Sleepless In Desert Hot Springs
The disorienting power of Coachella can make strange bedfellows (and beds)
With nearly 40 hours of music from more than 100 acts crammed into three days, there’s a lot that can go wrong at Coachella. Not necessarily from the performance aspect—that element seems to run smoothly every year, happily enough—but from more of a personal perspective.
I’ve been to Coachella twice so far, in 2002 and 2007. The first time, things started off so well that if it had played out in a movie, it would be overwhelmingly predictable that events would inevitably take a chaotic-yet-amusing Stiller-esque turn for the worse. My BFF somehow managed to score free tickets for both days (the festival was only a fleeting two days back then), along with multiple drink tickets; not quite as thrilling as it could have been since we were both under 21, but hey, free sodas! That day, we got to see Björk, Queens of the Stone Age, Jurassic 5, the Chemical Brothers, and a reunited Siouxsie & the Banshees, led by an off-puttingly ornery Siouxsie Sioux. Also, my friend misheard “Folk Implosion” as “Vulcan Blowjob,” which unintentionally provided us with one of the greatest go-to fake band names of all time.
With Oasis, the Prodigy, Foo Fighters and an at-the-height-of-their-cultural-relevance the Strokes ahead of us, we grabbed some Del Taco and headed toward our hotel, in nearby-ish Desert Hot Springs, for an extended disco nap. Being young and naive, we didn’t realize that we should have checked in prior to the show, since we were confident that “reservation” meant the room was, well, reserved. So imagine our shock when we got there and a grumpy older lady informed us, rather brusquely, that since we missed check-in time, our room was given to someone else and that there were no vacancies. Obviously, there were no vacancies anywhere close at that point, but we still drove around, hoping for a miracle.
The woman behind the front desk at a neighboring hotel listened to our tale of woe, and though she couldn’t directly help us, she did say that it was wrong to give away our room like that. Going above and beyond, she called the place up to argue with the lady who turfed us. “Fucking Asians,” our newfound ally said as she hung up the phone. Troubling, sure, but we were just happy to have someone on our side, even if she was kinda racist.
Imbued with newfound confidence, we marched right back and demanded satisfaction in the form of a bed. (Sleeping in the car was certainly not an option for a couple of Little Lord Fauntleroys such as ourselves; when it comes to roughing it, we’re both pretty much the anti-Bear Grylls.) We were again denied (repeatedly), but I finally pulled out $80 in cash and bluntly asked, “Hey, look. What’s this going to get us?” Our “fucking Asian” finally relented and offered us the surprising option of sleeping in her room. (Not like that—eww.) Shaken by the suggestion (and the fact that she lived in the motel), we nonetheless saw it as an unqualified victory and agreed, and soon she and her adult son were preparing to slumber in the lobby while we made our way into her pad. And what a place it was.
Whatever anger we held toward this woman—and it was quite a bit—evaporated as we saw her living conditions. Only one, small bed (for her and her son?), a few lonely decorations and a giant bag of rice (hilariously stereotypical!) seemed to be all of her material possessions. I sat and ate my now-cold tacos while silently weeping in existential despair. Soon, I was sharing the tiny, uncomfortable bed with my equally secure-in-his-heterosexuality friend.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
So for any Coachella newbies, keep in mind that it’s not just about listening to Thievery Corporation while under the influence of mind-altering substances. Remember to follow the rules, even if some are weird (for some reason, they feel the need to specify “no stuffed animals”), and don’t forget the important stuff, like where you’re staying or where your car is parked (2007 went much better for me, but it took me nearly an hour each day to reunite with my Prius). Unless you’re camping, in which case there’s probably a whole separate host of issues (and ickiness).
But if the price of singing along to “Hey Jude” with thousands of like-minded music devotees and Paul McCartney himself includes sleeping in a creepy old lady’s bed, it just may be worth it.
Read a Coachella horror story from writer Ryan Ritchie and live updates from the festival on our music blog, Heard Mentality, blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality.