After 16 years, Smokin Grooves Fest makes its long-awaited return & blazes a new trail in Long Beach

Smokin Grooves Fest 2018 - NxWorries


Anderson .Paak of NxWorries

Photos by Joseph Gray & Natalie Somekh // Written by Joseph Gray //

Smokin Grooves Fest //
The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA
June 16th, 2018 //

We are in the heart of festival season. This is a time of the year for music lovers that’s often synonymous with multiple days of unforgiving heat, dusty campgrounds and some young adults who are readily anxious for a mosh pit. The long food-truck lines and heart-shaped sunglasses, polka dots, ripped denim and tie-dyed garments that have become staples at a large majority of music festivals — particularly during the summer months — were present, but Smokin Grooves Fest offered a welcome alternative. And based on its history, Southern California concert promoter Goldenvoice wouldn’t have had it any other way.

For one day only, a sold-out crew enjoyed moderate temperatures at the overcast waterfront adjacent to the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach for Smokin Grooves’ long-awaited return. The event, which last took place 16 years ago, pushed hip-hop, R&B and soul to the forefront of popular music at the time by booking The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill and a whole lot more when Lollapalooza and other rock-focused festivals weren’t showing them the same kind of love.

The crowd, relaxed with a peaceful aura but also energized, mirrored much of the lineup, which showcased veterans such as Erykah Badu, The Roots and Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) among buzzing newcomers like H.E.R., Smino, THEY. and Arin Ray across the 38-act bill.

I fall somewhere in the middle between those two age groups, so it was fitting that the uber-talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson .Paak had just walked onto the “Free Your Mind” main stage when I showed up. .Paak, 32, wore a smile as expressive as his music, packaged with a bright nautical-themed ensemble. He effortlessly impressed with standouts “Suede”, “Another Time” and “What More Can I Say” off Yes Lawd!, his 2016 LP with Los Angeles hip-hop producer Knxwledge as part of their collaborative project NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”). The duo’s set would eventually culminate in a playful dance-off between women, which fans showed their appreciation for before .Paak and Knxwledge said their goodbyes.

Many attendees went back and forth from the main stage to the two other aptly named stages — “Smokin'” and “Groovin'” — via an elevated overpass, where we overheard several praising the Brooklyn troop Phony Ppl for their soulfully funky grooves.

Smokin Grooves Fest 2018 - Miguel


Miguel

However, anticipation for The Roots kept me at the main stage. It proved to be a wise decision, as their nearly hour-long performance reminded me why the Grammy-winning band is still so revered after more than three decades. Black Thought got the crowd riled up with a 10-minute barrage of lyrical proficiency that so many have come to know as his “Hot 97 Freestyle” after it hit the internet in December and quickly went viral, while his bandmates exuberantly jumped with sousaphones and guitars during “You Got Me” and a number of other hits. But providing a jolt like he only can, the one and only Busta Rhymes showed up for a quick-but-memorable performance of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”.

The concert, nevertheless, was not without its faults, as some complained about the sound quality during various times, but neglecting hometown artists certainly wasn’t one of them.

Not long after the buzz around Thundercat’s bass-guitar skills subsided, fellow LA-area acts Jhené Aiko and Miguel were greeted with admiration. Aiko, for one, entertained fans behind flowers, acoustics and enchanting vocals with occasional curse words. Miguel, who proudly reminded us that he was from nearby San Pedro and Inglewood, kept the momentum, along with his fringed microphone stand, moving by performing several crowd-pleasers like “How Many Drinks?”, “Sure Thing” and “Come Through and Chill”, among others.

The event’s headliner was Erykah Badu, who performed during the tour’s second edition in 1997 and looked like she hasn’t missed a beat since. Playing a drum machine between songs while weaving some classic hip-hop instrumentals — one of which was Mobb Deep’s “Shook (Part II)” — into her set, the neo-soul queen dazzled with her seductive, incredible voice and responsive wit for an hour-long class on “How to Deliver a Full-on Show.”

Several journalists and photographers, myself included, mentioned at various times the need to leave early to avoid the traffic on the way. But Badu and others made liars out of us, and we couldn’t have been happier in the end.

