The weather was a popular topic for this year’s Coachella, almost taking precedent over the banter about the line-up. We were greeted on Friday by dark ominous clouds, and by mid-afternoon, beach balls were left floating sadly in the rippling waters of deserted pools. We were at the Ace Hotel for Steve Harrington x Generic Surplus pop-up shop, safe in the confines of a neon prismatic room looking out at the rain, itching to get to the festival yet worried about the cold, harsh conditions. “Fuck it,” I finally said. I texted a friend who was already there and asked her how she was dealing with the weather. “Getting stoned and dancing.” Perfect.
We wrapped up our artist-homie hangout, popped some mushrooms into our mouths, and headed to the festival; ready to take on mud, wind, rain, whatever. I envisioned a Woodstock ’94 type experience complete with nude Mud People. As it turned out, rain was intermittent and everyone remained mostly clothed. We walked straight to Madness for the first act of our Coachella journey and could not ask for a better one-word summarization of what it’s like to be at Coachella. They set the tone in not only their name but also the greatness of their 70s British ska revival. When they played their classic cover “I Chase the Devil,” you could see that they were having as much fun as the crowd. Not bad for old dads.
From there we walked to the main stage to Pulp, an LED banner scrolled the unoriginal audience-hyping lines “Are you ready? I can’t hear you…” Finally, the PULP sign was illuminated and Jarvis Cocker, looking as dashing as ever, stepped out of the shadows to croon “Do You Remember the First Time?”. Unfortunately, we had to leave shortly after their set began because Tim, my boyfriend, who I give all my deepest appreciation to for making Coachella happen, had to use the bathroom. The festival pact is, unless you don’t mind never finding each other again, to go everywhere together–this means if one person has to pee, everyone pees. We tried to use our fancy all-access guest wristbands to see if there were any special backstage bathrooms, however, every Coachella personnel we asked scoffed at us and directed us to the “common people” port-o-potties arena. We ended up dancing to that song in the commonest of common areas and it all just made perfect sense.
When Mazzy Star hit the stage, the mushrooms we had taken earlier began to take effect and the rest of the night was a blur of running around laughing hysterically while chasing each other across the polo field. The roller coaster of emotions descended in an long crying moment in which we sat in the VIP beer garden and listened to the Black Keys from the comfort of the couches indulging in pizza and “getting real.”
We cleaned ourselves up enough to see The Black Angels and The Horrors, both bands killing it. We didn’t leave Coachella until The Horrors played their very last song, stumbling out through a graveyard of empty plastic bottles as the masses retreated into the night.
The weather was sunny with a slight chill still in the air. Saturday was the obligatory party day, where everyone is trying to get into some brand sponsored Coachella party that nobody is really going to, to have fun–let’s face it, most of the people at Coachella parties are from L.A. and they are all there to “network.” Yawn… More noble people like myself go for free booze and food and to get to sit for a couple hours before trudging to the festival with nary 5 hours of sleep. We started the day off with the Burton BBQ at the Ace Hotel, loading up on sliders and hot dogs and Moscow Mules. Then we went to the Rhonda party at the Saguaro. It was packed with bodies– mostly tan, writhing, banana-hammocked party boys and their fashionista fag-hags, the makings for the best dance parties, of course.
We rolled into the festival grounds to see the act I was most anticipating, Jeff Mangum. I saw him play twice at ATP last year at Asbury Park, NJ and cried nonstop the entire time. I can’t explain it but it might have something to do with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea being an album in which I know every word to every song having had loud sing-a-longs in my car to them so many times. The lyrics are as cryptic as poetry should be. He sang as beautifully as ever, always straining his vocals to the extent of reckless abandon.
The Shins played on the main stage next door, and when they covered Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” I literally gasped. It was the best music moment of the night. From there, we rode the ferris wheel, which is probably the dorkiest thing you can do at Coachella, but fulfills all your romantic date dreams. We had prime viewing for Radiohead’s set but I was so tired and, sad to say, completely bored by their performance that I told Tim that I had to get out of the crowd. Somehow, the headlining act that I was most excited about turned out to be the biggest letdown of the trip and it was even my first time seeing them. I guess I should’ve been cooler in ’98 when they were on the Ok Computer tour or had been able to score tickets to the first day of Coachella where they headlined in ’04.
Tim was kind enough to go back to the car with me where we both fell asleep until Xavier knocked on our windows, laughing at our exhausted selves when he was still ramped up and ready for more.
Somehow we made it to the exclusive “scenestar” haven Jeremy Scott x Adidas party at the famous Frank Sinatra house around 2:00am without the use of amphetamines. That night, it was so cold, I spent most of my time huddled under a heat lamp cuddled up with some new friends while sharing a giant Jeremy Scott towel. The attendees were definitely keeping the New York Club Kid vibe alive in more neon spandex than I’ve ever seen (except for at last year’s Jeremy Scott party) but neon spandex is no match for the record temperature minimum for that day since 1993. Eventually, those free towels became the capes to which everyone wore in defense against summer fashion’s mortal enemy, 47 degree winds.
True to its name, Sunday was sunniest and warmest day of the week. Partygoers rejoiced! Started off with Mark Mothersbaugh’s brunch at the Ace once again, which then turned into The Do-Over party. We arrived at the festival in time to catch The Weeknd. From there we stayed in the VIP Beer Garden to see Justice who had some technical issues during their otherwise great set, but it really doesn’t matter because Sunday was ALL about Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Nate Dogg, and of course, the Tupac Shakur hologram. “Young Wild & Free” might as well be the Coachella theme song, the veritable anthem for anyone who attends music festivals and there was never any more love (or pot smoke) in the air for the sunshine state where the bomb ass hemp be. Everyone was a Californian that night, united under hip-hop. This year, Coachella proved that they keep it rockin’.
Nicki Wong is a writer in L.A. focussing on fashion, culture, and travel. She strongly believes in not taking anything too seriously and always sharing your food.