07 Jun Coachella
Coachella, the infamous festival that epitomizes LA culture in every way from fashion and celebrities to palm trees, selfies and blue skies.
Earlier this year I was trying to figure out what to get one of my best friends, Ella, for her birthday. Ella is someone I met a few years ago in New Zealand who has a literal heart of gold and when I heard that she had been dreaming of experiencing Coachella since she was 13 years old I knew I had found the perfect gift!
The day the tickets were released on the website, by some miracle, I managed to secure 3 of them! The second they went through was probably the most stressful few minutes of my life as I quickly entered my credit card details before they timed out. When Tash arrived home from work that day and I showed her the tickets we danced around like crazy people, beyond excited to tell Ella about her birthday present. Safe to say she did some crazy dancing of her own when she found out. Thinking back now it was really a present to myself as well, having two of my best friends from New Zealand to experience my first festival with was going to be magical.
As Ella booked flights we booked our hotel and shuttle passes months in advance. A day before the festival Ella drove from her last university class to the airport in the middle of Cyclone Cook, Despite roads and bridges being closed her plane flew off into the rainy sky to land in sunny California only a short 12 hours later. As soon as she walked through the door we were trying on clothes, analyzing the line-up, planning make-up looks and exchanging jewelry that matched each other’s outfits. We even did a practice make-up day with my friend Katie who is an incredible make up artist, covering ourselves in glitter and gems.
With our bags packed the night before we set ours alarms early and got to our car rental by 8am. We filled our little car for the weekend up to the brim with our luggage. We were three girls going to Coachella, we weren’t packing light! Something else we were was three NEW ZEALAND girls. None of us had really driven in the US, and for those who don’t know we drive on the other side of the road normally. Tash volunteered as tribute and we helped her navigate her way through the 7 lane freeways, only a few accidental exits later and we made it to Palm Springs.
Once arriving at our hotel we walked up and attempted to check into our room. Key word being ‘attempted’ as we were politely informed that our room wouldn’t be ready for another 3 hours considering it was only 11am . Oops, that had slipped our minds, no worries though, we hauled our bags out of the car and proceeded to the lobby bathroom. We plugged in our hair straighteners, laid out our make up, put some music on and away we went unintentionally glitter bombing the place. By the time we were Coachella ready we weren’t the only girls in the bathroom doing the same thing. It was quite the party in there.
Nothing was slowing us down today and without even checking into our room we jumped on the shuttle and headed towards our desert paradise. As soon as we walked onto the bus we knew we were in the right place, you can tell when people are on their way to Coachella.
It was Ella that first spotted the famous ferris wheel out the window and we all got a wave of excitement, we were here! It was like fairyland, a very hot fairyland. The distance from the shuttle drop and the festival itself was quite the walk but we didn’t mind at all, it was like walking down a runway. The outfits, the people, the hair, the glitter. People watching is just something else at Coachella I tell you. It’s about as fascinating as the various art instillations scattered across the grassy floor, if not more. The first thing we really noticed though was the picture taking. Everyone, in every direction, having their own mini photo shoots, especially that first day. Not that we were any different, as we weaved our way through the giant pinata unicorns and oddly shaped fruits, we bought a coconut and gave it some camera time. Most expensive coconut of my life, but worth every penny in that heat.
The first performance we saw made us feel right at home, a New Zealand brother & sister duo called ‘Broods’, that have been absolutely killing it. Hearing that familiar accent was music to our ears and then there really was music, good music. Georgia is an absolute badass with the voice of an angel, she owned that stage and we danced along to every hit with kiwi pride. We walked out from that stage to the sun dipping into the mountains casting the whole sky into an golden haze, we watched as the palm trees illuminated rainbow colours and balloons lit up the sky. That first day, for us three Coachella newbies, was about learning our way around and figuring out how everything worked. After watching Mac Miller we were collectively exhausted from the early start and long day, the heat and excitement calling for an early night. We shuttled our way back to the hotel and checked into our room at 1 am crashing into our beds with smiles on our faces.