Coachella drops 2018 set times & map changes

Coachella 2018

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 13th-15th & April 20th-22nd, 2018 //

Breathe easy, Coachellans. All of your scheduling conflicts have finally arrived.

The three-day, two-weekend music and arts festival has delivered this year’s set times just after 7 p.m. PT (7:02 p.m. to be exact), precisely one hour later than it did in 2017.

Part of going to Coachella is having to make some tough decisions when it comes to choosing which artists to see, and veterans like ourselves have become quite used to experiencing this #FirstWorldProblem over the years.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, you can start mapping out your 2018 schedule if you’re headed to the Empire Polo Club this weekend.

So, what’s your biggest conflict on this year’s schedule and who are you most excited to see?

WEEKEND 1 SET TIMES

Coachella 2018 - Friday set times

Coachella 2018 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2018 - Sunday set times

WEEKEND 2 SET TIMES

Coachella 2018 - Friday set times

Coachella 2018 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2018 - Sunday set times

Over the last several years, it has become more common to see the folks at Goldenvoice make some slight tweaks to Coachella’s Weekend 2 set times after the first weekend ends (the most notable might have been in 2015 when Florence Welch broke her foot during her performance Sunday on the main stage), and the same has proven to be the case in 2018, starting on Day 1 with Benjamin Clementine’s set being moved from the Gobi Tent to the Coachella Stage. Rick G., meanwhile, has been moved into Clementine’s 1:30 p.m. slot in the Gobi Tent, with DMM no longer preceding it at 12:30 p.m.

Some other noteworthy changes for Friday are Fisher, who didn’t perform during Weekend 1 but will replace B.Traits in the Yuma Tent, and Late Night Laggers, who were the first act to perform in the Sahara Tent on Day 1 but won’t be back for Weekend 2. Absent from Friday’s Mojave Tent lineup is Smiles Davis, which consequently has pushed Francesa Harding’s set back to 12:25 p.m., and Chulita Vinyl Club has replaced Jim Smith.

On Saturday, hip-hop producer Ahwlee will fill in for Salami Rose and Joe Lewis in the Mojave Tent, while Ron Gallo has been moved from the Gobi Tent, which lost Birdtastique and added Loboman, to the Sonora Stage, where Bane’s World, Otoboke Beaver and Mild High Club have all moved back one hour and five minutes to make up for the loss of R.O.C. Furthermore, Feel Good Green has replaced Palm Desert DJ Alf Alpha at the Outdoor Theatre, and Mexico City’s N.A.A.F.I. has been added to the Sahara Tent lineup in place of Jimbo Jenkins. The Coachella Stage also now has an eighth performer, with Gabe Real + Juicewon kicking things off at 1:25 p.m. on Day 2.

The third and final day of the festival’s second weekend sees the removal of Gabe Real from the Coachella Stage, leaving LION BABE as its first act to perform, while Los Angeles-based producer nostradahm will fill in for Juice won at the Outdoor Theatre. In the meantime, the Gobi, Mojave and Sahara Tents will each have new openers on Sunday: mr. rotu (replacing Phantom Thrett), VNSSA (replacing Pax) and EMME (replacing CVSS), respectively. And we couldn’t not mention that Jessie Ware’s set at the Outdoor Theatre has been moved back 15 minutes (as well as MAGIC GIANT’s by 10 to 2:25 p.m.), meaning that Weekend 2 attendees will have to settle for only 35 minutes from the UK singer-songwriter rather than 50.

Coachella 2018 - Weekend 2 set time updates

UPDATE (April 20th): Weekend 2 changes! Goldenvoice has announced some more tweaks to the schedule, with Jessie Ware moving from the Outdoor Theatre at 5:55 p.m. on Sunday to the Coachella Stage at 2:50 p.m. on Saturday (we have to think it has something to do with Cardi B performing around the same time after she drew one of the biggest crowds during Weekend 1). The other alterations are related to Sunday’s set times in the Sahara Tent, as Illenium (now at 6:35 p.m.) and French Montana (now at 8:05 p.m.) have switched places. Petit Biscuit will still precede both at 5:10 p.m., while chart-topping hip-hop trio Migos are expected to hit the stage at 9:30 p.m., although we’ll see if they’re a little more punctual this time compared to the first weekend of the festival, technical difficulties and all. Of course, we recommend downloading the Coachella app on your mobile device to receive the latest updates if you’re out in Indio for the festivities.

