Coachella: The First of the Big Festivals

One of the Coachella stages in 2018. Raph photo.
One of the Coachella stages in 2018. Raph photo.

My Unconventional Trip to Coachella in Indio, California

By Aliyya Zahidi

Enjoying being at Coachella!
Enjoying being at Coachella!

Where can you see Drake make out with Madonna? Justin Beiber break his 3-year no-performance hiatus? A hologram of the late rap legend Tupac? Queen B (Beyonce) light up the stage? And so many more.

That’s right! It’s festival season. And to kick off the festivities, the Coachella Valley Music Festival is ready to blow your mind!

Each year, for two weekends in April, thousands venture out to the freshly laid grass in Indio, California, to experience the music, fashion, art, and iconic performances, that Coachella has to offer.  The location in the desert near Palm Springs is a bit daunting.

Plenty of Legends on Stage

The 3-day festival experience typically occurs in the 2nd and 3rd weekend of April. Coachella hosts about 125,000 people yearly and 165 different up and coming as well as legendary artists.

As the festival season came around, I, being a young and spontaneous California local decided to attempt to start looking for two wristbands to the festival a total of one day before the 2019 weekend 2 kick-off

A Road Trip to Bonnaroo In Rural Tennessee

The Coachella festival site by day.
The Coachella festival site by day.

I know what you’re thinking: I am never going to find anything. But hey, you never know!

I scoured the Coachella Facebook page the whole day to see if anyone was selling a weekend 2 wristband. Each time I became hopeful I would ask the seller to send the confirmation code and email to verify the authenticity and they would always come up short. I knew that attempting to find a wristband this close to the festival was going to be a long shot but I was determined!

Finally, after about 20 scammers, it was 8:30 PM, I was about to call it a day when suddenly, I received a new message from a woman who had seen my ad. She wrote that she had 2 wristbands she wouldn’t be able to use and that she would be able to meet us prior to the event. She provided all the information I asked for and we were set!

I was so excited, I immediately texted my cousin that we were officially going to Coachella!

Getting our Outfits Ready

Coachella's car camping area.
Coachella’s car camping area.

My cousin and I were ecstatic and like any two young women about to embark on an exciting adventure, we immediately started to plan our outfits!

Anyone that knows anything about Coachella knows that it is not only known for its performances but it is also unofficially known as the trend-setting hub of the summer.

Come in your best-dressed bohemian, whimsical, and, of course, Instagram-ready outfits, and be ready to encounter celebrities and models, who are there to leave their mark as the most talked about look of the season.

So of course, my cousin and I spent the entire night rummaging through our closets trying to piece together the perfect look. Eventually, I settled on a cute maroon patterned romper for the first day, some flowery shorts and a cute sheer tank top the second day, and flowy bell bottom pants with a cute pink crop top for the final day.

Getting Packed to hit the Road

I woke up early in the morning and had my bags ready to go! We had rented an Airbnb out in Palm Desert for the weekend and I packed tons of water bottles, sunscreen, a hydration pack, some Advil, and a bunch of spending money. Once I was all packed and ready to go, we began our drive out to the desert.

For those of you that are thinking of going to the festival remember that Coachella takes place in the scorching heat of the California desert. So when I say to come prepared, I mean to really COME PREPARED, it’s HOT!

The typical weather is usually well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and keep in mind that you will be crowded around the stages next to thousands of people making it even hotter.

Entering Coachella!

We drove out to Coachella and as we reached the city, my cousin and I still had no idea if the woman we were going to get the tickets from was going to be real. We were just meeting her at a random RiteAid a mile away from the festival grounds.

Once we arrived we waited for about 20 minutes and the lady was unresponsive to all our messages and calls. We continued to wait anxiously as we prepared ourselves to be let down, when finally she called to apologize for being late and assured us that she was 5 minutes away! Soon enough we had our wristbands and headed out to the fairgrounds!

As we arrived, some would imagine that traffic is backed up like crazy and it would take hours to get in, but actually, as a regular attendee to multiple music festivals around the globe, I would actually have to say that Coachella is by far the most organized one I have ever been to.

It’s a quick 10-15 minutes to park and only another 10-15 minutes to get past security, which is where we finally found out our tickets were officially Legit!

Food, Glorious Food!

Finally, we were in! As soon as we entered through the festival gates we were overwhelmed at all the food, activities, hangout spots, and performances that Coachella had to offer.

Guerilla tacos at Coachella.
Guerilla tacos at Coachella

We had already planned and mapped out the whole day with what performances we wanted to see, but in between, we also had to keep our energy up and so, of course, we pigged out on all the food.

Coachella allows you the perfect cheat days to devour pizza, fries, burgers, tacos, etc. and then finish your meal off with special artisan flavored ice cream. For the real food lovers, there are also 15 carefully selected restaurants from all across the country that will be featured at the festival. Specific tents will also be serving beer and cocktails for those 21+.

