Coachella: The Madness Behind the Music

This year’s Coachella music festival sold out in record time, and the event brought in more non-Southern Californians than ever before. With the sudden burst of activity in the normally almost lifeless Indio desert, the music was only half the story. The traffic, people, food and booths all contributed to the overall Coachella experience.
A friend of mine who went last year had told me to expect complete anarchy upon entering the parking lot. Nobody paid any attention to signs warning against loitering and drinking in the lot. Cars were directed to their spots in a very orderly fashion. It was a far cry from the free-for-all with hippies throwing Frisbees everywhere I had been expecting.
On the other hand, the way out that night was a complete disaster. There was nobody directing traffic and it took us over two hours to make it the few hundred feet to the parking lot’s exit.
About halfway through the ordeal, the woman in the car next to us got out. ‘All right, pop the trunk!’ she commanded her husband. She pulled out a cooler of Heinekens and began selling them for three cigarettes apiece. She was immediately mobbed and was quickly out of beer. We eventually made it out of the lot thanks to civilians rising to the occasion and directing traffic.
The next day, I pulled into the first lot we came to instead of the second lot closer to the entrance. I got out almost instantly that night and I believe it was at least partly because of my revised parking strategy. Future Coachella participants should take note.
The food was expensive but good. A grilled chicken kabob meal with noodles and an egg roll were sold for $11 at a Thai barbeque stand. Philly cheese steak and pastrami sandwiches ran at $8. Waters were $2, which was far from outrageous. The alcohol selection was less spectacular. There were two beers to choose from: Heineken and Heineken Light. An exotic-sounding beverage called a Soju Cocktail turned out to be an energy drink and vodka mix.
The VIP section had a full bar, but VIP passes were $549 before service charges and hard to find. On Sunday, New University news editor Julian Camillieri had to return to Irvine, and gave me his press pass wristband with VIP access.
He had to cut it off to give it to me, rendering it invalid. I stuck it back together with some gum. Once in, I took a nap on one of the leather couches under the shade of a tent while a group of teenagers sat around talking about who had done what drugs. After I got up and left, the gum wore off, and that was it for my glimpse into the life of Coachella’s elite.
I had scored the gum after venturing through a colorful canvas tunnel. It started out head-high, and as it circled in on itself over and over, it gradually got smaller and smaller. I emerged after crawling through the end of the tunnel into a big tent, where people were coming and going and passing around blunts. Every now and then a security guard would stop in and arrest somebody, but that didn’t keep the tent from being a popular place for people to come and get stoned.
The Coachella crowd was strange to me. Lots of people wore sandals, something I have never done in a concert setting and friends have learned not to do the hard way, especially if you want to get close. The crowd stood around for most of the bands, and the lack of movement made it tough to cut through and make my way to the front.
On Friday night, when I was taking pictures of musician Bj