Coachella – one of the most desired and well-respected music festivals around – returned to Indio last weekend (and is back this weekend, too) for another spectacular outing full of huge performances from some of the world’s biggest artists, sweltering hot temperatures and of course, more flower crowns than you can shake a stick at.
Yes, Goldenvoice’s Holy Grail of festivals is currently in the midst of its two week takeover of Indio, CA, and while I’m unfortunately sitting at home right now glued to the live stream, I was lucky enough to be in attendance during Weekend 1. Now, after taking a few days to recover, I’m here to tell you all about it.
The first thing one notices when they walk onto the festival grounds, which are situated at the Empire Polo Club, is (aside from the extreme desert heat) the sheer beauty and dream-like vibe that the picture-perfect setting gives off. Surrounded by mountains for miles and palm trees all around, not to mention a bright blue sky watching over it all, Coachella easily has one of the prettiest settings of any North American festival.
For all the impressive production that events like EDC Las Vegas and Ultra Music Festival have, there’s something to be said for the beauty that Mother Nature can provide. And while yes, I’ll be the first to admit that Coachella can’t quite compete with the two aforementioned powerhouses in terms of production elements like lights, visuals, stage design etc., it also doesn’t need to. The incredible location you’re situated in while experiencing the festival is enough to make you forget about the over the top lazer shows, gigantic screens and wild stages from other events.
It’s not only during the daylight that Coachella looks so god damn gorgeous, either. When the sun goes down, the palm trees light up and illuminated balloons populate the sky, giving off an enchanting feel as you dance the night away to your favorite artists. It’s a feeling that not many other festivals have managed to capture, and it’s something which makes Goldenvoice’s event so special.
But I digress. Upon actually entering the Empire Polo Club (which isn’t too much of a hassle. There’s a walk from the shuttle, yes, but it’s short and the actual lines to get in aren’t bad at all), you’ll be greeted with plenty of picturesque locations for your first Instagram photo, including the now iconic Coachella ferris wheel – which I definitely recommend you ride. For $8, it’ll take you on a several minute trip that allows you to oversee the entire festival grounds, and it’s quite a sight. Taking it all in is an intoxicating feeling and will only amp up your excitement that much more for the utopia you’re about to step into.
In terms of logistics and set-up, Coachella once again has the upper hand on most of the other music festivals out there. Stages are placed with enough distance in between them so that there’s only minimal sound bleed (mostly if you get caught outside the tents) and more importantly, there’s never too much foot traffic to wade through when trying to get from one stage to another. Make no mistake about it, Coachella can be crowded as hell, especially when the headliners are on. And getting close to the front of major stages at night is close to a nightmare, if not impossible. But just walking around the festival grounds and traveling from one location to another is never much of a problem, no matter the time of day.
Furthermore, washrooms and water refill stations are placed around the grounds strategically and are plentiful, meaning that wait times are never unbearable. It should also be mentioned that, at least in my experience, both the Porta Potties and washrooms were relatively clean. Or at least, as clean as you can get for a festival. I don’t know whether that was due to the type of crowd there or the event’s cleaning crew, but there was noticeable difference in the cleanliness of the amenities at Coachella when compared to other music festivals I’ve been to.
In fact, the only complaint I can lodge at the festival in regards to non-music aspects is the way in which alcohol sales are handled. For those who don’t know, you’re only allowed to purchase alcohol in certain areas and you can only drink it in those areas.
This means that if you wanted to grab a beer and take it to the main stage to watch a performance, you weren’t able to. Granted, you can see most of the stages from these designated drinking areas, but it’s still a pain and leads to these areas being over-congested, which results in a less than desirable viewing experience. The drink lines were also quite long, given that there are only a few spots where alcohol can be purchased. It’s not a huge complaint, but it’s a different system than a lot of other festivals have and wasn’t exactly ideal.