I'm sleep deprived and likely still coated in a thick layer of dust and sunscreen (3 showers isn't enough, man), but I have returned from Coachella alive, kickin', and with 300 more freckles. When I left last Thursday, the only information I had came from a massive amount of internet research. The necessities (water, chapstick, flower crowns, beef jerky) were snug and packed, but little Rachel and I had no idea what to expect. Would we have the energy to survive all three days??Would our vodka water bottles be discovered?? Would FJM see me in the audience and decide to leave his wife so that we could make beautiful folk music singing babies????!!!!
But like all of the best things in life, the answers revealed themselves through unasked questions, and the discoveries stumbled upon us like baby deer in a berry patch. Here's what I'll remember for next year, when we decide to return to this beautiful, bohemian village.
(Note - Because I was terrified to bring my DSLR to Coachella, all photographs were done via the iPhone by myself and Rachel Tenenbaum.)
1. Mentally prepare - The night before I left, I took a Zzzquil, snuggled up in my big, cozy bed, and told myself "Enjoy this sleep, Amanda. You will not be this comfortable again for 4+ days. " And oh MAN, was I right. If you're camping, you will be sleeping on the ground in a small space surrounded by hundreds of other people, and greeted by the sun every morning at approximately 7am with the temperature steadily inching towards 90. You will sweat in the shade. Your feet will hurt. It will be uncomfortable and smelly. And also very, very good.
2. Visit every stage - There was a time when I was terrified of EDM and getting stepped on, but if I hadn't sucked it up and made my way into the Gobi tent, I would have never seen Jennifer Hudson in a leotard. Aside from the mainstage, most of the Coachella venues are attached to a certain type of genre, and it's easy to stay locked into your preference. But part of the fun of the music festival experience is having so many different artists at your fingertips! Think of it as a musical buffet. Everything is yours to taste, and if you really like something, you can go back for seconds.
3. Camp, but camp in style - When you decide to make the trek out to this festival, you have several options: rent a house, book a hotel, or camp. And while there are few things I love more than a cozy hotel room, the camping experience of Coachella is one I highly recommend indulging in. It will be loud and crowded, but the experience is akin to living in a small village (and it's only three days!) Remember that you're in the desert. Shade is your friend. So are canopies, extra pillows, camping chairs, air mattresses, speakers, trashbags, baby wipes, tapestries, and rice krispie treats. There's also a really adorable town square-esque place in the middle of the campgrounds, offering everything from coffee shakes to yoga to poutine.
4. Remember to eat - While these seems obvious, you can easily get caught up in the rush of going from stage to stage to stage. Plus the dehydration kills your appetite and the $10 taco price tag is a little off putting. While I'm normally never one to skip a meal, I got caught up in the flurry of lineups and the adrenaline of dancing across the polo field to make it over to Jack White in time. At 10pm I realized I hadn't eaten since 11, and had to make do with a sad soft pretzel purchased in an effort to merely put something solid in my stomach. Sorry, soft pretzel, but those $10 tacos ended up being worth every penny.
5. Talk to strangers - Some kiddos travel from all over the world to visit Coachella. Some live two streets away. Some are really self conscious about their nautical-themed costume choices and, after some polite conversation, will let you sit on their shoulders for "From Eden". Regardless, you're all in the same sweaty and excited boat so you might as well get to know one another.
6. Prepare to be without your phone - I did not pack a cell phone charger. I charged my phone in my car when it was near death and was without it almost the entire weekend. On Saturday night, I left Rachel to locate a bottle of water and realized my phone was dead. The sun was going down and I was alone in a sea of thousands of other people without any way to reach a fellow friend and I was wondering what the hell I should do when my friend Dante magically walked by, unknowingly saving the day. Three hours later I was dancing with my turkish friend Irmak in the Sahara tent. Sometimes it's better not to be connected.
7. Make friends with the neighbors - It's Sunday morning and the hottest it's been all weekend and you're stomach is empty and you're getting sick of bananas and protein bars. You look over at your neighbors and they have a bag of donettes. You haven't had donettes since you were in elementary school and you stopped at a Exxon on the way to Grandma's. If you are friends with said neighbors, they will offer you donettes. They also made great beer pong teammates.
8. Don't forget the journey - Unless you live in Palm Springs, you're likely embarking on some sort of road trip to get to Coachella. This means you'll need a few more necessities, including , a jumbo box of Goldfish, car markers, In-N-Out burger, and Rilo Kiley on spotify. It also means taking the time to stop and breathe in the beauty of the Southern California desert.
9. See a sunset show - "White girls love Hozier," someone said to me as we discussed our vague itineraries of desired shows. My enthusiasm for this Irish-folk-blues-gospel Jesus may have come across as borderline obsession, BUT after the concert, boys and girls of all colors and ages agreed: this dude had a good set. It was also helpful that he performed on the mainstage, with the sun dripping into the the desert horizon, painting the earth and it's inhabitants in shades of yellow and gold. The sunset show is typically one of the best beautiful to watch, so strive to catch it at least once during the three days your exploring.
10. Have a vague itinerary - I knew that if I didn't see Jenny Lewis or Jameston Revival I would have been sad (wristbands were expensive, guys), but the "go with the flow" mantra could have never been more pertinent. See the bands you want to see, but leave some space open for the unknown. See tip 7. The same idea applies. The desert is dry, but there waves to ride and currents to sift through. If you go with an open and light mind, you will have a fun.