We woke up buzzing with energy and started getting ready immediately, this time in our room. Ella and I were co-ordinating our outfits today to the theme of ‘Flower Child’ and I painted little white flowers on the sides of our faces. Tash went for a white and gold ‘Greek Goddess’ look. Bright eyed and full of life we detoured on the way to the festival to drop into a party, the Amex Platinum house party. Not sure what to expect we showed up to a beautiful hotel and walked into a magical secret garden. This place was photo shoot heaven and they were even making and giving out custom flower crowns. We were relaxing by the pool when Bebe Rexha randomly rocked up and started putting on a show. We danced around in front of the stage singing at the top of our lungs (and slightly off key) to ‘Me, Myself and I.’ When Bebe started getting people on stage with her all three of us jumped up and surrounded by palm trees, dancing with my best friends to Bebe singing next to us, it was a moment of pure Coachella bliss. After her performance we got to chat with her for a few minutes and she asked us if we wanted to join her in the Photo Booth, which we of course agreed to. We hopped into our little rented car afterwards in a daze of ‘did that really just happen’ and made our way to a shuttle stop to head back to wonderland.
We arrived to pink and purple hues chasing the sunken sun and beelined for the watermelon stand. With watermelon wedges in our hands we skipped around the festival buzzing with life after what we had just experienced. That night Future brought out Drake, Nav brought out The Weekend, Schoolboy Q brought out Tyler the creator & ASAP Rocky and Lady Gaga released her new song ‘The Cure’ as fireworks exploded the night sky. It was the day of surprises and looking back now I think we would all agree it was our favourite day.
We were run down, feet blistered, legs aching from dancing/standing/walking and I had caught a nasty cold. However, we were powering through, this was the last day, go big or go home. Ella channeled her inner lemonade Beyonce with a yellow frilly number, Tash was a day late to the ‘Flower Child’ theme and I went for a blue dress that I ripped up myself to make more breezy. Todays line-up was our favourite musically and we made our way to the front of the stage for homegrown kiwi talent Lorde 30minutes early. We were as close as GA allowed and she did not disappoint, her stage presence and new songs were straight fire and everyone was feeling the music. I’m ticking off the days until I can buy ‘Homemade Dynamite’ and not just jam out to it on my shaky video recording that I got that night. Kendrick was 40 minutes after Lorde on the same stage so we stayed put at the front and he finished Coachella off with a bang. After standing/jumping around in the same spot for around 3 hours we weaved our way through the crowds in his last song to beat everyone to the shuttles. We crashed into our beds so hard that night, sick, sore and satisfied.
Coachella destroyed us, in the best way possible. We woke up early and got on the road at 10am (one hour before hotel check out time) which we later discovered saved us driving 4-5hours of traffic. Santa Monica was heaven with it’s cool ocean breeze (and lack of dust) and we reminisced on our favourite moments together. Overall, I enjoyed Coachella, just like a ferris wheel there were definitely ups and downs but, at the end of the day, incredible performances and good company can’t be beaten. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
Some things I learnt/tips from Coachella
– Put your friends phone number as your phone lock screen before you go to the festival in case you lose it.
– Locker is in my opinion worth it, and you need to book it in advance.
– Comfy shoes are probably a good idea, I wore wedges most days but had a comfy pair in the locker for when my feet needed some extra TLC.
– Sunscreen isn’t a bad thing to put on in 100 degree heat, plus we also used it to stick glitter onto us.
– Bring portable chargers if possible. One of our main problems was our phones dying. There are charging stations at the festival but we never wanted to just sit down and wait for our phones to charge because there was always so much to see and do. Being able to charge your phone on the go is handy.
– The shuttles are good but the lines after the last major performances of the night are extremely long and it can take up to an hour to get onto the bus. What we did was leave in the last song to beat the majority of people.
– Food lines are really long in between big acts. Try eat when someone massive is performing if you don’t mind missing them.
– Understand that it’s likely you will miss some of the performances you want to see. It’s just not possible to see everyone and if you try it will be stressful. Not being too attached is in my opinion the key to having a good time.
– Phone reception doesn’t work well at all, come up with a meeting place if you ever get separated from your friends. Ours was our locker and we would meet on the next hour if we got lost. For example, if we got lost at 6:40pm we would meet at 7pm at the Locker.
This would normally be where I end this blog post but as we were recovering from Coachella back in Santa Monica, my sister called me and asked if Tash and I would be interested in attending weekend 2! She had come across free passes through friends and our sick, broken bodies straight away said we weren’t up to it. After a few days, however, as we slowly recovered we started to consider another weekend in desert paradise.
