women in pasties; and is now serenading her, on bended knee, to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.” Did someone dose my hummus?
8:45 p.m. Coachella’s weirdening continues as the Gaslamp Killer brings his bass-heavy instrumental psych-hop to glorious life with the help of a 13-piece band. The strings, horns, percussion, keys, and electronics conspire to create an Arkestra-like jazz-dub symphony, while the mad monk at the center runs around with his frizzy mane and an iPad, mashing the touchscreen to make beats one second and dropping to his knees to head-bang in front of the violin the next.
9:25 p.m. “Whiiiiite people! Whiiiiite people! Whiiiiite people!” Tyler, the Creator and sidekick Taco are chanting at their audience — the standard mix of antagonism and puckish jest that’s brought Odd Future this far. Less expected, however, is the incredible set: a bed that could comfortably fit a hundred people with a huge chair and dresser to match. He opens with an unheard song — grating scream-raps over ugly guitar jabs — follows with “Tron Cat,” and then does “Bimmer,” whose “Lame Impala” joke isn’t lost on this reporter (see Day One). He also has words for one of the fest’s most tweeted-about celeb attendees: “Look at Kendall Jenner thinking she cool and shit. Kendall! I’m over here to your right. Hey Kendall, fuck you!” The guy showed respect for the night’s biggest White person, though: Jack. When the music from his heading set bled over and a few fans yelled, “Fuck Jack White,” he corrected: “That shit is awesome.” Then he cursed out the festival’s founder.
9:42 p.m. White’s performance probably is awesome, but if I don’t get to see FKA twigs dance, then Coachella 2015 didn’t happen. I nearly crash into Rihanna leaving the Tyler pit, battle crowds all the way back to the Gobi, then push through a mass of spectators that includes a glitter-spangled Wayne Coyne in order to get a better view of Tahliah Debrett Barnett moving like an alien goddess to a jagged industrial score. She doesn’t disappoint. As she coos out perfect couplets like, “Higher than a motherfucker / Dreaming of you as my lover,” she jerks and writhes, then collapses like a rag doll and pops back up despite wearing six-inch (at least) heels. It’s clear she has complete command of her body, until the power dynamic flips: near the end, circa “Two Weeks,” her hips begin to throw her torso around, and she grasps at her crotch hard as if to get it all under control. Somewhere someone passed out.
11:45 p.m. After that, the Weeknd’s promise to “get sexy with you, Coachella,” feels a little hollow. Just be it, man. Also, Abel Tesfaye takes the stage a good 20 minutes late, which is its own kind of turnoff. Still, he sounds good doling out dark soul with a live band (hidden behind a screen) churning out Nine Inch Nails-evoking R&Bang.
12:12 p.m. There are only about a hundred fans watching, but that’s not stopping Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López from going utterly apeshit in their post-At the Drive-In, post-Mars Volta (post-At the Drive-In reunion) punkish outfit, Antemasque. It doesn’t matter either that the dynamic duo previously appeared on the main stage with both of those other acts — they play for arenas, always.
1:01 a.m. Coachella’s pulled the plug on Swans, but Swans DGAF. Michael Gira still leads his gnarled no-wave dogs deeper down the drone hole. They’ve got their own amps and a fucking gong. Who needs a P.A. system and stage lights? There are even fewer people here for this, but it’s every bit as transcendent (okay, way more so) as whatever the Swedish House Mafia guys just finished doing at the Outdoor Theatre. Plus, these guys look like claim-jumpers, used-car salesmen, and biker burnouts instead of overpaid frat boys. Also, Eric Andre is here meditating to their squall.
1:26 a.m. On the walk balk to the car, I kick something oddly sturdy. I look down: a snuff bullet of molly. Or coke. Either way, it goes into my pocket. An hour later at the hotel, I consider it, then set the vial aside and reach for the bottle of Tums instead.
All photos by Wilson Lee for SPIN.