“It’s getting a little bit easier now, because artists and managers and everybody knows the stage,” said Jesse Flemming, Do Lab co-owner and talent buyer, backstage at the collective’s Coachella oasis just before the first night of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Friday (April 13).
While the multi-genre event boasts a stacked roster of headliners like Beyonce, The Weeknd and Eminem, Do Lab — in true disruptive fashion for 14 years — plays on the element of surprise when it comes to booking the structure’s surprise guests. In many instances they don’t even know what’s going to happen.
“We release the lineup weeks out and we slot surprise sets,” adds Fleming’s co-founder, Dede. “But we literally don’t know who’s playing those — like we still don’t know who’s playing Sunday!”
Jesse continued, “We book last minute. Everybody’s out here so we have to constantly be texting and emailing people on the ground to see who can come. If we don’t fill those surprise slots and nobody shows up it’s like, ‘Well, shit. Sorry.’”
Thankfully, Friday night’s surprise acts RL Grime and Ekali showed up with plenty of advance notice for their guest slots. (Due to fans’ investigative work and clues from each artist’s social media, the initial surprise duo was slightly easier to pinpoint.)
But one artist’s standout set that came as no surprise was Vermont native and Coachella first-timer EPROM’s time sandwiched in between the secret guests. While speaking to Billboard Dance backstage, EPROM teased his new project, some of which he dropped during his Do Lab.
He detailed, “I have a collaboration with Alex Perez called Shades that we’ve been doing together. It’s the first LP, coming soon. We got MC Killa P on one track. There’s some beat-less stuff on there. There’s some pure sound design interlude type stuff on there. Experimenting with a variety of BPM’s.”
After a wildly successful day one — which also included billed acts like Dimond Saints, CharlestheFirst and DROELOE — Jesse and Dede have another double dose of surprises ahead of them to execute. Do Lab’s effortless ethos doesn’t come without ruffling a few feathers though, but that’s Do Lab’s ultimate strength: embodying the resourceful, underground spirit of electronic culture even in the face of corporatization.
Dede chimed, “We kind of have a cat and mouse game with Coachella because they know we’re always up to something, but at the end of the day they know we’re only doing that to make the show better.”
“We’re always trying to test the limits, and that we do. If we get in trouble then we try something else,” Jesse laughed.