Photo by Jenny LynnIt was the best of times; it was the worst of times, except when the Pixies played, and then it was the best of times again. And then we were sweaty and hung over and peeling off runnels of dead white skin and holding our cell phones over our head to fish for a signal and pleading with security guards and tip-toeing through shit with hole-y Converse and seeing our reflection in Oakley sunglasses and recoiling like the Elephant Man—god, are we that FUCKING BLOATED!—and then we couldn't take it anymore, and we straight-armed some kid with braces out of our way and yanked open our car door and drove and drove, and when we walked into the Taco Bell on Highway 111, it was like we'd just gotten out of a hostage situation: food was $2, and the toilets flushed. So it was the worst of times again. But complaining about Coachella is the best part of the whole thing: the privilege of a proud survivor. Ten minutes after getting a ticket, we saw a 12-year-old girl barf through a fence. That plus the Pixies was worth $80 easy.
SATURDAY, MAY 1: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF COACHELLA
9:30 a.m.: Tuning in to the local rock radio stations. Creed lives forever. 12:15 p.m.: Dios are balls-roastingly fantastic, though their opening set marks the first of many eye-rolling, state-the-obvious pronouncements in the 98-degree heat when front man Joel Morales steps to the mic and yelps, "It's fucking hot!" 12:48 p.m.:Shortly after arriving, we begin hearing rumors about a "special surprise guest" who'll be playing after Radiohead—Jane's Addiction? David Bowie? Morrissey and/or the ever-present Smiths reunion gossip? 2:12 p.m.: I headed toward the toilet farthest from me, banking on the theory that people are lazy and would rather not walk an extra 10 feet to a cleaner toilet. Who knew? I thought I'd be the Christopher Columbus for this particular port-a-potty; instead, I was barely Cabeza De Vaca. Not only was there a very healthy pile of fecal matter, but TWO used tampons. At 2 in the afternoon. Coachella was open for two hours and already this lonely tail-end toilet was clogged with tampons. Two women? So quickly? Or rather a woman with two vaginas? 2:25 p.m.:Mexico's Kinky fired off a fabulous set of rock & roll—screw the "en espaol" part—full of driving beats and punk rock accordion players. The heat melts away half the other superlatives we can muster, and the sunblock smearing up our notepad takes care of the rest. 4:32 p.m.: The hardest thing to do at Coachella is to get drunk. The planning that went into alcohol distribution was brilliant: Where else can one choose to enjoy either a beer or a performance by your favorite band, but not both simultaneously? I'll tell you where: the Beer Garden! And I wasn't even able to get drunk, despite spending enough to purchase a small portable television. Some hard work belting beers would get me buzzed. "Okay! Now I can go enjoy that mediocre band everybody likes!" I would think. Then I'd sweat out all the booze, and my brain went from soft and light, which I like, back to hard and heavy, like normal, which I hate. "Every time I see you, you're drinking something," said my friend, which is something I hear all the time anyway. "Yeah," I'd say sadly. "But this time, it's not working." 4:45 p.m.:Beck, a last-minute add, is playing the sweltering Gobi Tent, and it seems like everybody wants to be there. It's so packed that the tent is bursting, and there's a crush of bodies trying to get in—if you're late getting there, you should probably forget it. Turns out, though, that he's doing an acoustic set, which a lot of people don't seem to want to stick around for (especially in this swelter-storm), unlike his electro-gizmo-whatzit shows. Beck also has to compete with the bass-heavy sounds coming from the Sahara Tent and the occasional emergency vehicles that drive past, blaring their sirens. Two songs in, we notice another massive wave of bodies leaving. 5:17 p.m.: "This is like Woodstock," says one girl, drinking a beer. "Except without all the rapes." "Oh," says her friend. "You mean the old-timey Woodstock."
Dios: Balls-roastingly fantastic
6:08 p.m.: So it was eleventy thousand degrees outside, and I'd been drinking $6 beer and $9 margaritas for six sun-soaked hours, and I had just begun my "lady days." By the time Death Cab for Cutie ended their set (less than thrilling), I had sweated out my buzz, and the cramps were nigh approaching. "Here, take some Vicodin!" a friend recommended. No more cramps? Fantastic! And then five minutes before the next show, I felt the ground sway below my feet and my face go green. Still, rock star that I am, I trudged through—a little fanning, a few kisses on the forehead and some more water was all it took. And things were going swimmingly until I had to go to the bathroom. "Stay right here and don't move!" I told my boyfriend, forgetting that everyone—especially six-foot-tall boys with black hair and plaid shirts—looks the same at Coachella. I grew more depressed each time I tugged on a sleeve only to find it belonged to someone else's hipster. 6:18 p.m.: I knew the traffic would be maddening and that it would be melt-your-makeup hot, and I knew I would just have to spend loads of money on beer so I could deal with the sweaty, heaving masses without having an anxiety attack, and I was exactly right about everything. But fortunately, I didn't have to deal with that because I had a VIP pass and free tickets: yeah, that's right, I DO work for the fucking press! The beer line? Five minutes max! Price? Six dollars, but that was okay, because there was an ATM right there.The traffic on the way? Another five minutes because we arrived late.Bumping sunburns with the stars of The O.C.? Check, and yes, Seth and Summer are in fact a real-life couple, and yes, Summer is about as tall as a lawn gnome. Bathroom? Now that was a little difficult. See, they had luxury port-a-potties with wood floors, flushing toilets, and actual porcelain sinks with soap and paper towels, but the line there was long. I waited 15 minutes once—did I mention the full-length mirror, or all the model bitches preening for their hot indie rockers? And the best thing about being Very Important was the shade: trees, canopies, couches, video games to play as you sat on the couches, fountains, and—the most ingenious addition to the area—a fan attached to a hose that blows mist! 7:08 p.m.: We snake our way through the photo pit just before the Pixies' set, only to find a scene straight out of a Bosch painting. People are getting crushed against the front barricade, and in the heat, many are passing out and being lifted to safety by the yellow-shirted security guys. While this is going on, the crowd takes a cue from the between-band music playing over the speakers and start singing "Yellow Submarine." 