Coachella 2011 – Anne Litt’s Photographed Impressions – photos by Jonathan Skow

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This year was the 12th installment of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and remarkably the first one I’ve ever attended. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure why, other than the fact that I hold down the fort at KCRW on the weekends and Coachella weekend is always a really fun one to be on the air since we entertain a lot of people coming to and from the desert.

When I found out I was going this year, I was full of anticipation about the music. When I got there, however, I was completely mesmerized by so much more. The faces, the fashion, the sunglasses, the floppy hats, the handlebar mustaches, the tattoos, the tutu’s, the swim suits, the dancing, the lights, the love.

This year, my inaugural year, I went with good friends, photographer Jonathan Skow and his wife, fashion designer Trina Turk. The three of us were a team of seekers on mission of music, photography, design and fashion. The pictures you see here are Jonathan’s handiwork for the most part, while Trina was our fashion trendspotter in chief. I sherpa’ed everyone through the music and we took in as much as humanly possible.

Over the course of the three days I/we saw 35+ bands, a fraction of the artists performing and we didn’t photograph everyone who played, but we did see and hear some great music. These are our impressions:

The musical highlights were many: the passion & cinema of Elbow, the elation of Trentemoller, the unexpected beauty of Sleigh Bells, the majesty of PJ Harvey, the power of Kanye West… The Black Keys astonishingly filled the Coachella Stage with sound and the crowd was right there with them and their disco ball. Nas & Damian Marley were the perfect late afternoon laid back music with a message. The Aqua Bats asked the crowd for “jazz hands” at which point, several thousand in the Mojave Tent busted them out. Wish I had a picture of that.

Much respect to Ozomatli. They were the first band I saw upon arriving and although it was 100+ degrees, they brought it with unbridled energy and love in polyester suits! I so wish they had been a night time band – those guys are first rate entertainers in the best way. The precision of Lauryn Hill’s set, especially after Cee-Lo had screwed up his sound check/set and been cut off, was admirable. She simply brought it with an excellent stage show.

Tame Impala, all the way from Perth, Australia, were another highlight. Their psychedelic, druggy sounds were perfect as the sun was going down. The Morning Benders all had matching Justin Bieber haircuts! Their fans were the same age as Justin Bieber and so are they, so it worked beautifully. Loved them.

Cage the Elephant channel Nirvana and the Pixies and it works. I loved Matt’s red dress – very Kurt Cobain. Mary Anne Hobbs. What can I say, I want to be her when I grow up. Empire of the Sun was a delicious surprise and Animal Collective’s visuals were mind blowing. Broken Social Scene’s new songs sounded brilliant live. Finally, Arcade Fire brought the fire in both the visuals and the music. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the giant colored “balls” that fell on the crowd. We were so blissed out by that point that we had stopped taking pictures so, yeah, we missed some of the big acts but what we captured is just a snapshot of the festival through our eyes.