Last year, I went to Coachella and left a day early. Being on the festival grounds this year and seeing all the happy people party in broad daylight into the evening gave me PTSD. I’m old now and retired from the party scene — and anything of the sort. It reminded me of the good old days: getting dolled up, smuggling in drugs, bonding over favorite artists, and actually enjoying life while living in the moment. It was all about the music, but it was also about the people you were with.
You might think, why is that bad? It was mostly a sad reminder that I miss my friends. I miss the carefree, zero-fucks-given attitude and ability to disconnect from reality. Even back at the ghetto Deluxe Inn where I was staying, the party animals in surrounding rooms were up until dawn. I overheard two friends arguing over how uncool it was to have left the group. I totally remember those days, when one person would get lost and the rest of the evening was spent wondering their whereabouts.
I’m also sober from alcohol and haven’t had a sip since August 2012. It’s been hard to connect to others on a personal level when all they’re worried about is how they can be more inebriated. I sound so old — I’m 27 — and the thought of going to Coachella is daunting. Unless I’m working, you won’t find me at an event like that.
Not to mention the struggle of blazing some weed back at the crack-denlike inn after the festival. After a long day onsite, there’s nothing better than a joint for a nightcap. The only obstacle was the smoke detector on the ceiling, which we were unable to dismantle. Solution? Hotbox the bathroom with the shower hot water on full blast. I felt like I was in college again, but then felt annoyed I had to even be hiding the fact I was smoking in the first place! SMH.
Going in on Day 1, I soon realized this was going to be a lonely weekend ahead. From back-to-back interviews, to catching one artist’s set, to catching the next person’s set at seemingly the other end of the world, to writing recap pieces on those sets, to posting those sets on social … I was a slave.
On a positive note, I did see the beauty in the festival. Coachella is probably the most-highly anticipated festival all year, aside from Lollapalooza. If you have a spot on the bill at Coachella, you’re important. Whether it’s a noon or 9 p.m. set, you are worthy. This year, specifically, it meant you were performing in the same general area as Beyoncé.
And I don’t say that because I’m a part of the Beyhive, I say that because I realize I’m a small minority not in the Beyhive. In all honesty, I respect and recognize her talents as utterly flawless, but I’ve also seen her so many times I’ve lost count. In fact, the last time she performed at Staples Center, my girl and I split two blunts and I hella fell asleep.
Day 1 was the day of trial and error, the day of finding your way around this seriously endless maze of people, stages, and everything in between. There were 700 acres to cover, not including the walk to your car. It was hot, but not as hot as Day 3. The vibes were different the second weekend, a little calmer. Mostly because people with “clout” — either 6 digit Instagram followers or own a Maserati — like to say Weekend 1 is better than Weekend 2.
Honestly, there’s no fucking difference — minus the special guests — but there’s so much talent everywhere, it’s not even a factor. As I find my way to the Media Tent, my hideout for the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of photos being taken. Everyone needs that one perfect Coachella photo. No shade, I used to do it, too. But being by myself, I was hyper-aware of how much that actually mattered in this day in age.
I’m not sure if it’s because I had media credentials and had a backpack full of my laptop, chargers, and notepads, but security hardly went through my stuff. It wasn’t until I got inside the Media Tent and opened my bag to see a huge Pre-roll sitting in the front pocket. How the hell did they miss that? Definitely not mad at it.
But this also reminds me of a moment during Day 3 when I pulled a piece of gum from my backpack. All of a sudden, undercover cops emerged from hiding to grab my hands and asked me what it was. They came out of nowhere!
This really shook me up! Not in the sense that I was scared, but it was almost offensive — such an invasion of privacy. These guys were legit dressed in festival gear, like basketball jerseys and bandanas, to fit in the crowd. It blew my mind. As soon as they realized it was harmless gum, they moved on like nothing happened.
I will say I understand. Coachella fell on a weekend following the death of one of EDM’s most adored artists, Avicii, who was just 28 years old. Rest in peace. In a few of my interviews, I was able to ask about their thoughts and initial reactions to Avicii’s death. Most were planning a tribute during their sets, which was very special.
Festivalgoers of all walks of life were here. From the ferris wheel to the tall rainbow-colored circular transparent building to the charging seesaw pit, this was a playground in real life. Coachella exhibits so much art, inspiration, creativity, and overall good energy, this wasn’t a place for you to worry about what the next person was doing or what you have to do back home. This was sharing a space with people who love and appreciate the same things you do.
There was a moment during Tyler, The Creator’s set that I could not get over. I was recording “See You Again,” which almost made me cry, and this girl begged for me to send her the video. She was too busy screaming and singing along, which I appreciated. She was trembling as I gave her my phone to type in her number. She couldn’t even type. She was freaking out, as she just saw her favorite artist perform. It was a humbling moment, because I remembered what this is all about: the music.
Another thing that stood out from previous years was the food. Holy shit! There were some truly gourmet options available. I think I saw some crab aioli French fries that would surely have anyone drooling. Let’s not even get started on dessert — Oreo ice cream tacos with sprinkles and whipped cream? C’mon!
Eminem sealed the deal for me. He’s not only my favorite rapper, but he’s also the reason I fell in love with hip-hop. Hearing him perform cuts from The Eminem Show had me in tears.
Thanks, Coachella. See you next year!