Preface: The arrival
It was early as fuck. No sleep. Drank a bit. Haven’t eaten. Security line at PHL is out the door.
Why the fuck are there so many people here? Where are they all going? Do they know its 5am? Do they know they’re in my way? Just move. What’s with all these ropes? Is this necessary, herded cattle is what we are.
Later in the week I will be introduced to the term “Crowd Salmon”. I don’t know this term yet. I don’t even know I’m salmon yet.
Make deer antlers with my hands. Pat down, frisk, half a happy ending and a barefoot walk of shame later and I am through. The rest of the Philly contingent is late. Well the ones I can spot. There are three coming that are familiar enough to be spottable. They took a cab. Who would really drive a friend to the airport this early. I would call one of them. They would call me. They’re running late. One of them is actually from Boston. You can hear it when she gets happy or mad. She is still one of us. Later that trip all of us would be a little Boston.
We didn’t know that yet.
A lot of things would change. It’s just how it happens sometimes. Life will change you.
Find the gate. Well hello Aziz Ansari you are on my flight. I will begin the years of embellishment now. We shook hands and he told me he admired one the few times I’ve ever done comedy that he somehow heard about and would like me to write jokes for him. This will be further embellished for the rest of my life.
As for what really happened, I creepily followed him and tried to get a shady picture to send to my not yet arrived cohorts. It’s my story though, so we are bff and he thinks I’m really funny and tall.
Boarding time. 6:30am EST. Seats are comfy and large. Outlets, oh glorious outlets. Richard Branson this is why you will take us to Mars. Cabin doors close and no friends. The flight attendant asks us to power down our devices, which for reference has zero affect on the instrument panels as long as no one has a mobile device more than 20 years old. Did you know most cockpits boast several always connected iPads that are not powered down during takeoff or landing?
One last angry text.
You know I am a bad flyer. Can’t believe you missed the flight. Will defriend you all.
A ding. Well that’s it we are taking off. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
The cabin door opens and on comes the rest of the rag tag Philly contingent.
On strolls the two reasons I am even going to or invited to this thing along with our dark complexioned curvy female friend from Boston. Seats are taken. My paler male(r) friend of unrecognizable middle eastern decent was apparently the hold up of Tom Haverford and myself. He was silly enough to bring his laptop and charger. He simply must be a terrorist. Why would anyone with good intentions need that kind of combination of odd components? This would later become a recurring issue. I honestly cannot see the extremist they must see in his eyes and he is about as close to brown as to pink so cheers to TSA for spotting and delaying the most passive individual I know.
Up up and away.
The flight was uneventful. Drinks were had. Naps were had. Xanax was had. So you’re thinking, why write about it? Well you’re right. I’m done. Moving on. We landed.
I dreamed of living here. I thought I would go to college here. Maybe I would learn to surf. As long as they got rid of all the sharks. Like all of them. I would probably hang out with celebrities. I’m sure I would date Kelly Kapowski. I have been out of college for many years. This is my first step on the west coast. I have slept with my share of Kelly’s, but none of them could hold a candle to TVs polish sex symbol.
I take a picture of a palm tree.
The rest of the group has arrived. One was on our flight. We have met. She isn’t a fan. I don’t blame her. They say I’m hard to love. Normally I react poorly to the possibility of not being immediately loved but she is spunky. I like spunky. More arrive. Another from Philly arrives with another from Austin. The Texan is originally a Delco-ite like myself. She is the sister in-law of that damn Middle Easterner that held us up so rudely. She would later come to remind me of Claire Dunphy with a bit more sass. These two lovely women were full of charisma and life. I would grow to enjoy these two immensely.
We are now a presence to be reckoned with. A tired, out of place looking presence but a presence no less. In traditional Philly style we shrug off posted rules and try to hail a shuttle at an incorrect station. A driver gives us a “no no no” and shakes a tan digit at my guitar wielding travel companion. He is immediately offended. We eventually obey, get to the shuttle service and begin the two hour trek through the Wild West. We are going to Palm Springs. Oh wait, there was In and Out burger. It was tasty. Try if you can, if you can’t you shall survive. You will just be incomplete.
