I’ve been hearing for years how great Coachella is. Ever since music festivals became a thing, Coachella has been the pinnacle, the top of the line, the crème de la crème of all festivals. So, when the opportunity arose, I grabbed a sun hat from the gas station, squeezed into my elastic waistband jeans, laced up my sneakers and drove to Indio, California, ready for some fun camping, good music, cool art, delicious food and what I thought would be the time of my life.
Maybe it’s because I was sober the whole time or maybe I’ve just lost touch with the youths in my old age, but in my opinion, Coachella really stunk. It was hot, dirty, smelly, boring and the fashion was average at best.
These days, music festivals are all pretty similar when it comes to the actual shows. It’s the total experience that sets certain festivals apart from the rest. To the average music fan, major festival lineups will be solid, and you get the value of your ticket in the many different artists you see. Since the music aspect of Coachella’s “music and arts festival” was consistent with just about any other festival I could pay the same amount of money to attend, I was expecting Coachella to impress in other ways. But it didn’t. While the music was as good as expected (besides one headliner who experienced supernatural problems), it was the other little things that made Coachella a weak festival, especially compared to its competition.
In the words of the great social commentator and leading ranch activist Eric Andre, “Coachella sucks this year.” Here’s some of the good and the bad from my experience:
THE GOOD STUFF
Roasted corn: I came prepared for camping with pb&j’s and goldfish, so I could save money, but I ended up eating roasted corn and French fries twice a day instead. The food at Coachella was top notch. Food stands were everywhere, so the lines weren’t long, and most of it wasn’t crazy expensive. My favorites were the Roasted Corn and Potatoes stand and the Ooey Gooey fries from Chego, an Asian fusion restaurant in Los Angeles.
New Order: While all the young’uns closed out the festival Sunday with Kendrick Lamar on the mainstage, I saw one of the best bands of all time. Bernard Sumner was a little slow on the guitar and vocals, but Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris showed all the young EDM punks how to play the keyboard and drums. 35-60-year-olds raged at the Mojave tent to 80s pop hits like “Blue Monday” and “Temptation” and some recent bangers like “Tutti Frutti” and “Plastic” from New Order’s 2015 album Music Complete. Just when I thought the wrinkly dance party was over, the band came back out for an encore of Joy Division songs.
Spaciousness: There was a ton of space for walking, dancing and taking boomerangs. You could be a mile away from the mainstage and still see the screens and hear the music (unless Radiohead was playing [see below]).
Shade: Those giant emoji poops that created shade were cool. Also, any form of shade anywhere was a plus.
Water: There was water there. If not, everyone would now be dead.
Disney Channel Stars: Cole Sprouse was there.
The hour of total silence on the drive home post-festival: After three days of constant “unce unce unce” everywhere I went, a moment of silence was much needed. On the way home, I instituted an hour of total silence for meditation and recovery from the hubbub. This was one of the best parts of the festival.
THE BAD STUFF
Vomit-inducing port-o-potties: All port-o-potties are vomit-inducing, but Coachella port-o-potties were like nothing I’ve ever seen. I actually witnessed one poor soul go into the port-o-potty and, after seeing the absolute carnage of fecal matter and waste inside, come out blowing chunks. That’s something to be proud of, Coachella.
Mad Max Furry Road: It was a desert wasteland where white people in fur coats fought over water, shade, showers and the most recently cleaned port-o-potties while the VIP section sat atop their figurative mountains which were actually cabanas with lush green trees, shade and free, cold water bottles. One day the GA will revolt against the VIP. That sun does crazy things to your mind.
Radiohead’s extra-terrestrial interference: I’m not sure what happened here, but in the aftermath, my ears suffered damage way worse than any normal Radiohead session. Thom Yorke blamed aliens for the speakers blasting awful sounds before cutting out completely during their set on Friday. Aliens are unlikely, but I guess anything is possible in that hellish place. Also, I was really excited to see Radiohead, so that was disappointing.
Sketchy teamsters: Putting on an event as big as Coachella isn’t easy. But, the least they could do is hire staff who know where you’re supposed to park and don’t creep on young girls at the security checkpoints. None of the staff had any idea what was going on, and they drove like maniacs in their carts and other vehicles on paths where innocent bystanders were shuffling through the dust.
Venue: I’m sure the Empire Polo Club is a great place for a festival during a less hot time of the year.
Disney Channel Stars: Cole Sprouse was there.
Top five performances:
1. New Order
2. Future Islands
3. Local Natives
4. Bon Iver
5. (tie) Two Door Cinema Club/Lee Fields and the Expressions