Ears over eyes: the sounds of Coachella

The USD Vista explores the musical world of Indio at Weekend 2


Photo Courtesy of Ryan Muir/Goldenvoice

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Muir/Goldenvoice

Coachella: the land of the body chains, Birkenstocks, bros, and babes. Oh, and maybe a band or two.

While the hype surrounding the iconic festival may be defined by the trendy culture— especially the perfectly planned Instagrams— the musical atmosphere of Coachella is still alive and kicking. This year’s festival hosted over 150 bands and artists, blaring a mix of dropping beats and soulful blues throughout the polo fields.

Courageous souls equipped with wide-brim hats and bandanas braved the blazing heat and dusty gusts for the early shows. While I was not brave enough to leave my campsite for many of these afternoon delights, I made my way over to Years & Years’ set at the Coachella stage on Day 1. And boy, Olly Anderson’s outfit alone — sparkly denim on denim, which he deemed a mix between Britney Spears and the Biebs — was worth the walk.

While I prefer a quality musical performance over stage presence, the English trio didn’t sacrifice their sound for entertainment value. Their hits, including “King” and “Desire” had the crowd dancing in the dirt, while their ballad “Eyes Shut” moved the clump into a slow sway of iPhones. Anderson danced through the lyrics and talked to the crowd in between songs, such as when he revealed that he wrote “Real” after being dumped.

Photo Courtesy of Erik Voake

Photo Courtesy of Erik Voake

As the weather cooled down, so did the musical atmosphere. Of Monsters and Men’s chill sound had the festival monsters’ men and women swaying to the breezy lyrics. The Icelandic six-member group trekked to the desert to deliver a breathtaking performance. Their voices mixed together just as smoothly as they do on the record, proving the duet is as organic in person as they are on Spotify. Their Indio set included “Little Talks” and “Crystals” which were definitely crowd favorites.

James Bay secured his heart throb status on Day 2 at the Sahara Tent, with hundreds of fans swooning over his honest lyrics and guitar licks. Heat rose in the packed venue, but the conditions did not move the dedicated fans. While every song bled sincerity, “If You Ever Want to Be in Love” might have had Coachella goers falling in love with Bay’s sound all over again.

Later, CHVRCHES took to the stage as they lit up the crowd with the glow of the sunset. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry may be small, but her petite frame packed a lot of power in the 45-minute set. Equal parts adorable and badass, she donned a glittery eyepatch consisted of black makeup. Along with her two male band mates, the Scottish threesome had the crowd religiously singing along to hits such as “The Mother We Share” and “Recover”.

Though the wind advisory may have blown down every camper’s tent and E-Z Up, Matt and Kim gave the breeze some serious competition on Day 3. The musical and romantic partners put on a performance I was not anticipating. Both Matt and Kim screamed their heads off, repeatedly yelling “WE WERE THE WEIRDOS”, which is the title of their newest album as well as what they claim to have been in high school. While they disappointed some old-time fans by only playing a few classics, they did offer a high energy show with their new tunes, accompanied by funny GIFs on the mega-screens, Trump pinatas thrown into the crowd, Kim crowd-surfing, and Matt attempting handstands on his keyboard.

After what seemed like decades of waiting, The 1975 finally made an appearance on stage. Whenever I listen to The 1975, I imagine the ultimate Englishmen grunge rock band. Matthew Healey certainly confirmed my suspicions, as he took drags of the cigarette dangling between his fingers between verses. While the dust from the desert had the crowd coughing, the smoke didn’t seem to faze Healey much, as his vocals were as smooth as the record. The audience cheered him on and he raised his wine glass to the audience as he sipped throughout the set. Like Matt and Kim, the U.K. group’s new songs outweighed old hits, but their new spacey sound didn’t kill the audience’s vibes. The fan favorite was definitely “Sex”, which Healey performed in an open flannel that revealed his two chest tattoos.

While Years & Years, Of Monsters and Men, James Bay, CHVRCHES, Matt and Kim, and The 1975 were my weekend favorites, the festival was full of fantastic artists, bands, and DJs. From the opening acts to the headliners, the level of musical excellence at this year’s festival proved that Coachella is still about the music.

Weekend 2 may have wrapped up the craziness of the OG indie festival, but Stagecoach is right around the corner for Torero country fans. With rumors swirling of an old school rock & roll reunion in October, Indio plans to stay the stomping grounds for music fanatics, including San Diego college kids, all year round.