John in Coachella – 110 degrees, WTF?

photo by Jason Grimes

This was my very first trip to the Coachella Music Festival and just a quick FYI, if you tell people this is your first Coachella they will proceed to show total disgust with you and mention how many they’ve been to. Unless you’re talking to a “RAGE FAN”, they’ll just scream “RAGE!!!!!!” at you and then punch you in the head, smoke a joint, then fall asleep on the ground.I decided to travel to Coachella this year with my best friend John, who I’ve known since I was 10 and is a fireman. Always good to travel in horrible heat with someone who a) knows what a wuss you are in the heat and b) knows CPR. We flew down on Thursday afternoon and got on the road from LA at about 3PM. By the way, never have your friend the fireman book your flight or you’ll end up in LA during rush hour. We started our trip thinking it was 2 hours but had to double that total once we realized there were 8 million cars in front of us. I was shocked at how polluted the air was. I’m guessing it was the 8 million cars around us. The drive picked up once we saw the windmills before getting to Palm Springs. It’s so sweet seeing those until you realize they are probably there to blow the pollution away, not to generate energy. Either way, it’s win, win.We arrived at the house we rented in Palm Springs about 7PM. It was 106 degrees outside…at 7PM. We reminded ourselves how great it was that we weren’t camping in this and jumped in the pool.

John, drink & friends
John Richards, Fireman John, Leslie Madill
and Ellena Osis (and John’s drink!)

Friday morning we woke up and it was about 110 out. Our pool was 98 degrees. We decided to get a late start to the day. This would be the theme all weekend. It’s hard to argue with a 98 degree pool and cool drinks. We jumped in our car and headed out to a pre-Coachella party. Actually it wasn’t “pre” — it was going on “during,” but we considered it “pre” and went. I have no idea where we were but what I do know it involved a live set from Mando Diao, free swag and many free drinks that included this blue thing that the bartender said, “I don’t know what it is but it’s blue and it will fuck you up”. He was correct. After realizing most attending the party seemed like they’ve been high on cocaine for about 72 hours and probably live there in the hotel we were at, we took off. We were shocked at how easy it was to get to Coachella and to park — of course, we didn’t realize most people would be making day 2 and 3 and not day 1. Red Hot Chili Peppers and RAGE! Bring the noise. This night was Bjork‘s night though. But I was there to see The Jesus and Mary Chain. We parked and started our half hour walk to Coachella, only being asked maybe 200 times if we needed a ticket. We didn’t. We got the sweet VIP passes which we learned upon entering meant, more shade and real bathrooms. By day 3, this is what kept us going, knowledge of running water. The beauty of Coachella, and there are plenty including the gorgeous background, the setup they put together and 95% of the models in LA attending was the fact that 5 stages happen at the same time. We sat and watched Jesus and Mary Chain complete with Scarlett Johansson singing with the band on “Just Like Honey.” I remember thinking “who is that and why can’t she sing?” But it didn’t matter, it was a great moment.

We headed over to the DJ tents and checked out Felix Da Housecat and some of Benny Benassi‘s set, including a GREAT mix of the Police’s “King of Pain.” I was hoping it was a sign that the Police would play but they didn’t. We headed back to the main stage and caught some El-P on the way. Pretty sweet. We made it back in time to see the start of Interpol‘s set that included a very emotional start with a band new song. It blew me away and had me excited about the new record. The band sounded good but after most the songs started sounding the same we headed back the other way to hear the Brazilian Girls and some more of the El-P set. By then we realized we needed to pace ourselves and listened to Bjork as we made our way to the car. I fell asleep 5 minutes after I got back.

