Coachella - or now better known as 'Beychella'...
...this place, this weekend, this event, is such a cool experience - it's like the land of the free. An experience and a place where you can let your hair down... embrace your inner crazy. Forget about whatever other shit you've got going on in your world, escape. You're able to see a whole string of major artists... dress in whatever the hell you want and dance like no-one is watching for 3 days straight in the California desert! If you have the chance to do Coachella, just once, it's an adventure you won't forget.
Where is it?
The festival is held in Coachella itself is held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio California, in the Coachella Valley. This was my third time attending Coachella. First year I attended in 2014 was part of a 3 week road trip around the Southwest, last stops prior being Vegas and Lake Havasu. Second time in 2017 I flew in direct to Palm Springs and this year we drove over from Los Angeles. The drive from LA without traffic is about 2 hours... with 99'000 people coming from all over the world, many flying in to LAX it took us about 4 hours the afternoon before.
Where to stay?
So you can camp, which I've never done. That sounds straight up diva, which is only half the case. I'm 32... this place is filled with spring chickens in their late teens and early 20's and frankly, I can't keep up. Or more to the point, I don't even want to keep up. Thats exactly what I don't want to do. The thought of camping in the intense desert heat is one really great reason not to but mostly, I want to enjoy the festival then retire my aching little feet for the night. Get some intense RnR in a nice comfy quiet bed where my ears can ring for an hour prior to crashing out and hit it again the next day.
Basically, I've lucked out each and every time. Without any accommodation planned upfront any of the three years it all worked out okay. So, if you get tickets and they're just GA, don't freak. (or if I really did just get lucky three times running then maybe freak a little bit). Every time I've looked for hotels after getting tickets in the January after the headliners are announced, its pretty much late in the game to be looking for hotels... unless, you're actually Beyonce and wanna drop $500+ a night to stay at a basic hotel, which, of course the queen herself would not do.
Coachella Forum - This is pretty much a lifesaver... two out of the three times for us. There's basically a whole bunch of subjects and posts here but mainly around buying/selling tickets and accommodation. First year we hit up the Coachella Forum we were lucky enough to find a guy who had a timeshare at the Worldmark Hotel in Indio. Yep, four star hotel, two bedroom apartment, pools (yes that's plural), lazy river, full kitchen, minutes to drive into Coachella and awesome roomies. Check it out here.
Second time was this year, we found someone who has a summer home there. His place had a little 'casita'. Separate living space with its own entrance within a private complex minutes from downtown Palm Springs... perfecto!
Friends+Family - Second year we were able to stay with friends. Now this is a long shot if you're a Brit like me but I worked on cruise ships for a long time and know people all over the place. If however, you're American, and have a friend who has a friend who has a friend... check that out sooner rather than later. Palm Springs is a big Snowbird location. Ask around, you might just know someone who has a room spare close by. We stayed in Palm Springs which took just under an hour each day to drive to and from Coachella.
AirBnB/VRBO - This would have been the next option this year had our forum find not turned out. We were late, like reaaally late sorting out our accommodation but there were still rooms available on both airbnb and vrbo. The cheaper options as expected were room only within a shared home. I've done this a couple times in other places and have had great experiences. If you've never used either of the two both sites are in my opinion awesome. Usually the hosts are really personable and helpful, and as a visitor you just get a better feel for the places you stay as opposed to staying in hotels. I guess this has to be partly because the hosts get rated on your experience etc, but honestly I think that people who choose to open their home in such a way are just friendly sharing people, who literally tend to live naturally up to their host titles... give it a go you won't regret it.
How to Get Tickets and How Much Is It?
There are two release dates for tickets. The first comes shortly after the festival, a few weeks after for the following year. You don't know who is playing the festival at this stage. There are a lot of hardcore Coachella goers who are committed no matter what every year... you can also pay via a payment plan at this stage.
The second date is in early January, when they also release the line-up. You have to pay in full at this stage, there is no payment plan. Prices range between $400-$1000 depending what you go for. Basic GA through to Full VIP passes.
