Coachella 2024: PAPER's Version

Coachella 2024: PAPER's Version

By Erica CampbellApr 14, 2024

A rolling festival review of Coachella 2024, weekend one.

Day One: Depth, Dust and Dying Phones

I fucking love Coachella.

And before we get into it, yes, I love it for all the reason people talk shit about it. It’s overflowing with influencers and models, people who put their phones up during concerts, guys who want to know which after party you’re going to and girls who ask you what you do for a living before they ask for your name. And you know what? I love it. You want to go to a fest where everyone camps and you don’t have to show up with a full face beat to feel hot? Bonnaroo is right there, babes. But this? This is Coachella, the land where the classes are separated into groups by wristband access, where you can stand in line to the port-a-potty behind Reneé Rapp as she canoodles with Towa Bird, where your attendance ensures you’ll be in the background of someone’s TikTok video, where a woman who looks strikingly like Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio (it’s definitely model Alessandra Ambrosio) is just chilling on the grass as you charge your phone backstage.

This is my third Coachella, and with each year comes a new and glorious desert experience, one where I choose to ignore just how much it will hurt to walk back to the parking area in cowboy boots and that all the promises of meeting up before the set rarely come to fruition once night falls, batteries die and service is lost. Still, for all its pomp and shallow circumstance, Coachella is, bar none, one of the most magical places on the planet, because it’s an absolute oasis of music, a mecca of sound, the earth’s most talented, diverse, imaginative artists, come here to meet the rest of the world. It’s a fucking sonic feast, and on day one we were eating well.

Chappell Roan and Sabrina Carpenter gave us evidence that pop will always be alive, thank you very much. My new favorite band, L'Impératrice, turned the desert into a dance floor. I missed Tinashe’s set (look, I was in interviews and maybe if you had a fucking business that you were passionate about you would know what it takes to run a fucking business but you don't. So don't even act like you know what I'm talking about.) but I had at least three people bring it up to me unprompted, and the FOMO I had from hearing about her performance is still pumping through my veins. There was also a Lil Uzi Vert set that was magnetic — I accidentally ended up there on the way to find some friends. But let’s get to the real reason we are here today, friends, one woman who you may know as Lana Del-fucking Rey.

Phone on 11%, pissed that I just spent $25 on spicy noodles that were basically just a hot mess, I got ready to see our lord and savior, Lizzy Grant. I’d decided to go it alone, sit back in VIP and chill. But once it got closer to the set, it was like the 2013 Urban Outfitters, Tumblr-obsessed version of me took over, and I found myself queuing to get in front of the stage. I nearly missed the opening song, as motorcycles wizzed by to take Lana and her dancers to the stage and girls in white dresses, oversized bows and heart-shaped glasses erupted into screams. Eventually, I got there, flanked by a bunch of youths and their girlfriends, as “Summertime Sadness” played, and Lana Del Rey, looking like she’d been plopped right out of heaven in glittery red bottoms and sparkly blue dress, sweetly sung her song.

Not to bring up Kim Kardashian (again) but some of us are not pretty when we cry. But Lana is and not to throw out my thoughts boldly and unchecked (but this is my article) I’d say that’s what we love about her public persona. She hurts so good, too good at times, the way you press into a bruise for the familiarity of the soreness — it shouldn’t be comforting, but it is. This idea brings me to the close of my day-one rant and my main post Lana Del Rey takeaway. Coachella is chock full of beauty; I mean look at Lana, listen to her timeless music, her notes she hits that feel like Ariana Grande’s whistle tones have been dipped in thick cream. Look at the people standing around you, their brand-deal outfits clinging to them perfectly. But beauty is still messy and complicated, it’s why our heart leaps during the “Ride” intro at the words, “I’m fucking crazy but I’m free,” the reason “you like your girls insane” resonates on “Born To Die.” Much like Billie Eilish told the crowd after their joint rendition of “Video Games,” Lana is “the reason for half you bitches existence, including mine.” So here’s to Coachella day one, with all its dust, depth, dying phones, sore legs and songs that hurt. It’s all so messy, it's all so fucking beautiful.

Day Two: Benny Blanco Backstage at Billie Eilish, Blur and a Missing BMW

So something not that chill happened last night.

But before we get into that, let's get into the good stuff. Day two of Coachella started out strong. I was so confident it'd be a good day that I showed up in a full Levi's denim tuxedo, Indio heat index be damned! Spoke to a few artists backstage about their festival performances and headed into the field to see Vampire Weekend. They played the hits, they played new songs, they brought out Paris Hilton and some guy dressed as Abraham Lincoln to play corn hole on stage. It was cool to be in the presence of the president of the United States; seeing Abe was cool, too.

After that, I wandered into the Aperol Spritz pop-up to have a full-on Italian snack fest via an actual Italian chef (Coachella... never stop doing the most), and as I visualized myself on a faraway beach, the White Lotus theme song playing in my head, I really believed it couldn't get better. But dear reader, Coachella giveth and Coachella taketh away. We'll get there in a moment

In the middle of my Aperol daydream, I get a text that Billie Eilish and friends will be the surprise performers tonight at the Do Lab stage. I head over, but it's so packed you can't see the stage. I run into a friend backstage who tells me Benny Blanco is also at the Billie surprise set; we want to ask him where Selena is, but we don't.