Before we knew it, car rented, random clothes shoved into bags, we were on the road again on our way back to Coachella, round 2.
Our timing was a little off this round and we got stuck in 4 hours of traffic. When we finally did arrive in the Indio area we had another hurdle to overcome. The address Rochelle had given me of her friend’s house was blocked off by two different roads full of security guards. After convincing them we weren’t trying to sneak into the festival, but go to a residential home, we finally got through and as it figures no one was even at the house. We parked our car and walked around trying to find a sign of life and we did. A girl our age came out and told us she was our golf buggy driver. We hopped in the back, no questions asked, and drove into the festival through the backroads. We weren’t totally sure what passes Rochelle’s friends had given us because we didn’t recognize the color of the wristband but we began to understand they could get us pretty much anywhere as we witnessed the back city of Coachella. Seeing the stages from the behind and how many people there were running the show was absolutely fascinating.
We had a little detour as our driver got lost and drove us into the waste/rubbish area of the festival looking for the ‘Rose Garden’ but eventually we made it to our destination. Inside the rose garden was beautiful and it was an area we couldn’t go in last time due to it being strictly for VIP’s only (the only difference we found was shorter lines and better food options). We found Rochelle’s friends and thanked them for the tickets and made our way straight to Dillon Francis, we missed him last weekend. We danced away the stress from the day and then got stressed all over again when we found out that golf carts had stopped running. It was too late for them to pick us up so we ended up getting lost walking 40 minutes to the house where our car was parked struggling with google maps due to the lack of phone reception.
We woke up Saturday morning on couches that a friend had let us crash on for the weekend. Both sick and exhausted under the 100 degree sun we explored the Golf course finding mountain goats and running through the sprinklers to cool off. Eventually we gave in to the heat and spent the day in the pool. At around sunset we headed back towards the house where the security guards had begun to know us as the ‘Kiwi girls that weren’t sneaking into Coachella’ and stopped into the festival briefly before surrendering ourselves back to the pool at the house. They had blow-up Narwhals and that should be all I have to say for you to understand our decision. While we were chilling in the spa pool (literally, the heating had been turned off) artist Kygo and some of his friends randomly popped in for dinner. Tash then proceeded to fall off her Narwhal into the pool in her clothes in a graceful fashion. Soaking wet we made our way home and prepared ourselves for one last day.
Last day for real this time! After glittering our friends (who let us stay with them) hair and our own we headed back to the house, the security guards practically knowing us by our first name by now. We spent the day once again on Narwhal’s and, like the true proud kiwis we are, made sure to see Lorde’s performance again. We watched the sun set behind the ferris wheel and light up the sky a pale pink for the last time before dropping into Skrillex’s party next door to the house we had been relaxing in all weekend. But our sick, tired bodies didn’t last long and we drove back home to our awaiting couches and tissue boxes (such party animals we are!)
Not wanting to risk getting stuck in traffic, we left at 6am the next day with large coffees in our hands and drowning in a car full of tissues. I think we met the ultimate level of friendship when Tash accidentally used one of my used tissues. It took me over three weeks to fully recover health-wise from Coachella weekend 1&2 but I still stand by what I said, it’s an experience, and we are both grateful we got to experience two different sides to the festival.
GA vs VIP/All Access (Our opinion)
Our opinion may be a little biased judging by our difference in health and the fact we had Ella with us the first weekend but we both enjoyed the GA Weekend One festival more. I think it was because it was new and exciting and we had been looking forward to it for months. We had saved up for tickets and it was a celebration of Ella’s birthday. We enjoyed the ups and the downs because we felt like we were experiencing the real Coachella. Sure our feet hurt and we had to wait in a few lines but at the end of the day company is what makes the difference and everything was worth it.
We loved the second weekend too but went to it, knowing the ropes, knowing the performances, and feeling like pro’s at that point. The golf buggys saved our feet and we ate more due to less lines and more options but considering the price difference I’m not sure that’s enough for me to pay for VIP myself if I were to go again. We were very grateful to have been gifted it though for the experience and we wouldn’t change a thing.
Either way is fun and if you do end up going you will most likely have the time of your life 🙂
I put together a little video of our Coachella memories. I didn’t get around to filming much because I was too busy dancing around with my head in the clouds, but I hope you enjoy it 🙂