Coachella: A College Reunion

When people ask me, "How was Coachella?!" My immediate response is "...Ummmmmmm”, because the truth is, Coachella is probably my least favorite festival I've experienced. As much as I would love to boast about how great it was, I can't. I feel like I’m supposed to say, “it was amazing!” but it really wasn’t. I mean don’t get me wrong, I had a blast and I’m glad that I went, but it just really wasn’t my scene. For a festival junkie like myself, Coachella earns a C+ at best. 

Getting There

The anticipation had been building for weeks. The music, the fashion, the people, the reunion of friends… it was all coming together. My college roommates and I had been planning this trip for almost a year and the most exciting part of going to Coachella was reuniting with them. We are all spread out along the West Coast now, and were all coming together for our first Coachella experience. I flew into LA and drove from LA to Palm Springs with Lauren and Claire, two blonde babes who happen to be sisters and fashionistas with killer smiles and bright brown eyes. Blasting new Mike Snow with the windows down and talking about boys… it felt really good to connect with them. I’d forgotten how well they know me and how many memories we’ve shared. 

 "Two blonde babes with killer smiles and bright brown eyes."

"Two blonde babes with killer smiles and bright brown eyes."

 One thing about Coachella is that if you’re traveling from out of town, you pretty much have to find a condo to stay in. It’s extremely difficult flying with camping gear, so you’re left having to book a place to stay nearly a year in advance, and it can be very expensive. If you’ve got friends to stay with or are driving in from LA and can pull off camping, the entire experience can become much more affordable. Luckily we were able to get a great place within walking distance, which honestly made the whole trip worthwhile. I will say, being able to come back to a condo with showers, A/C, and real beds was a luxury I’d never experienced at a festival before… it was kind of amazing. However, if I ever chose to go back to Coachella I would definitely camp. I love the camping experience.

 We did not wake up like this.

We did not wake up like this.

Getting Ready

Getting ready is half the fun of any festival. Playing with each others clothes, braiding flowers into your hair, decking your skin out in sparkles… nothing beats feeling like a fairy, free to move about in any which direction. Popular brands in my crew were Free People (obvi), Flynn Skye, Someday’s Lovin, Wildfox and Stussy. Lauren and Claire were beautiful in their maxi skirts, and CJ and Neil rock mesh like nobody’s business. I am personally a huge fan of crowns and feather earrings. It was really fun being able to get ready in a full bathroom, with hair dryers blowing, music playing, and endless mimosas out of real glasses. Like I said, I normally camp at festivals where my hair ends up in dread locks and I don’t shower for a few days, so having a luxurious bathroom to get ready in made me feel like a queen. Fun for sure, but I think I enjoy camping more.

The walk into the festival is a bit of a trek, but that is to be expected. Most festivals are like that, so comfortable shoes are a must. I’m still waiting for someone to come out with a festival shoe line… cute fringe booties that have souls like tennis shoes. Anyone wanna jump on that? Thanks!

 
 

The Experience  

Everyone knows that fashion is now the backbone of Coachella. It’s what the whole festival is about. Coachella is no longer a festival where you go to embrace the music and the art and meet new people, it’s a scene to be at. An oversized photoshoot. A land of selfies. And in this land of selfies you’ll find major celebs, like the stars from Pretty Little Liars (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stalking Tyler Blackburn’s Snapchat all weekend), supermodels like Angel Candice and Alessandra Ambrosio, and basically every well known fashion blogger who flood my Instagram. If you’re not at Coachella, you lose. 

And honestly, this is kinda what I hated about it. Everywhere I went, everyone was on their phones. On the one hand, it made me feel less guilty about being on mine since I was trying to document everything for this article, but on the other hand, it felt so completely pretentious and superficial that I didn’t really feel that “at home” feeling I usually get at a festival. But thats Coachella for you. It’s an extension of that LA life, where vanity rules and judgement passes. What I seek and love in a music/transformational festival is that openness, and the freedom to be who you are and nothing else. It’s about love and acceptance and non-judgment, and the idea that the next person you meet could change your life forever. Coachella is a wonderful place for a photoshoot, but if you’re looking to find yourself, you’ll stay lost. 