I decide to head towards Blur and as I do I overhear the funniest banter: "What kind of music is this?" "It's Blur!" her friend responds. A couple of years back, when Damon Albarn joined Billie Eilish for her headline Coachella set, a girl next to me screamed "Who is that?!" before Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." started to play and she realized. For their part, Blur aren't fussed about it. "We're a band from the '90s," they yelled at the crowd, who dropped any and all confusion once "Song 2" started to play.

At this point, a little exhausted from showing up at doors and with the goal of attending an off-campus party I'd never been to before, I decided to head to the parking area. This way I'd be early and could hop into bed at a decent time after staying up til 3 AM for Lana. It felt like a no-brainer. I'd seen all the headliners before and at this point, the thought of being in bed by 11 PM felt like a dream come true. And this, my friend, is when the dream became a nightmare.

I'd been roaming around the desert in a BMW as part of a Coachella weekend experience. So far, it'd been an efficient, somewhat opulent dream. I could easily get from Los Angeles to Indio, pop into the festival without waiting for a shuttle, and leave without too much fuss. That morning I parked in a lot and cockily walked away, seeing that my car was in a lot off the blue line. I figured it'd be easy to find it.

However, that confidence was completely erased once it got dark; I realized the "blue" line had four different parking lots, and the vacant lot I parked in at 1 PM was an overflowing Saltburn-ass maze of vehicles. I spent what had to be a decade convinced the car had been towed, stolen, in another lot, or a figment of my imagination before I finally gave up and took a rideshare back to my hotel. Let this be a cautionary tale (or, as a good friend told me once, "a warning story"). Remember where the fuck you parked, and don't leave the festival early for the following reasons.

The first is that No Doubt brought Olivia Rodrigo onto the stage for "Bathwater." Missing that should be illegal. Throw me into jail. The second is that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce were all cuddled up at the Ice Spice performance. I could've been there digging deep into the dynamic of their friendship, discovering once and for all what Miss Americana has been texting a baddie who's showing her panty and shaking like jelly. Tyler, the Creator brought out A$AP Rocky, Childish Gambino and Kali Uchis, all while I was slumming it in a dark parking lot, pressing on a key chain like my life depended on it. As a wise writer once said: "Coachella giveth and Coachella taketh away."

Luckily, I did find the BMW this morning, and I've still got optimism, a vintage cowboy button-up to wear for day three, and a dream to fulfill. Let's do it all again, shall we?

Day Three: Kesha, "kitties and titties" and Comfort Plus

Name something more strange, more intriguing, more perfectly askew than the combination of passengers on a post-Coachella red-eye to New York City.

Me, donning a leather jacket with dust-covered fringe boots and jeans that I changed into in the airport bathroom, still wearing my wristbands and a dazed expression that follows you after three days spent in the sun. In first class, a mixture of businessmen, music moguls and a guy in a white baseball cap that reads “kitties and titties,” who I think is likely both. I'm exhausted, but the universe has given me an upgrade to comfort plus seating (shoutout to Delta), and now, with my notes app in hand, I am ready to finish my Coachella roundup. Gird your loins, babe, hot takes are on the way.

First off: I want to say that I feel bad for Grimes. Her set on Saturday night may have been a disaster, but can you imagine the pressure of standing on a stage that massive, with fans at home and in front of you making eye contact, watching your set fall apart? Let’s all have some grace for Grimes. Believe me, I love a good roast, a sweet shit talk sesh, but we’re all capable of criticism that isn’t just kicking down (is that a saying?). Plus, perfection is the thief of joy , and in the picturesque Empire Polo Club, it's nice that something wasn't picture-perfect.

This brings me to the thrill of day three: Kesha coming out during Reneé Rapp's set to sing "Tik Tok," starting the track with an emphatic "Fuck P-Diddy!" It was a crass sass fest, the kind of expletive-laced set that makes a trip to Coachella worth it. Other thrills of the day include catching quick moments watching Jockstrap, Fugees and interviewing an energetic Mia Moretti backstage at Do Lab. But then, before I could even watch Doja Cat close out the fest in a floor-length hairsuit, I was back in the no-longer-missing BMW and just one way-too-long stop at In-N-Out away from LAX.

Here’s what I’ll say about Coachella 2024: I needed that, and maybe, if you were there, you needed that, too. It seems that the world is literally on fire lately — it’s scary out there, it’s so fucking real, but not here — not in Indio, not when Will Smith appears on stage with J Balvin to sing "Men In Black," not while Katy Perry joins Mia Moretti for a set at Do Lab.

We deserve distraction, hun. We deserve joy for joy's fucking sake. I know, I know, music is deadly serious — but shit like this, this frivolous gorgeous, fun shit? It keeps us alive. Music is something to live for and Coachella (even when you’ve lost your car in the massive 15a lot) feels like a consistent heartbeat. Until next year my friends, have fun, be safe and wait... I’m literally sat beside a priest and just blasting off expletives into my notes app. How is any of this real?

Remember to have some fucking fun.

Photography: Courtesy of Coachella and Q Tucker, C Reagan, L Gerber, K Gladstein, S Balaban, Jamie Jar, Dania Maxwell, Arturo Holmes, Courtesy of Do Lab and Jamie Rosenberg and Getty Images