Advice - Set yourself an alarm or something in your calendar! I'd planned to get tickets after Beyonce dropped out 2017 it was expected she would headline 2018. It was the plan all along to get tickets... and what did I do? Forget to get online, I just straight up blanked. What a muppet! I was only 17 minutes after the release time and they'd gone. Good thing my lovely husband understands my love for Beyonce is completely irrational and for the sake of saving himself earache for the rest of time was willing to fork out a little extra from a third party site. (How much extra... I don't know, I was wise enough to simply say thank you and be on my way).
The 'tickets' come as wrist bands and you'll receive them in a box to the address you signed up with when purchasing a few weeks before the festival (see below).
The festival itself runs over a three day weekend, Friday-Sunday. Two weekends consecutive, usually mid to end of April. I've done both Weekend 1 and Weekend 2 and honestly, I enjoy myself so much I don't really see a big difference. People say theres more celeb spotting the first weekend... aside from on stage, I never saw a celeb or artist roaming around. It happens obviously, we all see the photos in the magazines etc but I think they mostly spend their time in VIP areas and only pass through the GA areas to visit art work or get from A to B. The thing I enjoyed about weekend 1 was the fact that spoilers can't get you like when attending weekend 2. Seeing Beyonce's huge comeback firsthand, reunited with Destiny's Child who I grew up listening too just wouldn't have been the same if I'd seen a bunch of it in the media the week before. that's a big pro right there!
The sets start late morning through until the early hours. There's a main stage the headliners always play on, known as 'Coachella Stage'. Then theres another large stage, Outdoor Theatre'. Sahara would be the next largest stage and after those theres about another 4-5 areas you can catch various artists Gobi, Sonora, Mojave, Yuma and the Heineken stage. Here's the map from 2018...
2018 Coachella Map
There's a bunch of rules on what you can and can't take it which they post every year... I particularly enjoyed the 'no selfie sticks / narcissists' rule since this is basically the 'selfie festival'.
Getting in is a walk from the day parking if thats how you're going to travel in... you can bring water for the walk but cannot carry it in. You go through scanners, they check through your bags and you scan your wrist band and you're in!
All around the site there are various art exhibits that change up each year. The famous Astronaut who meandered around was there my first year. He's still my favourite yet and I got my face projected on him! Yep!
Here's a few other examples of the kind of artwork displayed over the 3 times I have been to the festival... it's awesome to just wander around in-between seeing the sets in your line up.
One of the coolest art installs now is the Antarctic Dome powered by HP. You can escape the heat of the desert, lay back on the reclining bean bag chairs inside the dome and watch a crazy trippy projection 360* around the interior of the dome. The sound system is incredible and the visuals suck you in to another world. These are all the pics I have as I was kinda entranced... See more info here.
There's tons of places to eat and drink. The food has definitely ramped up since 2014. I seem to remember it then being basic pizza, burgers, fries... just your usual fast food options but this last couple years they've really upped their foodie game with vegan food and sushi and poke bowls and smoothie bars and cocktails and craft beers... the works... being a big foodie this was much appreciated on my part.
Note - If you want to drink at the festival you need to bring along an ID. Theres ID checks all around the site where you show your ID in exchange for a Heineken wrist band. They check this going in and out of bar areas and you need to get a new one each day.
How to make sure you don't miss a performance?
Get the Coachella app and add everyone that you want to see to your favourites. You can set it so that it gives you a 15 minute warning prior to each on your list. The truth is, something is going to clash. So, you just have to choose your battles... either that or run across the desert half way through a set to catch the latter end of the one with the same set time?! (I've done it a few times).
Know the map! Know the stage names! First year we were all lined up, got our spot, ready, waiting for HAIM to come on stage... yep, you guessed it, we were at the wrong stage haha! I suppose you learn from your mistakes.
