By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
It's funny to think people used to tell their friends they were "going to Coachella," as though they were headed to a single, mystical, solitary destination in the middle of nowhere. In the early years, you'd be hard-pressed to find clubs or culture that could rival the feeling of sinking your bare toes onto the lush, green grass of the Empire Polo Fields in Indio while musical insanity hit you from all sides. Flash-forward to the present day, and what the festival experience is known for has mushroomed far beyond the festival's chain-link fences and into every hotel, motel and Holiday Inn within a cab ride of the venue.
The club and party culture surrounding the festival has become a magnet drawing young, scantily-clad hipsters, ready to pump their disposable income into the main artery of the Coachella Valley. And not for nothing. In the past several years, the swath of extracurricular pool parties, day clubs and secret dance floors that only fire up after-hours are as much about status as they are about having fun. While a few of these parties aren't hard to beg or buy your way into, others stake their reputation on being too exclusive for mere mortals to attend (unless you're a hot girl, of course). Whichever side of the party spectrum you prefer, rest assured the desert provides it all during Coachella's down-and-dirty double weekend. Here, then, is our road map to some of the area's best festival-related parties. See you there!
701 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92264
1. DESERT DAZE
If there was one aptly named place that encapsulates the paint- and dirt-slathered smorgasbord of psychedelic music that is Desert Daze, it would be the nearby city of Mecca. And for one day, that's exactly what Sunset Ranch Oasis becomes for the shaggy-haired seekers of a mini-Coachella built on local blood, sweat and bong smoke. Organized by Phil Pirrone and his trusty festival crew at Moon Block Party, the one-day festival assembles a lineup that mixes emerging LA-area artists such as Chelsea Wolfe, Fools Gold and the Entrance Band with OC faves such as Dahga Bloom, Death Hymn Number Nine and Corners.
Those who remember the inaugural 11-day bacchanal that tried to stretch itself through the entire run of Coachella weekends 1 and 2 might've been shocked to see Desert Daze reduce itself down to one, tightly compacted day of music, headlined by Grammy-winning, Mali-based, world-music band Tinariwen. Taking place on a 163-acre ranch—a catfish farm-turned-desert-oasis complete with three full lakes—its two stages will host more than 20 bands along with copious amounts of live art, street performers, interactive installations and communal activities. Perhaps one of the best features is the ability to camp overnight on the property, something no one could do last year. More important, it's a chance for bands from OC/LA and the Inland Empire to deliver a taste of mind-melting, head-banging talent to an immaculate palm tree-lined location sure to incite a large, gracious army of the great unwashed to partake in the 4/20 (their date, not ours) celebration. At Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69-520 S. Lincoln St., Mecca; www.desertdaze.org. April 20. $35-$65. All ages.
2. SBE NIGHTLIFE AND XS & ENCORE BEACH CLUB HOST THE DESERT PARTIES
Those looking for a pop-up slice of Las Vegas debauchery will likely have a room booked at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort. Imagine the biggest nightlife brand in Vegas teaming up with the biggest hotel on the strip to host five exclusive Desert Parties that mimic a full weekend of EDM-focused events, starting with a Friday after-party hosted by GreyStone Manor and featuring music from Australian EDM twins Nervo. The entire weekend is a study in posh, high-end club life: To accommodate an around-the-clock party schedule, a beach club, day club and nightclub will push a high-decibel mix of trance, house and techno the entire weekend courtesy of such massive stars as Morgan Page, EC Twins, L.A. Riots and Chuckie. The head manager of Insomniac even signed on to do production, so you know the ambiance will be legit. The party is mainly for guests staying at the resort, alas, which makes the whole transition from raging at Coachella to slugging back Red Bull vodkas on the dance floor to stumbling back to your hotel room on the morning walk of shame that much more convenient. At the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, 44-400 Indian Wells Lane, Indian Wells; www.desertparties.com. April 12-14. Hotel guests and invite only, but if you can blend in with the Mexican busboys, you just might have a chance.
3. VESTAL VILLAGE
Every year, Newport Beach sports-watch accessories company Vestal turns a 40-acre ranch 5 miles southwest of Coachella into a three-day crash pad for invited guests looking for an extraordinary round of day and night parties. Over the course of three days during the first weekend, nearly 1,000 people come and go each day, getting full transport back-and-forth to the Empire Polo Fields to see Coachella. Hosting scores of sunbaked girls lying by the pool near an outdoor stage or the crystalline man-made lake, the property is a guaranteed hotspot for invited guests. Pro snowboarders, skaters and bands such as Eagles of Death Metal and Ra Ra Riot descend on a party that boasts multiple full bars, RV parking and camping—oh, and something called the Human Slingshot. After perfecting the art of using painter's plastic to turn the property's golf course into one big Slip 'N Slide, the Vestal guys got creative and decided to add a toe wedge (the bungee cord with a handle that most people use during water skiing) and a small ramp to launch daredevil campers into the air before they swan dive into an inflatable pool. It's an admirable stunt, especially for a company that thrives on action sports.