7:19 p.m.: I got high when the Pixies played—my Coachella bros, or, as I call them, my Brochellas helped me smuggle in some pot. I was having a good time, partly due to the girl who decided to go ahead and sit on top of the barricade that I was "hanging out" in front of, just as the Pixies started. Her ass was right in front of my face. Now usually I don't mind a robust rump right in front of my face, and this was no exception. I was good and stoned, and I had a question. I tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around. "Excuse me," I said. "But do you have two vaginas?" 8:23 p.m.: The Pixies were fantastic, everything we could have hoped for in a reunion show, what with "Bone Machine" and "Umass" and the surf take of "Wave of Mutilation" and "Gouge Away" and "Tame" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Debaser" and "Gigantic" and even "Here Comes Your Man." We're already looking for the bootleg. 8:31 p.m.: We hike to the Sahara Tent for Laurent Garnier, one of the original Manchester Hacienda DJs and a true electronic-music legend. When Garnier drops the needle (or was it a laser? We were too far back to tell) on New Order's "Blue Monday," everybody screams and grins, and it's like 1988 all over again. 9:30 p.m.: For Radiohead, we had to leave the VIP area, merging into the kind of sprawling, endless crowd you usually see taking pictures of the Pope. People seemed very excited—the most excited people I've ever smelled, actually. By the time we walked back, now merely as Very Important as everyone else in the world again, all that really remained was a wasteland of water bottles: millions of water bottles, water bottles that no one had been allowed to bring inside with them. Huh. I wonder how many people fainted. 10:47 p.m.: Radiohead: yaaaaawn. There's already much chatter about the greatness of this set, but to us, it was the same ol' self-indulgent drivel—Thom Yorke could use a good dick-kicking. When the bass beats from Eyedea & Abilities' set started drifting over, one irked Radiohead fan hollered, "Turn that shit off!" We figured anything that could provoke a reaction like that has got to be good, so we trekked over and found a hip-hop act who were definitely having more fun than a bunch of mopey English dorks could, full of spastic rhymes and heavy-metal turntablism. Only five people witnessed this joy. 10:49 p.m.: By the time Radiohead took the main stage, I was a wreck. And then the short woman behind me began to yell—in my mind, at me and me alone—that she couldn't see. It was too much. Radiohead launched into "Karma Police" and I . . . lost it. I was sobbing uncontrollably. My friends laughed, saying I would be the one person who could have a bad trip on Vicodin. 10:52 p.m.: As Radiohead's set crawled to an end, people swarmed the Sahara Tent for Kraftwerk, who were all backlit and shadowy when the lights went down and black-suit-and-tied when the lights went up. And the crowd went apeshit—as apeshit as a crowd could get over four Germans standing motionless in front of keyboards and laptop computers. The almost complete lack of bass sent more than a few people shuffling off to the parking lot with satisfied okay-now-I-can-say-I-saw-Kraftwerk looks on their faces. 11:10 p.m.: The worst of the fucked-up Coachella fucked-up-ed-ness? Worse than the modern-day hippies dry humping, worse than the Lord of the Flies trash heaps (and the bees buzzing around them!)? Phantom Planet, performing their TV hit "California" and stopping in the middle to ask the audience, "Should we finish the song? I said, should we fucking finish the song?" Jesus, if you have to ask . . .
11:55 p.m.: The "special surprise guest" was . . . noooobody! 12:15 a.m.: I spent four hours—the flower of my youth—in the wait to get out of the Coachella parking lot. I mean, I was okay with the five morning parking attendants you hired, each spitting rage and bitterly jealous (Of our tickets? Our air-conditioned cars? Our lack of visible skin cancers?), nonchalantly jerking their arms in random directions, their gestures like something generated by chaos theory. But if we, the attendees, had been asked to shell out, say, $5 for additional parking coordinators (and advanced training in arm-and-hand direction), I'd have been the first to pay that. I thought about this a lot as I sat in my car—in the dark and heat—in the parking lot, moving inch by inch, for FOUR HOURS. I started out forgiving, and then I was irritated, and then pensive, and then furious, and then the car wanted to overheat, and then I was sweaty, and then I think I hallucinated or passed out, my car pinched between four other cars (ahead, behind and at my sides), inching forward out of a kind of herd impulse, and I dreamed about a monster with two glowing red eyes chasing me, and I woke up to the same set of taillights I'd been looking at for—at this point—what seemed my whole life, taillights with which I felt I a real deep and human connection, these taillights with which I'd spent more intense time and shared more emotional experiences than certain boyfriends and various religious figures, and I didn't worry about what it would be like when these taillights were no longer in my life because the way things were going, I felt like we were married and we'd be together forever, and then somewhere up ahead, someone figured out the difference between NEUTRAL and DRIVE, and the line lurched ahead, and four hours closer to animal insanity than I've ever been, I got my car back on pavement, violently threw my concert-purchased water bottle out the window, and cursed aloud. I'm the kind of person who can't litter without feeling horribly guilty. But this time, I felt just fine. 3:48 a.m.: Last year I said, "The only way I'd come back to this hell on earth is if the Pixies reunited and were playing." Ahem. So for real: the only way I'll EVER go back is if they get the Beatles. All the Beatles. I skipped Sunday and slept as late as I wanted to.
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