Coachella 2022 was my first-ever music festival and in the weeks leading up to it, I kept asking myself: will it be the music version of Comic-Con? This year’s lineup included acts like composer Danny Elfman with a live orchestra and rock band, Marvel Studios’ Eros aka superstar Harry Styles, Bond theme song Oscar winner Billie Eilish, and Run the Jewels (featured in Rick and Morty and Cyberpunk 2077).
Turns out there was more pop culture at the festival, which I attended with press credentials, than I anticipated.
Within the little villages among the stages, there were awesome collectives like the DoLab, which had a featured stage for live DJ sets. It’s one of the first places I found myself wandering to beat the heat, and because of their presence in the immersive art and music scene. If there was going to be somewhere I’d stumble on some sci-fi and fantasy content, it’d be here. And sure enough when I got there I was greeted by two giant eyes in a post-apocalyptic oasis.
Seeking ways that movies could meet music, I landed on their cassette deck installation which featured a mixtape station to create a pull for their DJs to blend into their music rotation. The first cassette I found was for a single on The Mask soundtrack—funnily enough, I had already wondered if Jim Carrey was going to show up for the Weeknd’s final night sets as he’s featured heavily on Dawn FM. So while that didn’t come to pass, I made sure to put his voice out there in the desert by ways of his cover of Cuban Pete. (Yes, I started off chaotically.). And of course, I pulled the Batman soundtrack from Prince for some “Partyman” to compliment the duality of that movie’s music since Elfman was the other side of that coin. Rounded it out with some Nirvana to nod at The Batman, a bit of Weird Al, and some gold R&B from that era.
On the second day I met up with a friend, who took us down to the Record Safari for Coachella’s very own Record Store Day. There I managed to find a small but mighty selection in the soundtracks section including vinyls for Gremlins, The Fly, and Peter Pan. And at one point we managed to walk through a DJ set blasting Elton John’s “Circle of Life”—Hans Zimmer played a set a few years back— proving that soundtrack fandom is at least a growing niche force at the popular music fest.
Outside of Danny Elfman (more on our experience at his set later), it became a bit of a game to bounce around stages to see if I could recognize music from the movies in the set lists of other artists. Sure enough, we caught Niki performing “Every Summertime” from Marvel Studios’ Shang Chi and the Ten Rings which was ethereally performed at golden hour. Later on we got an extra life boost to make it through the night by seeing Run the Jewels. And throughout the run of the two-weekend fest, there were special pop up performances inspired by movie moments. Eilish’s brother and producer Finneas performed “Nobody Like You,” which he co-wrote, from Turning Red—and during the 88 Rising set on weekend one Utada Hikaru performed their Kingdom Hearts songs. (devastatingly they didn’t return for weekend two).
The triple threat of the headliners really brought the theatricality to close out each night. So while not specifically cinema, they all brought their own kind of spectacle that I cannot wait to see more of in film. Specifically, Harry Styles, whose chameleon-like charm exuded pure ambrosia the crowd ate up. Yeah, I now get why he was cast as Eros, Marvel’s God of Love, and I hope we see him in Thor: Love and Thunder. Respectively, Eilish is someone who we have only just begun to see their power in music producing for film, having writing credits on Daniel Craig’s final Bond film with the aptly titled title track for No Time to Die and on “Somebody Like You” from Pixar’s Turning Red. Gotta say I was definitely bummed that her set didn’t include her Bond theme. She and her brother Finneas are a duo who I can’t wait to see reach the heights of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Overall, if you’re a score and soundtracks fan, you will find your niche at Coachella. And as more crossover begins to happen through music and immersive elements in pop culture, it’ll only grow. I fully found myself surprised at how much I was able to still identify with, at a place that seemed like I wouldn’t find my scene. Coachella really shares a lot with the same enthusiasm people have for standing all day to get into Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con (Eilish fans held their spots at the main stage all day in the same way Marvel and DC fans hold rows for hours before their panels), folks dress up at intricately as cosplayers do daily with intense commitment against the elements like sandstorms, and you have to prepare to be on foot for many days. The exhaustion is real, and it’s just the same. 10/10 would do it again.
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