Trudging through the extreme weather conditions and chaos of Coachella, one thing stood out more than the handful of women walking around topless or the men in speedos. Strollers, baby harnesses, and diaper bags were as common of a sight as flash tattoos and cultural
Christian Raia and his two daughters, Alexis, 8, and Sophie, 6, drove from California's Central Valley to participate at their fourth Coachella, at this point their yearly visit to the polo fields is a family tradition. Raia even plans ahead to budget properly, schedule himself time off from work and his girls' leave from school to make it out to the popular festival.
"We had our reservations at first but we’re a music family and we like to come to larger events where there's a sense of culture, community, and art." says Raia.
Coming from the Grateful Dead generation, Raia knows about musical festivals and all the sex, drugs and rock n' roll they bring, yet Raia believes the strong family bond and experiences Coachella brings to his girls are vital for their upbringing and their discovery of music. "They got to have their own path, we point them in the direction of making good choices, it’s (sex, drugs and rock n' roll)
When asked what she's enjoyed the most at Coachella, Alexis, Raia's oldest, said, "Guns N' Roses," Her least favorite part? "The heat and melted popsicles."
Other families hailing from Riverside and Glendale reunite yearly with Raia and his daughters too. Raia even hopes Coachella will introduce a family camping area to accommodate parents with children who find shielding their kids from the adult parties of the campsite a challenge. However, not all parents of young children face the same hardships at Coachella, especially if you're a rockstar playing the festival.
Silversun Pickups' lead singer and guitarist, Brian Aubert, stands by his 10-month-old son, Nico, held by his wife, Twilight Sleep singer and keyboardist, Tracy Marcellino. The family stands by the VIP area during Courtney Barnett's set. "We probably have a different experience because we’re playing Coachella so we've only been here a few hours." says Aubert. His son Nico begins to remove his sound-proof headphones to his parent's excitement. Nico has accompanied his father and his band to approximately 5 of their shows, locally and nationally, in his short time in the world. Coincidentally, Marcelino went into labor right after attending a Courtney Barnett show with her husband at the Roxy in Hollywood. "We might meet her (Barnett) today." says Marcellino.
While some parents were California locals, others traveled from across the nation and even overseas to experience the magic of Coachella with their little ones.
Nicole Martinez from Florida brought her 5-year-old daughter Celeste to festival, they're both first timers. Martinez says it took her family 30 hours to reach Indio driving an RV rental but they made a few pit stops including the Grand Canyon and New Mexico. Luckily, her job as a substitute teacher allowed her to take two weeks off from work to embark on a west coast road trip.
When asked what she liked the most about Coachella, Martinez's daughter, Celeste, answered with “People that wear funny costumes, funny tattoos and bandanas and funny music sometimes.” as she climbs her mother's shoulders like a jungle gym only to fall off then giggle.
"I like the community feeling and feeling like you’re a part of
Martinez lucked out with her RV rental and received it for free due to an issue but a standard Coachella ticket cost her $350—children under 5 are free. Her gas expense came out to $200 and she says she spends an average of $150 a day at Coachella on food, face painting and band shirts, "Which is pretty modest, I know a lot of people are spending a lot more than that” Martinez says. (Are they though? Yikes.) Martinez fell in love with the 'chella experience so much that she plans to return next year with her daughter.
Many older parents were also spotted hanging out on the polo fields while their teenagers were nowhere in sight, cuz nothing is more embarrassing than kickin' it with your folks at Coachella.
Laurie and Marc from West L.A. accompanied their 15-year-old daughter, not to chaperone but to have a family outing, yet their daughter was nowhere to be found (shocking) as she was likely at Jack Ü's set. "They're not with us [her daughter and her two friends] but they're good kids." says Laurie. “I’m definitely over it,” Marc says. “If I was 15 to 25, I'd probably be having the time of my life but I'm 53 and it's great but I definitely have my ceiling."
Rick and Kim from Yorba Linda came to the festival with their 21 and 19-year-old daughters who also weren't standing by them when interviewed (shocking). Their daughters were on the festival grounds with friends,"This was more like a family vacation." says Kim. "We basically see them when they need food." Rick jokes.
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Alan Andry, the father of an 18-year-old Coachella attendee, recalls wilder times when he participated at 1974's California Jam—which drew a crowd of 250,000 people and is considered to be one of the last of original rock festivals. Andry says he attends Coachella every year because, "The crowd, the mojo, everything is good, the vibe is so good."
While all the parents interviewed were either tied up taking care of their toddlers, rocking a Coachella stage in between diaper changes or only hearing from their teenagers around dinner time, all agreed that Coachella was still a great time. For a music festival that has been building a loyal following since 1999, it is only logical that the OG devotees would grow into parents. It'll be interesting to see how Coachella accommodates (or doesn't) the generation that helped it become the internationally recognized attraction it is today. Perhaps a family campsite is inevitable? Shiet, at Coachella stranger things have happened.