As a lover of music, I’ve been strangely absent from many of the big music festivals around the world. That finally changed last year, when my friends and I embarked on an unforgettable road trip to experience Coachella 2016. Our journey began in none other than Las Vegas.
Ah, Vegas… what a place. Does it not blow your mind thinking about how this city, full of neon lights and aircon-blazing casinos, is in the middle of a DESERT!? At the risk of sounding like a major killjoy, think of the carbon footprint for a quick second! Totally mental. Honestly, it’s not the sort of place I would usually spend my time in, as I’m not a big (or successful) gambler, and nightlife isn’t really my ‘thang’. (Why do I feel like it’s appropriate to talk/write like that?!) However, as with any kind of travel, it’s all about the company you’re with, and I had some of the best.
In the city of lights, I learnt that craps is not just how you feel about a loss at poker, it’s also an actual game. It’s incredibly stressful (for self conscious gamblers like myself) because you have a direct influence on whether the rest of the table wins or loses. For those who haven’t played, you keep rolling 2 dice until the whole table loses, and you move on to the next player. I was innocently watching from the side of the table, trying to understand the game, when to my surprise (and horror) a player next to me gave me 10 dollars worth of chips and forced me to play a round. As I projected the dice out of my clammy hands and winced as they rolled around the table, I was pleased to find that I had a substantial dose of beginners luck. With each round and every cheer that burst out from the table, I became dangerously close to thinking I was a total, invincible legend. Sooner or later reality hit as I rolled a losing round, but hey I ended up 100 dollars up before I called it quits. So that was the extent of my gambling in Vegas, I didn’t spend any money but ended up a hundred bucks richer. Rock and rooooooll!
Even if gambling and nightlife isn’t for you, Vegas is a great base to reach some stunning places nearby. One day we took a day trip to the absolutely breathtaking Zion National Park in Utah. It was what I imagine a fusion of the Australian outback and Mars to be like (it’s probably actually nothing like it but just let’s roll with it). Zion is 147,000 acres of parkland carved by water and time, exposing enormous canyons with rocks as bright and orange as Trump’s face. And here I thought I could never liken Donald to something so spectacular.
Another beautiful destination we drove through was Joshua Tree National Park. Here, the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet as a dusty expanse, peppered with granite monoliths and the unique (and kinda cute but ugly) Joshua trees the park is so well known for. Yet another stunning display of nature. We cruised through a hazy purple sunset followed by an eerie night drive, lit only by the torch of the silvery moon and the headlights of our van.
At one point, we decided to pull over, turn off the engine and hop out of the car. After a couple of minutes, our eyes had adjusted to the darkness and we wandered around as ominous black blobs with pearly silhouettes. Taking a moment, sitting in the middle of the road, looking up at the starry sky and listening to the sound of nothing made me feel so human, and so insignificant, in the best way possible.
After eating our way through several crates of strawberries, blueberries, hummus, baby carrots and multiple cups of watery gas station coffees, we arrived in Indio, California. The house that we rented was in a quiet little neighbourhood, about 30 minutes away from the gates to the festival grounds. So much nicer than staying in a hotel, and a perfect escape from all the festival madness.
We’d wake up every day only to be greeted by beautiful blue skies, and with every minute that passed, the blazing heat of the sun would dial up a notch. Mornings were spent listening to the artists we were about to see, as our BBQ sent the smell of grilled corn and coconut oil wafting through the house. Our drink of choice was the cucumber and black pepper G&T, filled to the brim in chilled glasses, producing tiny glistening beads of condensation.
About the festival itself. Funnily enough, the best memory I have of Coachella was when I’d lost the rest of my group. Before you jump to any conclusions I should put in the disclaimer that this was not a reflection of the people I was with…
… it just happened to be when sun was setting, and I tend to get abnormally emo during that time of day. I’m a sucker for the golden afternoon light which turns everything into a more beautiful version of what it once was in the harsh light of day. Temperature wise, it’s also the most comfortable point in time, where the transition between the unforgiving heat of the day and the soft chill of the night provides a small window of respite.
Anyway, I was wandering around the main festival grounds listening to Of Monsters and Men, and I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom as I sang and danced around without a care in the world, surrounded by people who also didn’t care about anything except that exact moment. No one was looking around judging me for the way I sang or moved, they were simply too busy enjoying themselves as well. I know, surprising for a festival where you see some pretty outrageous outfits, but that’s really how it felt.
Coachella wasn’t all golden light perfection though. You can really tailor the festival to make your own experience. There are tents which are packed to the rafters, blasting EDM and flashing lasers at a rate that could give any normal person a seizure. As with most festivals of this scale, you’ll find music from all genres, from classic to indie to upcoming artists that you’ve never heard of. I would highly recommend doing your research beforehand (something I wish I did more of) so you know exactly who you want to see at the right location and the right time. I may have been bitten by the festival bug, so I’m hoping that this year I’ll be attending one on another continent. To be continued!