- Coachella is a famous festival in Southern California that’s sprinkled with celebrities, star performers, and Instagrammable artwork.
- But the experience was overpriced and unorganized.
- Although I did have a good time overall, I don’t think I’d ever go back.
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Coachella is nothing if not an experience. From the iconic ferris wheel and stunning art installations to the sheer star power and celeb-filled shows, it seems like a pop culture lover’s daydream. My experience was one I’ll never forget (for a lot of reasons), but Coachella mostly didn’t live up to my expectations. So much so that I don’t think I would go back.
Don’t get me wrong. Coachella had some of the coolest stage set-ups and live performances I’ve ever seen. Beyoncé was literal perfection and absolutely shook me to my core, but outside of its stellar lineup and ethereal and sunny landscape, the experience was less than perfect.
The food and alcohol weren’t good and were way too expensive.
When I first saw all the food options that Coachella was going to offer, I was pretty excited. They had everything from corndogs to ramen, but almost none of it lived up to the hype. It didn’t help that a simple corndog cost $US11 and $US14 if you wanted a foot-long. By my estimation, that’s $US1 per bite. There were only two beer offerings by the larger stages with all the big acts, and even those cost $US11 a pop.
Various tents on the festival grounds had different and unique drink options, but those weren’t worth the higher price point, either. My friend ordered a sangria on the first day and said it tasted like Crystal Light and basil. She never went back.
You couldn’t drink alcohol outside of small designated areas.
When I first learned you couldn’t take beer out onto the larger festival grounds, I felt like a kid being scolded for drinking juice on the carpet. But after I thought about it for a while, I realised they were keeping the beer-drinkers quarantined in order to keep the stage areas clean.
This shouldn’t have been something we learned after we arrived, though. Coachella sent multiple emails hyping the food and drinks over the weekend, but nowhere did we see that alcohol would only be allowed in designated areas.
The water filling stations were pitiful.
Our reusable water bottles found some use over the weekend, but they certainly weren’t being used for their original purpose. On the first day of the festival, it took us nearly an hour to find the first water filling station. It was tiny, pushed to the back of the park, and was barely marked. With the water filling stations pushed to the remote corners of the grounds, it essentially forced the desert festival attendees to purchase water. A plastic water bottle cost $US2, and I ended up buying water every day.
The recycling left something to be desired
Most festivals I’ve been to (and even sporting events) pride themselves on cutting emissions and waste, and go out of the way to provide guidelines and extra bins for recycling and compost. Coachella had bins for recycling and compost, but much like the water stations, they weren’t easily marked and they were hard to spot.
It seemed like the festival was going more for a quaint aesthetic for the waste bins instead of something practical. And when we were buying dozens of plastic water bottles a day, I ended up feeling pretty guilty about the amount of plastic waste that wasn’t going to be recycled. It seemed ironic that the water stations hyped the value of keeping plastic out of the oceans, yet the festival made a weak attempt at being sustainable.
The commute every day took more than two hours each way.
On the first day of the festival, we allotted one hour to get to the grounds and through the gates before the first set we wanted to watch. It took us more than twice that to actually get in. Since my friends and I didn’t camp, we would drive to a shuttle stop every day, wait for the shuttle, drive to the park, then wait in line at the park to scan our bands and pass through security.
The first night leaving the festival was one of the worst nights I’ve experienced in recent memory. Since we were in the desert, it was hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and we were in line for the shuttle until about 2:30 a.m. – an hour and a half after the last set ended. We were crammed shoulder to shoulder in a neverending line as we would watch shuttle after shuttle appear and drive off without us. There was no water in line, so anyone feeling sick, tired, or both couldn’t do much about it, and the worst part was knowing we were going to have to do it for the rest of the weekend.
At various points, I considered everything from stealing a horse to ride home to taking out a loan to acquire a private helicopter. All in all, we didn’t get home until 3:15 a.m. – more than two hours after the last set ended.
The lines were out of control.
When we finally stepped off the shuttle on day one, we were greeted by a mass of people pushing their way to the entrance to scan their wristbands. There were no lines, no barriers, just a mob of people funelling into a tiny zoning area. It was chaotic and nerve-wracking, and it seemed like there were dozens of ways the lines could have been remedied, from utilising more security stations to literally just hiring more people to scan wristbands.
This is a festival that spends an entire year prepping for two weekends, so to me it seemed like there was no excuse for the chaos that ensued when we tried to enter and exit. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced at any other music festival I’ve been to. There was only one entrance for general admission pass holders, and every day was a mad rush to get into the festival gates. After a few hours of this hustle and bustle, I just embraced the desert heat as I turned into a dried prune.
The porta potties required men and women to use separate “toilets.”
I’ve never been to a festival, or any event that uses portable restrooms, that requires males and females to use separate “toilets.” It felt archaic and frankly a little backwards to strictly police where people are peeing. On one occassion, I accidentally began to walk to the “men’s” side of the porta potties, and a woman grabbed me and pointed me in the right direction.
The festival was fun, but I kept getting hit with disappointment after disappointment.
Will I remember Coachella as a thrilling and exciting experience? Absolutely. But I would chalk that up mostly to the people I was with and the amazing house we rented in Palm Springs. The musicians and guest appearances lived up to the hype and were worth the ticket price, but almost every facet outside of that puzzled me.
Maybe if I were a VIP pass holder and got invited to pool parties with Kendall and Kylie Jenner, it would be more glamorous and worth it. The reality was that at the end of the day, we had great shared memories of beautiful performances, but we were left dirty, tired, thirsty, and wondering if walking home would be faster than waiting for the bus.
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