I’ve been in LA almost 8 years and every year I have heard the Coachella banter many months before this two weekend desert music festival actually happens, and every year my intrigue grows. Each year I have been told that I will hate it…. camping, drugs, desert dust, heat, no bathrooms, and so on. After years of love hate tales floating around me, I actually thought Coachella wouldn’t be for me. But every year I saw the pictures stream in of massive crowds, heart pumping tunes, colorful installations, and wild stories. I secretly wanted to go!
Putting aside the LA ‘noise’ I decided on a whim to venture to the Indio desert after learning a girl had a place I could stay. A week before I started to get anxiety just thinking about this experience because I had no idea what to expect. Last year my friend had VIP tickets and we could’ve gone, but we could barely move after traveling in Europe for two weeks. So this year it was time to cast my doubts aside and hit the music and fashion parties of Coachella since I didn’t have a ticket. I was told there was no way I could cover the parties AND go to the shows.
After hitting two days straight of brand sponsored parties at schwanky hotels and mansions filled with LA fashionistas, celebs, and music lovers, I lucked out and finally made it to the music festival Sunday thanks to my friend somehow having an extra VIP vendor band. So, it was time to give the pool parties, schwag, and cocktails a rest, and experience what makes me so happy – live music!
Coachella was hectic, insane, and the most young and wild and free I have felt in a long time. It was seriously the best LA Escape. When I left to drive back home to LA Sunday night covered in dust, sweat, and flash tats basically half naked in a crop top, shaking from exhaustion, beyond dehydrated, I started laughing out loud in my car by myself. Laughing, just laughing at all I had just experienced. Coachella was just like this LA Weekly writer said, “It was like finding the fountain of youth.”
How did I not end up here earlier? I just wish someone told me some tips before I drove into the whirlwind.
What I Wish Someone Told Me Before Coachella:
1) STOP at every STOP sign. There are cops everywhere, at every corner and every stop sign. Driving like a speed demon Friday morning to catch up with my stylish friend who had a party agenda like no other, I was looking at my cell to figure out the map of the first event, and trying to catch up with her, and then the sirens. Yes, I had just woken up, been told to change my Coachella wardrobe into something more Coachella (bigger, bolder, and better) and within 5 minutes I was getting pulled over because I whizzed through a stop sign to keep up with the fashion maven.
2) Wear closed toed shoes, specifically boots or sneakers. You may want to consult every site and style guide for how to properly dress at Coachella. This weekend is the time to amp it up, wear less and pretend you are twenty something. I had somewhat of a clue from friends’ pictures, and now I think my go-to outfits would be the following: a few strappy flowing sexy backless dresses with cutouts, a one piece sexy bathing suit with ripped and tattered shorts, and basically anything loose and airy that you don’t mind spending all day and night in. Short boots are preferable so you don’t get stepped on or in case you end up at in the really shady bathrooms, which is likely. No matter where you end up, you are guaranteed to walk miles or be standing for endless hours. Make sure your feet are happy comfy!
3) It is a project to get anywhere. I had no idea I would be driving 30 minutes to an hour to each party. Many parties are held in Palm Springs, which is very far from Indio, or La Quinta where I stayed. So if you are hitting 4 or more sponsored pool parties in a day, you better plan accordingly. Most start at 11 AM and many are done by 6PM. It is also the worst hassle just to get in and out of the festival. My buddy had to uber out to meet me, then we had to walk what felt like a mile or more just to pass almost 10 security points where they zap your wrist band to walk even more to get to VIP. Once inside, the venues are really spread out. Oh, and this is all in the burning blazing sun!
4) Go to the front if you plan to hit up the Sahara tent and get there early. Then, you won’t feel claustrophobic or body slammed by some sweaty young teenster rolling in some molly haze. It is possible to handle this crazy tent if you get to the act you want to see early enough to stand in the front, then you are not smooshed by thousands of twenty year olds bumping and grinding you. This made the Martin Solveig experience awesome because I did not feel claustrophobic having space in front of me while the masses danced behind me.
5) Conserve energy for at least a week before this event. Get some good sleep because you will not sleep for 3 days, especially if you are going to shows all day and night, then hitting up the festival’s hot Neon Carnival party Saturday night. The Neon Carnival starts at 10 PM and I left at 3 or 4 AM after dancing all night in eye view of Aaron Paul, his wife, and all their friends. I even got to meet one of my favorite inspirational travel writers on the dance floor. As I frolicked with LA friends behind the DJ booth, Paris and Nikki Hilton were in front of us jamming and posing for tons of pics. I later saw hilarious Simon Rex, and a bevy of starlets throughout the eve. After going all day and night with endless music dancing, day parties, and then more parties….You better GO BIG, or GO HOME. Sleep can wait.
6) ‘Winning’ in all realms can actually happen. Although tickets now are upwards of $1000 for VIP for a weekend or around $400 for the common folk, I found myself wining loads of fun stuff at Coachella. Not only did I come home with bags of fun schwag, but I won a $100 gift card to Pac Sun the minute I walked into Neon Carnival playing a tall lighted Plinko game and then proceeded to win a couple stuffed monkeys and more. I felt like a kid again playing carnival games surrounded by carnival rides.
