The DOs & DON’Ts of Coachella
At 5:00 AM on Monday, I jerked myself awake and looked down at my body to find I’d fallen asleep nude in a large hotel bathtub under a steady stream of scalding hot water. My contacts were dried out and suctioned to my eyeballs, and a ring of black dirt outlined my frame. Half of my hair was knotted up into one massive dreadlock so gnarly it would’ve put the bass players in nü metal bands to shame. Yet despite my broken body and haggard appearance, I was overcome with pride: I’d successfully survived the first half of the two-weekend-long adult spring break known as the Coachella Music Festival. Coachella is the annual desert-music event held in Indio, California, which happens to be one of the most physically grueling places this side of the equator. This was my third time attending, so by now, I’ve seen it all: from Rave Dad to a technologicallyreincarnated Tupac Shakur. For those of you who are going for the first time next week, or are just insane and attending for a second time, here are some tips to making it out of Palm Desert in one piece.
DO BUY VIP
Music-festival passes are extremely overpriced. However, if you’re baller enough to blow half a month’s rent to see a bunch of bands you could watch live on a laptop from the comfort of your own home in the sweltering hot desert, it only makes sense to shell out a couple more duckets to obtain VIP status. There is little to no cell reception at Coachella, so your phone battery is guaranteed to die. But VIPs have multiple charging stations. It’s hot as Satan’s taint in the desert, but VIPs have shaded areas, misting fans, and an air-conditioned bar. When you’re in GA, you can’t drink alcohol on the fairground. But the VIPs have more than one bar spread out in a closed-off section where they can easily watch bands and get plastered. And let’s not forget that parking is a bitch, but VIPs get to park closer to the entrance, so you don’t have to walk a mile to your car in the dark and possibly get stalked by bros in tacky tie-dye T-shirts. Plus as a VIP, you have a better chance of conning your way backstage into the artist areas if you keep yourself from breaking character when lying to security guards about how you’re part of the Earl Sweatshirt entourage, when really you’re just trying to creep on guys with guitars and the topless girls who are having them sign their tits.
DON’T WEAR INAPPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR
Considering that everything is far away, and you’re constantly walking around in circles in a bunch of dirt, your footwear choices will really make or break your entire festival experience. Unless you’re there with the sole purpose of having a bunch of sleazy “blog photographers” snap photos of you for obscure fashion sites that no one has ever heard of, dressed in a bunch of weird outfits you’d never actually wear at home, don’t bother sporting high heels. It’s already bad enough having to trip over the blacked-out idiots laying on the ground in the middle of the crowds at the main stage, but it’s even worse when you sprain your ankle and have to sit in a hot medical tent with a bunch of kids who ate too many brownies and are screaming to EMS workers that they think they’re going to die. Even more retarded are the people who wear sandals or choose to walk around in bare feet, as there are no proper bathrooms; you have to pee in Porta Potties. Between that and all the cop-horse manure you have to walk through, you’re setting yourself up for a pretty shitty experience.
Coachella and Other Things You Can’t Afford
I am a (reasonably) young, “creative” person living in an urban environment. As such, essentially everyone I know purports to be poor. Like, super poor (their emphasis, not mine). Now, not to get all Reagan on your ass, but I fully believe that my friends’ particular breed of poverty is a choice. They’re not poor because they have to work two jobs to pay for their mother’s chemotherapy. They’re not poor because they were born disenfranchised. They’re poor because they waste their money on stupid, superfluous shit that does nothing to better their quality of life, because they still complain incessantly about being depressed.
Unless you’re attending as a paid member of the Monster™ Energy Extreme Promotional Team, if you’re going to Coachella this weekend, you no doubt shelled out tons of cash for tickets. Know what would have been a more productive thing to buy? Health insurance. If you’re wasting what little scratch you have on the tired, money-sucking trappings of young life that I’ll outline below, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Any by “yourself,” I mean your credit (which is what defines your worth as a human anyway).
My great-grandmother spent a couple weekends in the desert once—escaping the Turks, who had murdered her entire family. The modern day equivalent of her journey consists of shitheads with Skrillex haircuts shlepping out to the godless wasteland that is the Coachella valley and spending $400 for the privilege of getting dehydrated on $12 beers, being aggressively marketed to by tech companies, and listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. No wonder the members of this generation have no goddamned character.
According to my father, food exists solely to “make turds.” Viewing food as turd fuel means:
A) The word “brioche” doesn’t need to be in your vocabulary,
B) You don’t have to waste $30 every Sunday eating overpriced turd fuel in the company of women in sundresses and your hungover, financially irresponsible peers.
We Went on the Coachella Cruise. We Sailed the Seas of Coachella.
Why Is Coachella Repeating Itself?
Reviewing this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for the New York Times, writer Ben Ratliff struggles to formulate why the experience was so boring. In the first sentences of his review, he concedes that the three-day festival is, and always has been, nothing but business; a little down the page, he acknowledges that “more than ever, the sets felt like jobs with a bit more self-promotional energy.” Despite its purely commercial motives, he claims that Coachella used to have an “aura” that is now gone. Searching for what has been lost, he settles on a journalistic commonplace: innocence.
The argument takes an interesting form. Ratliff isn’t saying that the festival’s organizers or performers have lost their innocence along the way, nor is he stupid enough to suggest that they ever had any innocence to lose. The festival, as he says, has always been about dollar bills. Ratliff’s beef is that, this year, the entire festival will be repeated in the exact same order next weekend. For him, this repetition robs the festival of the illusion of spontaneity that, once, made the audience “feel innocent.” When he complains that “innocence” is “projected onstage rather than felt by the audience, as part of the music’s artifice,” the ideal structure of the festival becomes clear. The mercenaries of showbiz are supposed to execute their orders in cold blood, thereby allowing us ordinary suckers to feel blameless and clean.
