Kanye West said it was the best night of his life — and in the delirium that is Coachella, some of the tens of thousands of fans on the final night of this year's festival might even have believed him.
The outspoken hip-hop mastermind made a typically extravagant entrance as the final headliner on the festival's main stage, being lowered on a giant crane to the stage, where he joined a slew of dancers who were already cavorting in front of his imposing backdrop of faux carved marble.
The spectacle, which capped a weekend of a couple hundred bands and a couple hundred thousand fans at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, was "pointless, pompous, kind of perfect," wrote Keith Plocek in the L.A. Weekly.
It was also quintessential Coachella, where a festival that began with indie rock has long since made high-profile detours into classic rock, hip-hop and everything else that might attract hipsters and, yes, sponsors, to the desert town a couple hours east of Los Angeles.
Things were by all accounts slicker than ever this year, which led to entirely predictable grumbling on the part of longtime Coachella-goers who didn't like the more visible corporate presence, the higher prices for concessions and the security-minded system of wristbands replacing the more-easily-scalped (and counterfeited) tickets from years past.
But that hardly kept the capacity crowds away, or prevented the VIP areas from filling up with starlets and Hiltons and the occasional head-scratcher.
Speaking of which: Move over, Danny DeVito, because on Sunday Coachella got a new surprising celebrity visitor, and it was a bigger name (and less likely festivalgoer) than you.
Clint Eastwood, a big jazz fan and occasional musician, dropped by Coachella in the afternoon and was spotted hanging out on and around the main stage during a stretch that included the Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa, a collaboraton between rapper Nas and reggae artist Damian Marley, and the Canadian dance-punk outfit Death From Above 1979.
You have to wonder if Clint might not have felt more at home the previous afternoon, when the Funny Or Die website brought actor Jeff Goldblum's band to the Coachella campground to perform a 90-minute set of jazz standards. (The site filmed it.)
Other acts performing inside the grounds included The Strokes, Duran Duran (with an assist from one of Saturday's acts, the Scissor Sisters), She Wants Revenge, PJ Harvey ("the most emotionally intense performance I witnessed at this year's Coachella," wrote David Marchese of Spin), Neon Trees, the National, Jimmy Eat World, Best Coast (with Bethany Cosentino, left) and Fistful of Mercy, which included Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and George Harrison's son Dhani Harrison.
And while Prince didn't show up, he did know where to find a captive audience: he or someone close to him hired an airplane to fly overhead with a blazing messageboard hyping his upcoming Los Angeles shows.
Afterwards, a few observers chimed in with lessons learned. The Los Angeles Times' August Brown and Margaret Wappler found the focus squarely on artists who "came of age in the aughts," said the fest had "a distinctly more relaxed energy," and concluded, "[T]aken with this year's new emphasis on keeping out gate crashers, easing transportation in and out of the grounds, and keeping those inside entranced with stages and light sculptures, the weekend felt like it was competing for the long-term loyalties of a generation that considers endless sensory stimulation a necessity."
Caryn Ganz at the Amplifier blog called the festival "reliably awesome," and picked six videos from Coachella's YouTube channel to give you the experience at home: Kanye ("biggest bang"), Arcade Fire ("biggest triumph"), Cee Lo Green ("biggest loser"), Goldblum ("biggest wha?") and DFA 1979 ("biggest holy crap").
"Coachella should still really be about music discovery," added Lyndsey Parker at the Maximum Performance blog, who found just such a discovery in a Danish electronic artist: "and Trentemoller was probably the biggest such revelation of the entire weekend."
And Keith Plocek at the L.A. Weekly kept it simple: "We came, we saw, we sweated off four pounds of water."
Getty Image photos by Kevin Winter (Kanye West, Clint Eastwood) and Frazer Harrison (Bethany Cosentino, Coachella audience).