The Coachella Valley is home to some of the biggest music festivals in the world—so newcomer 4xFAR had to bring its “A” game to Empire Grand Oasis on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18 and 19.
That mission was accomplished.
The first thing that greeted attendees was a big “4x” statue; stickers with every state printed on them were available to place on the statue. Moving past this and into the festival grounds, there were many attractions: One could sit in a brand-new Land Rover and do your own version of Carpool Karaoke; or you could have a video taken of yourself by a drone. There was even a little tent where you could get an insulated drink container with a personal engraving—but they ran out pretty quickly.
While “music” and “adventure” were the festival’s main selling points, the venue itself was also a highlight: The main stage and all of the adventure and activity tents surrounded a huge lake—that even had a waterfall. Much of my time at the festival was spent admiring the view. Empire Grand Oasis is a place that certainly lives up to its name.
But let’s get down to the music.
Mahalia, aka Mahalia Burkmar, brought some R&B and charm to the Saturday early-afternoon crowd. The sun was out, and it was a little hot, but that didn’t stop the 21-year-old—with help of her drum-and-bass-only backing band—as she fired through her set, gaining new fans along the way. “I’m a Brit, we talk a lot,” Burkmar repeated many times as she gave each song’s inception story and entertained the crowd with tales of love and loss. Go check out “I Wish I Missed My Ex.”
Tijuana Panthers were next up—bringing less talking, and more music. The Long Beach natives blasted through a 22-song setlist of bad-ass surf rock, backed by cool ocean visuals on the big screen. Guitarist Chad Wachtel expressed gratitude to the few of us waiting on the barricade for the show to start, yet as soon as the band started playing, only a few thank-yous were muttered. Each member of the Panthers shared vocal duties, with each having a different sound. Their stage presence and jumpy songs were just what the crowd needed as the weather began to cool down. Go check out “Creature.”
Kurt Vile and the Violators performed next as the sun went down. His Neil Young-style vocals and low stage energy were made up for by his guitar prowess and jamming ability. A few people were dancing, but most were relaxing, as Vile provided a chill performance of his hits. Check out “Pretty Pimpin.”
Kaytranada, aka Louis Celestin, got the night-crowd moving with a DJ set featuring many of the songs he produced over the last decade, as well as works from his two solo albums. He didn’t say much, and the stage was dark with minimal visuals, but Celestin provided a set filled with dance-able music leading up to the headliner. Check out “You’re the One.”
As for that headline: Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals closed Saturday night in a blaze of glory … literally. He brought pyrotechnics to 4xFAR to heat up the crowd. Everyone at the festival was enthralled by the performance—consider that .Paak’s first break in the music to address the audience consisted of loud cheering for a minute straight. The band played a hit-laden list set, and even paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller. The crowd demanded an encore, but a strict 9 p.m. curfew left many fans hungry for more. Check out “Come Down.”
Music duo Sofi Tukker was the first act I saw on Sunday, on the recommendation of photographer Guillermo Prieto. The stage was adorned with greenery as the two walked out in eye-catching attire. Their brand of EDM, combined with their stage presence, led to a rather fun performance—including a synchronized dance by the crowd, which seemed to baffle the duo. They invited a fan onstage, who happened to be a dance teacher, and he taught the whole crowd a dance number. Check out “Purple Hat.”
I found myself in one of the “hammock stations,” which were located around the festival grounds, for Young the Giant, and I’m beginning to think it was fate: The smooth indie-rock sounds were the perfect accompaniment to the nighttime air and the beautiful landscape. I could hear the crowd’s roar as the band played hit “Cough Syrup.”
A DJ set from Q-Tip and Mark Ronson closed out the weekend in an interesting way. Despite the seemingly unlikely pairing, they managed to play off each other very well. Q-Tip hyped up the crowd with some music from his rap roots, including songs from his very own A Tribe Called Quest, while Mark Ronson played some pop hits in which he had his bands, including songs by Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars. The set reached a peak when Mark Ronson put on “Uptown Funk” and Q-Tip passed out cups filled with liquor.
While the music was grand, an equally powerful draw was the adventure portion of the festival. 4xFAR was presented by Land Rover, and the one of the main attractions was being able to test-drive the new 2020 Land Rover Defender. While I couldn’t drive—I fall below the 21-year-old age limit—I was able to be a passenger. A multi-terrain driving course put the vehicle’s limits to the test, including dips, turns, rocks and drops.
Ax-throwing, a bicycle course and a horse-racing track were all part of the festival, and even a non-adventurous sort such as I was able to experience some thrills.
I’m excited to see what the future holds for 4xFAR—and I hope the weekend’s success pushes the limits for what other festivals offer.
Scroll down to see photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net.