An article about the artists' trailers, backstage:
Home sweet Coachella fest trailer
Rockers make themselves at home in special, themed digs
The Desert Sun
April 22, 2007
Behind the scenes at Coachella are scenes even the festival's international road warriors can't believe.
Backstage at the Empire Polo Club, where only guests with certain colored wristbands can gain admission, is a community of rock, hip-hop and electronica artists who hang out in trailers.
There's row after row of RV vehicles, like suburban tract homes complete with little lawns and white picket fences across a dirt road traversed by golf carts.
But, when the music artists enter their festival lodgings, they see scenes that make them feel at home and ready to party.
The eccentric emo vocalist, Morrissey, is a fan of Elvis Presley impersonator El Vez. So, when he performed at the first Coachella in 1999, he was given a trailer decorated with an amazing array of El Vez memorabilia.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers often document the underside of Los Angeles life, so they were given a trailer at the 2003 festival decorated with paintings by an enclave of street artists from a downtown L.A. neighborhood often called Skid Row.
Iggy Pop is one of the oldest artists to ever play Coachella, so he was given a trailer decorated like a room from his 1950s childhood at the 2003 festival.
"Every artist or every band has a trailer backstage that we bring in for them," said Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett of the L.A.-based Goldenvoice promoters. "We like to dress up the trailers inside with decorations that are related to what the band likes.
"We just like to do things so when an artist walks in they go, 'Oh wow, this festival knows us.'"
Two women have decorated the trailers annually since 1999.
Mary Anne Campagna, a graphic artist and former record company executive who managed the Pretenders, is responsible for decorating the trailers of the major Coachella acts.
She's created 153 paintings for the trailers, she said, and used students from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia to help with the decorations. Aaron Axelrod, for example, painted a mosaic android with headphones for Radiohead's trailer in 2004.
Donna Busch, the club talent buyer for Goldenvoice, said she and her crew do about 30 trailers a year for other artists - "just odds and ends" as opposed to the "whole vibe" Campagna creates for the stars.
She also gives Campagna insights into the stars' personalities so she can personalize the decor.
"They're bands we've worked with or have become friends with," said Busch. "You want them to go, 'Oh my God, this is so cute!' At most festivals, they just get a room. (At Coachella), they feel, 'Wow, no one's ever decorated for us.' Even just a couple touches help so much."
Campagna only has a budget of $3,000-$4,000 for the decorations and the work is intense.
She doesn't get the festival lineup until the public gets it in late January or February. Then she and Busch start researching.
"But I do think of ideas during the year," she said. "For example, I've been very into the look of a cassette and analog tape, so I took all my cassettes and scanned them and created an art work out of them. They look like buildings, but, if you look closely, they're cassettes. So, we have a band playing this year called Tapes 'n Tapes. I'm like, 'OK, there you go!' I did that last year, but I'm using it now.
"But sometimes you don't get the ideas until right before Coachella."
Tollett takes pride in providing unusual hospitality.
"I want it to be, if you're a musician and you remember Coachella, you had a good experience," he said. "I've seen some artists have to share a dressing room - like someone gets it for the first three hours of the day and someone gets it at night. We like to give (artists) a whole day so people can stay."
The performers must find their own accommodations if they're going to attend the whole festival. But many have such a good time hanging out on the day they have a trailer that they do stay all three days.
Campagna says the art helps inspire them to stay.
"The Chemical Brothers played a few years ago and I love them," she said. "I found this tacky big frog at Big Lots and I got it and painted it the brightest florescent yellow. It would hurt your eyes to look at it. Then I painted the back of the frog with the Chemical Brothers logo, which was this huge fist. So it was the funniest combination and they carried it around with them. And that's what creates the party vibe."
The crew has to redecorate the trailers each night, which can make for some long days. But Campagna considers it fun.
"Once the bands get there and they're all in their rooms, I have from 12 noon to midnight to watch bands," she said. "We try to watch all the bands we love. We know we have to wait until midnight for the bands to leave so we can re-do the rooms for the next person."
Busch says the hospitality creates a brand for Goldenvoice that makes artists want to play concerts for them.
But Campagna says Tollett truly loves art for art's sake.
"Goldenvoice is a name where, in the same sentence, there's respect for artists," she said. "We are people who love music and love art, so it's grown to become a part of what Coachella is all about.
"It's actually pretty incredible because no one really does it. It's really a special thing that Paul does."