For me getting right to the front isn't a deal. I had an experience at V Festival in the UK once where we practically fought our way to the front for Kings of Leon... all for my BFF to end up getting dragged over the barrier as she was getting crushed and freaking out... she was shortly followed by me. Yes I didn't want to go but you know, BFF and all that... I was gutted!
Anyway based on that experience I'm more of a find a good spot with a good view and a bit of breathing space kinda festivaler. If you've got your big main acts that you need a rocking spot for, get there early... people start claiming their spots even a good bit back 30-60mins in advance. Find your place, bring a blanket of sorts to lay out and hang out until they come on. Here's me doing exactly that for Queen Bey (check the super excited frilly waiting for Beyonce face). You might think this looks hectic but this would be more considered roomy in Coachella audience terms. We lucked out as there was a guy with a huge blanket and a chair (which is hilarious as who even knows where he'd have gotten a folding chair from). I figured he was waiting for his 6 friends to turn up but as soon as Bey came on, he whipped up his giant blanket and lapped up his solo space. Yesss sir! I had all the room to dance for hours. Two to be precise. Straight. Which I did. Hard.
Coachella Style! What to wear? (the best part!)
Basically at Coachella, you can wear whatever your heart desires. This place is your runway. Live it up! If you've always wanted to try a certain style but haven't had the balls because of what people/family/society might think... this is your place to let gooooo! My choices have always been pretty tame in comparison to some... think topless with stickers on the nipples or the Borat body thong as the extremes, followed by your regular shorts and T on the other end of the spectrum. Literally no-one cares, it's awesome!
- Wear comfortable shoes... I've seen girls wearing stilettos, I wouldn't even wear stilettos to a bbq in someones grassed garden... just no. This is a massive place and you're going to ruin it.
- Wear a backpack. Its temperamental, first year was stifling, second year was sooo cold at night (its the desert) and third year was pretty comfortable.
- Bring a scarf of some kind. I carried one light to wrap in at night and big enough to sit and chill on during the day. Its also really dry and dusty walking to and from the car parking, you can prevent breathing that shit in.
- Carry a water bottle, you can buy water inside but its all pretty pricey and you end up standing in lines. Theres water filling stations dotted about and you can top up through the day. A lot of people use Camelback's which I haven't done myself but makes sense. Again, its the desert! Stay hydrated!
- Sunscreen, get it on. I got pink one year just driving in to the venue as we rented a convertible. You'll be in the desert sun all day, its really not worth getting burnt... and who wants to look like a lobster on their Coachella pics anyway. (I'm glad I read that back as it almost said loser instead of lobster which is harsh and funny and a little bit true).
Here's my choices this year... I clearly like black. Sequins, leopard and lace were my go to's! I'm thinking I'll dig out my past Coachella pics and do a little post with my nine looks over the three years I've been...
Finally, goodbye from me Coachella!
I think I made it clear that I love Coachella, which is a little contradictory to the statement above I know. This year something just clicked on the last day of the festival and I just thought, I've done it. Like, I've been there and I've done it now, three times. I got to see Beyonce absolutely kill it with her comeback. I don't know what it is with her, its funny because I don't usually like pop at all. I'm more of a throwback to rock and stuff I listened to as a kid kinda person, or super chilled out lounge music, or classical, or indie, a lot of different things but not pop... yet somehow the Queen breaks all the rules.
I'm not sure it can be topped for me and I just don't think I'd even want to try. I'm 32... I was 28 when I first went, and frankly I'm starting to feel it. In my soles and in my soul. It doesn't really pain me to say it, I'm cool with it but I'm older now. I just had this feeling that last night that I wouldn't want to run the amazing experience that Coachella is dry. As they say, third times a charm and for me, I feel that my Coachella sun has set beautifully. So... for now Coachella, or as you're now known, Beychella... I will love you and leave you. With the fondest memories of the most amazing 9 days you gave me rocking out in the awesome California desert!
The sun on my Coachella days has set, cheers Coachella! Thanks for the good times!