2014 was a year of Coachella firsts for me -- it was my first time camping and not going as a member of the press. It was a series of highs and lows all bundled up into one fun, yet exhausting weekend. I'm still coughing up dust, but I can say this was one of the most fun Coachellas I've attended yet.
I learn something new every year I go to Coachella, so here are my main takeaways from my fourth year at the festival.
1.) Take care of yourself This is easier said than done, I know. In spite of layers of sunscreen and multiple trips to the water refill station, I got sunburned and dehydrated. The dehydration didn't seem that bad until I developed heat rash, so I spent Sunday more or less looking like a leper. Not cute.
During a visit to a first aid station, an EMT reminded me that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting worn out after the festival is all but inevitable, so do what you can to eat right and get some sleep.
2.) Security really doesn't care that much Saturday morning, I shared a breakfast table with a woman who checked bags at Coachella in previous years. The first question on my mind seemed obvious -- "What do you do if you find drugs?" The answer kind of surprised me -- she told me that the festival's policy is to ask guests to discard of their drugs. Police don't get involved unless someone gets combative or refuses.
There have been reports of people having sex out in the open at the festival. Friends (ladies too), have peed in a corner when the bathroom lines are too long and the porta potties get rank toward the end of the night.
Speaking of drugs -- there's weed everywhere.
3.) Don't dress to impress Fashion blogs may encourage you to sport your best boho chic or offensive Native American headdress, but those adorable wedges will not fare well at the festival. The Coachella grounds are huge, and even with tennis shoes, my feet get blistered every year. Plus, it's pretty hot, so dress practically.
4.) Bandanas are a lifesaver Dressing like a train robber is the best way to block dust from getting stuck in your nose. On Saturday, things got pretty dusty, so a bandana was a lifesaver.
Bandanas also work well to cool down -- every time I refilled my water bottle, I soaked my bandana and stuck it to my upper back. It felt amazing.
5.) Take advantage of free stuff One of my favorite new additions to Coachella this year was the Sephora tent. Beauty guides either did your makeup or walked you through the perfect smoky eye or highlight and contour -- all for free. Better yet, the tent is air conditioned. The Fruttare tent near the main stage offers free popsicles while supplies last.
6.) It's very easy to make new friends Coachella attracts people from all over the world. Many of these folks came to the festival by themselves, so asking someone where they're from or who their favorite Coachella act is is a great icebreaker.
7.) Camping is awesome I stayed in far away hotels during my first three Coachellas. Camping is convenient, my first friend to arrive set up shop on Wednesday, so our campsite was right off main street, minutes from the entrance. Plus, car camping is only $85.
8.) Camping is terrible The camping cons list is much longer for a reason. The two biggest complaints are noise and heat. EDM lovers who seem to never sleep are everywhere -- I feel really bad for whoever is stuck next to the campers blasting Skrillex all night, because I was able to hear it loud and clear across the campgrounds.
Drunk campers sound like they're hanging out in your tent with you. Earplugs can't block out the drunk party girl screaming about how she wants to go see Rudimental.
Once everything calms down, you have a few hours to catch uninterrupted sleep before the sun comes up. It quickly becomes too hot to sleep, whether you kick off your blanket or open your tent, it doesn't matter.
The campsite porta potties are the most disgusting toilets I saw at the festival, but when nature calls, nature calls. The showers were an adventure of their own -- getting clean at Coachella was one of the most satisfying showers I've ever taken, but shower lines can sometimes be up to two hours long, so next year, be sure to pack some baby wipes if you feel like roughing it.
9.) Take a nap during a chill set Chances are you only got a few hours of sleep and are feeling hungover. Find a spot in the shade of Gobi or Mojave and catch some zzz's during a mellow set. I was so tired, that I managed to doze off during Title Fight's punk set. It sounded great, but I was too exhausted to stand up and watch it.
10.) The Sahara tent isn't so bad I like some EDM, but have always found the Sahara tent annoying. The largest of the three tents is usually overflowing with ravers trying to squeeze in. If you manage to catch a break, Sahara is actually pretty cool -- the lights are insane, and the tent kind of looks like an airplane hanger. Empire of the Sun lead me to believe that Sahara isn't so bad after all.
11.) Charge your phone whenever you can Near Mojave, there's a tent where you can drop off your phone and pick it up later, for free. If you don't feel like waiting in line, the recharge stations near the tent offer some options, but at peak times, don't expect to get more than 10 percent. But still, that's better than nothing.
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12.) Go to the after shows I got home from the festival at 4 p.m. on Monday. Even though I was covered in dust and ant bites, I was more interested in sleeping than showering. My cat nap resulted in me sleeping through the night, so I missed Bombay Bicycle Club. Tuesday night kicked of five shows in five days, which seems nuts, but it's been amazing. Seeing Neutral Milk Hotel and Frank Turner in an intimate venue is much different from being surrounded by indifferent fans trying to get close for Lana Del Rey. Yeah, I'm tired, but that's what coffee is for, and you can always sleep another time.
13.) Ask nicely and you may get on stage Dancing onstage with Girl Talk was my most amazing Coachella experience to date. I got lucky and asked the right person after Chromeo's set and made it on stage, at the expense of missing the Replacements. Dancing in front of 150,000 people and friends back home watching the webcast is a little nerve racking when you can't actually dance, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took it.
14.) Don't waste all of your energy early on The downside to my Girl Talk adventure was that I figuratively "blew my load" Friday night. I was so exhausted on Saturday that most of the day was a blur until I saw acts like Kate Nash and Neko Case later in the day. Sunday was miserable during the day -- I'm sure I would have enjoyed myself more if I had more energy, but once again, all it took was one great set to find some energy.
15.) Don't be afraid to see the same bands again I've seen Arcade Fire a handful of times, so I initially planned on skipping out on their closing set. Disclosure sounded great, but I ended up having some time left over to check out Arcade Fire, and I'm so glad I did. The band's set may not have been as epic as it was in 2011, but I did get to see Debbie Harry join in for "Sprawl II," and ending the festival with "Wake Up" was almost a spiritual experience. The crowd continue singing the whoas and ohs of the chorus for a solid 20 minutes as we all staggered back to our campsites and cars.