Me and my camera at Coachella, my U.S festival, my Despacio in the desert
one devoted fan was so enraptured she made her own despacio badges and handed them out on the final day.
I just got back from Despacio at Coachella Pt 1 . I am still reeling. Before this one there have only been 7 other Despacios – Manchester Int Festival, Hammersmith Town Hall, The Roundhouse x 2, Glastonbury, Sonar, Electric Picnic and now Coachella. It is going to be rolling out again this weekend for Part 2 of the festival and I am already gutted I am not going to be there. Out of the ones listed above I have been to them all bar one (Electric Picnic) and despite personally clocking up over a hundred hours on the Despacio dance floor (maybe more than anyone else on the planet) there is no drop off. Its impact has not diminished on me. I still cannot get enough. My love has not faded, it js still continuing to grow. I am basically now addicted to this ultimate dance experience and everything it delivers. When I am on the floor there is nowhere else I want to be. When I am somewhere else all I want to do is be back on the floor. Not only is it as good as it has ever been but it is actually getting better.
This was the first time it had come to America and for the young Californian crowd at Coachella, the largely mp3 generation who have been raised in a world of compressed music were literally jaw-dropped walking into the Despacio tent. It is impossible not to be. Despacio is there to show you how it can be, how it should be. It makes you feel that you are being hugged & caressed by the music rather than being repeatedly hit over the head. I watched their faces light up. It was clear from their reaction they had not even come close to hearing music sound this good before. And how could they? There is nothing on earth quite like it. Most stumbled upon it by accident which made its discovery all the more incredible for those that found it.
It was tucked away in a corner of the festival with no great signage so it was often only the adventurous & the inquisitive that were rewarded. I was standing next to this guy beaming from ear to ear at the end of day 2 and he turned to me and simply said “tell no-one!” It was so good he didn’t even want to share it with the hoards on site. But as everyone started to talk about it, it quickly became known as the best kept secret of the festival. By the Sunday, I am in the queue going through security to get into the festival (which is a little on the extreme side to understate it severely) and the people behind and in front of me were talking about Despacio so I knew the word was out.
The gloriousness & uniqueness of Despacio is that you don’t really care who else is there. It is joyful to look up as you are dancing your socks off and see the same level of exhilaration in the eyes of those you are surrounded by & you intrinsically know you feel identical without even exchanging a single word but even if you were there on your own it would still be off the chart incredible. You are at one with the music being played, you get lost in the groove, in your own moves & come to the zen like realisation, everything about it is better than you have ever witnessed. The sound, the lights, the music, the crowd, the vibe, you…everything is superior by comparison to what you have already been to. This is as good as it gets.
What Despacio makes you want to do more than anything is bust some serious moves. You are not just dancing. You are rocking out with everything you’ve got. Maybe because the sound is so much fuller, cleaner, stronger, more complete you feel it better, better than you ever have felt it before and as a result you are a better dancer than you ever have been before. You pull off moves with confidence. You bullseye the beat. You surf the rhythm. You tiptoe along the tempo. You’re John Travolta, Jacko & Gene Kelly all rolled into one. But you look up and everyone else is doing the same. And you are dancing together in circles. Strangers together busting full on moves and loving each other for it. When does that ever happen?
A lot of the people coming into it at Coachella might have only previously known the dancing experience that is the EDM face the front in rows dj worship bullshit but Despacio shows there is another way. A better way. It shows you can dance with each other and connect completely. How can you do that when you are always staring at someone’s back? It shows you that crescendo is nothing without the build up. You are taken on a journey, an undulating wave that guides you, lifts you and then lays you gently down before scooping you up again and firing you off into the stratosphere. Despacio is the dance antidote to the techno foot shuffle. You cannot just foot tap & head nod your way through it, it has control of your limbs, it will do what it wishes with you.
I keep using ‘it’ as if it is the machine doing all this and maybe that is because you are surrounded by these 7 speaker stacks and that is all you can see. But it is the ‘they’ behind the ‘it’ that are making you feel this way. Tucked away from sight are the 3 people driving this overwhelmingly positive feeling: James Murphy (LCD) and Stephen and David Dewaele (2manydjs). They are the creators and curators of this perfect analogue experience. They dj together for over 7 hours each day and every choice they make feels like the right one. It is a seamless stream of killer tune after killer tune. Some tracks you know, songs that you love inside out but which sound better than you have ever and will ever hear them and then there is so much you haven’t heard before but which you love instantly. Epic tracks that land for the first time. It is mind-blowing how good the sets are. Although there are now tunes which are full on Despacio moments that you long for and which detonate like joy grenades (Jungle Boogie, fly like an eagle, plastic dreams to name but a few) at least 50% is always new. Obscure moments of magnificence delivered one piece of vinyl at at time by the expert hands of the djs who you cannot see but who you feel at all times.
One of the greatest thing about Despacio and possibly the reason why it is not getting boring is that it is always different. It always somehow manages to morph into something else depending on where it is and who is inside it. The largely L.A crowd at Coachella turned it into a full on house party, the best house party in the world..ok, its not in a house, its in a tent but that was the vibe so sue me. They were also the first crowd to ever do a conga in despacio and also the first to have a limbo competition. It makes me people be silly. This is a good thing. If you wanna look cool go elsewhere. This is for anyone who don’t give a shit.
Not everyone that comes through the doors gets it. For some it is too far from familiar, too different to what they know, they don’t have a point of reference and for some that is too much. But I feel, rather than them choosing, it is Despacio who decides who goes and who stays. The machine filters out those who won’t be able to lose themselves in it and keeps the ones who will. It has its own natural selection process and keeps the ones who connect with it will give their all to it. And they stay for the duration. And then they come back the next day. By day 3 I know a good chunk of the people on the floor and we are start to interact and become friends and dance together. We know we feel the same. We see it in each other’s eyes.
I have made friends on the floor at every Despacio. And at each new one I always run into people from previous events. A guy came up to me at one point who I met at Sonar and we hug like 0ld mates. By day 3 I am hugging people I met on day 1. We are all now together as one.
In some ways it is a little bit pointless talking about Despacio unless you have experienced it first hand. If you were there at the weekend you will know what I am talking about. You have probably been banging on about it to everyone ever since just like me. It is very easy to become a Despacio bore because you want people to know how spectacular it is but until you actually go you will never really know what we are talking about. If you are at Coachella this weekend do whatever you can to get there and drag everyone you know to it, they will definitely not be disappointed. The only downside is that it will make everything seem shit by comparison. You have been warned.
To read my review of the very first Despacio please click here
To see film from lovebox please click here
Despacio will next be appearing at the Panorama festival in New York July 22-24 – do whatever it takes to get there…I will be.