Coachella Trip Report
So, this is woefully incomplete; In fact, it covers only the up-to-the-event story... I almost don't want to post it but I think it's good to get the first part out there. More likely I'll write the rest. I have a few photos which I'll add once I get back to the HC and can get 'em off my camera, and for the latter part of the story I can lean on Stephanie and Andy for graphics. Indeed, the above is an Andy Smith original (some rights reserved). In very brief: I had a great time, and it was actually semi-Important for me to get out of my routine and mix it up. All work and not play is not a pragmatic plan.
Travelling from SFO, Cheney drops me off at the airport, ran into the Girth's lawyerly friend Eric at the terminal. He's delayed on the way to San Diego so we have a beer. It's a little hard to make small talk since we've only met a couple times, but there's basketball, Cavs getting trounced by the Wizards, and that's en entre, and he's a good guy so we pass 45 minutes like that.
Flight in to LA is fast. Julia picks me up. New haircut. We talk about the important things first, how our respective love lives are going. You already know my scene (nada). She's got a man-friend who's got a moustache he likes to wax (to good effect, IMHO) but also says she's really mostly interested in "good sex and working on myself." I tell her that's very LA, but I also think it's great, and tell her that too.
We go out to her neighborhood bar for a couple beers and to catch up. It's the former haunt of the Girth, the Lost and Found. In a strip mall -- like all things there -- but also dark, mirrored, with old-school-classy leather upholstry and a crowd of semi-feral regulars. Things are good, taking family news and the times, being close to thirty years old and still searching, etc.
I like Los Angeles. It's popular and easy to hate, and true there's a lot there to loathe, but this is true of everyplace. I think the thing that gets to people like me is that all the reasons we love LA are difficult to own. They seem cheap, weak, materialistic. The weather is nice. People are beautiful. It pulses with the certain energy and power that only a major global culture node can possess. Reeks of ambition.
Anyway, I sleep on a big old couch, and in the morning we do Starbucks, gossip about college people, and then it's time to pack up and roll. We do a quick stop for me to get some swim trunks at Ross, then to acquire amazing Italian sandwiches involving a long wait for our number to be called, then pick up Julia's friend Heather, a shining example of humanity. She has a pink scooter, a vintage 1945 map of the USSR, a tiny tv that she watches infrequently (much to the derision of the TiVo-praising Julia) and is allergic to sunlight and ibuprophen, which is a rough hand to be dealt. She wrangles an office full of world-class architects (Frank Gehry). We discover much common ground on the theories of human organization, power, and the virtues of being houseless "for a time" and living off the fat of the land.
The last stop out of town is Leonardo's, the afformentioned man-friend. Among many other things, Leonardo drives a FedEx truck so we were picking him up after he wrapped his shift. He's a LA native, a legitimate Lakers fan, and he really does wax his moustache to give it a jaunty point. The effect his that his face looks a fair bit like the Eric from Vagabond Opera, though as a man he's less operatic and more folksy in bearing.
Anyway, we all pile in and eat as Julia fights our way through traffic; downtown LA, into the burbs, a million "Babies 'R' Us"s, a roadside brushfire, the windmills, and finally into the Greater Indeo Area and the festival scene. Several defining things happen almost immediately:
1) We put on sunscreen. The "group lube session."
2) We observe egregious and utterly shameless littering on the part of festival-goers.
3) We begin receiving VIP treatment.
These three things encapsulate much of the experience I ended up having for the first couple days.
Comparisons to Burning Man are inevitable to me. It's pretty brutal out there in the heat of the day, and even though it's not the Black Rock Desert, and it's just April, it's still 90+ degrees and savagely sunny. The desert setting, various ravish overtones, and the presense of several art installations I recognize from the Playa make it all seem familiar. But it's full of kids (Burning Man skeiws older overall) and has a kind of Spring Break vibe at times, which can be unfortunate. And there's the massive amount of littering, which is omnipresent and frankly saps my hope for humanity.
We're also Very Important People for this thing. Via a connection, we're rolling in under the auspices of the owners of the festival grounds -- the Empire Polo Field, which is exactly what it says it is -- and so we park real close and roll in the back way along with a lot of pretty people and Steven Tyler, etc. There's a general "VIP" area of the festival which just takes a more expensive ticket to access, but has some amenities (couches, liquor in addition to beer for sale, etc), and then there's a "Tiki Hut Area" which we have special wristbands for, and also backstage etc.
It's sort of ridiculous. Waiting in a traffic line in the car before we arrive I read aloud the strongly-worded-letter Julia received concerning the access and expected behavior of all parties within the Tiki Hut Area (consistently capitalized as such). Basically they're saying don't be an asshole, so we've got it covered, but it's still kind of funny that they have to write that out in a strongly worded letter. The aforementioned Area itself is a big (15' x 30' maybe) tiki hut with a thatched roof, and professionally-staffed open bar. This is some kind of clubhouse for the Polo grounds, it seems, and is situated in a garden area featuring several large lilly padded pools, lush grass, shady trees, sculptures, etc. It's about 7 degrees cooler than everywhere else. The whole thing is behind a gate and several security dudes, and there's a "viewing area" where you can watch the mainstage, as well as all the people who you are lording it over. Like I said, ridiculous. But definitely nice. This is a feature of the weekend.
We arrive on the scene just in time to catch The Breeders, which Julia's happy about. It feels sort of trippy, being out in the warmest air I've felt in months, big soundsystem going with giant video monitors on the side. There are five big stages there -- two outdoor, three ginormous tents -- and by 4pm on Friday things are in swing. Partytime.
More to come.