Fed and fueled we rode to the desert.
I won’t bore you with details of what happened when we got there or who arrived when. Just know there were 24 of us. Some local. Some southern, some NE. Men and women of varying ages and backgrounds together with one common goal. At the time I didn’t even know what that goal was. To properly describe it we had to create a verb. It would later be known as a “Mansioning”. The act of simply being awesome, whilst in a mansion. An example of “Mansioning” would be eggs benedict prepared fresh for 24, with a full Bloody Mary bar to start your day. Its hottubbing in the cold, and pooling in the warm. It’s “Mansioning”. There were 24 of us. I feel as though to not describe every one of these people in great detail is to do you a disservice. Though to try and put into words just how amazing each of these people was would in itself be a disservice as I am not that poetic. So I will tell you this; We were from everywhere except now all that mattered was we were there.
The Coachella Experience. AKA my first (real) festival.
A big part of me is saying to stop writing now. It is the part of me that once heard the best stories are left unwritten.
They may be whispered, or expelled loudly with alcohol, embellishment, and exuberance. They can be heard through a grapevine, fabled, rumored, or become the stuff of legend. What they are not is written. Once you write it down it is what it is.
That. There. Then. Over. Fin.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to lay my first festival to rest. Its eulogy should not be written. Yet here I am, writing, defining, ending the story that was Coachella 2013. So because of that I will try and do it justice. I will write this in a single go. Straight through, without edits. Excuse the grammar and unpolished look, but this is how you write a story that shouldn’t be written. You write it the way you would tell it, the way you would tell friends over beers in your local bar. This is the least I can do to honor the memory I am about to defile with finite ink to paper.
Let’s have at it, shall we.
It truly begins:
It was fucking amazing. (I warned you I was telling you this in a bar). I won’t waste your time with history of the festival or past notable acts, you have Wikipedia for that. I won’t even waste your time with specific reviews of lineups and notable performances or the lack luster ones. I will not pretend to know all the bands there, half the bands, hell even half the songs of half the bands I heard of. I did not camp there, or show up for the first show and stay till the last. I sampled little of the food; bought no t-shirt to wear as a badge of honor. No ride on the Ferris wheel, nor did I Save Ferris.
I went in with little expectations of it all. So little I thought of selling my ticket and flaking on the days leading up to the event. I have been to concerts, and shows, and even a festival though only one day of a three day event. They were good. They had their moments. Overall it felt like a lot of warm overpriced beer and a bunch of people way to into the B sides of bands that once were obscure. There always seemed an impending threat of violence. Standing and swaying for hours always seemed more tedious than to sit in my home and listen to a downloaded mastered copy of the same band’s music while doing something productive like eating a cheese sandwich.
As I said, all of this gave me little expectation. I thought I would simply be bored and come home. 10 days less life on this earth, less productive than ever to, an unpainted new apartment with maybe a mild tan and nothing else on earth different.
I was wrong. Human Centipede Porn Genre wrong.
I changed. I am happier. Maybe something in me was broken. I know parts were certainly dead.
At 15 I had a collection of around 1100 compact discs. I was lost in music. It was an escape. An altered reality. Time travel. A million tiny stories to be felt and lived in 4 minute increments. Who couldn’t love music? By 19 that love had died. It was my own fault. Those that know me know I am a DJ. Know that I have a knack for business. That I am driven and have a taste for things beyond my means. So what do you get when you take a boy that loves music, and give him two turntables, a microphone? A business, not a passion. You get a boy that just turned his love into his whore.
Music worked the streets to pay poppa the dollars needed to sustain. And you can’t love your whore. So I didn’t. Music became a garbled mesh of top 40 nonsense. New genres emerged and I shunned them. I shunned old genres too. It all became sour. I turned the radios off in my cars. I have never had a Pandora account. Any song ever bought by me was for business purpose only. I have never owned an iPod. The off brand mp3 player gifted to me years ago, sits somewhere in a box hungry for songs. I don’t like music. It’s for the puppets. Let them dance and sing their repetitive hooks and move to bass drops thrown about at random increments. Silly people. You love the whore and she won’t even kiss you on the lips. Bitter, dark. Fucked up right? Not how you expect your DJ to think when he is bobbing his head to beats at your local bar. Well it was. And I was certain this was what music had become.
