Concerts, Mix'd Bag

Coachella | Not-To-Do Pt. 2

6 Comments 18 | April | 2011

The first installment of this post addressed the dangers involved with the sun, beer vs. water, the traffic and the crowd.  While these prove a worthy set of adversaries, this is not all you have to deal with while parading through the desert in hopes of soaking up the musical menagerie.  It is best you be prepared to address these additional matters in order to minimize frustration, bankruptcy and death.


The majesty of a festival lineup is a double-edged sword.  The sensory overload that results from the first sighting of the ginormous roster of bands slated to play sends fans into a tizzy.  Drunk on euphoria, the price tag of $300+ (for tickets alone) can be overlooked.  Advantage = Ticketmaster.  Even seasoned veterans get caught up in this moment.  However, the elation is tempered by the fact that the release of the actual set times always brings a host of tough decisions.  This is the bastard edge of the sword.

The business end of the festival smartly withholds set times until a mere two or three days before the weekend kicks off, preventing potential attendees from declining to buy tickets due to “unforgivable” scheduling snafus (e.g. Jimi Hendrix playing at the same time as Kurt Cobain and Jerry Garcia).  Inevitably though, tickets sell out and with money in the bank the schedule appears and chaos ensues.

Armed with the ability to choose your favorite bands and print out a personalized lineup, you feel in control.  Despite two-, three- and four-band overlaps, you select your fantasy festival experience.  You even pat yourself on the back for managing to fit in 9+ bands per day…that’s 27 bands in 3 days and ~$11/band.  Bra-vo!! Relish this sensation.  It only lasts until Friday at noon.  At this time your Coachella dream begins to implode into your Coachella reality.  Here is how it really goes down…

  • It’s about midday that you realize that you won’t be seeing that relatively unknown act at 1:00 pm.  Even though you’ve talked up the band for weeks, explaining how talented and unique they are and how big they’re going to be, your friends are over it.  Traffic has zapped the energy out of your carpool and the only thing that can replenish their souls is drinking hot Bud Light in the parking lot.  Don’t worry, you’ll be through the gate by 4 pm, so just get used to the idea.  If you think that Saturday or Sunday are going to be any different, you’re funny, like “ha ha funny.”  I’ll let your hangover explain to you why you’re ambitions are comical.  Assuming this delayed startup costs you 2 bands per day, you’ve got 21 bands left.
  • Once you’re onto the festival grounds, you realize that the map you’ve been looking at online actually represents a HUGE plot of land and the 5 minutes you’ve allotted to get from one end to the other is off by a rough factor of 3…if you ran.  Since there is nothing cool (or cooling) about running through crowds of judgmental hipsters in 90-degree heat, you’re gonna have to take a second look at your schedule.  Best case scenario, you’ll catch 3/4 of each set from a distance of 145 yards.  Still, $12 to watch the Strokes on a jumbotron ain’t that bad.  Essentially that equates to missing one band per day.  18 bands left.
  • Three hours into the festival you start to notice a strange noise coming from your sunburned gut.  This is because you haven’t eaten since breakfast and now that it’s 7 pm your stomach has decided to eat itself.  While it’s cheaper to let this phenomenon continue, what’s left of your better judgment guides you to the food carts.  Gazing at the exorbitant prices you rationalize your way into a funnel cake dinner.  Hey, it’s got strawberry stuff on it so that’s like a serving of fruit, right.  This detour to food alley and the time it took to run through your internal dialogue has cost you ½ a band.  Assuming your stomach is iron and your will unbreakable, you’ll only miss 1.5 bands for the whole weekend.  16.5 bands left.
  • Unless you’re traveling with a church group, you’ll find yourself headed towards the beer garden at some point.  This Is Where Schedules Go To Die. Even the best laid plan goes to shit after the first $8 beer hits your lips.  “Man, it’s hot, let’s just sit down in the shade for 5 minutes and recoup.”  45 minutes later you’re down another band but at least your BAC is up…along with your chances of visiting a medical tent.  More shade and free water!!  13.5 bands left.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the all of these pitfalls for the entire weekend, congratulations, you’re a professional festival goer.  More likely though, these descriptions sound pretty familiar and you’ve been at the point during a festival when the goal shifts from seeing as many bands as possible to surviving.    The cost per band has doubled to ~$22 but you’re alive and that’s what is important.  Catalog this experience as a “Lessons Learned” and don’t forget to revisit these gems when next year’s set times hit the ‘net.

