Let me just get this out there first: the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival may be my favorite place to be in the whole world. This is not an exaggeration. This is the truth.
I went for the first time last year and had the time of my life, so this year, I got tickets for not one, but BOTH weekends. I know, I’m a maniac. And apparently I get some kind of dark enjoyment out of being miserably hungover and exhausted at work on a Monday morning.
If you aren’t familiar with the festival, it is basically made up of 3 days of musical performances on 6 stages, with acts ranging from major headlining rock bands to hip hop artists to up-and-coming singer songwriters to aggressive dance DJs, and everything in between. It takes place on a giant polo field in the middle of the desert about a 2 and a half hour drive from Los Angeles.
Aside from the music, there are INCREDIBLE art installations, some of them new each year and many of them returning favorites. Standing in the middle of the field, you can’t help but feel like you’re standing in some kind of wonderland – with the palm trees all rigged with their own multi-colored spotlights that make constant, coordinated changes, it feels other-worldy and spectacular. And that is without the drugs.
As with any musical festival, you do get the douche bags that body slam you as they shove their way closer to the stage, the people who don’t know their limits that you see passed out in the middle of the picnic area, and the inevitable separation of your group and the frantic attempts to reconnect in a sea of people. But, I love Coachella. When I’m there I turn into a hippie that loves everyone and everything. Even these people. And these people. And especially these guys.
What I love about Coachella is you can experience it the way you want to, because it caters to all different types of music lovers. If you want to float from stage to stage (or beer garden to beer garden), watching the bands from a comfortable distance while bobbing your head ever so slightly, you can. If you want to spend a ridiculous amount of money, hang out in the air conditioning, drink some champagne and mingle with the A-list celebrities in the VIP area without ever going to see any music being played, you can. If you so choose, you can cover your body in neon body paint, take a load of psychadelic drugs and wander around in a dreamy haze. I definitely saw a lot of those people. And if you want to dive right into the crowd, fight to the front of the stage and dance your heart out only a few feet away from your favorite band, God bless you, you can. But you might get punched in the face. I saw that too.
This year, I have to say the line up wasn’t as great as it was last year, but there were amazing standouts nonetheless. Janelle Monae, a singer I didn’t even know of before Coachella, was by far the best act I saw across both weekends. Not only is she vocally talented with great music, she is incredibly entertaining to watch live. Backed up by a full band with a big brass section, she danced maniacally and still managed to sing every note perfectly. She got the crowd involved, sang a few covers that killed – “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, for one – and at one point she had everyone in the entire tent get down on the ground with her, and then jump up and dance. I’ve never seen a live performer whip a crowd into such a frenzy! She ended the set with a crowd surf to the back of the tent with a massive smile on her face. Well, she was more crowd swimming than surfing. Either way, she was epic and unforgettable!
It was a glorious two weekends and there were so many more amazing moments, but I can’t bring myself to write about them, and I won’t. I just don’t think words can express the feeling of being there, and besides, they shouldn’t. You should experience it yourself.
So maybe I’ll see you there next year. I’ll be the one dancing maniacally, drinking a beer, and marveling at the palm trees. All at the same time.