MAP

Several hours before revealing its Weekend 1 set times, the festival unveiled this year’s map, and it looks quite a bit different in comparison to some of Coachella’s past editions.

Last year, Coachella made some notable changes to its map, with the Mojave and Gobi Tents switching places and the addition of a third VIP section named “Hacienda Del Toro” that sat in between the Gobi and Sahara Tents. Goldenvoice even offered an updated location for the GA beer garden on that side of the polo field, which was supposed to improve the traffic flow behind the Sahara Tent, though we’re not sure it totally worked to be honest.

Now, the Mojave Tent has been moved far away from the Gobi Tent and into the same area that the Sahara Tent once occupied (next to the VIP Rose Garden). In its place will be the Sonora Stage, which Coachella introduced last year, with the third VIP section (no longer named “Hacienda Del Toro”) directly behind it rather than off to the side. The Gobi Tent, meanwhile, has moved back to its old confines closer to the Outdoor Theatre, where the Mojave Tent was located just a year ago.

Coachella - 2018 map

Another brand-new addition for Goldenvoice’s signature event is the Indio Central Market, a covered food hall that will feature 15 different restaurants and be situated behind the Sonora Stage. Inside will not only be New York City burger chain Shake Shack for the very first time, but also street food stand Cena, Moby’s vegan restaurant Little Pine and David Chang’s fried chicken sandwich shop Fuku. So, make sure to come hungry if you’re going to Coachella this year — we know we will.

But the biggest modification to the fest’s layout has to be the Sahara Tent’s new home after seeing the massive stage outgrow its longstanding location over the last decade. Positioned next to the main entrance, it will sit just in front of the Cantina and Beer Barn with the iconic ferris wheel and The Do LaB Stage nearby. And from what we can decipher by looking at the map, it appears that the Sahara Tent will be not as long as it used to be, but instead wider, a structural adjustment that was likely made to fit the space within the grounds.

We’ll make sure to give our two cents about these changes and much more when we return from the desert to share our favorite moments from this year’s installment, but as we often like to say around this time … Happy Coachella!

Coachella wastes no time, revealing 2018 lineup headlined by The Weeknd, Beyoncé & Eminem

Coachella - 2018 lineup

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 13th-15th & April 20th-22nd, 2018 //

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just one day into the New Year, and Coachella has already revealed its 2018 lineup, signaling to music fans worldwide that festival season isn’t far off.

After it was reported almost two weeks ago that this year’s headliners would be The Weeknd, Beyoncé and Eminem, that indeed will be the scenario, marking the first time in all 19 years that the three-day, two-weekend event won’t have a rock act topping its bill (a real sign of the times as some might say). Coachella’s 2018 edition will also serve as Beyoncé’s official debut after being forced to cancel last year due to pregnancy, as well as Eminem’s (the only time he has appeared was as a guest back in 2012 during Snoop Dogg’s and Dr. Dre’s headlining set). The Weeknd will be back on the polo fields for the first time since 2015, when the R&B singer closed the main stage on Saturday night as a sub-headliner after Jack White’s headlining slot.

Other notable names listed on the festival’s famed poster this year include HAIM, ODESZA, Kygo, Jamiroquai, Portugal. The Man, David Byrne, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs, alt-J, A Perfect Circle, Fleet Foxes, Chromeo, MØ, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Kamasi Washington and Jungle. The undercard, meanwhile, does feature some buzzworthy indie-rock acts such as Perfume Genius, BØRNS and King Krule, but as was the case in 2017, there continues to be more of a focus on hip-hop and R&B, as evidenced by this year’s headliner selections along with the second-line poster placement of SZA, Tyler, the Creator, Migos, Vince Staples, Post Malone, Cardi B and Miguel.

Coachella’s first weekend is scheduled for April 13th-15th, with its second weekend slated for April 20th-22nd. All tickets will go on sale for both weekends this Friday, January 5th at Noon PT here.

Got your sights set on the California desert this April? Relive our five favorite moments, from Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar, after last year’s festival.

Coachella 2017