I went to Coachella for the first time this year. I went into the whole thing pretty blind. I got my ticket late in the game, so I wasn’t looking forward to it for a year like many of the people who buy tickets in the mad dash between when they go on sale and when they are sold out. My friend had an extra ticket, it always seemed like people had a good time, and I figured why not have some fun before I leave the country? On top of that, it’s not far from where I live. About a 2 hour drive.
I have seen some articles and opinions online that are pretty negative toward the whole thing. There are some perceptions that people have about the festival that are both fair and unfair. That being said, I had a really great time even though I was (and still am) sick. I’m going to bullet out a few of the highlights/ lowlights.
Music is the most important element in Coachella (at least for me). It was that way before I went, and remains that way after. If you take away all of the other things, you’re still left with the music, and that’s enough to make it worth it. There are about 8-10 stages that you have free access to within the grounds. There isn’t assigned seating, so you can get as close to the artist as you want if you get there early enough. It was great to be able to bounce around from stage to stage. Sometimes we squeezed forward towards the stage, sometimes we stayed in the back so there was room to dance and sit on the grass.
What I saw:
Friday Saturday Sunday
Trippy Turtle Clean Bandit Circa Survive
Raekwon and Ghostface Killah Gramatik Brand New
Alabama Shakes Milky Chance Kaskade
Steely Dan Chet Faker Florence and
Tame Impala Hozier the Machine
ACDC Jack White Drake
What I saw doesn’t even come close to touching the amount of shows there are. There is a ton of EDM stuff as well that I didn’t really see (apart from Trippy Turtle, Kaskade, and Gramatik). That’s not really my thing, but if it’s yours, there are certainly a lot of options.
Out of those I saw, my top five easily were:
1. Jack White was amazing. He did a bunch of White Stripes, Raconteurs, and solo hits. He did a few songs that were very bluesy which was cool. It seems like he’s ditched the goth look for now. He was pretty clean cut looking with slicked back Elvis-esque hair. He rocked of course. If you’ve never seen him play guitar, I would suggest you do that immediately. He took some time to remind us that music is sacred and yelled at that crowd to, “put down their fuckin cell phones for five minutes.” When Jack White tells you to put down your cell phone, you do. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Also, he’s apparently going to stop touring for quite a while. After weekend 2, he’ll do a few acoustic shows, then he’ll be off the scene for who knows how long.
2. Hozier was beautiful and perfect and Irish. He sang “Take me to Church” of course, which got people going, but the whole show was amazing. He’s my favorite right now, and the reason I went to Coachella, so I was very happy.
3. Florence and the Machine I saw for the third time. She was wonderful as always. This is probably my favorite show I saw of hers though. She had so much energy and was running up and down the stage and into the crowd. Apparently she broke her foot jumping off the stage though, which means she has to tone down her show for a little while. I never even knew. She’s everything you hope she would be.
4. ACDC was such a cool show. Those guys sound as great as ever and are super high energy. They played a ton of hits and kept the crowd rocking. I had to leave before “Hell’s Bells” unfortunately because I was so sick. Really awesome show though.
5. Alabama Shakes was my surprise love. Brittany Howard makes you feel things, and I might have cried a little during their show. No big deal. Her voice and her passionate singing were so beautiful.
The art around the festival grounds was really cool. There was a giant caterpillar which scooted around for the first two days which “turned into” a butterfly on the third. There were was a building with windows you could look in where there were performers dressed in business attire with hippo masks on. They did increasingly crazy things throughout the festival. I think it was supposed to be a commentary on corporate structure and the challenges of being at each level. It definitely was uncomfortable to watch, which was probably the point. There were also various sculptures scattered around which were nice to look at and provided shade.
I’m being very frugal right now so I didn’t eat much food inside the festival. I mostly ate food back at the campsite that we got from Costco. What I did have in the festival was pizza from 800 Degrees. It was about $13 for a personal pizza. The pizza was good, but the wait was a little obscenely long (Like 45 minutes). I also had some margaritas in the beer garden which were decent. There were tons of other food options around the festival and in the camping area.
Camping was rough. I love camping, but not like this. You’re shoved together like sardines. The shows don’t start until the afternoon, so you basically have to spend all morning in camp. It’s so hot that you can’t really do much more then lay in the shade. The port-a-potties in camp were also horrific. The company they hired for the event did not clean them nearly enough, so they were always full and disgusting. Like nothing I have ever seen before. I never used the showers because there was always a huge line. Instead, one of the members of our group had a battery powered pump showerhead thing that worked great. You just throw the pump in a bucket of water and take yourself a little shower. I will definitely be buying myself one of those. If I were to do Coachella again, I would stay in a hotel so I could hang out in a pool during the day and get ready with air conditioning. Call me a princess, but I think it would be worth it.
Overall, a really fun experience, and totally worth it. I cringed at the price tag for years, but now that I’ve seen the value of it, I wish I could come back every year. There is nothing like being able to see so many great shows one after the other. As with every experience in life, it is what you make of it.