I attended the Cypress Hill Smokeout for the first time this year. It’s in San Bernardino, which is already no picnic, at one of the worst venues you can imagine: The NOS Events Center. It’s a glorified parking lot. When you’re standing around all day, having a comfortable place to sit is key. Scalding asphalt really makes you appreciate the grassy planes of Indio. It’s still a good time with great music and they are not kidding about their THC namesake. There’s an entrance just for medical marijuana patients where they check your paperwork then let you bring in up to an 1/8 of weed after they weigh it. That entrance actually had a longer line than the normal one. Still, The Smokeout reminded me why I left UC Santa Cruz after just one year: sometimes people get too stoned to remember to have fun. By 6pm, the lethargy was palpable and conversations about dinner generally dominated interest in set times. Thanks to JFK from MSTRKRFT for the free ticket. The drive there and back was more than worth it to catch them and Thievery Corporation.
SXSW is a dizzying opportunity to see every major artist (some multiple times) over the course of a week in Austin, Texas. And people just put free beer in your hand everywhere you go. It’s awesome, exhausting and not for anyone with a heart condition. This year, it was raining for a little bit towards the beginning and then…it wasn’t. That’s honestly all I remember. Oh yeah, we had BBQ for dinner one night at Stubb's. It was delicious, although I'm comfortable saying okra isn't really my thing. Also: The Alabama Shakes, SBTRKT, Grimes and Diplo. Everything else is kind of a blur. The pace of SXSW 2012 was so grueling, I pulled the ejector seat early and headed to a calmer setting that seemed less focused on binge drinking: Las Vegas for St. Patrick’s Day.
Back in my day, Coachella happened once a year for 48 hours. It came and it went. You made choices, you stuck by them and if you had any regrets at the end you didn’t do it right. Also, it was hot as fuck. Always. This year, Coachella happened over two weekends for six whole days. That’s three times as much Coachella! That is too much Coachella! It means everyone can get in on the fun of missing out. It also creates distressing issues about time and space, letting people re-live the same weekend twice except not really. Next year they’re doing two weekends, expanding to two separate cruises and building some kind of internment camp for dubstep fans in Riverside. Wait, what’s the point of this article? A recap? It was fun! Coachella is the best festival in the universe. I went the first weekend: It was cold on Friday, I saw Radiohead on Saturday, ate pizza on Sunday and then I flew to the other side of the country for weekend dos to avoid giving Paul Tollett what was left of my April paycheck.
I was resolved to not go to EDC this year. There were only a few acts on the lineup I really wanted to see (all on Saturday) and the cowards at Insomniac denied me press credentials despite my semi-legitimate coverage of their circus. But then friends’ pictures from Friday night started to roll in and by Saturday morning I was driving from LA to Vegas without a ticket or a place to stay. I bumped in to two of my favorite people named Danny minutes after parking my car and one of them put an artist pass on my wrist out of respect for stupidly impulsive decisions. I found my crew of friends, secured a place to stay and everything was looking up. We made our way to the show. Then, around midnight, the music stopped because of strong winds and didn’t come back. I was unable to see a single artist I came to see. The quote of the night was someone who muttered, “My ticket said rain or shine, but it didn’t say shit about wind.” I spent the remainder of Saturday night wandering around, watching the future leaders of America make the best out of a bad situation on a collective stomach full of drugs. It was admirable. I drove home on Sunday after handing my artist pass to a stranger who would hopefully have better luck with it.
Comic-Con is not technically a music festival. It’s a corporate gangbang. It’s a katamari ball made up of free promotional sunglasses, pushed by the momentum of Hollywood studios getting you excited about shit that’s a year away. I barely recognize it anymore. But the parties are a lot of fun, and they get some amazing musical talent, so it made the list. I saw The Aquabats, Girl Talk, Dethklok and Andrew W.K. in the same 24 hours. The 9th grade version of me would have died over this. The thing that makes Comic-Con so wonderful is the people. I saw the same guy dressed up like Robin at every one of those shows. Comic-Con is what would happen if the whole world stuck to their guns at age 5 when they decided they wanted to grow up to be a superhero. Everyone should check it out at least once, and if you like it you’ll probably have a hard time staying away. My only regret is that I didn’t do whatever was necessary to get in to the Breaking Bad premiere party. Note for 2013: no more half measures.
If you like to dance, Hard Summer is the best Summer ticket in Los Angeles. The promoters of this electronic festival are aware how unsavory the term “rave” is and have focused their efforts on producing an eclectic (Gary Richards can feel free to use the term "eclectronic" in any future interviews) lineup that includes people who play live instruments. Bootsy Collins and bands like Little Dragon performing on the same day as DJ's like Boys Noize and Erol Alkan is a remarkable thing. My favorite part of Hard Summer is the fact that a lot of people ride the subway there. The subway in LA gets you almost no place conveniently, but it drops you right at the doorstep of Hard Summer. Hard actually includes subway fare in the cost of a ticket, so it’s a very popular option even for LA residents who are generally reticent to relinquish their precious car keys. On the way there, you get a mix of neon colored clothing spattered amongst normal commuters. On the way back, the train is a glowstick moving at high velocity. You will never get another public transit experience quite like it.
Outside Lands was amazing. I had never been before and one thing that immediately stood out was the fact that the festival treated me like an adult. In most shows at LA, if you want to get a beer they put you in a little beer jail where you have to drink your beer(s) quickly then rush out to go see the next act. It’s not conducive to safe drinking habits and generally makes me feel like a second-class festival citizen. At Outside Lands in San Francisco, you just walk up to one of many conveniently located beer vendors, buy a beer and then go wherever you want. Every festival should be like this. The music each day ranged from acts like Big Boi to Justice to Neil Young to Jack White to Beck. Every single performer was excellent and stylistically different from the last. Walking through the woods to get to stages felt like a throwback to Summer camp and the food was the best I’ve ever had at any show. My weekend ended on a low note when someone in our group disappeared for ninety minutes only to resurface in the medical tent. I had never visited a medical tent at a festival before; it’s a serenely scary place. Lots of tie-dye tapestries on the ceiling and people in blankets being fed bottles of water like oversized delirious infants. We got our friend on his feet, took him out of there and ten minutes later he was making out with two girls he’d never met during Stevie Wonder. He remembered none of this the next day.
Fuck Yeah Fest happens every Labor Day weekend in LA and it marks the end of the Summer music festival season. It’s a relaxing experience to hang out with friends on a sunny day where everyone is obligated by federal law to not have any work. My biggest gripe with this show is that people, including the promoters, call it “FYF Fest” which makes no sense! The second “F” is for fest. You’re calling it “Fuck Yeah Fest Fest” and it shouldn’t annoy me as much as it does, but the reality is very little on this planet bugs me more. I don’t know why. I guess that’s on my to figure out. The show itself was a lot of fun, but I drank too much alcohol too quickly while trapped in beer prison and am a little fuzzy on the second half. I’m told I had a very good time. Suffice to say, sometimes you need to go Petey Pablo and take your shirt off, twist it around your head then spin it like a helicopter. It’s a two day affair, but try as I might I couldn’t make it back for Sunday. Having been on my feet at these things from March to September, I was sufficiently tuckered out, broke and hard of hearing. It was a good run, but I’m looking forward to a few months off before it’s time to do it all over again in 2013.