Got back from Coachella yesterday and I think I'm still recovering. I've been listening to all these crazy stories about Coachellas past from friends and the boyfriend for years now, so I'm glad I'm finally clued in.
Coachella is intense. It's beautiful, insanely hot, massively crowded, inspiring, irritating, and weird. You and hundreds of thousands of others are walking around on the greenest, most pristine fields of grass you've ever seen, constantly trying to ward off impending heat stroke while simultaneously struggling to keep your buzz up with overpriced alcoholic beverages. There are 5 different stages or something plus way too many interactive sculptures to look at and booths to check out and DJs to dance to and bizarro people to look at. It's goddamn overwhelming. I feel like I saw a million things and yet really saw nothing because there was so much I never got around to seeing. Basically, Coachella is a microcosm of the entire world.
In the Coachella microcosm, as in the real world, there is both unity and segregation. People from all over the world and all walks of life come together to see some musical magic live on stage, but these people are not truly together because many are separated into areas reserved for only a special few. There's a hierarchy at play. The Beer Garden, an area surrounded by a chain link fence, is reserved only for those of legal drinking age, which means the food for purchase inside the Beer Garden is only available to those 21 and up. You are not allowed to bring drinks outside the Beer Garden, even if it's only water (One rabid she-security guard barked at me to dump out my water bottle before leaving the restricted area. I drank it defiantly: "Ha! Watch me stay hydrated!").
One step up from the Beer Garden is VIP, which is right next door to the Beer Garden and also surrounded by a chain link fence. Only the "rich" and/or "cool" are allowed into the VIP. This means you're either a celebrity or you paid a shitload more money on top of your already pricey Coachella ticket to get a glittery wristband designating you as one of the chosen elite. VIP means you have a wider variety of food and drinks at your disposal within a smaller radius, you don't have to wait as long for a vodka tonic or the port-a-potty, and you have lovely couches to sit on underneath a breezy tent. Lucky for me, the boyfriend is a sweetie who doesn't enjoy waiting in mile-long bathroom queues. Thus, I became a very important person. Just like the Beer Garden, you are not allowed to take your drinks outside of the VIP.
I'll be the first one to say that this was a pretty posh scenario, but it also left me exposed to the disappointing side effect of the VIP section: horribly bitchy senses of entitlement. In the modestly-sized side stage at the Sahara Tent on one side of the festival, Henry Rollins urged a crowd of liberally minded young people to go out and explore the world, be kind to one another, and stand up for what's right, while on the opposite side of the Empire Polo Field a tiny woman in a floor-length sun dress made the bartender at the VIP bar remake her drink four times. While weaving my way through the VIP crowd to get closer for M.I.A.'s set, I said "Sorry!" after tripping over some guy's foot. The skinny, tanned catalogue model he was with slurred, "You better be fucking sorry, bitch!" without even looking in my direction. Three douchey drunkards knocked over my beer while sharing our table next to the VIP pizza (Spicy Pie, perhaps the greatest pizza of all time) and then stole our $10-official-Coachella-refillable water bottle right from under our noses after not replacing the spilled beverage.
I know, I know--high class problems. I'm not complaining that these bastards ruined my time, just saying that their attitudes were a real downer. In a place so cool and electric and moving, there's just no reason for that kind of selfish jackassery.
So, on a brighter note, my favorite parts of Coachella: The Killers closing their set with "When You Were Young;" dancing to M.I.A.; watching Jared Leto rock out to Lupe Fiasco; spotting Kate Bosworth in line at Spicy Pie while I ate a delicious slice of pepperoni; the way everything looks like a sick, colorful circus all lit up at night; and finally, just hanging out on a grassy knoll with my boyfriend while listening to some great music. If I can, I'll be going back next year.