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Coachella 2006

Yeah Yeah YeahsI was somewhere around Indio, in the apex of the desert, when Tommy Lee kicked in. As I walked through the manicured grass, happily eating corn on the cob, the thin and dust-caked Motley Crue drummer ran up to me, weaving his arms and torso in a spastic model of the Axl Rose snake dance. I continued gnawing on the corn, and flicked my eyes upward in annoyance. He chuckled and regrouped with his bleached-blonde entourage to continue down the field, toward the throbbing bass of Daft Punk.

Even without the icky hair-metal run-ins, this year’s Coachella Festival still would have been the strangest one yet. The cultural oasis of the Colorado Desert (held May 29-30) featured a predictably strong lineup of eclectic indie artists but, pivotally, an additional interest in capturing the mainstream crowd. From Kanye West’s shining ego on Saturday to Madonna’s short-and-skanky dance tent appearance Sunday, the indie snob’s once-safe haven was taken over by squealing strangers – and two sold-out days later, it’s hard to tell whether Coachella will continue down the beaten pop path.

Whatever. For the most part, Coachella still retained its joyous communal atmosphere, a kaleidoscopic place where alternative art reigns and nobody knows your name. (And there are celebrities under every rock.) For me, it was The End: the final fling before graduation, the last irresponsible trip with my best friends. But it was also the beginning, as I discovered thanks to some artists, some new opportunities, and a chance meeting with my very own Yoda, though taller and with some ketchup in his beard.

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