Blame it on Pearl Jam! While looking for a substitute venue during the band’s dispute with Ticketmaster, Indio’s Empire Polo Field became the host not only to 25,000 grunge fans, but also the birth of an idea for a US music festival to rival those in Europe. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has grown considerably from the original October 1999 date with approximately 40,000 attendees to the current 198,000 per day juggernaut. We spoke with our veteran Coachella Nationites and have put together a simple list of pro-tips to make your desert experience memorable for all the right reasons. Although Coachella specific, many of these hacks carry over to any multi-day music event.
1. WATER: Bring an empty non-metal water bottle or a camelbac. There are numerous free filtered water stations located throughout the grounds. Check out the map and fill up once you get through security, as the lines get longer as the day progresses. Don’t be discouraged if the lines look long; they still move fairly quick. Unless it is 100+ degrees out or you are by the Sahara Tent, you should be able to fill up in under 15 minutes. Dehydration is a common at festivals and is especially problematic in the arid desert conditions.
2. LOCKERS: Unless you are camping, get a locker. It’s a great way to stash your keys and avoid hauling everything with you. Pay a few extra dollars for a combo lock (no losing of key, easier access). On Sunday, make sure to claim the 20$ deposit when finished with the locker. Do yourself a favor and place keys in as soon as you arrive. I have seen countless broken key laden safety pins littering the dance tents and field. Save yourself the headache and lock up your keys! The link for Locker Lou is http://lockersonline.com/
3. CLOTHES: Everyone is a fashionista at Coachella. Pages upon pages in fashion magazines and websites are devoted to what to wear, celebrity sightings and what they wore to who wore it better. Many of those same photographed celebrities also are driven via backstage golf carts from stage to stage and don’t need to make the arduous trek through a sea of people. Those cute booties or flip flops may feel fine after the first hour but once your dogs start to bark, you may be tempted to take them off and be forced to walk through a mine field of vomit and urine…to name a few. Do yourself and your feet a favor and invest in some stylish, yet practical kicks or Converse instead. Another thing…It may be hot during the day but once the sun goes down, the temperature can swing 40+ degrees in the other direction. Unless you’re impervious to cold or so drugged up you can’t tell the difference, bring a jacket or change of clothes and stash them it that locker you just rented.
4. CELL SERVICE: Pick a distinct meeting spot when you arrive (like the locker or left corner of the merch booth) and designate a time to meet back up with the rest of your party. Cell service is spotty at best because the area is not equipped for the influx of cell signals. If you are texting, you may not receive a response for several hours. The service gets better every year but is not quite “there” yet. Best to set your meeting place in advance instead of worrying and waiting at the end of the evening. Save your battery life by closing all background aps and disabling wi-fi and Bluetooth. Still find yourself low on juice…good thing there are charging stations throughout the grounds…even better, bring a portable charger with a full battery to saving you hovering a charging station for an empty plug or port.
5. FACILITIES: Porta-potties are gross at the beginning of the day and disgusting at best as the festival goes on. Bring a small package of baby-wipes with you…trust us, they will be your best friend especially in the evening when there is nary a piece of toilet paper to be found. Better yet, do yourself a favor and spend the extra time using one of the trailer bathrooms. They are cleaner, have lights and running water. Most importantly…don’t be like the girl from Australia who dropped her phone into the loo and fell in trying to retrieve it…I still shudder at that memory.
6. HEALTH: We shouldn’t have to tell anyone to wear sunscreen, but all too often we have been with friends whose experience started out great on day one only to be derailed due to a hellacious sunburn on days two and three. Sunscreen…bring it, use it! Another issue that plagues the festival year after year is the “Coachella croup”. The silt like dust gets progressively worse each day as the grass gets stamped down. If the wind picks up, forget it. Save yourself the lung issues and bring a bandana with you. Great for cooling off with during the day and essential for breathing when it is windy. Buy a pair of cheap sunglasses (that still offer UV protection) and leave your designer ones at home.
7. LOST & FOUND: The Coachella lost and found has successfully reunited attendees with keys, phones, wallets, debit cards, etc. Good rule of thumb to protect your phone if lost…take a photo of your ID and set it as your screen saver. If your phone is found, it will be easier to be returned.
8. GENERAL: If you are trying to make your way closer to the front of the stage, going through the center will not work…best to go avoid the traffic jam and go via the sides. For the Outdoor stage, especially at night, always go towards the right. The left side is where the beer garden and porta-potties are which cause an extra bottleneck when trying to make it to the next performance. Wanting to see your favorite band of all time and willing to hang out all day to be as close as possible? Then invest in a wide mouth bottle if male or a Shewee if female. Gross, but better than the alternative of losing your place against the rail. If you want specific merchandise, don’t wait until the last day as many styles are sold out. The lines get incredibly long during the evening due to all the people who aren’t prepared and find themselves freezing.
9. ART: There is a reason “ART” is in the festival name. Music is art. Performance is art. Light is art. At Coachella, you hear, see and feel art. Each year larger than life installations grace the field creating a vivid landscape that transforms from day to night. Top visual artists create sublime masterpieces that surprise and delight the crowds with several becoming “iconic” Coachella Instagram sensations…snail, caterpillar, butterfly, astronaut. Even the areas providing much needs shade and rest have been carefully thought out to be more than their intended purpose. It is truly amazing! Go early, have fun, make memories, be safe and remember its all about the MUSIC!
Footnote: The JPN Coachella nationites have missed only one Coachella since 1999.