The Trials and Tribulations of a Festival Junkie at Coachella 2015

Coachella 2015 >> Another year, another Coachella down. I have no words, though for the first time I can’t say that’s a good thing.

Coachella 2015

Last year Coachella just happened to be my first music festival ever. It was entirely last minute, the lineup was incredible, and I was never not excited. This year was, well, eh.

Let me take you back to the beginning.

I lucked out by snagging my weekend 1 tickets during pre-sale despite not knowing who I’d be going with or who would be performing. I learned another co-worker was planning to go, as we both had blocked out the same time on our work calendars so no one could try to book a meeting during the coveted purchase time. Fortunately she was well-prepared and had booked all of her accommodations immediately after snagging tickets. It occurred to me she could be an option to go with, which it turned out to be when the time came.

Aside from not being thrilled with the lineup, things were off to a good start the Thursday of Coachella weekend. I carpoolchella’d with my coworker, her wife [yes, you read that correctly], and wife’s younger cousin. We got off work early, though still hit some intense traffic on the drive up as could be expected leaving LA during rush hour. It was a pain, but it only increased the excitement and added to our fun [‘Is that restaurant really called ‘Yung Dong’?].

My friend—who is apparently game for anything—purchased a camping pass for the first night. Yes, we had both hotel and camping accommodations—don’t worry about it. Everything still going good, we arrived at the campground with only two cars in front of us [per search line], which apparently never happens. We also lucked out with the easiest and funniest security searching team.

‘Who brought this?’ yelled the expressive security detail as she grabbed my friend’s stuffed light-up elephant from the backseat. ‘Ya’ll too old for this shit! Hold up—is that a dick on your window?,’ she continued as she pointed to my unfortunate car drawing of our starting point from LA to our end point at the festival. Yes, it largely resembled a dick to our amusement. We had a good laugh, decided to leave the drawing there the whole weekend and continued on to our 30’x10’ space.

[related: Coachella Addiction >> How Festival Junkies Are Born]

To keep the good-vibe momentum going, we ended up being neighbors to a cool truck of kids who had cheered our car art on the way in to the search line. We were stoked! The foursome had driven in from San Diego and couldn’t have been better. We drank together; we shared stories; we exchanged Instagram accounts. We got our tent, canopy and sleeping arrangements squared away quickly enough so we could begin the night of pre-festival partying. Normally I’m not a camping person [I like hot showers and being pretty—it is what it is], but I figured one night would be fine and it was worth the experience.

Day 1 of the festival, and all went downhill from there.

We learned we could check in early to the hotel, so we got our shit together and found a pedicab to take us to the Uber queue. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we went to a minimum of 3 different exits and every single time we were told to go elsewhere. No one would let us leave! After about an hour [at least] of sitting in the hot sun with our luggage on the back of the slowly breaking pedicab, we gave up and returned to the campsite. We had circled the parameter of the polo fields and couldn’t leave.

Me being me, I had to shower before going in, so I waited until as late as possible in the day so there wouldn’t be a line. Actually, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to attempt the hotel again or stay, but by 2pm I gave in and washed up at the campsite, luckily with no line but unluckily with cold water. It was fine—I was clean. I got ready quickly enough and proceeded back to meet up with my friends, eager to get into the festival.

Once we arrived at the gates, I was pumped and ready to go. We started at the beer garden to try to meet up with some friends, but having been at the campsite and not at the hotel as planned meant that our phones had very little battery life remaining. We used the charging stations that were available, though the power kept surging out which we learned to be the pattern for the entire weekend. I couldn’t sit around and wait anymore, so I left my group to try to catch a show.

I started with Kiesza, who worked the stage! I loved her sound, her look, and her guest performer whose name I forgot. I randomly bumped into my Coachella crew from the previous year on the way in, though they didn’t seem eager to see me so I let them be. I then made my way to Ride—a band I recently started listening to. Sadly, one of the guitars was so out of tune that I had to respect my ears by leaving after a couple songs. I made my way back to the main beer tent to try to find my friends and managed to catch some of the Alabama Shakes and Interpol on the way in. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was at the point where I wanted to be with people again.

