CVIndependent

Sun03292020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

The Coachella Valley is home to some of the biggest music festivals in the world—so newcomer 4xFAR had to bring its “A” game to Empire Grand Oasis on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18 and 19.

That mission was accomplished.

The first thing that greeted attendees was a big “4x” statue; stickers with every state printed on them were available to place on the statue. Moving past this and into the festival grounds, there were many attractions: One could sit in a brand-new Land Rover and do your own version of Carpool Karaoke; or you could have a video taken of yourself by a drone. There was even a little tent where you could get an insulated drink container with a personal engraving—but they ran out pretty quickly.

While “music” and “adventure” were the festival’s main selling points, the venue itself was also a highlight: The main stage and all of the adventure and activity tents surrounded a huge lake—that even had a waterfall. Much of my time at the festival was spent admiring the view. Empire Grand Oasis is a place that certainly lives up to its name.

But let’s get down to the music.

Mahalia, aka Mahalia Burkmar, brought some R&B and charm to the Saturday early-afternoon crowd. The sun was out, and it was a little hot, but that didn’t stop the 21-year-old—with help of her drum-and-bass-only backing band—as she fired through her set, gaining new fans along the way. “I’m a Brit, we talk a lot,” Burkmar repeated many times as she gave each song’s inception story and entertained the crowd with tales of love and loss. Go check out “I Wish I Missed My Ex.”

Tijuana Panthers were next up—bringing less talking, and more music. The Long Beach natives blasted through a 22-song setlist of bad-ass surf rock, backed by cool ocean visuals on the big screen. Guitarist Chad Wachtel expressed gratitude to the few of us waiting on the barricade for the show to start, yet as soon as the band started playing, only a few thank-yous were muttered. Each member of the Panthers shared vocal duties, with each having a different sound. Their stage presence and jumpy songs were just what the crowd needed as the weather began to cool down. Go check out “Creature.”

Kurt Vile and the Violators performed next as the sun went down. His Neil Young-style vocals and low stage energy were made up for by his guitar prowess and jamming ability. A few people were dancing, but most were relaxing, as Vile provided a chill performance of his hits. Check out “Pretty Pimpin.”

Kaytranada, aka Louis Celestin, got the night-crowd moving with a DJ set featuring many of the songs he produced over the last decade, as well as works from his two solo albums. He didn’t say much, and the stage was dark with minimal visuals, but Celestin provided a set filled with dance-able music leading up to the headliner. Check out “You’re the One.”

As for that headline: Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals closed Saturday night in a blaze of glory … literally. He brought pyrotechnics to 4xFAR to heat up the crowd. Everyone at the festival was enthralled by the performance—consider that .Paak’s first break in the music to address the audience consisted of loud cheering for a minute straight. The band played a hit-laden list set, and even paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller. The crowd demanded an encore, but a strict 9 p.m. curfew left many fans hungry for more. Check out “Come Down.”

Music duo Sofi Tukker was the first act I saw on Sunday, on the recommendation of photographer Guillermo Prieto. The stage was adorned with greenery as the two walked out in eye-catching attire. Their brand of EDM, combined with their stage presence, led to a rather fun performance—including a synchronized dance by the crowd, which seemed to baffle the duo. They invited a fan onstage, who happened to be a dance teacher, and he taught the whole crowd a dance number. Check out “Purple Hat.”

I found myself in one of the “hammock stations,” which were located around the festival grounds, for Young the Giant, and I’m beginning to think it was fate: The smooth indie-rock sounds were the perfect accompaniment to the nighttime air and the beautiful landscape. I could hear the crowd’s roar as the band played hit “Cough Syrup.”

A DJ set from Q-Tip and Mark Ronson closed out the weekend in an interesting way. Despite the seemingly unlikely pairing, they managed to play off each other very well. Q-Tip hyped up the crowd with some music from his rap roots, including songs from his very own A Tribe Called Quest, while Mark Ronson played some pop hits in which he had his bands, including songs by Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars. The set reached a peak when Mark Ronson put on “Uptown Funk” and Q-Tip passed out cups filled with liquor.

While the music was grand, an equally powerful draw was the adventure portion of the festival. 4xFAR was presented by Land Rover, and the one of the main attractions was being able to test-drive the new 2020 Land Rover Defender. While I couldn’t drive—I fall below the 21-year-old age limit—I was able to be a passenger. A multi-terrain driving course put the vehicle’s limits to the test, including dips, turns, rocks and drops.

