Ah, Coachella. The one time of year influencers are thrust into the wild open desert and unashamedly mouth the wrong words to the headliner’s music. Coachella is like the Met Gala, just slightly less exclusive because you, too, can get a ticket and experience the weekend-long music festival. (Or just watch it on Instagram courtesy of a million boomerangs.)
With Frank Ocean allegedly headlining the 2023 festival and tickets going on sale any day now, there’s no better time to get on my soapbox. While influencers make Coachella look like it’s all sunshine and rainbows, let me tell you what it’s like to go as a mere mortal. I’m here to give you the realistic Coachella experience, as told by someone who currently has a negative bank account balance.
Let it be known that I’m a ride-or-die Harry Styles fan – I will spend my life savings to fly cross-country and see him. When I heard he was headlining his first ever music festival, I knew I had to move heaven and earth to be in that desert. Even if it might cost me a kidney – and definitely a liver.
While I would love to tell you that getting to Palm Springs was a breeze on my PJ, I would absolutely be lying. The journey to Coachella was of the most mentally and physically taxing events of my entire life. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it definitely buys an easier trip to Coachella.
I’m On The Highway To Hell
After booking a hotel, flight, shuttle pass, and purchasing my weekend GA pass, I was giddy at the thought of seeing Harry, Billie Eilish, and some of the biggest names in music.
I spent months hand-picking outfits from Etsy that were the perfect balance of outrageous and trendy. I might not have a million followers, but my 1,000 need fit pics.
So I’m en-route to the airport when my friend Gina calls to say the flight has been canceled and they aren’t offering any other ways to Palm Springs. For those who haven’t been to Palm Springs, this is a very small airport with little-to-no direct flights into it. Needless to say, we had limited options.
At this point, I’m delirious but nevertheless, determined: I am getting across the country in time to see Harry Styles. So I did what had to be done. We paid an extra hundred dollars for a flight to Philadelphia that had an overnight layover in Nashville, which would then land us in Los Angeles, two hours away from Palm Springs, four hours away from Harry’s show.
After landing in Nashville at 11 PM and having nowhere to sleep, we decided to not. We hit downtown with our luggage and experienced the city the only way we knew how: drunk. I do not recommend doing this before a three day festival in the desert.
After an all-nighter that continued well onto the plane, we landed in Los Angeles where we debated paying the steep price of a rental car - which, if you are under 25 years old is very expensive - or pray an Uber consents to driving us two hours away for no reason. We chose the latter and got an Uber with minimal difficulty once he took pity after finding us stranded in the rental car parking lot.
Style(s) Is The Answer To Everything
Two hours later and we are rolling, baby. I could feel the heat sticking to me as we got closer to Palm Springs, but the lush palm trees and promise of Coachella made me not care at all. Plus, the shuttle experience wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be.
The perks of being at one of the most well-documented festivals are plentiful, but the best is that every artist pulls out all the stops for their performances. Surprise guests, new songs, big announcements – everyone goes hard for Coachella.
I expected no less from Harry Styles, who opened every show of his most recent North America tour with a Charles Bukowski reading of a poem about style. “Style is the answer to everything. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.” In the case of music festivals, and especially Coachella, style really is everything.
I’m no stranger to the power of Harry Styles, but hearing people fall in love with him all around me throughout his set was next-level. Men were turning to their friends saying “Wait, this guy’s like really good,” while girls fanned themselves not just due to the heat. We were all under an hour and a half long spell where we danced and sang and didn’t care about what happened until the lights went out.
Other acts like Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion brought the festival to life, but Swedish House Mafia’s first performance in years was magical. They came out in matching leather jackets, totally nailing the style aspect and entrancing me. And when “Don’t You Worry, Child” played, they cut the music and let the crowd completely take over. Chills.
The Ugly Truth About Coachella When You’re Poor
As time goes on at Coachella, you may notice that you begin to lose the ability to breathe. This actually isn’t Covid, but a different illness that starts with ‘c’: Coachella Flu. I didn’t actually see any dust or experience an infamous dust storm, but I was planning my funeral by the end of the festival. I experienced an allergy attack that rivaled pneumonia for six days post-chella. If you’re going to Coachella, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Another tragedy we don’t talk about enough is the food. You’d think a $500 GA Pass and risk of lung failure would be enough for them to give you a nice last supper, but no. Coachella has a ton of food options and they all equally suck. My friend Grace ordered a gyro that had ranch instead of tzatziki, and I swear they haven’t heard of seasoning in their lives.
And a friendly reminder, be conscious when you’re picking out outfits. While it may be 100 degrees in the morning, nighttime brings about an arctic chill. In my opinion, the cold outweighs the warm, so even though I was forced to lug around a jacket all day, I prevailed in the end.
I’m convinced music festivals take 20 years minimum off my lifespan, but I have such an amazing time that it’s honestly worth it.