I finally learned everyone was at Lykke Li, and as many of you know from my previous article I have a major girl crush on her so I had no problem attempting to meet with them there. Never found my friends, though Lykke was amazing so it wasn’t a loss. She covered a rap song and added her classic harrowing spin to it.

Still unable to find people I knew, I made my way back to the Outside Stage to catch Steely Dan, who I was very eager to hear live. They sounded great as was expected; however, I couldn’t get over how old they looked on stage. Basically it seemed like some old guys grabbed dinner at the local Olive Garden and then afterwards decided pick up some instruments and jam like back in the day. Unlike AC/DC who, despite being older, still managed to have stage presence. Nothing like an old guy in a velvet shorts suit rocking away.

Tame Impala! In my opinion, this was one of the best shows of the festival. I loved the psychedelic backdrop that perfectly correlated with his Beatles-esque vocals. The performance took me back to the 60s and made sense of the thousands of flower crowns in the crowd. I also checked out Nero, and loved every second I was there since it was fun, loud, and energizing. Even the ‘cool kids’ clearly from LA were dancing, though I wouldn’t doubt if it’s because their experience was, ahem, enhanced.

It was 10pm and I hadn’t seen my friends in over 6 hours. I was tired after 4 hours of sleep and 15 miles of walking [according to my Fitbit), so I opted to skip AC/DC and make my way back to the campground knowing that was the last place they said they were. I arrived and found their stuff had moved around, though no sign of them. At that point I wasn’t really sure what to do anymore, so I headed to the Uber/taxi queue to try to get to the hotel for the final attempt of the weekend.

The Uber pickup that the Coachella peeps raved about was a bust. The app wouldn’t open due to the high volume of cell users in the area, and when it did open it couldn’t connect to a driver. Most people went to the taxi line and tried to get an Uber from there so they could try to chance both. It sucked. I waited for over an hour in that line, and that having left 3 hours before day 1 ended. The one upside was seeing a celebrity waiting in front of me, though I still don’t understand why seeing as she DJ’d at a party earlier in the day and could have easily left in a limo. Not up to me to question.

I made it to the hotel hoping the others would attempt the same, though I knew it was unlikely. I ended up staying the night alone. Nonetheless, I washed my face, I washed my feet, I slept in a bed with a pillow and blankets, and I had a warm shower the next morning. It could have been worse.

Coachella 2015

Day 2 had arrived. I didn’t see my friends from 4pm Friday until 11am Saturday, when they had finally charged their phones in the car and gained enough battery life to tell me they were planning to stay at the campsite and to meet them there. I grabbed what little stuff I had brought with me knowing it was unlikely I’d make it back.

Vowing not to lose everyone again, I opted to miss shows for the sake of having people to be with, since Coachella is both about the music and the experience. We went to the beer tent early and caught Clean Bandit from the side of the main stage. They were as fun and perky as the last time I saw them, which just happened to be their first American show. They have clearly come a long ways since then! After their Grammy win, it makes sense that they were able to enhance their stage presence with fashionable attire, fancy and futuristic-looking instruments, and backup musicians so the ethereal cellist could bounce around the stage much to everyone’s pleasure. To end things, the band brought out Marina and the Diamonds to sing a duet for the first time live.

After the show, we ran back to the campsite to meet up with some friends. We rushed the formalities so we could catch Milky Chance, and luckily arrived just in time. It was the one show we all had to see, and much to our chagrin was cut short due to the lead singer being terribly sick and unable to perform. Most of the set ended up being instrumental, though he tried as best he could to jump in for the chorus and the less straining vocal pieces. Guess that means we’ll have to catch them again another time!

Chet Faker was on the other side of the beer tent, so I caught him for a bit. He’s improved since the last time I saw him at the Roxy, though he still has a ways to come. There’s something missing, a je ne sais quoi that I still need to figure out. Maybe it’s because his set consists of a guy [him) DJ-ing with a keyboard and laptop. Alone: no backup singers, no dancers. Oh well, he sounded great nonetheless.

