Every year, the lineup for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival would come, I would get a small rush from discussing the lineup, and then, once I realized I was not willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a ticket, I would be forced to move on.
I accepted this as a fact of life; I made a list of cons in my head and read articles about “bros” and other gross aspects of Coachella culture that justified my absence. I developed a downright snobbish attitude towards it. I was “above” Coachella.
So what did I do when I was offered a guest list spot by a performing friend a mere two weeks before the festival? I wholeheartedly accepted.
Arriving at the front gate on Friday, I decided to leave my skepticism behind and enjoy myself despite the beating sun, growing number of attendees in war bonnets and face paint, and $7 slices of pizza.
I started out at the Gobi tent, where I sat in the grass eating a mojito popsicle as Cleveland punk band, Cloud Nothings, performed to perhaps 200 people, a measly number by my predictions. Weren’t there more than 200,000 attendees this weekend? Where on earth could they be?
Suddenly, I was whisked by a friend to the Sahara tent where the Norwegian DJ Trippy Turtle was performing. The tent was filled to capacity with the sort of crowd I expected from Coachella; loud, drunk in the afternoon and covered in neon.
However, I was surprised to find that I was not bothered by them. They were just dancing and having fun. I decided to follow suit. As the DJ cued a bouncy remix of Ginuwine’s “Pony,” I suddenly felt in tune with the vibe of the festival, carrying me throughout the remaining two days before I dragged my aching feet off the grounds late Sunday night.
From Lil B to Porter Robinson, Ratatat to FKA Twigs, Brand New to Drake, each performance I saw left me in some form of awe. Being one of the indisputably greatest festivals on earth, any artist who gets their moment to shine on stage is bound to bring their all.
Between spectacular visuals, special guest appearances (Kanye West, anyone?) and explosive stage presences amidst mid-song chants of “What’s up, Coachella?!”
The festival delivered memories impossible to recreate and far beyond my expectations. Some experiences I shared with crowds of thousands, others far less; while AC/DC was shaking everybody all night long at the main stage and Alesso was drawing the die-hard EDM fans Friday night, a hundred dedicated people convulsed along to Squarepusher’s complex, short-circuiting breakbeats, and the passion was not lost on anyone.
When I wasn’t occupied by the music, there were amenities available to please even the most comfort-seeking millennial. cold pressed juice? Check. Phone charging stations? Check. Misting fans? Check.
The massive art installations that peppered the polo grounds were similarly impressive, and even served multiple purposes for attendees seeking shade or selfie backgrounds. The functionality of the festival across all three days could only be described as utopian. I can hardly recall a single hiccup.
Even the oppressive heat of day one gave way to cool breezes and a gorgeous sunset. It seemed mother nature wanted everyone to have a good time too.
As I watched an electrified Drake bring the entire festival to its knees Sunday night, I couldn’t help but laugh at how I used turn my nose up at Coachella. Considering the stress of trying to get time off work, finding a last-minute campsite, and otherwise preparing for the festival in under 2 weeks, I deemed my blood, sweat and tears absolutely worth it. Perhaps next year I’ll even pay for my ticket.