According to this way of thinking, innocence properly belongs to the crowd of spectators who have paid $285 each for a pass (or a little less for one-day tickets). In exchange for their purchase, they get to feel a toddler’s awe as performers bestow “acts of generosity” upon them in the form of spectacular gestures. Presumably, the suckers are not only innocent in the sense that they get to experience childlike wonder, but they are also rendered temporarily innocent of the knowledge that they are paying to look at a spectacle that is cynically orchestrated by entertainment conglomerates. Everyone knows it’s a shitty ripoff, but when they see “a balloon rising into the vast desert sky,” they can forget.
Music writer Sophie Saint Thomas (pictured center) was dispatched to the front lines of Coachella like a real champ. She asked what bands we’d like her to interview and we were like “Bands? No way. We just want you to talk to random freaks.” So she did!
As anybody with an internet connection can’t fail to have noticed, Dre and Snoop resurrected Tupac on stage at Coachella on Sunday night. Luckily they didn’t have to resort to a series of elaborate pulleys or some kind of Illuminati black magick, they took the Red Dwarf route rather than the Aleister Crowley route and used a hologram. Thank god they also had the kind of budget that meant it wasn’t just a poster from Camden Market of Pac and a weed leaf that moves when you walk past it, so it actually looked fucking great (and presumably really, really creepy to all the people at Coachella who were tripping balls).
So I think we can all agree that it was good, so good, in fact, that it was possibly the best thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world. But like all the best things in life, although the short term pay-off was a moment of perfect bliss, the long-term ramifications could, in time, come to tarnish it. So here’s a list of ten things the music industry SHOULDN’T do now that it has hologram technology at its fingertips.
#1. The Music Industry Shouldn’t Go into Retromania Overdrive
In his latest book, music theorist Simon Reynolds states that our culture is wedged fast in a state of “Retromania”, and is “in love with its own past.” Reynolds argues that this is detrimental to new music (though anyone who’s listened to Ed Sheeran, Reynolds’ favorite pop act of the last decade, would argue that new music ain’t up to all that much anyway). Basically, we’re stuck in purgatory between “Lionel Sings Country” and Chase & Status, and now that there is no section of pop’s past rendered inaccessible by death, there’s a chance there’ll be even less space for new music to exist in.
It’s not hard to see how that might affect live music. Think it sucks having every festival you go to swamped by fat dads who are only turning out to see whether or not J Mascis can still shred? Wait till grandad’s fingering grandma in the cheap seats at Brixton Academy as the holographic Don McLean Weezer hired to open up for them recreates the memory of their first kiss (and a dog jumps through a hoop on fire or whatever else it is that happens at a Weezer gig).
#2. The Music Industry Shouldn’t Get Rid of “Artists” Forever
There’d be so much fucking money in music if it wasn’t for those pesky “artists” with their “royalties” and “creative control” letting the side down. But now they have holograms, the big cheeses might decide they don’t need to deal with the pretensions and unreliability of real people any more. Instead, they could package off a recorded show from 1974 and tour it all over the world. Sure, people might pay less, but there’d be no overheads and no performance fees. The live music junket would be reduced to a handful of traveling salesmen traversing the globe with a projector and some CD-Rs in a box. No more rock and roll excess. No more sky-high carbon footprint! Oh no wait, that sounds fucking terrible, so please refrain, music industry.
#3. The Music Industry Shouldn’t Let Axl Rose Die
If you are one of those people who’s stupid enough to think that Axl will rouse himself from whatever Viper Room coke vortex he’s in to get on a plane and headline a metal festival in Rotterdam, you’ve probably been let down a few times. But if the music industry abuses this new technology, Axl might not even have to pretend that he’s thinking about showing up any more. But while you’re tucked up in bed with all your favorite songs from The Spaghetti Hologram? still ringing in your ears, spare a thought for poor Axl—the man uses the illusion that he remains a functioning performer to keep the most precarious of grips upon reality. If the music industry takes that away from him, he surely would not last long.
#4. The Music Industry Should Not Preserve All Artists at Their Peak
Pac? Yes, he deserves it. Ditto, say, The Clash in the Summer of ‘79. The Teardrop Explodes doing “Reward” on Top of the Pops. Tin Machine. With hologram technology, you can have all your favorite performers at the peak of their powers forever, but is that really what you want from life? Remember, death is a natural process. It’s important for artists to die, otherwise you’re putting pressure on every living band to be perfect for thirty years and everyone knows there will only ever be one Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Call us when the Unicorns get back together and then we’ll think about caring.
As part of our creative partnership with Coachella, we’ve commissioned several artistic collaborations between some of today’s foremost musical and creative talents. Their task was to conceive of new audiovisual experiences to enhance and re-imagine musical performance, creating new ways of interacting with and enjoying the musical art form. In addition to working with bands like Interpol for the project, we’ve teamed up with J. Spaceman of beloved UK-based “space rock” band Spiritualized and UK filmmaker Jonathan Glazeron a major new interactive installation that will be unveiled on the Coachella festival grounds.
The duo are creating a physical manifestation of the Spiritualized track “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space.” In a cathedral-like space, designed by Graft Architects, isolated pools of light will appear, each containing a different component of the original track.