Ax-throwing, a bicycle course and a horse-racing track were all part of the festival, and even a non-adventurous sort such as I was able to experience some thrills.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for 4xFAR—and I hope the weekend’s success pushes the limits for what other festivals offer.

Scroll down to see photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net.

Published in Reviews

The three-day party that it is Splash House returned for the second and final time this summer, running Aug. 11-13.

The Friday night pre-party, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, featured the best performances of the entire weekend, in my book—but I must admit I’m biased toward performers who use instruments.

Klatch, hailing from the West Coast dance scene, kicked things off on Friday with a traditional DJ set, igniting the early evening crowd. Edlerbrook took things in a different direction with smoldering vocals merging with ambient digitized electronic sampling. The track “Difficult to Love” is an agreeable tune about how we see early experiences optimistically, compared to the actual eventual reality of the experience: “I’m difficult to love at the best of times; oh, at the best of times, I’m high again (high, high, high); and maybe that was mistake (my mistake, my mistake, uhm); you said I waste time, and I never get why you’re in love with me.”

Elderbrook wowed fans with the song “How Many Times,” ending with the tune and saying, “Peace,” before walking off the stage. After his performance, a happy devotee grabbed me by the shoulder and proclaimed, “That’s Elderbrook. He is going to be big; write it down.”

I just want to say I completely fell in love with Sofi Tukker, a New York-based duo featuring Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The cheerful Halpern mentioned, “The last time we were out here was for Coachella.” Sofi Tukker’s music was very danceable, with electronic beats and strong guitar riffs from Hawley-Weld, and lots running around the stage. The song “Greed” took on POTUS directly with full electronic goodness: “Your ego, your crashing, your greed, keeping you up all night.”

Bob Moses ended the night with a fantastic song, “Like It or Not,” with some words of wisdom: “It’s gotta mean something; it’s gotta mean something to you; it’s gotta keep pushing; you gotta keep pushing through.”

The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance accommodated crowds once again on Saturday and Sunday. I started Saturday off at the Saguaro, the most intimate of the three venues, where the balconies were covered up more than the attendees. As I walked in, a guy stopped me, seeing my camera gear, and had his friends clear a path in front of the DJ so he could do a summersault … just because. The atmosphere at the Saguaro is all about being there and having fun; most of the crowd was away from the DJ booth, instead enjoying the pool and/or looking for a future mate.

Over at the Riviera on Saturday, the pool was packed and overflowing; there always seem to be pools of water on the sides, caused by the crowded conditions. Manila Killa spun pure joy, enthralling listeners with indie-pop electronica.

On Saturday, Gigamesh, aka Matthew Thomas Masurka, performed on the Renaissance stage. His set was slated to be an hour long, but his time onstage was cut short due to his equipment heating up; the west-facing stage unfortunately lacked protection from the heat.

Splash House ran like a Swiss watch when it came to set times, but security was very strict, even checking wallets for contraband. It was hot as heck, which may have explained the more-subdued crowd on the between-venue shuttles, as compared to the June Splash House: I did not witness any dancing or singing this time around.

Hoping for another great time at the Air Museum, I headed back on Saturday night for former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy’s DJ set, which was competent but lacked the punch of the performances the night before. Only the diehards could dance in the sweltering heat that night, and the VIP lounge was packed with seated guests observing instead of engaging in the music.

On Sunday at the Renaissance, Sango sampled some amazing tracks, including Young Thug’s rap verse which doubles as sage advice from a gunslinger: “Don’t try to take it; I got guns; I’m talkin’ guns, not pellets.” Sango kept the thumping loud, with plenty of hooks that excited the evening admirers.

Closing out Splash House at the Renaissance was Kaytranada. Unfortunately, the scorching set by Sango may have heated things up too much, because technical difficulties hampered the beginning of his show. He took the problems with a smile: “My shit is not set up yet. I am going to play whatever! ... This is a god damn disaster,” he said as a large skipping sound flowed through the massive speakers. Later, the sampling of Suede’s “NxWorries” was the perfect way for him to express frustration for this minor glitch in his headlining gig: “If I call you a bitch, it’s ’cause you’re my bitch, and as long as no one else call you a bitch, then there won’t be no problems. Now, If I call you a trick, it’s ’cause you paid the rent.” We can only speculate whether this track was dropped to express frustration with the production staff. At the end, Kaytranada had everyone dancing, with smiles on the faces of the die-hard partygoers.

Splash House once again was a joyful event. Everyone chills out and gets along, no matter their background, ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we could infuse the inclusiveness of this event into the rest of the country, we would all be better for it.

Published in Reviews