I’ve returned from the desert and even though I’m nursing a gnarly cold, I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience at one of the world’s largest, and most famous music festivals. While I’m not a seasoned Coachella veteran (three years or more in a row), neither am I a Coachella rookie (first-timer) – that was sooo last year, okay?
But this being my second visit, I felt I was able to see things from less of a rosy-shaded perspective (well, until the third Corona of the afternoon kicked in), and more from a non-biased, purely observational angle. I must admit, the previous year I was super distracted and overwhelmed simply by the fact that I was at the Coachella. But this year there weren’t going to be any surprises – I knew exactly what I was in for. I studied the line-up extra closely, just so that I could avoid a last-minute freak out upon discovering that Daft Punk was there (which, they weren’t).
Personal rambling aside, I present to you my list of the most noteworthy things that I learned during Year Two of Coachella 2014:
1) Don’t Wear White. Trust me, this was a tough one. White is my all-time favorite color, particularly in the summer months, and it does such a great job at emphasizing the tan that I’ve worked so hard on acquiring in the weeks leading up to Coachella, but keep in mind that you’re in a desert. More precisely, you’re on a polo field in the middle of a desert – so you will find yourself covered in a variety of mud, dirty and grass stains, as well as the fact that you will be finding minute grains of sand in the most random places for the weeks to come, even after several loads of laundry.
Last year I thought I was being super cute and Coachella-chic by wearing a white crochet Indah monokini with a floral wreath and high-waist jean shorts, but by the end of the weekend my bikini had turned a lovely shade of desert beige. In fact, it more so resembled a sample swab of Home Depot’s Mushroom Bisque Premium Plus Paint. And no, the color is not as tasty as it sounds.
So skip the white (unless you’re willing to set aside a Sunday afternoon geared directly towards bleaching all of your Coachella-stained garments back to their pre-Coachella state), and instead go for the darker colors – or even beige. This year I did more black and heavy prints, which still looked stylish but helped me avoid looking like a dirty white napkin at the end of the night.
2) Comfort Is Key. Not to sound like your boring Aunt Kathy attempting to dispel important life lessons, but you will thank me for this later. Coachella starts at 11 in the morning each day and shuts down around one the next morning (after the last set ends). So whatever clothes and shoes you choose to wear, you’d better like them – because you’re gonna be stuck with them for a long, long time.
My first year at Coachella, I made the mistake of choosing some cute ankle-length Zara boots with a small heel to wear on the first night – big mistake. For the rest of the weekend, I was walking around in Rainbow sandals with Band-Aids piled on layers of Polysporin as I attempted to nurse my wounds. Several weeks and scabs later, I was finally healed, but my takeaway advice for this point is: if it hurts, don’t do it for the sake of cuteness, because it’s ultimately not going to be cute. Case in point.
A girlfriend of mine who attended Coachella for the first time this year messaged me the week after, exclaiming that if she’d known just how much walking she was going to be doing, she would not have worn heels. I practically did a double take as I read her text message. Heels? Clearly, I had not done my job as a friend by giving her pre-Coachella advice, and that was part of what inspired me to create this guide for my friends and other Coachella hopefuls. And this also brings me to my next point.
3) Be Prepared To Walk. To put it nicely, you will be walking. A lot. In fact, I almost felt like there was more walking this year than last (this is excluding the three hours I spent last year searching for my car with my equally clueless girlfriend, which will be addressed later in the article). It’s interesting how pumped you feel the morning of Coachella, and by the time you get back to your condo/hotel/campsite, you’re the equivalent of a zombie.
The parking lots (of which there are many) are located on the outskirts of the polo field, in every direction. You will have to walk down random dirt roads, cross the occasional grassy field, and step over wet puddles and other debris in order to reach your destination, so be sure to wear stylish but comfortable sandals (although they do have pedi cab drivers blasting EDM music from their speakers, so that is another route you can choose to take – just bring cash).
The walk to Coachella isn’t nearly as bad as the walk back at the end of the night – in the morning you’re ready to go and super excited about all of the different line-ups you’re going to see and all of the selfies you’re going to take with friends at the various tents, but after a long day in the sun, numerous beers and other substances, all you want to do is hit the sack – but you’re going to have to walk a while before you can do that.
4) Remember Where You Parked. Unless you’re camping, Ubering or cabbing it over – mark my words on this one. You will hate yourself (and all of your friends will as well) at the end of the night when you’re wandering aimlessly around like bohemian vagrants, trying in vain to find your car. You mean that isn’t my Corolla in the far corner of the yard either? #GivingUp.
Try dropping a pin on your phone that will lead you back to your location at the end of the night, or make each person in your group responsible for one relevant piece of information concerning your car’s whereabouts. Did we walk on the yellow path? (Or as we liked to call it, the ‘yellow brick road.’) Where was the ferris wheel in relation to where we were when we arrived? Try dropping bread crumbs or confetti, if possible. Seriously, anything that will make your life easier. Trust me, you’ll be the hero at the end of the night, and you won’t find yourself debating whether it might be easier to just give up the hunt and take that stranger driving the creepy van up on his offer to give you a ride (yes, this happened to me).
5) Pick A Meeting Spot. As much as we like to think that we’re going to link arms and hold hands with our tight group of friends during the entire Coachella weekend, chances are that’s not going to hold up. You’ve got that one buddy who really wants to see Muse but you’re aching to go see Skrillex, so it’s inevitable that the group is going to have to separate and split off, even if just for a bit.