As a self-described foodie, I had already looked up all the options so I knew exactly what I wanted for each meal! As soon as I got to the fairgrounds I was ready for the New York eatery, Shake Shack, which served burgers and fries, then had Guerilla Tacos for my next meal, and to finish off, grabbed an ice cream from a place called “Afters,” which has multiple stands spread around the grounds.

Follow the Yellow Path! All paths to and from the parking lots are color coded
Follow the Yellow Path! All paths to and from the parking lots are color-coded

Activities at Coachella

Coachella has so much different entertainment it is hard to do it all in the course of three days! First, you have to remember that Coachella is known for its art and so we began day 1 with roaming around the fairgrounds to capture all the Insta-worthy sites!

The main art installation was a mesmerizing walkthrough rainbow building. It’s also one of the only buildings that includes air conditioning!

Next, we decided to get our drink on and visit all the cocktail spots and of course the Heineken lounge before heading over to see all the different performances!

All performances take place on the many different themed stages that are spread throughout the fairgrounds and my favorite day out in the desert was dancing to all the many performances that we saw on day 2.

We entered the Sahara Desert where Sheck Wes delivered a wild set. Next, we headed over to the largest stage of the fairgrounds, the Coachella Main Stage, where we watched a rising pop/R&B star Bazzi, followed by my favorite Latino Artist, J Balvin.

As Balvin was coming to a close, my cousin and I sprinted back to the Sahara Stage to catch DJ Griffin. We stayed there for the next two acts, Juice WRLD and Wiz Khalifa, and finally ended our night back to Main Stage to see my all-time favorite rapper, Kid Cudi!

2019 …Freezing!

I know earlier I mentioned that it was going to be insanely hot at Coachella, but I guess climate change really hit palm desert this year because as the sun set on day two, the wind picked up, and it dropped to 45 degrees out there!

Mind you we are in California, we HATE the cold, and everyone is dressed for 100-degree weather. Basically we were all freezing!

Of course, that didn’t stop us as we danced under the stars to Cudi. The wind continued to hit us, everyone was huddled together but as ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ blared out of the speakers just watching an artist have the time of his life performing for the crowd was breathtaking. However, as his set came to an end and we all started walking out of the festival, the cold really hit us hard! In fact, it was so cold that the official Coachella merchandise was actually sold out due to attendees needing more layers to keep warm.

My cousin and I ran the whole mile to get to our car and eventually, as some headed back to their campsites we drove home to our Airbnb to get ready for day 3.

Camping….if you want to camp at Coachella

I am not a nature girl and could never survive a night in the desert, however, for those who want to experience every bit of Coachella, car camping may just be for you!

New in 2019, you can camp next to your car at Coachella.
New in 2019, you can camp next to your car at Coachella.

For all campers, as you arrive to Coachella, you will be ushered into your designated car camping location. Once you set up your little villa, feel free to wander, meet friends, or start the party at your campsite. Bathrooms, showers, wifi, water refill stations, and a general store, will be accessible to anyone with a Coachella wristband.

After a full day of music and fun, DJs and camp activities, like a silent disco, will be awaiting you. In the morning to recover from a wild night, feel free to participate in morning yoga before heading back into the festival.

As for me I’ll be in my nice, comfy bed, where I can get a clean shower each night! But to each his own!

DAY 3

We began day 3, as a very chilly day, however, naturally we didn’t want to ruin a good outfit with a jacket, so we braved it out in the cold and headed back into the final day of the festival.

It was 6 AM on Easter morning, and while Coachella typically starts at 12:30 PM, we all know Mr. Kanye West does not follow any rules! He worked his performance out with the Coachella workers and decided to do an early morning gospel performance to kick off the holiday.

It was the most anticipated and talked about performance of Coachella, and definitely a once in a lifetime performance that I was not going to miss. Kanye finally came on and definitely delivered! His church choir sounded like absolute angels and he brought out so many different artists like DMX, Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, Teyana Taylor, and more. As he performed it truly felt heavenly. The beautiful service definitely gave me goosebumps.

After the legendary Kanye West Sunday Service, we took a break and got our energy together over a nice hot meal, then went back to catch the rest of the performances.

We began the final stretch of the festival with Latino Artist, Bad Bunny. Personally, I am a sucker for Latino Music. Dancing and having a good time is what I am all about as is the beat and rhythm of Bad Bunny’s performance.

Zedd came next and the crowd turned into a massive rave. As each beat dropped there was an explosion of happiness, headbanging, and strobe lights flashing everywhere.

To slow the night down with some cool smooth jams, Khalid came next and the crowd swayed to his R&B songs and beautiful soul-like voice.

Finally, to close the night, the queen, my obsession, the youngest headlining performer in the history of Coachella, Ariana Grande, arrived to give a breathtaking performance. She came out to perform her record-breaking Thank You, Next album and it was absolutely magical. Her dancing, her visuals, her angelic voice was an amazing way to end the night.

She even gave the crowd a huge surprise by bringing up Justin Beiber to the stage and he sang his song “Sorry.” The night ended perfectly and everyone seemed to have enjoyed their amazing experience at Coachella.

Aliyya Zahidi is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles, California.

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