There’s a certain kind of magic that surrounds the festival called Coachella. It’s the magic of unadulterated happiness, of being with 40,000 other souls who are all connected to the dirt and dust of the polo fields in the same way. It’s the magic of meeting someone from Canada during Diplo and then running into them four times the next day, of running into a friend from high school and bonding over how cool the Oasis House with the scenes from the 1970s was.
The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is one of those rare events that combines freedom of expression, art, survival and limitless happiness all in one place. It is also an event that is hyped up so much that you come in thinking you’ll know exactly what it is all about — that is, until you actually drive four hours to blazing hot Indio and everything about the experience blows your mind and exceeds your every expectation.
So let’s talk about some highlights.
The Postal Service was hands-down the most nostalgic set of the entire weekend for me. When Ben Gibbard came out and started “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” I nearly cried — it was so beautiful. The Postal Service is the seventh-grade jam that I would listen to when I was with my mom picking my older brothers up from high school and we would stop at 7-Eleven and get slurpies. It was one of those shows that reminded me of what a good show is supposed to feel like. I had goosebumps all over.
The jazzy French foursome C2C was the first act I saw at Coachella 2013, and they killed it. It felt like I was transported from Mardi Gras to Shanghai, all within two songs.
R. Kelly showing up at Phoenix: The entire crowd was expecting Daft Punk, and R. Kelly was the one who came out, to the disappointment of everyone — except me! He sang “Ignition” and I was so happy to sing “It’s the freakin’ weekend, baby, I’m about to have me some fun” that I could have left Coachella then and there and all would have been dandy.
My friend Ashley is obsessed with Diplo (of Major Lazer) and would like very much to marry him someday, so she coerced me into going front row for this show. Thank goodness she did; theirs was the best audience-interactive set of the weekend. Stunts they pulled included convincing the entire crowd to take off their shirts, rolling on the crowd in giant Zorb balls and hosting a bigger Harlem Shake than Baauer himself.
The Lumineers: I love them. Their folky soft tunes got me so riled up in the most fantastic foot-stomping way.
Besides the great music, there were other things that made Coachella 2013 one of the greatest weekends in my young adult life. A lot of them have to do with the fact that I camped. Camping just solidified the fact that this was a 96-hour long escapade with some of my best friends.
When camping, you wake up no later than 8 a.m. because the sun starts bleeding into your tent and turns the entire dwelling into a sweatbox. This, coupled with the fact that most Coachiller campers go to bed at 3 a.m., means that you are awake for an average of 76 hours throughout the entire weekend. This creates what I like to call the “Coachforever Effect”: Even though you’re there for four days, it feels like weeks, making it hard to adjust to reality upon return.
It’s different from other festivals, like Outside Lands, for instance, because it is held in this huge expanse where you can stand at the Do Lab, do a 360, and literally see every stage (except maybe the secluded night club in the Yuma Tent). You can hear bits and pieces of every set as you walk by. Maybe you stayed the whole time for 10 shows, but you got to hear lyrics and beats from mostly everyone. In five years, when the people who played at 11:30 a.m. get huge, you have the ability to say, “Oh yeah! I heard them at Coachella,” when really you were getting misted by the Do Lab or rolling around in the grass during someone else’s set.
It’s the idea of being omnipresent — connected with everyone in this small Coachella bubble. Life in the bubble is unreal. It is friendly. Complete strangers high five at the realization that they are from the same side of the U.S., tall men obscuring your vision let those of smaller stature get in front of them and ice cream next to the Mojave tent is free for the taking.
If there was one thing I learned about Coachella, it is this: Enjoy the quiet moments you have. Don’t get caught up in trying to meet up with people and don’t glue yourself to your phone. In fact, leave your phone at the campsite/hotel/house/car.
Just breathe and be present and really take it all in; Coachella is so special. Walking around the campsites and through the stages, it’s a place that begs the question, “How does this even exist? How can 40,000 people be in one field and not have riots?” There is no atrocious fighting at Coachella or intense crime — it has one of the best Lost and Found turnout rates of any venue.
Coachella is a special place where you can lose your wallet and someone will call you the next day and give it back to you. It is a place where you can forget your sunscreen and your next-door camping neighbor will happily hand over their spare bottle. It’s a magical arena of music, unlikely friendships, sharing and organized randomness. It’s a place where you can meet and reconvene with your best friends from high school, and something to hold on to as the yearly tradition that will keep your friendship alive.
It is this extraordinary event that allows people to express themselves in the freest manner and celebrate life and music with thousands of other people. Coachella is about the quiet moment I felt during The Postal Service. It’s about the tears of joy you get from seeing your favorite seventh-grade band.
NOTE: Check out this article in the Daily Nexus here: