85,000 people. Spotty cell phone coverage. Three straight days of music. Snow-capped mountains by day, and spotlights flashing across the sky by night. These were the circumstances under which one of the world’s largest annual music festivals, Coachella, took place this year. It was a spectacle to remember, when memory was possible.
I attended Weekend 1, April 13-15, and it was my first time in Indio. Although I have gone to a number of concerts and festivals, this experience was without precedent. At any given time, you could choose between five different bands/DJs of wildly different styles, from indie to hip-hop to dub-step. There were beer gardens and pizza joints galore, all with prices that would melt your eyes faster than a churro melts in your mouth ($5 per churro, by the way). An illuminated ferris wheel towered over the expansive grounds. You could hold mile-long strings of balloons that lit up the night like Christmas lights. Art exhibits and spontaneous kickball games rounded out the repertoire of activities.
For $285 a ticket, one might expect nothing less. That said, for all of the logistical challenges that I encountered, I was very impressed by how smoothly everything worked. Yes, it took 45 minutes to get through two security checkpoints, since I was taking a shuttle. Yes, during those checkpoints, I got a pat-down search that in any other scenario would have been grounds for sexual harassment. And yes, there were lines and large distances for almost every occasion, from bathrooms to water fountains to merchandise shops. However, I have been to much smaller affairs that were far more inefficient and stressful. With a few exceptions, I got to see all of the artists for which I had come, as well as several gems that I had never encountered before. (more…)