I was wrong. Lactating man nipples genre of porn wrong.
Coachella Day 1:
I honestly don’t remember.
I want to lay it out day by day. I want to tell you I saw this one band and it stirred a sleeping giant. I want to. I do.
I don’t remember.
We left the mansion. We arrived at the venue. I was enthralled by the amount of beautiful people. Female and male. Though it was not all aesthetic. These people emitted a glow. Happiness. Togetherness. It was almost instantaneous. I am a bitter self-indulgent narcissist who rarely even notices those around me. These people were the fucking Whos of Whoville and today was their Christmas. I grinched up my nose and I looked them in the eyes and they smiled and said…
“Hello friend, Happy Coachella”
And from there it was off to see bands, many I’ve never heard. Our group grew in numbers as friends and relatives joined. It was as if the whole world were there and all you had to do was simply look hard enough and you would find who you were looking for.
A long time ago, magic existed. It was everywhere. It was in the gathering of people. It was in books and music and love and life. Much of that has died. Some of it has apparently survived. Some of it was here in the Indio Valley. The magic of this place was starting to take its hold on me.
My heart may not have grown three sizes that day, I mean that would be a serious medical concern, but something did change. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t even want to hate it.
I actually wanted more.
Coachella Day 2:
I would again be lying to tell you the lineup or the moment or the feeling of the moment. I simply know day two surpassed day one. I know on this day, much dancing occurred. I remember breaking off the group with a friend garbed in similar fashion to the karate kid, but sporting a Mohawk he was brave enough to allow me to shave into his head earlier that day. A lovely girl with blue hair that reminds me of a mermaid without the tail joins us. This is completely acceptable.
We go HAM.
Music is in my blood again. Dancing. There is dancing. Not competitive, not for sport, and not even for the purposes of courting. It’s an expression of happy. It is joy leaving the body in a convulsive movement controlled by rhythm.
I learned on this day it is better to skip some of the big acts. Use this chance to get close to other stages. It’s a whole different experience when the shows become more intimate, when you connect with the music, the artist, the show, the feeling.
I spent this night surrounded by amazing music and amazing people. We wandered to and fro, breaking off into groups and joining again in a land only referred to as A3. So much music was pumped through the air, the lights were amazing, the people were moving as one. Sadly I went too hard, and my party ended by 2am. I missed the after show at the campgrounds by a talented duo of DJs known as Fleetwood Smack. These two former east coasters and family of ours would later end up spinning a few sets at our Mansion, but not that night. That night they showed R Kelly who the real pied pipers were.
I saw pictures. It was amazing. It is the only set I regret missing.
We arrive. I see a girl in pasties. Just pasties and shorts. I now have Coachella bingo (Ok not really, but now I know for next year to make up card, email if you want a set). I am in a great mood. My love of life and music has returned with increased vigor, more than ever before. Though we arrive late and meet up with our people slowly we arrive in time to see Social Distortion. I remember because they are one of the bands I know and because I make a joke about the abbreviated band name having something to do with penis. I also remember because you couldn’t paint a prettier memory. I was completely sober.
We headed toward the stage and I remember it was beautiful. The festival goers, tired from days of partying were mostly sitting. There were gaps in the folds of people standing and sitting. People were simply looking at the sky or the stage or their friends and listening. Mind you that through this pulsated a part tornado part conga line of what I would call a none contact gentle version of a mosh pit. The sun was setting over the horizon. The weather was perfect for a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts, and somewhere wandering about was the girl who had on nothing but pasties and shorts.
Life was good.
So you would think being the last day, a certain sadness would hang out about the air. Not here. Not in the Indio Valley.
We all may die tonight.
We all could only live to the end of this song.
There are big name acts on main stages, while other amazing acts occur with a handful of people. Ever want to see Roni Size or Grimes from ten feet away? Me neither but I’m sure glad as fuck I did.
For the rest of the night lasers were shot into my soul, bass pumped into my heart, love filtered through my lungs, my eyes heard everything, and my ears saw all.
