People rested in brightly-colored hammocks tied to palm trees, ordered drinks from stands decorated like palapa bars and fly fished into clear blue water from a white sand beach on Saturday, Jan. 18, but they weren’t at a tropical island resort — they were at a music festival in the desert put on by luxury SUV maker Land Rover.
The inaugural 4xFar festival, which organizers dreamed up as part of the U.S. relaunch of the Land Rover Defender, made its debut in the Coachella Valley and it was an experience that was part music festival, part car show and part celebration of all things outdoors.
In addition to an opening day music lineup that included Mahalia, Kurt Vile, Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak, these were five things that stood out about the new fest.
1. The venue
4xFar happened at the Empire Grand Oasis, which is owned by the same family that has the Empire Polo Club in Indio. However, the Thermal venue is a lot cozier than its sister property, which hosts the massive Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival, and a lot more whimsical. It has small freshwater lake surrounded by white sand, waterfalls, big date palms providing lots of shade and a lot of Polynesian-inspired decor such as tiki torches and tiki sculptures. Festival goers could be seen stopping at various points along the festival grounds to snap pictures of some of the scenery.
2. Fly fishing in the desert
The small lake at the heart of the venue became the setting for one of the festival’s more popular activities: fly fishing. The activity was put on by nonprofit California Trout and Clearwater Lodge from Fall River Mills in Shasta County.
Instructors from the lodge showed guests how to cast using fly fishing rods and then later showed them how to make their own artificial flies to cast into the water. The activity was for practice only — there were no actual fish to be caught.
Tracy Diaz, director of development and communications for California Trout, said the activity was in part designed to spread awareness about issues facing California’s native trout and steelhead fish.
“The 4xFar event is just a great way to reach an audience that’s interested in these activities and this lifestyle, and really expose them to not only the art of fly fishing, but help them understand the conservation needs that there are around the state,” Diaz said. “We want activities like this to be around.”
3. Going above ground
One of the popular activities was slacklining, which involved walking on a piece of tensioned line fastened between two points. The slacklines at the Empire Grand Oasis were only a foot or two off the ground and intended for beginners, according to instructor Damon Hill.
Michael Guzman, 24, of Riverside and his girlfriend Lillian Nguyen, 24, of Seattle, came to the festival to see the music, but found themselves drawn to the slacklining. Each took turns walking on the slackline as their partner guided them.
“The instructors are really friendly, which is the best part,” Guzman said. “They kind of just let us hop on.”
If you were all about hanging, but without the physical activity, there were hammocks strung from palm trees at two different locations and by the late afternoon they were all filled by people either napping, or taking a break to surf on their cellphones.
4. Campsite mixology
You can do better than boxed wine on a camping trip. At least that was the message presented by Nick Barisone and Whit Gautreaux, cofounders of the company High Camp Flasks.
“Our goal is to rethink how you drink outside,” Barisone said. “We’re trying to get people to think beyond the plastic handle on a boxed wine. People talk about pairings a lot when they talk about wine; we want you to think about pairing your favorite cocktail with your favorite outdoor place.”
During the class Barisone and Gautreaux talked about not only packing your own ingredients for cocktails such as dehydrated Bloody Mary mix and citrus, but also going out in nature and finding fresh ingredients that you can put in your cocktails such as berries and sage.
At the end of the class guests could sample two cocktails that Barisone and Gautreaux had whipped up — a drink called Strawberry Fields that had mint, strawberry, vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup and a traditional vodka-based Bloody Mary.
5. Geeking out on Land Rover
There were a few different ways that fans of Land Rover could really appreciate the brand — in addition to seeing current Land Rover or Range Rover fleets on display, they could drive or ride in them over three different off-road courses.
Also on display were some classic Land Rover vehicles from throughout the decades, including a Land Rover famously owned by Steve McQueen and another from the Continental Divide Expedition that drove more than 1,000 miles over rough terrain from the Wyoming border to New Mexico.
The festival continues Sunday, Jan. 19, with a lineup that includes Q-Tip and Mark Ronson, Young The Giant and Sofi Tukker.