Reception sucks at Coachella, not to mention that it’s super hard to even attempt to have a phone conversation over the background noise of multiple music acts and tens of thousands of people, so do yourself a favor and choose some mutual meeting spot that is easy to find and easy to get to, where you and all of your mates can meet up should you get separated over the course of the night. There are many great options, from the Do Lab to the bleachers to the bar next to the ferris wheel.
Also, don’t forget to time stamp your text messages to your friend, because a text you sent twenty minutes ago letting your buddy know that you were at the Heineken tent may not be relevant anymore, especially if you’ve moved on to a new destination. Also, it pays to have a spot picked out where everyone can meet at the very end of the night – that way, if you get there before anyone else does, you can collapse on the ground and relax with the knowledge that your friends are on their way to meet you.
6) Hydrate and Eat. These are so simple yet so easy to forget. With all of the music and activities, it’s easy to skip lunch or dinner – or both. But this is bad for you on multiple levels: many people suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration without realizing it, or they blame it on their cute hippie headband, but with all of the extra stress and abuse you’re putting your body through this weekend, you’d better make up for it by rewarding yourself with plenty of water, snacks and at least a meal or two.
On a final note, you’ll get that dip in blood sugar, and then you’ll most likely be the recipient of “grumpiest group member for Coachella 2014” – an award that no one is proud to have. Do everyone a favor and eat something, even if it’s just a nibble off your friend’s slice of pizza.
7) Create a Set List Schedule. Everyone freaks out when the set list for Coachella is finally released, and I mean freaks out. You’d think a new President was being announced! It can be overwhelming as you’re circling all of your favorite acts with a Sharpie marker, making all of these big plans about how you’re going to catch Calvin Harris followed by Diplo and Dillon Francis, accompanied by a quick stop at Flight Facilities before making your way over to Duck Sauce. Yeah, right. While I commend you on your optimism (and I’m the queen of optimism), that isn’t gonna happen.
First off, be willing to accept the fact that you’re simply not going to be able to see every single act you planned on catching. When you’re with a big group of people with varying musical tastes, not to mention the different things that come up last minute (Tiffany still hasn’t returned from the bathroom? But we needed to get to the Sahara Tent like five minutes ago!), it’s crucial that you prepare yourself for minor setbacks and potential disruptions to your aforementioned schedule.
8) Practice Proper Crowd Etiquette. My friend and I made a list of the annoying (but always present) crowd stereotypes that you will encounter many times while at Coachella. Brace yourself, people. First there’s the guy with the obnoxiously big backpack (what exactly do you have in there, dude? Did you come here straight from your last class at ASU and forgot to leave your course books in the car?) Yeah, a guy with a heavy backpack is not fun – especially when you’re stuck dancing behind him in a tight crowd and he keeps bumping into you while he proceeds to lose himself in the music.
Next up is the girl who sits on her boyfriend’s/tall friend’s/random dude’s shoulders. It doesn’t matter whose shoulders she’s sitting on – all that matters is that they’re tall and she shouldn’t be sitting on them. Yeah, girl, we know you feel super awesome and free lifting your arms up in the air so that you can get a better look at Martin Garrix, but the fact that you’re obstructing the view of half the crowd behind you just lost you some major cool points. And if you really care what Martin Garrix looks like, why don’t you just google him?
We musn’t forget to mention the human chain link fence. Haven’t heard of it? Oh, but you’ve experienced it. You know that part of the act when the deejay drops a super sick beat and just as you’re getting into it, some chick busts between you and your friends to move towards the front of the sardine-packed crowd? She looks at you, offers a half-smile and a fake “sorry,” and just when you’re about to resume your original position, you discover that she’s linked arms with twenty girls from the Delta Gamma Sorority at SDSU and she’s bringing them all with her to the front!
Then there are the people who overstep their boundaries in general, whether it’s the overly-eager bro who keeps dancing into your space or the couple who is making out inches away from your face. Listen, people, it’s great to have fun at Coachella – that’s what we’re all there for. Just don’t be inconsiderate so that everyone can have a good time. That’s all.
9) Book a Rental In Advance. Obviously it’s too late this year, but you can definitely be a step ahead of the game next year by planning your Coachella rental far in advance. There are many great property websites such as VRBO that specialize in offering vacation and short-term rentals for individuals or groups of people who are looking to find a place for the weekend or longer.
Keep in mind that a majority of the property owners out in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and the surrounding areas have smartened up to the fact that Coachella Weekend is a prime money-making time for them and they will often charge double if not triple their regular rates. Do yourself a favor by booking at least six months ahead in order to secure a rental so that you’re not stuck at the last minute scrounging to find something and your only options left are a mobile home park in Cathedral City and a retired community in Indio.
10) Find Love on the Ferris Wheel. If Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul can do it, then so can you. The actor has told numerous media sources that he met his now-wife, Lauren Parsekian, at Coachella several years back, where the two infamously fell in love while riding the ferris wheel. He told Us Weekly, “We had our first kiss on a ferris wheel at Coachella. So anything that reminds us of that we’re very excited to do.” See the full article here.
I, too, can confirm the truth behind Aaron’s statement. Last year was the first year I attended Coachella with my boyfriend – we had only been dating for a few months, but that was when we told each other that we were starting to fall for one another.
After a magical weekend in the desert, we often referenced the ferris wheel as being the spot where we were able to come to terms with our feelings for each other, and we joked about how if we made it to a second Coachella, we would pay homage to the ferris wheel and our love by going for a second ride. And two Coachellas and three ferris wheel rides later (we had so much fun the second time that we just had to go for another ride), here we are. Even more in love than ever.