Ricky Ricardo photograph

Coachella Music and Art Festival

I had heard of the music festival since my days in college. I never really knew that much about it until I began researching for myself what it was all about. I found that Coachella was a lot more than a just a concert..it was a 2-day music and arts festival spread out over the pristine polo fields of Indio, California in the Southern Californian desert near Palm Springs . There were many bands playing on different stages throughout the day and night. The lineup featured some big names I knew, some bands I had heard of but never actually heard, and plenty of names I was soon to discover.

As the weekend came closer, I became more and more excited for the trip. We had spent the week prior to the show rounding up some party supplies for the weekend. Somehow, I got stuck driving to the show that day. We gathered our supplies and gear for the weekend and headed out into the night for Indio, California a couple hours later than we had planned.

The drive went by pretty fast and we were all anxious to get to the campsite. There are hotels near-by but Coachella offers on-site camping, which we decided to use, so we could enjoy the full experience. We didn't really know what to expect until we got there and found that the only parking lot they had was full and it was almost 2am. As we were turning around and deciding where to park, they fortunately opened up another lot for all of us who were getting there late.

We parked and met up with some other friends from San Diego and got in line to enter the campsite. The campsite was surrounded by a huge rent-a-fence and they searched everyone who entered for weapons, drugs and alcohol. We would find a way around this problem later, but for now we wanted to get in and claim our spot. As we walked past security, I realized that a lot of drugs and alcohol made it into the fenced-in area because there were people everywhere walking around like zombies and giggling; and groups of kids kneeling and sitting as another performed a lightshow with glow sticks and other light toys.

After we found our group, we set up our tent in the flat field of tents and people and had some beers that we managed to sneak in and then tried to sleep before the sun came up. The rest of the night, or I should say early morning, was spent attempting to sleep as most of the people slept, but a few continued to party until the sun came up.

We awoke in a few hours to the desert heat. It was only 8am but inside the tent it had to be 90 degrees already. As we staggered out of our tents, I realized my surroundings. The sun was rising over the mountains in the east and there was a sea of tents in an area about the size of two football fields on the polo grounds underneath many palm trees surrounding the property.

The show didn't start for a few hours so we needed to figure out how to get our beers in the tent before the ice melted in the car and the inevitable happened to the beers. As, we carried the cooler back from the car we saw some guy slide through a break in the fence. Before we could get there, many people were sneaking into the campgrounds both to avoid the long line at security and to avoid security. It was like a jailbreak, only all the people were trying to get in instead of get out.

We spent the morning, fueling up for the day ahead of us with water, beer and food. My buddy and his girlfriend from school and their group were a few rows over and a few rows up from us. I hadn't seen them for a while so it was nice to have them there to enjoy the weekend with us. We all shared and compared the drugs we had for the weekend and we soon followed the crowd towards the entrance gate for the show.

Once we made it inside, all ambitions and worries were gone for the day. It was, of course, a beautiful sunny day in Southern California and everyone was happy to be part of it. The usual concert crowds were near the gates, but everything opened up after a short walk from the gates. The polo fields allowed for plenty of room for thousand of people to wonder around listening to music on the many stages and look at the eclectic artwork and instruments. We made our way to the beer tents and bought the first of many $7 beers. We then split up and explored in separate groups as some of us started to enjoy the effects of the drugs. We met friends that we knew were at the show and even ran into some that we didn't know were going to be there.

The day started to turn into night and the crowds got bigger and it seemed that everyone was making their way to the main stage. During the day we stopped by different stages, checking out groups such as Living Legends, Boozoo Bajou, Beck, Hieroglyphics and Seb Fontaine. But on the main stage, an older band that everyone seemed anxious to hear, The Pixies, were about ready to come on. The Pixies put on a great show for the crowd of 80,000 people as the sun set behind the mountains. As The Pixies sang, 'Where is my mind' I remember thinking, 'I have no idea where my mind is, but I am having a blast'! Then, the band I most wanted to see came on and everyone was more than ready for them. Radiohead put on a great live show, I had heard. This was the first time I had seen them live and they more than lived up to the hype! They even performed their hit, Creep, which one of the guys with me said they hadn't performed live for years. As the show ended and the sea of people crammed out of exits like cattle being herded out of a field, I was really glad I made the trip to Coachella.

Right on schedule, the sun rose the next morning and began baking everyone still attempting to sleep in their tents. I know I was, and I am sure the majority of the people camping were still hurting from the long day and long night of partying and sun from the day before. As soon as we all got up and out of the tents, we rigged some shade near our tents using the covers from the tents. This gave us the shade in the open air instead of the tents. Some of us showered in the portable showers and we repeated the previous days preparations with sunscreen, food, beer and water. We were actually able to set out hot dogs on foil and cook them in the sun! Before we headed into the concert, we packed up the tents and put everything into the car, so we could hopefully make a reasonably quick exit after the show.

We made our way to the entrance gates again after taking advantage of as many cheap beers as we could that we had snuck into the campsite. We again wondered around the concert checking out as many groups as we could. Coachella proudly displayed many pieces of 3-D sculptures and designs throughout the grounds. They even had robot wars where 20-foot tall robots would battle and clash their metal parts against each other. As night came, the light shows all around were more and more intense; fireballs and spotlights, lasers and even a lightning machine caught everyone's attention as they roamed from stage to stage.

Sunday's line-up featured bands such as Danger Mouse, the Crystal Method, Muse, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Flaming Lips. Paul Van Dyk was in the electronica tent and he kept everyone's minds spinning to his crazy beats. The Cure headlined that night as the masses made their way around the main stage. After the show, we hung out and did some more people watching, not wanting the weekend to end, and especially not wanting to get into the car and face reality.

We eventually found the car through the dust that the thousands of people and cars had created as everyone tried to find the fastest way out of the parking area. We maneuvered out of the parking lot and crawled out of the lots and down the side roads as our minds still wandered back to the weekend and attempted to focus on the task ahead. We finally got on the highway and began the trip back home.

We all agreed that Coachella was a huge success and we all had a great time. Coachella was more than just some concert out in the desert. It was an experiment in art, music and people. I am glad I got to experience everything with the friends I was with at one of the country's premier music festivals and even more glad to make it back to my own shower and bed.

For more on Coachella and to check out this year's lineup go to www.coachella.com.

By Ricky Ricardo

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