I have been seeing a lot of updates on social media regarding the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that takes place this time of year in Indio, California. A few years back, I succumbed to the Coachella peer pressure along with my friends and booked the overly priced tickets to the weekendlong event. I flew five hours from New York to Los Angeles and met up with my crew who drove us another two hours into the valley. One of the advantages to being single is taking off on an adventure whenever the mood strikes, but anyone that believes it would be a good idea to spend an entire week’s paycheck to camp in the middle of the desert, surrounded by young, obnoxious theatergoers clearly didn’t think this through.
The four-day event takes place in the middle of nowhere. Thousands of people gather from all the over world for the sole purpose of listening to their favorite musicians and partying until the sun comes up.
We knew we had arrived when we saw the long procession of cars covered in lights, balloons and graffiti marked, “Carchella” on the windows and doors. The tunes were blaring, people were “woo-hooing” and the sun was shining down on us, ready to fry our pale, music-loving bodies for the weekend.
Once we finally made it to our “campsite” (and I use that word lightly), we set up our tent directly behind the truck and began to make friends with our neighbors who resided just 3 feet from our temporary dwelling. It was a tight squeeze, but we made it work. Once we ventured to the concert grounds, I felt like we had stepped into a trippy carnival. There were five stages for bands set up throughout the desert and as you walked around, the acoustics from surrounding performances rang loud and started to overlap each other, echoing in the distance. I felt extremely underdressed in my tank top and shorts while others were decked out in light up bikinis, floral headdresses, fairy wings and unicorn costumes.
A giant colorful Ferris wheel towered over the grounds while tents were placed strategically as our only source of shelter from the blazing sun. Celebrities were scattered throughout, making their way to the shaded VIP sections, while us poor folk sweat and danced to our favorite bands in the raging heat. I had my music lineup in mind and was excited to see Red Hot Chili Peppers, Passion Pit and New Order, to name a few. There were times I had multiple bands playing on different stages, but I mapped out a plan and learned quickly how to bounce around from one venue to the next. There’s something so exhilarating about rocking out to your favorite music while it’s performed right in front of you, surrounded by like-minded fans that share the same passion.
At night, the desert took on a whole new persona. Everything is louder, brighter and crazier when the sun goes down.
“If I hear one more person say, ‘Happy Coachella! Where’s the party?” I’m going to lose it!” I remember saying to myself.
We attended a “silent disco” where everyone put on headphones and danced in a tent to the music the DJ was pumping into your ears. I had to try it, but we clearly looked like the biggest goofballs to any passers-by.
My morning rituals began with a hike past the tents and porta potties for a five-minute shower, only to walk back to camp while the desert wind kicked up the sand, defeating the original task at hand. I’d brush my teeth with a bottle of water and check my face in the car mirror, force myself to use the dreaded porta potty and be ready for the day. You learn quickly that you don’t want to be the person stuck in a tiny sweat box of filth, baking in the sun at the peak of the day so you get your business done early. I will forever be traumatized to use a portable toilet again.
The bands were incredible and the experience was like nothing I could have imagined, but I realized I am far too old to be partying in the middle of nowhere; paying $12 for a bottle of water to survive the heat, surrounded by a crowd of spaced-out millennials. Today, I am happy jamming out to my favorite bands while listening to my Spotify playlist in the comfort of my own home. Moral of the story: never be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, just remember to bring your ear plugs and an open mind.