A handful of Prefixers attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio California April 29 and 30. Here’s what three of them — Coachella first-timers Lee Fullington and Adrian Covert and festival veteran Eric Solomon — had to say.
It’s always awkward the first time
By Lee Fullington
I found the hell in Coachella. It wasn’t actually in Coachella at all.
In theory, a festival featuring a few hundred acts spread across five stages over two days should be manageable. The promoters have run this festival for a half-dozen years, and they still haven’t worked out one major bug: traffic.
In California — like in the rest of America — public transport is not the norm. Let’s do the math. More than a hundred thousand fans came out for Coachella this year, and basically all of them had to drive there. So how many cars is that? The mind boggles. How many roads are there into the Empire Polo Club in Indio? One. I heard more sets from inside my car than I got to see in person. Kanye West sounded pretty good from my curbside seat. So did Common.
The stereotype of Southern California is that it’s one big knot of gridlock. This was epitomized at Coachella. There aren’t all that many roads into Indio, which is about sixty miles east of Los Angeles, so even if you knew some of the lesser-traveled routes, you still got funneled into the standstill traffic before you got to the actual parking lots.
Of course, they can’t just build more roads into the polo club, but there has to be a way to alleviate some of the traffic. In England, coaches (buses to us Americans) travel to the festival grounds frequently. Glastonbury Festival is broadcast over BBC radio and TV, so being able to hear the bands’ performances as you’re sitting in the car might be a nice way to enjoy the traffic and not miss as much of the festival. Having buses between offsite parking and a separate bus entrance might help. Anything to discourage so many cars would be helpful. There’s nothing more frustrating on a festival day than sitting in stopped-dead traffic, being teased by the music floating over the fences.
Once inside the grounds, the story was different. Organizers did a nice job of finding ways to alleviate people traffic. In years past, smaller acts and dance acts played in closed tents, but this year the tents were essentially roofs on poles. That meant people could see acts such as Daft Punk, Gnarls Barkley and Madonna from far away. And because of that, waiting in line to use the toilets wasn’t as bad as it should have been.
Putting Madonna and Mogwai on at virtually the same time at opposite ends of the festival grounds was genius. If Coachella were the Titanic, the end of the big boat that broke off would have taken all the Madonna people and sunken, to the joy of the Mogwai fans. The crowd for Madonna was a bulging swarm of worker ants attempting to climb over each other to get to the queen. I watched the train wreck for a few minutes and then headed over to Mogwai. So thanks, Madge, for going on late and making me miss the first song of the one band I really wanted to see in the middle of the desert. It was my own fault, of course, being vicarious and curious, but had she gone on when she was supposed to, I could have had my both my fixes.
Mogwai, of course, was amazing. The stars in the haze above and the perfectly synched lights behind the band made for a breathtaking performance. Hearing “Glasgow Mega Snake” live — so hard, so fast, so ace was worth the cost of the tickets (almost two hundred bucks). And the live version of “Helicon 2” always makes me cry in that good way when the guitars go up that half step about a minute before the song ends. So thank you, Mogwai, for making Coachella not seem so hellish, in retrospect.
Here’s what else I learned at my first Coachella experience:
· Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode really, really likes to grab his crotch. And it’s not something you want to see on a huge screen.
· Mylo seems to appeal to the little brothers and sisters of the rave generation — as in “let’s bring glow sticks and whistles and pretend we were there for the summer of love of ’88 and act just like all the stereotypes we’ve seen in movies.” How 1992.
· Hipsters, if you’re going to wear black to the desert, try not to pass out or fall asleep in the grass at night. It makes you really hard to see, and I felt bad stepping on you. Well, not that bad. I would have been really mad had I fallen over.
· Get to the margarita tents early. Icy, limey drinks are the bevvie of choice under the hot, relentless desert sun. And that Han Soju rice vodka will just fuck you up, and not in a good way.
· Don’t wear flip flops. People don’t seem to understand that the flush for the flushable toilets is on the floor, so they get full and flooded. Wading through a few inches of human detritus is not nice.
· Remember to bring some food for the car trip in. There is, of course, only ever going to be one road into Coachella.
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