Credit: Marco Torres This guy didn't bring any drugs into the festival, but his blasé attitude was not embraced by security officials.
But the on-site cops' attempts to snatch our crops haven't, of course, stopped many people from trying to have the best darn weekend of their lives, pharmaceutical-style. Here are some stories about attempted smugglings.
One guy we talked to had hidden a joint in his hair, which he probably would have gotten away with. But the problem was his major stash of moon rocks and acid tucked securely in his shoe. He encountered a particularly aggressive frisking, which culminated in the guard sticking his finger under the tongue of the guy's sneaker.
The minute the guard felt the package, our guy with the drugs knew the jig was up. And so he simply threw his hands up, turned around, and started walking away. The guard didn't come after him, and he eventually entered through a different security gate, where security wasn't as hardcore.
Anyone with chapstick was likely treated with suspicion. We talked to folks who were told to pull the tube out to make sure it was clean. See, you can put your weed in there, and they've gotten wise to that trick. (Same thing for Carmex containers, a guard told us, though we're not exactly sure how that works.) Oh, and if you had Altoids -- a favorite for coating with LSD -- you were likely treated with suspicion too; open tins of the breath fresheners were also not allowed. (To be fair, Coachella clearly states on their FAQ page that outside food and drinks are not allowed.) Same with open packs of gum. One festivalgoer was almost forced to throw away the sealed package of applesauce she had because of her diabetes. Another woman had to throw away a whole bag of tangerines, which she called "silly and sad."
Yet another attendee stashed some weed in her bra. Despite being frisked by a female guard, she still managed to get the pot in. "I felt like the security was totally inconsistent," says another fan, who went in drug free. "The first day, the security guard at our line searched under our boobs and across the tops of our thighs more closely than I had ever experienced. The next day, they made me throw away the bottom (but not the top) of an empty spray bottle, despite the fact that I had brought the same one in before. Then, after all the commotion caused by the bottle, I asked her if she wanted to check my fanny pack and she said no. They also started checking sun tan lotion to make sure it wasn't alcohol."
She also saw a not-particularly-sober gal very upset after she had something taken from her. She was screaming about how she needed her drugs for Wu Tang Clan.
So, the big question: What happens to all of these confiscated drugs?
All the drugs they confiscate are thrown into bins at the checkpoints. Oversize, glorious drug bins. According to a Coachella employee, the police take custody of the bins at the end of the day, at which point they presumably get rid of them in the most entertaining and mind-expanding way possible. (Or, more likely, they incinerate them.)
Oh, and by the way, almost none of this applies to folks with a VIP wristbands. We were lucky enough to have one, and didn't get frisked at all. Other vips reported that their bags received only the most cursory of checks. Totally elitist? Yeah. But, worth investing the extra cash if that's how you roll? Perhaps.
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Don't get us wrong -- we don't blame the organizers for the traditional high levels of security. Drugs are illegal and can be dangerous, especially when they're being consumed by teenagers and idiots. The Coachella brass just want folks to be safe, and they have a good track record; unlike lots of other music festivals, no one has ever died at Coachella. (It probably helps that there's a hospital within spitting distance; apparently they've only had one medical evacuation in their history, as well.)
But it sometimes feels like there's a wink-and-nod thing going on. After all, the festival's art seems made largely to appeal to folks who are high. (Giant fluorescent snail, anyone?) The tight security seems to show that Coachella doesn't really trust its audience, and though maybe that's a bit warrented, the us vs. them ethos runs counter to the anything-goes vibe Coachella still represents in the hearts of many.
If nothing else, just don't try to hide drugs under the tongue of your shoe. They totally know to look there.