At the Pandora party GlamSquad braided my hair, and right away they have you download their App with a $50 credit to use their beauty services at your home or office. If you are lucky to go to all of the amazing sponsored parties, you will not pay for a thing – booze and food free flowing, and the schwag is a fashion girl’s dream. “Which necklace would you like?” “Here, please take this with you!” “We’d like to give you this bag.” Every party is gifting or you are leaving with a schwag bag. Many fun services are being offered. I laid down at the absolutely gorgeous Sparrows Lodge for a fabulous massage at this Kiehls sponsored event. So, even though I paid for lodging at this beautiful spot at PGA West golf resort, I made out with a lot of free goods and services. Winning!
7) Don’t expect to meet up with your friends. Meeting up with your friends is near impossible, unless you are staying with them. I had two girlfriends I expected to meet Saturday at Neon Carnival, and it never happened. 3,000 people party outside at this outdoor club-like carnival created by Brent Bolthouse. Also, this weekend will quickly make you realize who your real friends are, who has got your back, and who is willing to leave you aside to get to the next best party.
8) Don’t expect to see every act you want to see. The venue is so spread out. You need a plan. I found it easier just to see the major headliners in the VIP area unless there was an act I HAD to go see at one of the many other tents.
8) Bring an extra cell phone charger. Half the time your cell will not work or it will die. If you are lucky enough to be in the VIP section, they have many charging booths. Most days my cell died, then you definitely can’t meet up with friends or snap pics of your favorite bands.
9) Do VIP, if you can. It will ‘save’ you and you will have a much more enjoyable experience. At my older age, there is NO way I could do Coachella unless I was in the VIP section. Before going to this insane fest, I would think that would sound like a snobby thing to say, but it is absolute truth. There is no way you can function, get food, find a bathroom, or even have a somewhat calm home base, unless you are in the VIP area. Also, you can ogle at all the celebs, models, and stylish people at the bars and pop up restaurants since they are all staying on site just behind the food area. I saw every possible Victoria’s Secret model, Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, super followed fashion blogger Instagrammer Chiara Ferragni many times, Cody Simpson, and many more. We met Fitz and the Tantrums in the Amex tent.
10) Drink tons of water. You will forget, but seriously hydrate. I barely ate a thing or went to the bathroom since it is so darn hot your body is evaporating every possible ounce of liquid you can consume.
11) You will barely eat because you will be so busy you will forget. Your Coachella diet will happen at the festival. No joke. You will barely eat because you will forget about eating, especially after downing the new VO Co Vodka Coconut Water which supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio is the face of. You will be so overwhelmed by the experience that food will be your last priority.
12) Have a plan to maximize your weekend time. Do the parties or do the music fest or if you do a combination of both, hit up one to two parties starting at 11AM, then get to the show afterwards.
13) Get Neon Carnival tickets. You must do this at least once. Neon Carnival can be a SH– SHOW. You better use any connection you possibly have to get tickets to this club carnival outside in the desert created by LA’s Brent Bolthouse. I had to pick my wristband days in advance at a club in Hollywood. Not lying. I started laughing when I walked inside since there were about 8 serious faces staring at me on their computers ready to make sure my full name (with ID verification) was on the list. You are not getting in at all without that band.
Seriously, waiting in line just before 10 PM for Neon Carnival when the door opens while my friends were jamming out to Jack White (didn’t have tickets-sigh) was nothing short of amusing. Europeans smoking in my face, obnoxious drunk hot girls screaming and swearing, guys almost trampling me over to get closer to the line, then chaos ensued among the people with wristbands and the people without (not getting in)….at one point I thought the bouncers or security might shoot rubber bullets into the crowd since people were being so wildy insane, just to get in. I have never seen anything like it. I actually was scared at one point for my life as I was slammed and smooshed in a sea of people who came from all over the world to hit up this bash in the desert. I even had friends who drove up from LA just to go to this party, then drive back in the morning. What? What?
TIP: You must have a Neon Carnival wristband or you will never get into this party. However, many celebs and concert goers come in after the main stage acts around 12:30 or later. When I left around 3 AM people were still calling out to snag the bands of people leaving so they could get in.
14) You will feel slightly broken by day 2 or 3. Maybe not in spirit, but physically….meaning your knees will be jacked, and your back might start to feel sore, but you will feel so happy you feel this mangled.
15) Just have FUN! Who cares what anyone thinks? Live music is really worth every dime. I discovered new bands (Saint Motel) and popular ones that I don’t listen to that moved me in such a way, that I can’t stop listening to them now because they were just do darn good live. At times, especially in the evening at Coachella, it felt like some weird out of body surreal experience… this community of people dancing with joy…..thousands of people surrounding you. I kept spinning around and around and looking back at the young girls on shoulders with banners, then up at the stars, then the colored palm trees glowing, and the tent glow with the massive landscape, the lighted ferris wheel popping up with the mountains in the distance, and I wondered how did I get here. It was hypnotic energy.
For three days, I was able to escape and forget my worries. Thank you Coachella.
I will never forget seeing Florence and the Machine perform as she danced and jumped all over while singing so beautifully into the night sky. She belted out for everyone to take one piece of clothing off. From DJ Martin Solveig dancing with his Frenchie-looking girls on stage, to Kaskade‘s alluring beats moving our bodies while glow sticks floated through the night air and a green glowing drone flew all around us. I felt alive! I felt free. I wanted this feeling to last.
Enjoy every minute and be thankful you made it to the desert for this experience, which is now your own.
For more videos and photos, find LaLaScoop on Instagram.
To get more festival tips, read what you should pack in your Coachella bag.
Attending Coachella this year? See every place to stay for Coachella 2017.