IMG_0142.jpgDay 2 at Coachella started late again for our crew. The reason was, well, obviously the blue drinks from the day before and the 110 degree weather. We drove around Palm Springs to find a store and declared it to be one of the strangest places on earth to live. I think the plan is, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to live there and then never leave your air conditioned house. We stocked up and headed back for some pool time. I’m ashamed to admit we didn’t head out until late in the day. Okay, I’m not ashamed but I’m happy I was with a bunch of people who weren’t festival go getters. After missing about 20 bands I wanted to see we headed out with our friends Ellena and Christina and after not being able to find parking the car turned on each other like nobody’s business. We then pulled it together and pulled over to let John relieve himself. Things were looking up. We found a lot to get in to and started the mile long trek to the event with the knowledge we’d never make the Arcade Fire in time. That was when this golf cart drove by and we flagged it down. We didn’t realize we had just flagged down the most insane golf cart driver on earth. We nearly killed a dozen concert goers as we made our way to the front. Best 10 dollars I’ve ever tipped, that and it was Ellena’s 10 dollars. We made it in time to see Arcade Fire and, man, they KILLED. It was so sweet to see a band you’ve seen grow the last few years able to play that big a stage and the crowd was nuts for them. I was sky high. We then ran over to the Sahara tent to see LCD Soundsystem which turned out to be my highlight of the weekend. On the way there we ran by the Girl Talk set to see 100 people on stage, with not very many clothes on jumping up and down while Girl Talk played — what is remarkable is I saw that as I headed to ANOTHER stage — you had to laugh. The response was insane to LCD, the entire tent jumping up and down, singing and cheering the whole hour, palm trees in the background. Heaven, I tell you.

girl talk.jpg
Girl Talk photo by Cait Loper

We then decided to end on a high note and make our way out before the Chili Peppers finished as we did “Under the Bridge” was playing and we argued the merits of this song. I want to kill myself when I hear it. The others loved that song, but not enough to stay, so we backtracked the way we were carted in and got home with no issues. It had dropped to about 90 by then, so it was time for Margaritas and the Hot Tub! Thank god we were able to get in 110 degree water — my body was going into withdrawal.

Sunday I woke up at 10:30 or so, 6 hours later than usual good times. We were more motivated this time and headed out so we could make in time to see The Roots. Granted that meant missing some great bands but look, I don’t do well in 110 degrees. Plus, I was hung over. It was hot and most the LA crowd weren’t wearing clothes on Day 3 mixed with the RAGE!!!!!!! fans. Sat down in the grass and watched The Roots do a 15 minute version of Dylan’s “Master of War”. Awesome. Started to consider heading out to see some other stuff but Willie Nelson was about to start and the rockers were getting out of the way, so we went pretty close to see what it turns out was Willie’s birthday performance. I’ve never seen this great man play live so it was an honor to get to as the sun went down. Plus, with the amount of weed all around us being smoked we were pretty much on a massive contact high and didn’t want to go anywhere. But knowing Jose Gonzalez was on we knew we had to head out. Jose played a few songs solo and had a few people join him for a nice stripped down set. He never disappoints. We then walked over to hear the Klaxons and Lily Allen and Crowded House making our way back to see Amos Lee‘s entire set. After that it was Ratatat, Happy Mondays, Damien Rice and Manu Chao seeing the dozen 6’4” dudes, totally ripped and loaded doing stretches before getting into the RAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! crowd. We called it a day, declared ourselves too old for this and walked to our car. It was a beautiful night and crisp warm air as the sound of RAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! fans ripping each other apart filled the night sky.

We headed out the next morning and drove through the desert on our way to dirty skies of LA, getting into Seattle and realizing it was 60 degrees cooler. I had a great time and have to say it might have been the best music festival I’ve ever seen or attended. I’ll go back next year but will probably stay away from that blue drink.

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One Comment

  1. jesica
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    WHAT! i knew vip had more shade, but they gave you real bathrooms too!?!

    the campground had similar unfair-ness, the only real shade (aside from your 150 degree tent) was in the beer garden. those poor underage campers.

    all in all. coachella rocked my world – i always leave a show thinking “i wish it would never end” and at coachella you feel as if it never will!

    so i loved it, yes… but i think i’m too old to hang. (26 going on 90).

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