Picture Electric Picnic with sunburn and sand – this is how the quintessential Californian festival compares to our homegrown offerings.
If you think about it – the concept of a festival is very strange; essentially packing a diverse community of people into a confined space with limited amenities for a weekend, trusting that their combined love of music and hedonism see them through until Monday morning.
As a nation, Irish people “do” festivals really well – we all have a trusty pair of wellingtons and a rain coat knocking around the garden shed and you couldn’t deny that we excel at having the craic. But what happens when you take five seasoned festival goers and put them in a 90 degree desert climate for the world’s most infamous three day music extravaganza?
Coachella is the top grossing festival on the planet, taking in revenue in excess of $80 million and keeping a smile on the face of some 200,000 music lovers over two consecutive weekends. After surviving my first experience camping on the sandy grounds of the Indio Polo Club, it’s not hard to see why this event has wound its way on to everyone’s bucket list.
No previous trips to Sea Sessions, Electric Picnic, Oxygen or Life festival could have prepared us for the elements we faced. What would we pack? How much water should we bring? Would factor 50 suffice for our pasty Irish skin? In hind sight, we did extremely well for novices. After the token pit stop for an In N Out burger, we hit up a Target store in Los Angeles to stock up on camp chairs, blow up air mattresses, insect repellent, battery powered fans, liquor, and gallons of water. The supermarket sweep set us back almost $700 and our car was so packed to the brim that the security guards just laughed and neglected to check the boot.
Ironically we still ran out of the most essential supplies – beer, water and sun cream, so my advice to anyone looking to attend is to over estimate how much of each you will need. Of course, our American counterparts were pros – they had it all; “penthouse” tents that would attach to the roof of their cars, masks to counteract the sandstorms, beer pongs, ear plugs, colossal speakers and mosquito nets.
What struck me was how serene the entire event was. There’s something about the atmosphere and attitude of the West Coast that is infectious. Every vendor and staff member would wish you “happy Coachella” and good vibes permeated the weekend. What we weren’t expecting was how everything stops at 1am, so everyone obiediently heads straight for bed to get a solid night’s sleep. You’re then likely to find them in the line for free blowdrys at 7am or in the 8am yoga class.
Between flights, car rental, supplies, $10 smoothies and $12 beers, it was a huge expense for three days. But I’m a firm believer that your money is always best spent on the moments that take your breath away – and singing along to LCD Soundsystem’s rendition of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ while the sun set behind the palm trees is one experience you couldn’t put a price tag on.
Music wise, the festival is known for its all encompassing lineup. We raved to 2manydjs in the Sahara tent, whistled along to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at the Outdoor Theater, reminisced at the Guns n Roses reunion and had one last night cap at the silent disco. Other top acts we saw included Sia, Flume, Disclosure and The Last Shadow Puppets.
A big highlight of the weekend was tucked away in the pitch black Yuma tent. Despacio is a concept from the innovative minds of DJs James Murphy, Stephen and David Dewaele, and audio engineer John Klett. Once you step inside and your eyes adjust to the darkness, you’re transported back to a bygone era with 50,000 watt speakers blasting out a vintage all-vinyl set. It was hard to leave, especially with the interactive performances such as a troupe of actors dressed like pilots and air hostesses who would suddenly appear with neon glow sticks carrying out a coordinated in-flight safety routine.
The Coachella that we see depicted in the media is apt; a haven in the desert where the free spirited can retreat to and immerse themselves in music, culture and dress the part in peasant skirts, tie dye, and feathered head dresses.
Like a modern day Woodstock for the Instagram generation, Coachella could certainly be described as the festival ideal – good weather, good manners and good vibrations.
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