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Coachella, Hyundai and Music, Churros, Mayhem

Hyundai at One of the Biggest Music Fests in the World? We Went to Investigate.

By Matthew Askari | Photos By Matthew Askari | October 01, 2012

Anticipation

We rolled in to the desert sometime after 9 p.m. amid a downpour. Our hotel was in Palm Springs, approximately 20 miles away from Coachella, where 90,000 bodies were huddled, freezing, enduring the elements in the name of the experience. After all, this is the biggest music festival on the planet. Coachella packs in more bands in one day than most festivals have in successive years; and there are three days; and this was just the first of two weekends. If we hurry and change into warm clothes we can still make it, maybe. A day's work in the office and a traffic-laden four-hour drive from Los Angeles hadn't done us favors, but adrenaline can do wonders...when you're 20. When you're 30 you might opt for a bottle of Scotch, a seventeen-dollar drive-thru bill, and ordering Crazy, Stupid, Love, in-room, warm and dry.
And that's what we did. I wanted to see if anything was going on in our hotel. Make friends with the natives, desert people. Not too much going, it seemed. Out by the pool there was a small ruckus. A handful of eleven year-olds were situated in the Jacuzzi sucking on beers. Cold beer hits the spot in a steaming Jacuzzi. I didn't think that was legal, I thought to sit in a Jacuzzi unattended you had to be sixteen or something. The rain was softer now, and maybe they were talking about that, or maybe the conversation centered around the inevitable changes puberty would bring. The Black Keys were on the main stage at the moment. So long, The Black Keys. So long M83 that would soon set up shop in the Mojave tent, next to Hyundai, but more on that in a minute. Swedish House Mafia? Next time. Day one was in the books. Us 0:The Elements 1

Expectation

Two years ago I had attended my first Coachella. The experience was dreamlike, as if you were given a "get out of jail free" card. It's true freedom, if only for a weekend. The burdens of a life ordinary are shaken, and liberally stirred. Everyone dresses as if they were going to the beach, but there's no pool or ocean. In fact, you're in a barren desert. The only things caging you in are the copious beer tents and bars. Here the food isn't the macrobiotic, locally sourced, sustainable, organic fodder of the city, but rather an embarrassment of riches from your fourth-grade birthday party. It's pizza stands and chicken fingers and fries; it's lunchtime from a simpler time. Difficult choices include "do we want to see Bon Iver or David Guetta?" Shouldwe get another beer or try and get to Radiohead early? These are the issues, the solutions are win-win.
But why on earth is Hyundai here? Covering the auto industry, I've been fortunate to test drive a lot of very excellent cars, and many among those were from this Korean automaker that seems to be taking America by storm. Sometimes huddled with journalists on press trips, we talk about the industry (the horror!). There's always some astonishment at how Hyundai can pull it off: highly stylized cars that offer more content and efficiency than competitors, and usually for a lot less cash. More recently Hyundai has been making a pronounced effort to align itself with music. It's an official sponsor of the Grammys, and produced Re:Generation, a documentary featuring Skrillex, Mark Ronson and other big-name DJs, and screens nightly during Coachella. For the festival Hyundai is set up between the Mojave and "Mayhem" tents. We nicknamed the Sahara tent "Mayhem," because as my friend said, "it looks like the end of the world is starting in that tent. That thing could be burning down and no one would leave." Hyundai outfitted its own tent with a custom matte black 2012 Hyundai Veloster, where DJs spin beats out of the trunk. Wireless is notoriously bad at Coachella, so the automaker has equipped the space with iPads to check email and go online. But Hyundai's presence here is about more than setting up a plush tent to chill out in. It's more than screening Re:Generation, or even showing off its new good-looker, the Veloster. I realized there was something much more significant at play. But this was before the churros. For those unfamiliar with a churro, it's like a Mexican donut. Shaped in a long stick, they're crispy on the outside and warm and doughy on the inside. The contrast of textures, coated with an abundance of sugar and nuanced cinnamon notes, make for an irresistible temptation at fairs and festivals. While much of the media will be talking about Rihanna and Katy Perry dancing in the Sahara tent during Calvin Harris, or an eerie Tupac 3D hologram that made an appearance during Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre's closing performance (if memory serves this was before the surprise 50 Cent and Eminem appearances), it's the churros I was most partial to. I'd like to thank my friend's never-satiated juvenile sweet-tooth, the churro vendors, and the artists that made Coachella possible, enticing skilled churro-vendors to participate. But back to Hyundai, and the Veloster on display. I think it was sitting on the grass amongst a bikini-clad, face-painted, and costumed mob a good half-mile away from Florence and the Machine, that it clicked. Looking around, there was an urge to focus -- on the still warm air or open desert sky or the collective "we." The 90,000 of us in various states of mind but all sharing something -- a feeling, an inexplicable vibe, a potent combination of endorphins -- and that's why we're here. It's not for any one band; it'd be far cheaper to just go to a concert, or three of them for that matter. But it is this feeling, and it's not quantifiable. Hyundai has reserved a slice, an immeasurable morsel, a secret association in our minds by just being here. For the people at Coachella, this was the closest thing on the planet to utopia, and there was only one automaker here, one that gets it. As a wise man told me my first week at Automotive.com, "cars are emotional." It's about that emotional connection. In some tangible way, that makes more sense to me at this moment, in this very second.

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