The Music

One blessing I walked away with was the discovery of Christine and the Queens. Héloïse Letissier, a 27 year old French pop star, delivers a performance that is so raw and real it leaves you begging for more. She performs with a group of dancers and her songs are partially in French, which makes you wonder…what is she all about? I loved her music, the sound was so beautiful and unique, that when I got back to Portland I decided to do some research. After watching every single music video she’s produced, I fell in love. Each video has such a strong message, and so much emotion, I was left feeling drawn in and connected in a way that no artist has ever made me feel. Her dancing flows with intention, fluid like water and sharp as a tack. It feels unrehearsed and natural, like she is truly expressing her feelings through movement. When I dance in my bedroom or at a festival I can let the vibration of the music take over my body and by watching her I feel even more inspired to dance. Not only is her dancing magical, but the messages she is sending are powerful and extremely meaningful. Héloïse tells Nylon magazine that meeting three drag queens at a nightclub in London changed her life. She explains that meeting them gave her the confidence she needed to use her voice, embrace her talents, and use music as a way to deal with personal pain and emotion. It was these three drag queens that inspired “Christine and the Queens”. Héloïse’s music truly embraces the spirit of freedom and her shows are promoted as a “free zone where you can be whoever you want to be.” Her support of LBGT rights has made her a huge icon in France, where LBGT issues are atrocious. I cannot wait to see the impact she has on America as she continues to tour the states and become known. I encourage you to watch her, you’ll see what I mean.

Overall, the music scene was pretty good. I personally loved the lineup. Halsey, M83, The Chainsmokers, Miike Snow, Zhu, Zedd, Disclosure…the list goes on and on and they all played great sets. There were 7 stages, so you were always able to find something you’d like. The main stage was massive, but the sound quality was loud and clear regardless of where you were standing. The Do Lab stage, which I’ve experienced before at Lightening in a Bottle, was a great place to end the night. I think one of the funnest sets I experienced was the guest appearance of Glitch Mob on Saturday night. They killed it. 

Which brings me to another point, the guest appearances. You never know who you’re going to end up seeing. Some of the guest appearances I saw were Rhianna, Lorde, Sean Paul, Sam Smith, and Kesha. The guest appearances were always a fun surprise. I will say, I was a little disappointed that Calvin didn’t bring Taylor up. Wtf? #disappointed

 

I think my biggest complaint about Coachella, aside from the pretentiousness (which I guess was to be expected), was the cost of food and drinks. $12 beers, $15 well drinks, and $25-30 meals. For a venue that tries to prevent you from bringing in outside food or drinks, this feels like highway robbery. Yeah, a lot of the people at this festival are rich and have the money to spend, but for the bitch on a budget, it’s outrageous. It’s like, more expensive then Vegas. Lucky for me, I am a master of sneaking and was able to get everything I needed in (including two of Claire’s friends who tried to sneak their way and got caught, you’re welcome Tetris and Victor!) so I didn’t have to completely break the bank. The one meal I did end up buying, a veggie pad thai, ended up being a half cold chicken pad thai that was nowhere near deserving of $20. But whatever, food is food. 

The other major struggle was the trek home Sunday night. After losing my friends during Calvin Harris, who was closing the main stage (totally my fault, I just haaaad to go up front to get some good videos), only to find them at the very end of the last song, Lauren bawling because someone reached into her backpack and stole her wallet, and then being herded through a sea of people toward the main entrance, we ended up trapped in the venue for hours. So many people were trying to leave at the same time that they got wedged in the entrance and there was no way out. The guys driving the bike carts wouldn’t stop for less than $50, and there was no chance of ever getting an Uber, so we ended up walking a few miles and getting a ride from a crazy lady who honestly made me fear for my life. So that sucked, but whatever, it happens. 

Takeaway

I usually walk away from a festival having had some experience, big or small, that leaves me a changed person. A moment of silence, a new friend, a spiritual experience, a class… I always leave with some new insight into my soul. See for me, a festival is about so much more than the music. It’s about finding who you are. It should be a safe space where you can allow your spirit to flow freely through you and feel comfortable in your skin. Coachella did not leave me feeling that way. If anything, it made me feel less in touch with myself. However, I did relearn the meaning of friendship and that was the theme of the experience for me. Reuniting with my college roommates was exactly what I needed. They are the first group of friends I made that accept me for me and have stuck with me through some really tough times. We’ve had fights, disagreements, drama, and distance, but the love has never faded and that is what true friendship is all about. Forgiveness, compassion, love and the ability to grow together. Friendship is one of the most sacred bonds we have, and should be cherished and nurtured as long as the friends you have are making your life better. Spending quality time with them away from my life in Portland was a blessing, and for that reason, Coachella was a success. 

 No matter what, I always leave a festival with a smile ;)

No matter what, I always leave a festival with a smile ;)