Yelle! One of my favorite shows of the weekend! I love that spritely French girl who knows how to have a good time and keep the crowd moving. She had us play a clapping game to the beat of her two drummers, followed by her unapologetic funky dancing in a bright blue and white floral onesie that I’m sure she regretted in that hot Indio heat. I would watch her again and again, and would have caught her again after returning back to LA if my body hadn’t given up on me when she came a day later.

I caught some of Alt-J and Duke Dumont, until my friends wanted to head back to camp to change into warmer clothes. It was fine because I had already seen Alt-J at Life is Beautiful, and there wasn’t anyone else to be excited about after him. We caught a passing glance at Jack White’s performance that I’m sure was amazing, but after we sat our asses in the tent there was no heading back. Our 30-minute ‘nap’ turned into a 7-hour night of sleep.

Alas, day 3, the day of shows we actually gave a shit about!

The Orwells were odd, so again we went to the beer tent and drank until it was time to watch St. Lucia. I adore this group, so the only bummer there was they played the same stuff as their show at Life is Beautiful. Since they’re still on their freshman album, they don’t have more to perform but at least have upped their performance quality.

I don’t really remember the timing of events after that, though I know we watched Kaskade from the back and partied hard to the mix. I watched Florence and the Machine jumping up and down so crazily that I later learned she broke her foot. Ouch, but what devotion to her performance! She sounded just like her album, so I decided to head over to David Guetta since he’s harder to catch than Florence. I don’t recall hearing anything in his set that even resembled anything recognizable. However, it was a fun show and I danced so hard I somehow ended up in Odesza’s tent.

The rest is a blur. It was my last night so I went all out. Though again, with my old and tired ass I went back to the tent and passed out around 11pm and missed everything else. Oops!

To sum it up:

This year was not as good of a lineup as last year. Most of the performances were so boring I left within a song or two and drank instead. Most groups sounded good, but there wasn’t much in terms of theatrics to keep me interested.

The headliners weren’t stimulating enough to keep me up past my bedtime. Not to say I disliked them, I just didn’t like them enough to care one way or the other. I can say many people agreed.

Camping was not nearly as bad as everyone made it out to be prior to my arrival. I brought ear plugs and a sleep mask, slept on a yoga mat topped with an inflatable pool lounger, I showered at times that had zero to little line [less for girls than guys at that matter!), and I made friends. I still got ready and pretty as I like to be [yay!), and the best part of all was being able to walk ‘home’ whenever I wanted to and not wait in a car or taxi line after walking a mile and a half to leave. The only bummer was the phone charging situation, and not being able to leave the general area as we pleased. I never made it back to the hotel, and the group never made it at all. None of us cared much.

The food was decent—the acai berry bowl in the morning was clutch! I couldn’t find the craft beer tent, so got stuck with warm Heineken and margaritas all weekend. Again, not the end of the world.

The heat was tolerable. No dust storms, there was a light breeze, and sitting under the tent in the beer garden was all I needed for the one hot day.

The art was fun. I didn’t care much for the caterpillar, but I loved the butterfly! The ‘corporate headquarters’ display made no sense for the vibe that Coachella represents. In fact, it downright weirded me out, so I avoided it as much as possible.

The attendees were so-so. Last year seemed to have more fun people; this year was just, eh. Aside from our camping neighbors, most people weren’t that interesting and their stories made no sense and were out of context. I think everyone just got really drunk this year because they were so bored, so the conversations got weird.

So what’s my take? I’d go again, but I’d try some things differently. For one, going slower is essential, especially day 1. If you miss a show, it’s not the end of the world! It beats having blisters and swollen knees and being miserable for the rest of the weekend. Two, I’d drink differently. I timed it all wrong and got moody by the end of the first day without intending to [mostly because I was lost and alone). Three, I’d have a backup-backup plan. The dead battery situation was a nightmare and unexpected. I should have just stayed at the campsite the second night, because that was home-base. Lastly, I’d have more fun and go in with fewer expectations. I expected to dislike the lineup, so I did. If I didn’t care, I would have enjoyed things a lot more. But, that’s me. I’m a planned and organized person, and it’s fine. It’s just easier to let loose and go with the flow, particularly at Coachella!

‘Til next year, Coachella! I plan to let loose and do it right.



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