coachella map2


As mentioned above, the cost of attending Coachella might seem reasonable if you’ve stacked your lineup and are only factoring in ticket costs.  The reality is that you are embarking on a 3-day survival trek that just happens to have shit-ton of great bands.  Think of them as cheerleaders, pumping you up to keep battling for hours on end, while they can escape the heat and craziness to the comfort of the air-conditioned trailer, complete with catering.

While the rock stars are getting paid to be there, you’ve forked over a few hundred dollars for just to get in the door.  In addition, consider these additional costs:

  • Airfare and/or Gas: According to a recent poll taken at a US gas station (where the top response was “Get the hell outta my face, I’m busy getting raped by oil prices.”) the cost of gas is troubling consumers.  Turns out, planes run on gas as well.  Who would have thought?!  There goes next month’s groceries, electricity and social life.
  • Accommodations: Whether you choose to camp, rent a house, or sleep in the bed of a truck because you forgot the tent poles, it’s gonna cost you.  My advice, go with a house.  Even though it’s more expensive, the added comfort of a stationary shower and real plumbing do wonders for your psyche.
  • Food: Most people bring snacks, but those will only get you so far, and are not allowed inside the grounds.  Barring a funnel cake FAIL, you’ll be spending a minimum of $10-$15 on carnival food.   Yum.    This is another reason why a house with a kitchen is a great idea.  Balance out your diet with something that doesn’t turn a paper plate translucent within 5 minutes.
  • Beer: I already touched on this point, but it’s worth mentioning again, because at $8 apiece (not including a tip) the beer garden will empty your wallet faster than the guy at the subway station playing Three Card Monte.  And like a street hustler, they only take cash so bring plenty and avoid the ATM fees that are the icing on the cake.

The Facilities:

Previously I suggested that it takes great mental fortitude or a BAC > 0.32 to withstand the unavoidable bathroom encounter.  For most this is experience is pluralized and but does not come with the luxury of desensitization.  If anything these additional excursions work to cement weeks of post-festival nightmares into your head.

Port-o-potties don’t have a great reputation to begin with.  Festivals simultaneously downgrade public perception while heightening public awareness.  It’s hard to ignore a group of roughly one hundred of them side-by-side in the blistering sun, after a weekends’ worth of use by thousands of drunk people subsisting on alcohol and offerings from the bottom rung of a mall food court.  It would not surprise me in the least to find out that these Poo Projects cause significant deterioration of the ozone and nasal septums, alike.

So unless you’re a trained pearl diver you’d better have a game plan to minimize the trauma.  Even though it may seem like a good time-saver I would not advocate removing your pants prior to entering the facility.  Instead, my recommendation is to breathe through your mouth and move swiftly.  Ewwwww.  I suppose a doctor could better comment on the hygiene (or lack thereof) involved with breathing through your mouth vs. nose, but the latter is more likely to leave you vomiting face-first into the abyss, and that is a practical example of a never ending if-then statement.

Perhaps the situation calls for a dab of Vick’s Vapo-rub under your schnoz…just like when you dissected the fetal pigs in high school biology class.  Speaking of nightmares….


Now that I’ve presented 7 reasons to beware Coachella (and other festivals) I will say that it’s a pretty awesome experience.  I’ll leave it to the fan to decide if they have the money and energy to make it an annual outing, but once in a lifetime is easily achievable and highly recommended!  Even if you fall victim to every single drawback on this list, you’ll never forget the experience and you’ll have a funny story to share.

With this year’s festival closed out, you’ve got 363 days to develop your plan of attack.  You’d better get started… that soon-to-be-patented pair of short with the refrigeration system, diaper functionality, and Taint Flask™ aren’t going to invent themselves.


Based on personal experience or word of mouth, what were the best/worst band(s) from this year’s festival?
Any fans out there with cost-cutting tips for rest of us?
How many different words are there for “taint?”

Coachella | The “Not-To-Do” List
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