By Andy Hermann and Besha Rodell
Our Coachella team had a blast rocking out to AC/DC, getting our swerve on in the craft beer garden and stepping over passed-out bros in the Sahara tent. But we would have had an even better time if we had gone into the weekend armed with just a little more knowledge of how this year's festival would play out. Fortunately for you, you can learn from our mistakes. Here are 11 tips for how to navigate Coachella like a pro.
That first band on the schedule you really wanna see? Yeah, you're not seeing them. Just accept it: Unless you're a drill sergeant attending Coachella with your platoon, or a lone wolf with no troops to rally, there's no way you're getting everyone out of the hotel or campground, through the gate, across the sprawling vastness of the Empire Polo Grounds, and into the Mojave tent for Haerts at 12:30. Everything at Coachella takes twice as long as you think it's going to take, and there's no getting around it. Just relax, settle into Coachella time, and know that, even if you miss half the bands on your must-see list, you're probably still going to hear more good live music in three days than you'll hear the entire rest of the year.
Bring a bandanna ... When you first arrive, you won't think you need one. It's not dusty at all! But when it comes time to stumble back to the car, you'll be grateful for that extra hunk of cloth covering your nose and mouth and warding off the dirt storms kicked up by all those departing vehicles.
Friday is the best day for claustrophobes. Actually, claustrophobes have no business here. But for mild cases, Friday will seem like a crystal-clear sea of tranquility compared to Saturday's crushing waves of filthy bodies.
... and a portable cell phone charger. Yes, they have charging stations, but there's nearly always a wait and once you plug in, you're stuck there. A portable charger means you can be mobile and beholden to no one. Without one, your phone is almost certain to die before the final chords of "Hell's Bells."
Don't buy the $14 cocktails. They're pre-batched and on tap, and something tells us the mixture settled weird because they don't taste right. Plus they're not very boozy. The best bet for getting drunk is to just go for the wine, although it's almost all Cupcake, which will certainly give you a headache. For the snobs among us, the saving grace is really the Craft Beer Barn and the Rosé All Day vendor behind it, which has some decent French rosés for around $10 a glass. The $11 agave margaritas aren't bad either.
Buy waters two at a time. You'll drink them faster than you think, and then you can refill two bottles at the water stations. Yeah, that dry desert heat sucks the moisture out of you faster than you can say "Drake tears."
Hotter than balls? Hit the Yuma tent. It's air-conditioned and has nice crash pads covered in pillows and oriental carpets. Even if you're not into house music, it's a pleasant oasis from the blazing mid-day heat. (Be warned, however: After about 7 p.m., the AC can no longer keep pace with the growing crowd and it turns into a sweat box.)
If it looks like a clever shortcut, it's probably a bad idea. It will be tempting in these crowds of people to slip through a gate onto the back road that circles the festival, just to get around that one huge tent full of tweaked-out, sweaty bodies. Do not do it. If you're caught back there without the correct wristband (if you're reading this, you almost certainly don't have that wristband), protocol is to clip your wristband and kick you out of the festival. If you're lucky, they'll just make you walk back around to the main entrance, which is probably three miles away.
Skip the Port-O-Potties and use the nice bathrooms. Yes, they're a bit of a hike from everywhere except the Sahara tent, the Do LaB and the Craft Beer Barn. But so, so worth it. They're clean (relatively speaking), usually not crowded (except for the occasional line of bros waiting for toilet stalls, so they can either do more drugs or take a molly dump), and you can wash your hands in actual, warm, running water, instead of that awful hand sanitizer crap that just hides the germs and grime under a layer of goo.
When it comes to food, the old standbys still offer the best bang for your buck. Coachella has all sorts of new food options this year, so it will be hard to resist trying out the $14 tuna sashimi nuac cham thingo from some trendy restaurant transplanted to the desert. But what's going to fill you up? A $7 slice of Spicy Pie. It's great that the food options just keep expanding, and honestly those $50 per person sit-down dinners in the VIP area are a pretty good deal (lots of food, very tasty). But if you're just looking for the cheapest, tastiest fuel and beer-padding, the old school vendors are where it's at.
Leave at least 15 minutes before Drake finishes his set. Trust us. You do not want to get caught in the Sunday night closing clusterfuck. Drake will be shutting it down at midnight; if you're not at least en route to your car by then, be prepared to spend a very, very long time inching towards the exit in a sea of dusty, disheveled humanity.
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