Snoop Dogg headlines the Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience, which takes a taste of Playa del Rey into the desert

By Gary Walker

Like kids at Coachella, last year’s RWB crowd rocked out with the band 311
Photo by Scott Miller

It doesn’t take an NME subscription to be familiar with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which over the past 17 years has grown from a scrappy indie music gathering in the desert into a bona fide cultural phenomenon that drew nearly 200,000 people and grossed some $84 million over two weekends last year.

But another music festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio is following quickly in its footsteps, and this year organizers have a big dogg at the top of the bill.

Landing superstar rapper Snoop Dogg to headline Saturday’s sixth annual Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience was quite a coup for the budding festival, said Playa del Rey resident Alexander Haagen IV, who owns the venue and leases it to festival organizers.

Snoop headlined Coachella alongside Dr. Dre in 2012 and returned to perform with Pharrell Williams in 2014, but being able to book artists of that caliber is never a given.

“It takes a while to develop relationships with agents. I remember when we first started Coachella, we made lots and lots of phone calls and no one would call us back. But when agents see that you’re serious and you’re going to be around for a while, they start taking your calls,” Haagen said. “[Snoop Dogg] really translates well to older and younger people. It’s great to have him. He’s just a really cool guy.”

But Saturday’s event isn’t just about music. The 3 to 11 p.m. event, which encourages participants to camp in a tent or “glamp” in a nearby hotel afterward, features tastings from more than 60 craft breweries, some three dozen wineries, 17 food trucks and an optional three-course dining experience under the stars — not to mention art installations to explore between sets, said marketing director Lynn Bremner.

Elliot Prather, who lives on Trolleyway in Playa del Rey, is one of several locals making a return trip to the festival, which last year hosted twin headliners 311 and Matisyahu.

“It’s like the Coachella for adults,” said Prather. “It’s a smaller venue, and it’s more adult-centered. It’s very hip but it’s not a crazy scene. It’s like a cornucopia for your eyes.”

Haagen said Rhythm, Wine and Brews has evolved into a scene that both young adults and a slightly older demographic can enjoy.

“We’re trying to fill in the gap,” he said. “It’s sort of an event where you can experience different activities and not just the concert.”

Prather enjoyed last year’s beer and wine testing, which he says gives festival attendees an opportunity to mingle before the concert and sample unfamiliar brews.

“It’s not just the sharing of the beers; it’s a great social atmosphere. It really is more than just a concert,” he said.

Another Playa del Rey resident, yoga instructor Kasey Kilmer, will lead a yoga class the morning after the concert as a way for people to find their Zen before the two- to three-hour drive back to L.A.

“The idea is to kind of clear your head. It’ll be more of a stretching, detox, relaxing sort of experience,” said Kilmer, who most Saturdays leads early morning yoga sessions on Playa del Rey Beach.

The yoga class is a new addition to the festival in line with its evolution.

“I tried to take a little bit of what we have here in Playa del Rey and move it to the desert,” Haagen said.

Rhythm, Wine and Brews happens from 3 to 11 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Empire Polo Field in Indo. Tickets run from $70 for general admission to $150 for a VIP experience. Visit rwbexp.com for more info.