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Now that the lineup is out for Coachella, it’s time to start getting excited for dusty lungs, burned necks and rubbing up on salty, sweaty strangers. That’s right, Coachella 2013 is nigh.
Whether or not you remember last year (for whatever reason, no judgment) or are planning your first trip out, here are 13 things I learned last year so you’ll be prepared for the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
13. Don’t be too anal about the schedule.
Did you seriously plan every band you wanted to see down to the second? That’s a recipe for disaster. You probably won’t wake up in time for that 11:25 am set anyway or your friends will want to see a DJ at Sahara when you’ve scheduled an ’80s punk band at the Outdoor Theatre. And then you’ll be all butt hurt.
Save the disappointment: just go with the flow and you’ll discover a group you would have skipped right over during your planning session.
12. Lawrence of Coachella.
Since I hadn’t been out to the desert in a couple years, I asked a friend for advice on what to bring. He suggested eye drops. I thought, “I don’t wear contacts. Doesn’t he know that?” Pulling into the lot Friday, I totally remembered why. Coachella is a dust bowl. Bring Visine and a bandanna to wear around your mouth like the poor parking attendants who look like extras from The Book of Eli.
11. It’s not always sunny in Coachella Valley.
If you went out the first weekend (I didn’t, but talked to a hardcore friend who hit both weeks) and only brought your pasties and bikini bottoms, you were probably screwed on Friday. It rained and sunk into the 40s that night. By the second weekend, the festival was into record-setting triple digits. So, check it (weather.com) before you wreck it (your weekend).
10. Hey bro, everyone knows what you’re doing.
Seriously, don’t be that guy. You know, the guy in the tank top and aviators who walks around with a spray bottle squirting girls and somehow “misses” their faces. This experience is readily available in the Do LaB, where there are plenty of water misters and non-creepy people manning them.
9. Recycling is cool (to an extent).
Coachella and partner Global Inheritance have an admirable recycling policy with stations set up abundantly around the grounds where you can separate your trash into recyclables, landfill, and compost. The “10 for 1” campaign that’s been around since 2007 allows you to trade in 10 used bottles for a new one. There’s absolutely no shame in taking literally 30 seconds after a set to hunch over and snag enough recyclables for a free bottle.
This year, the program expanded its available trade-ins to include small prizes like 30 bottles for a tube of sunscreen and 100 for a poster all the way up to 2,500 for a pass to this year’s festival. This is where it gets ridiculous. There were people walking around the festival like post-apocalyptic Santa Clauses lugging grotesque bags of plastic over their shoulders. Dude, enjoy this year’s festival. Oh, and don’t think you can bring 2,500 bottles in from the outside. They thought of that.
8. Camping’s great, but….
I follow an old maxim: “If God wanted us to sleep outside, he wouldn’t have invented hotels.” Luckily, I didn’t have to break this rule of thumb since my grandma generously let me use her place out in Palm Springs for the weekend. It was a 45-minute commute each day but it was worth it to not have to lie on the ground, in the heat, butt cheek-to-butt cheek with a smelly bro each night.
Just for you, however, I asked my friend Kathryn – who spent roughly a week over the two weekends sleeping in the desert heat – what one should bring camping. She recommends you pack lanterns, sandwich baggies, lots of food, batteries, baby wipes (the ones that don’t smell like babies) and ice – basically anything you think isn’t a big deal until you realize it costs $10 at the General Store. The necessities you must have at your campsite, she says, are beer and people who can take a joke.
7. Don’t plan on getting anywhere any time soon.
Silly us. Who knew that if you leave at 4 pm from downtown LA, you won’t make it to Coachella parking until 8:30? Oh right, everybody. But in general, don’t expect that you can just jump out of your car and be at the main stage.
Walking in from Lot 2 on Sunday, we were right on schedule to see Band of Skulls on the main stage. That was until we were stopped at an outer security checkpoint then again at the main entrance for another patdown. By the time we got to the Coachella Stage, we caught the last two songs.
Saturday night after Radiohead, the slow, dimly-lit death march out was described by one fellow shuffler as a “zombie flash mob.” If you hate crowds, you can hang out inside the festival until the coast is clear out or, God forbid, leave early.
Seriously, it helps to be tall. You can stand way far back from the stage and still see the action. Well, ok, if you can’t grow a few inches by next year’s festival at least bring a Sasquatch with you. Not only can you sit on his (or her) shoulders but if your group gets separated, you can put a glowstick headband on him and, ta da, instant landmark to meet at.
5. Have a brew.
There are a few Heineken beer gardens spread around the grounds but the best one is on the west side of the grounds adjacent to the Main Stage. Here you can enjoy a $9 large beer, sit on the terraced steps in the shade of the tents and listen to the big acts up on stage. There are even speakers set up facing the garden. Sorry young’uns, even if you don’t drink you can’t get in here until you’re 21.
4. Act like a VIP.
More important than beer or shade at the Heineken beer garden are the port-a-potties stashed in back. Everyone knows the crap shacks spread throughout the grounds are incredibly skeezy. (Don’t even think about hitting the ones right near the entrance.) But adjacent to the VIP area, hidden around the corner, are a group of (relatively) clean shitters with minimal wait. There’s even a relaxing fountain nearby you can dip your feet in – or use for inspiration.
If you’re really ballsy, the entrance to the VIP area is right there. Bring – or be – a cute girl and you might be able to talk your way past security. You can actually purchase ice-cold popsicles in there. These are NOT available out where the proles roam.
3. Sell out.
Whether you’re getting soaked or getting baked (by the sun), head to one of the corporate tents when the weather sucks – or if you’re just hungover. H&M pitched a tent that had pitchers of water, free sunscreen, and slow but free Wi-Fi. Most importantly, they had A/C and places to lounge. It was like a triage with kids splayed out, staring up with vacant, heat-wasted eyes.
The nearby Heineken domes had the same overpriced beer served elsewhere but you could relax and enjoy the cool air as a DJ spinned. (You had to be 21 to get in here.)
2. Put the camera down.
You know who has lots of blurry pictures from 100 feet back of DJ’s you can’t quite make out at Coachella? Everyone.
Stash your phone or camera and enjoy the show. I’m positive that somebody else will upload their own shaky video to YouTube so don’t worry about that. If you really want to take a picture, turn the phone around and take a shot of you and your friends enjoying the show. That’s what you want to remember anyway when you’re old, right? How slutty you dressed back in 2013?
1. No passes? No problem.
So, you missed out the 2012 presale and the 2013 onsale of Coachella. Well, unless you got $3,400 for a tent, you can’t buy a ticket through Goldenvoice. Don’t worry, though, this year’s marquee-lite lineup should make it easy to get a pass on the secondary market. I bought last year’s tickets – for a bill that featured Radiohead, Dr. Dre/Snoop and The Black Keys – for only $330 each (face value $285) on StubHub during the first weekend for the second so, please, relax.
All right, now you’re prepared for Coachella. Look for me: I’ll be the one snapping photos in the back, carrying a humongous bag of empty bottles, and armed with a water bottle spraying the ladies.
(photos by Brett Padelford)