It’s become a fantastic tradition for local bands to perform at Coachella, and this year, three local groups got their moment in the spotlight—or, rather, moments in the Gobi Tent.
Kayves, a Tachevah finalist, played on Friday. The Yip Yops, which played a set to a packed house at The Hood Bar and Pizza with the Flusters in between the two Coachella weekends, performed on Saturday. And Ocho Ojos, a psychedelic cumbia band hailing from the East Valley, played on Sunday.
There are numerous benefits for a local band to play at Coachella. Some members of the local bands who have played Coachella in the past have told me about the ability to engage with the bigger names and get advice, or be put in touch with producers or people who they should work with. The exposure alone can help newer bands.
To some Kayves members, this year actually marked a return to Coachella. Nick Hernandez (vocals, guitar) is the former front man of CIVX, a 2014 selection, while Danny Gonzalez (guitar) played at the festival in 2015 with Alchemy. After their Weekend 2 performance on Friday, Hernandez, guitarist Oscar Rico and drummer Adrian Romero stopped by the press tent.
“It still felt like the first time,” Hernandez said about Kayves’ 2017 Coachella shows. “It’s a big stage, and we’re used to playing smaller venues. The thing that was better this time around is that we got to play it twice. … When we played the whole set live (on Weekend 1), we knew about the adjustments we were going to do for the second weekend. That’s why the second weekend was better.”‘
Unlike CIVX in 2014, Kayves has songs on some streaming services—and the band definitely saw a Coachella bump.
“We got 100 more followers in a day or two,” Romero said.
Still, Kayves only has self-recorded material out—something Rico said the band plans to change soon.
“We’re going to go back into the studio and do everything properly and go from there,” he said.
Given Kayves includes members from both the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, the Coachella gigs meant some early mornings for the band.
“It’s really hard for us to get together, Romero said. “Today, we had to practice at 5 in the morning, because we came from Los Angeles, and it’s been a long day.”‘
For the Yip Yops, a Coachella appearance seemed long overdue. After the band’s Saturday performance in the Gobi Tent, the members said they felt as if they weren’t a “young band playing Coachella” or the “local band playing Coachella,” but simply a band playing Coachella.
“We don’t feel this is the last time we’ll be playing Coachella,” keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield said.
Yip Yops front man Ison Van Winkle said playing at Coachella has always been a goal for the band.
“Especially living here, it makes it that much more substantial,” he said. “But it’s not a peak, and it’s not the end. We’re not just going to break up after this.
Bassist Jacob Gutierrez told me the Coachella appearances have given the band chances to network behind the scenes. In fact, during Weekend 1, Van Winkle’s father, Tony, sent me a text message saying the band was hobnobbing with musicians such as the members of Local Natives and Father John Misty.
“We had a lot of things in the works, but this really helps to solidify us as musicians, and it gives us a platform to reach out to as many people as possible,” Gutierrez said. “It’s going to open a lot of doors for us.”
“During these two weekends, we’re not just partying it up,” Brossfield said. “We’re taking ourselves seriously, and we’re on the job. This is a huge platform to use to launch yourself with.”
Ocho Ojos is a new band—one that had not yet really made my radar screen before Coachella. On Sunday, when they stopped by the press tent, guitarist Cesar Flores and keyboardist Danny Torres told me the history of their band.
“We’ve been around since October 2016,” Flores said. “We formed when I was asked to play this cumbia dance party. One of my friends was organizing the event and asked me if I could play. I agreed, and at that time through social media—I wanted to have a jam at my house—I asked if anyone was willing to jam, and Danny hit me up. He was very good at communicating, so we clicked right away. It was easy to get together and write music.”
Torres said he and Flores didn’t set out to start a band right away.
“We have good chemistry,” Torres said. “It very natural, and it wasn’t like we set out to start a band. We continued to play together and liked what was coming out.”
They didn’t think that a Coachella appearance would happen so soon.
“We envisioned it at one point,” Flores said. “We thought that maybe it would happen if we wrote and really worked hard. We knew that Coachella has had local bands for opening slots, and we didn’t think it would happen this quickly. We were excited and super happy.”
The style of music Ocho Ojos plays is not heard a lot in the valley. Torres said they feel that’s a good thing—because it helps them stand out.
“Our style, psychedelic cumbia, it is really what set us apart from the beginning,” he said. “As soon as we came into the music scene, playing backyard shows and venues here in the valley—and our scene is mostly rock and punk bands—I guess we’re very different in comparison.
Thanks to Coachella, people in the rest of the Coachella Valley music world—and beyond—now know about Ocho Ojos.
“It definitely put us on a platform and got us a whole lot more exposure,” Flores said. “We’re going to get more serious and publish some of our music, so we can solidify the sound we have. We’re definitely going to work on new material as well.”