I would be lying if I told you I remembered the last band we saw. I remember it was windy and getting windier. The dust began to kick up from the long flat valley and was assaulting us like tidal waves. We would later compare filthy ears and caked nostril dust but then, at that single moment in time, we were invincible.
The shows had ended and it was time to go. We parted ways though I was now grouped with a curious crowd. All people I had met within days, my transport, my well-being in their hands. Thanks to a lovely girl of caramel complexion I was whisked away with our rag tag group to the artist area of the festival. No bracelet, no pass, just a lovely little pixie of a thing to grab my hand and say “this one and these people are with me”.
Do you all remember in Super Mario 3 when he warps levels in the main screen and he becomes a little tornadoes and travels to the requested level? This, I assume is how we were actually traveling.
I later learned the significance of this girl. Not just a regular tattooed festival goer but actually a manager for one of the very talented musicians I had seen earlier in the evening. We all spent some time in the artist trailer and then again whisked to the bus area.
After a stint on the bus and an eternal walk back to the car that lead me to curse all the none existent gods of all times, past and future, we reached the vehicle and traveled safely back to our humble little mansion.
I want to tell you we slept. I want to tell you we partied. I think we mingled the two. I recall wearing sunglasses far into the evening to hide my swollen dust filled tired bloodshot eyes.
At some point sleep came.
At some point daylight broke.
At some point we admitted it was over.
Its all over:
Remember A3? I mentioned it when talking about day 2. It is where I said we all met. I will tell you that if you find yourself in Indio and feel the need to visit A3, it isn’t there anymore. It simply shouldn’t be. It’s a memory. Nothing more.
If for some reason you do actually find yourself there, and if you close your eyes and you smell the air and the dust and the dirt, and you feel the calm breeze; you can almost still feel the magic we left at this place.
There is something beautiful about that.
Well the festival is over but the trip was far from such. We had a mansion. A very expensive, very large mansion. And we had yet to have cops arrive. They would. There was some liquor left to be drunk. We actually had 3 whole days before my faction parted ways.
One day we spent sullen and sorrowed in the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston. To see so much senseless devastation and hate after seeing so much love was almost unbearable. We surrendered our morning to it. Then further into our afternoon. Eventually leaving the main TV tuned to CBS and lowering the volume periodically checking for updates. I think it was Monday. It certainly put things back into perspective. This was not reality. A new friend who looked surprisingly like an old friend used the term “default life “when referring to the fact he was returning to work the next day. The folks we grew to love dwindled. It was a sad site. What once were 24 became the final 12.
I made a lot of new friends. People I want to know better. People from all over the country that I somehow ended up lucky enough being around. Just meeting these people makes the world feel so much bigger but so much smaller at the same time. I joked when I came home and sad I had PCD, or post Coachella depression. Well it was true. I made a new family. No one knows where you’ve been or what you did better than your family. I got home and wanted to be around them. Not to talk in excess, not to wax and wane on what was. Simply to smile and nod and randomly toast a beer without saying a word.
I miss the beautiful women who were kind enough to decorate our pool with their scantily clad bodies. I miss the beautiful couples obviously in love. I miss the men who became my brothers and the women who became my sisters. I miss the DJs who kept our house alive with music. I miss the sunbathers and hottubbers kissed by sunlight and moonlight. I miss the fleeting love of the moment, the awkward moments, the amazing seconds, the glances and smiles of people sharing a moment that never will exist again. The laughs that carried through the air and up over the hills of Palm Springs and into the mountains. I miss the old friends and new. I miss them all.
I haven’t done these people justice. There are so many I have left out. I haven’t done the event justice, as there were so many amazing tales that simply did not fit into words. Its because of this i want to apologize. I want to apologize to them and you. To them for my own shortcomings of not being able to put to words how extraordinary they are. And to you, the reader, for depriving the chance of knowing these people and about these things. I am sorry.
It was the kind of experience you don’t even talk about. The kind no one would ever be foolish enough to try and write down. It’s a butterfly or puff of smoke, beautiful and everlasting until trapped under glass. No one would dissect something so precious. I really hope no asshole out there ever tries to put all this into words and write it down because there is no way they could do it justice. No way…