I've made two trips to the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in my time-- back in 2002 when Bjork headlined, and in 2004-- the infamous Radiohead year. This year's lineup especially entices me-- the return of Portishead, Roger Waters playing Dark Side, My Morning Jacket, The National, Sasha & Digweed for a little of the untz untz, John Butler Trio, Rilo Kiley, Jens Lekman-- even that rich fucker Jack Johnson and random bands like Architecture in Helsinki and that new British chick singer Kate Nash appeal to me. I'm genuinely torn over going this year. I can't do the whole three days, that's for sure, but Showcase and I are leaning toward an appearance on Sunday night for Waters and MMJ.
I've put together a little guide for Coventry readers that may be Coachella virgins. It's a unique festival with a lot of quirks and I hope I can help to de-mystify a little of it for you.
Consider Ticket Packages and Accommodations
The three-day pass goes for $269.00 while single-day tickets are available for $90.00 a pop. Camping passes are $55.00, but come on, do you really want to sweat your ass off in a tent for three days and nights? It's the desert, people. You're much better off getting a nice air-conditioned room in nearby Indio or Palm Desert. I stayed at the Indian Palms Resort back in 2002 and it was the nuts. Nice rooms, a pool and walking distance to the venue. No waiting in line with all those L.A. douchebags lined up off the freeway for hours just to get in the lot. They're doing a special deal for Coachella for $353.00 per person for the entire weekend. Rooms are still available so get on it. The Motel 6 in Indio is always a perpetual party and a good option for those on a budget who don't want to camp. I've also stayed at the Country Inn & Suites in Rancho Mirage (in 2004), an easy drive from the venue.
The official Coachella site also has a list of area hotels that is very helpful.
Consider the Security Presence
I've been to festivals around the country (Bonnaroo, Langerado and the like) and Coachella's security is by far the most buzz-killing. Expect a very thorough search of your bag as you enter the venue. Camelpacks are a no-no. Chairs are a no-no. If they think your backpack is too large, they'll make you take it back to your car. And the backpack that got in on Friday may not get back in on Saturday in the face of a hot, pissed-off security guard. Hide your shit well. Don't even attempt to smuggle in liquor because they'll rid you of anything liquid or glass before you set food on the Empire Polo Field.
Consider Wireless Connections
Consider yourself warned-- the cell phone reception situation inside the venue is downright lousy. Expect a lot of dropped calls and spots where you get no bars at all. If you're with a group, pick out a default spot on the first day to meet in case you get separated and can't get your phones to work.
Consider Remembering Where You Parked Your Car
Don't be like me-- wandering around the lots at 2 AM forgetting where the fuck you parked. If my memory serves me right, the rows and aisles are not labled so either (a) accurately count the number of cars between you and a stationary object (like a tree, just remember which one) or (b) fly some big gay flag above your vehicle to make it easily recognizable to your spun-out self after 12 hours of heady tunes.
All food and beverage transactions are cash only. There are ATMs aplenty, though both inside and outside the venue. Expect to spend $25-30 per day on food and $60 or more if you plan on having beer. Water costs $2 a bottle. Budget at least $20 per day for it. And don't eat the Chinese Food after dancing for 2 hours straight to a Sasha & Digweed set. It just won't end well.
Consider Hydration and Sun Protection
Expect the high temperatures to range from 90-100 degrees and the lows to be no chillier than 65. It's imperative that you drink water constantly, especially with all that dancing and head-bopping you're bound to do. There are shady areas inside the festival grounds-- tents, some with those air-misting things-- but there aren't many. Slather yourself in at least SPF 30 and reapply at least twice during the day.
Consider Pacing Yourself
Coachella is not for the faint of heart. It's hot, it's dry, it's expensive, but the lineups always make it worth it. And this year, it's expanded to three days. Two were hard enough for me back in '02 and '04. Remember the intense environment when making decisions and remember to pace yourself. There's no shame in taking a half-hour between sets to chill out in the shade-- especially after sweating your ass off inside one of the tents.
Enjoy your Coachella, peeps. I hope to join you this year.