FROM INDIO, CALIF. Since the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which wrapped yesterday after a three-day run at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, dependably reinvents itself every year, it's perhaps not a surprise that the brands that host piggybacking parties in the desert also change and evolve.
DKNY Jeans, which set up a multiday pool party at a luxury home last year, sat out this year's go round, as did Hugo Boss. “It's just hard to find the right house very close to the fields,” said Hugo Boss Fashions' New York-based vice president of marketing and PR, Katja Douedari, who oversaw Boss's event series in 2007. “Loved the Mod Resort last year, but it's a long drive. And if you can't do it right, then better not do it all.” (Nevertheless, Douedari made the trip out to the desert for some non-work-related fun.)
So what brands did have the strongest presence in 2008?
Boosted and The Fader magazine used the Mod Resort to present their “Desert Poppin' Pool Parties,” which kicked off Thursday to get a jump on other brands' events, which more typically got started on Friday along with the concerts. Fools Gold, DFA, and Turntable Lab artists performed, and Heineken and Belvedere sponsored. “We're trying to figure out the niche hipster guest and provide an atmosphere of luxury,” Boost Mobile PR specialist Erica Rose said. “And The Fader's demo is really aligned with the group we're trying to reach.”
L.A. venue the Green Door also joined the fray with low-key Friday-night and Saturday-day and -night gatherings poolside at the Colony Palms hotel (which had just missed officially opening in time for last year's festival).
T-Mobile Sidekick jumped on board, with a three-day hospitality suite for celebrities and V.I.P. guests at La Quinta Resort & Club. The brand also hosted a Saturday-night “Tone-Deaf” after-party following Prince's big performance at the concert venue; plenty of guests were still arriving at 2 a.m.—the time it took to walk to their cars and sit in traffic after the headliner's set ended around 1. DJs AM, Steve Aoki, and Danny Masterson manned the turntables at the event, which took over a private airplane hangar near the polo field. Keg beers were on tap, and guests could personalize their Sidekicks and other T-Mobile devices at an etching bar before facing off with friends at Ping-Pong tables or at PlayStation SingStar game stations. An outdoor lounge got a tiki-bar-like treatment, complete with umbrella straws, and a trio of private planes stood sentry. BNC handled the event's PR from Los Angeles.
T-Mobile differentiated its event from other brands' daytime pool parties by hosting it at night, as did Jeremy Scott and Adidas, who also partnered for a Saturday-night after-party, which began at 9 p.m. and promised on its invitation that it would go “until forever.”
“There is a really strict sound ordinance in the area, so most of the parties happen during the day, but then there’s nothing that’s going on after, so [in past years there have been] all these people amped up and ready to go somewhere and had no place to go. We got around the noise ordinances because we're inside the hangar and in the middle of nowhere on a huge plot of land,” said Sonja Durham of Bolthouse Productions/SBE, the T-Mobile event's design and production company. “We’ve worked with some local agencies, like the Indio police. [T-Mobile started] out this year, dipping their toe in the water.”
About 1,500 guests stopped by Anthem magazine's party at a 1920s home with a giant pool featuring a swim-up bar, waterfall, and diving board—plus piñatas galore as down-home decorations. Hit & Run screenprinted T-shirts on the spot, and a live donkey stood against a kitschy tropical backdrop as props for guests' photos. “We just keep it fresh and fun and mix in some secret ingredients. And most important, we understand our audience well—we are our market,” said Anthem publisher Andreas Herr, whose magazine has had a desert presence for years and who spent a considerable chunk of this year's festivities touring the party space with local police teams who were trying to keep the raucous event under control.
The mood at Anthem's party is more celebratory and carefree than at any other party in town: Picture naked men cannonballing off the diving board into a pool full of people riding inflatable toys amid empty Newcastle cans. “We try to create events that we will enjoy and know that other like-minded people will, too,” Herr said. “That way it’s organic and we’re not faking the funk. Coachella is a strong match for us in regard to demographics, but more important, it’s the psychographics that we like to align with. Coachella is the cool spot to be that weekend.”
Anthem worked with sponsors including Levi's, Le Sportsac (which last year partnered with now-closed Jane), Etnies, Wet n Wild, Newcastle, and Scion. “But will we be expanding [our sponsorship] each year? Actually, if we had it our way, we would work with less brands and go deeper to deliver stronger and more focused messaging with each,” Herr said. Evolutionary Media Group handled Anthem's publicity needs.
Also back for a second go was GQ, which hosted three days of events with the Gap at the Viceroy, including nighttime parties featuring Paul Sevigny and Rashida and daytime pool parties with DJ sets by Michelle Pesce, with Stoelt Productions handling production and Vanessa Fontanez overseeing the event series for the magazine. So why did the magazine brand come back to the desert? “Everything is happening at Coachella—trends start there. People go there, then they go home and influence their peers and their friends,” said Condé Nast associate director of publicity Darryl Brantley. “It has become an agent of change; that's why we get great sponsors at our events.”