Street artist Mr. Brainwash is drinking a cocktail in the lobby, his Ray-Bans covered in spray paint. He’s talking about going to Coachella later in the day, some 30 minutes away from the Hard Rock Music Lounge at the Hotel Zoso (and future site of the 160-room Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, opening this fall) where we are currently standing.
It’s Day One, Week One of the festival. To his left is Lulu the camel, dressed in trademark hot chick Coachella headgear — one of those flower wreaths — posing with revelers coming to and fro from the hotel. Behind Lulu, Brainwash’s imprint is on the hotel’s exterior wall — a stencil of Alfred Hitchcock brandishing a sign that reads “Life Is Beautiful” and the adjacent “Music Is Beautiful.” Brainwash tells me that Daft Punk will be coming by later and that we should all hang. I don’t believe him. They’re not even playing Coachella. I interrupt his tomfoolery by asking him if I could take home his wall stencil we’re standing next to — Albert Einstein holding a picket sign that reads “Love Is the Answer.” Brainwash, who insists I call him Thierry by now, says it’s mine to keep if I can remove it.
“I got a text from Mr. Brainwash, I think it was Wednesday morning around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, just saying, “I’m outside and I have paint,” says Blake Smith, Music Director for Hard Rock Hotels. “He was basically hanging from the top of the building just stenciling and tagging the whole place. Because we haven’t gotten our hands on the hotel yet to design it to make it into a Hard Rock, we reached out to a couple of artists and just said come over and do whatever you want to do to the hotel. It might have been something we have thought about in jest or just in fun, and he came here and just transformed the place. It’s amazing.”
Welcome to the spirt of Hard Rock Hotels, where concurrently spinning by the pool is White Light White Heat featuring an unrecognizable and bearded Fabrizio Moretti of the Strokes. St. Lucia’s Jean-Philip Grobler rolls by with a hotel dolly, sweaty after his set, moving equipment. Tomorrow, poolside, females will take over for the Women Who Rock pool party hosted by Beyonce’s bestie Kelly Rowland. Members of Passion Pit roll by too, ya know, just to crack some jokes. A-Trak and his Fool’s Gold crew will shutdown the pool area the next day.
“Something we like to do is take somewhat disparate artists that you wouldn’t imagine paired together and have them DJ the same party,” says Smith, whose favorite acts these days range from Nick Cave to Action Bronson to up-and-coming producers like Party Supplies. “Our motto for the brand is “Love all serve all,” and, honestly, you can sit there and be at a Cher convention one week, and then have Drake come through the next week, and that’s kinda the way we are. We love music. We love ALL of it.”
It’s Sunday, Day Three, 1AM on the dancefloor in the upstairs VIP area. Questlove is spinning a time travel set; it starts with ’50s doowop, morphs into ’70s Jackson 5 and finally updates to T.I.’s “What You Know.” Nick Cave has already come and gone — with his kids and wife in tow — after performing on the Coachella main stage with the Bad Seeds only three hours earlier. Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala, who played earlier too, are sashaying across the floor, pulling dance moves that are impossible not to watch, especially that bassist of theirs Nick Allbrook. Ariel Pink is outside on the patio. Deck D’arcy from Phoenix, who headlined Coachella the night before, is dancing with a pretty gal. They stay on the dancefloor for a while because Questlove is dropping mind-blowing remixes that morph yesteryear with only yesterday. Mr. Brainwash aka Thierry is long gone, but rumors that Daft Punk are at this party run rampant. No one knows what they look like. They aren’t wearing their helmets.
Questlove ends his set at 4AM. People start to filter out. I need a cigarette because it’s been a long weekend. In the Hard Rock Music Lounge lobby, where it all began by the Mr. Brainwash Einstein stencil, is a group of three lads smoking by a white van. I kindly interrupt their conversation in French and cough up a “merci” in exchange for a light up. I head back to my room and Google “Daft Punk no helmets,” and one of the guys who just bummed me a cigarette is staring me in the face.
Apparently, they like a good party, and when it’s a good party, they will be the last to leave.