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CoS Festival Survival Guide: Coachella-ella-ella

on April 08, 2010, 1:58am

One very well-known polo field isn’t exactly used for polo toward the end of April … Instead, the great Empire Polo Club is used to host the biggest desert party next to Burning Man — Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Located in the small town of Indio, California, only about an hour away from both Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, Coachella Valley and its premiere music festival are known for both incredible daytime temperatures and first-class line-ups presented each and every year. First held in 1999, Coachella Festival is now stronger than ever. With attendance ranging anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people each day, having a “normal” weekend is quite impossible. Instead, think words and emotions that entail the complete opposite.

So, you’re thinking about making a trek out to the desert, eh? Need time away from the monotonous nine-to-five shifts and rush-hour traffic that plague America? Or, maybe a bit of soul searching is needed… Whatever the case may be, Coachella is the perfect getaway — as long as you know how to handle all of the madness that goes along with it. If you’ve never been to Coachella before, you’re in for a massive treat. It may all seem a bit overwhelming upon arrival, but this survival guide will help you keep your cool in a place where shade is as nonexistent as “a diamond in the rough.”

Before we get into anything else, I want to lay down an outline of things to bring. This will allow you to keep in mind items that are needed while I discuss other important points about the festival. Now, Coachella is a three-day music festival, so you will be leaving behind a normal everyday lifestyle. Packing and packing right is probably the most important aspect. Whether you’re camping, staying in a hotel, or only going for one day, bringing supplies is essential.

Items For Survival


These, while somewhat obvious, are still pretty mandatory:

  • Water – Bring more than enough. It gets incredibly hot, so staying hydrated is probably the most important idea. If you do happen to run out of water, Coachella has you covered, though. Recycle ten empty water bottles, and in exchange they’ll give you a brand new one.
  • Money – Because even in the desert, the world still runs on it.
  • Extra food – Just in case you’re hungry at any point in the day and don’t want to spend money. Walking around with an empty stomach is just as bad as being dehydrated. You’ll start to think that the whole festival is a mirage.
  • Backpacks – Do you really want to carry things when you’re witnessing a one-time reunion? No.
  • Sunscreen – One sunburn and you’re not going to have pleasant memories.
  • Tent – If you’re camping. This would include staking and tying the tent down, of course.
  • Locks – You can’t forget to lock up your tent and all of your valuables. Remember, there will be thousands of people camping around you…
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows – It gets quite cold at night in the desert.
  • Extra clothes – Enough for three days, unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind staying in the same clothes all weekend.
  • Sunglasses – Hip and safe. Nothing wrong with that.
  • Toilet paper – For, you know…
  • Toiletries – Shampoo and deodorant and such… including hand sanitizer!


Also, just get creative… double check your (or this) list three times, and don’t leave for the day before you know you’re ready with everything. Hey, we’re not overprotective or anything, just trying to stay smart.

This Land Is My Land…


Once packed, the next essential step is figuring out where to stay. On-site camping is offered, and rules have changed for the better. A plot of land 10’x30’ is available for only $50. No more individual camping passes are needed; buy the space and try to fit as many people in as possible. You can now also park your car on-site, so no more lugging supplies from the car to the campground. Mobile bathroom and shower trailers are included. Also, if you have a bit of money to spend ($5,000 for two people), luxury safari tents are offered. These include a bed, bathrooms, showers, and golf-cart shuttles to and from the festival! Other (cheaper) options are hotels, motels, and houses and condos made available by the owners for rent this one weekend only. Just be sure to plan where you’re going to stay ahead of time because finding a motel in the middle of the night is a pain in the ass, trust me on this one.

dolab CoS Festival Survival Guide: Coachella ella ella

Getting to the actual festival is a cinch. The only freeway that runs through Indio is Interstate 10, so no matter where you’re coming from, the same route will essentially be shared. If you’re coming from Los Angeles way, take the 10 East all the way to Jefferson Street and exit. Signs directing visitors will be all over the place, and parking personnel will help guide you if you can’t find the lots. If you’re coming from Arizona way, take the 10 West and get off at the same place. Easy enough?

Where Da Party At?


The true fun begins inside the festival itself. Coachella hosts five different stages: the Coachella Stage, the Outdoor Stage, the Gobi Tent, the Mojave Tent, and the Sahara Tent, all varying in level of popularity. The first four stages each house an array of different artists while the Sahara Tent, aptly referred to as the rave tent, is reserved for the more electronic acts. Now, scheduling conflicts are a bit hard to deal with. My best advice is to plan your whole day around the artists/performances you can’t miss out on. Once those are decided upon, you are free to plan time to eat, relax, and enjoy other musicians you’ve never experienced before. Other cool things to look for and check out are the sponsor booths (AT&T and Sony) and artist signings. Also, watch for wandering musicians and/or celebrities. Keep a close eye out, and you may just meet someone from your favorite band.

Coachella is laid out like one big horseshoe.  As you enter through the front gates, the merchandise booth is off to the right, Coachella main stage is directly in front of you, and the main beer garden is to the left of it all.  The Outdoor stage is positioned diagonally in the right-hand corner, and the last three tents line the backside of the polo field.  Directly in the middle is The Do Lab, and all of the art exhibits are randomly placed around the festival.  Upon entrance, a general sweep of the entire festival is important.  This allows for the setting up of meeting places if friends get lost and for knowing where the first-aid tent is, just in case someone passes out, get injured, or becomes too “paranoid”…

thedolab CoS Festival Survival Guide: Coachella ella ella

Now on to safety. There are a few things to be cautious of. Feeling a bit overheated? Shade is scarce, but watch for The Do Lab. The lab is smack dab in the middle of the field and includes large sculpted palm trees (create the best shade) and misters. This is the perfect place to go if heat exhaustion starts to get to you. Also, be alert when walking around. You may encounter a few “weirdos” (such as the naked wizard from last year, who remembers that?), unjust law enforcement, and the occasional drug dealer. These warnings are in no way supposed to take away from the fun, only to enhance. Staying safe at this big of a festival is a very important task. Don’t let the paranoia get the best of you, though! Enjoy yourself. That is why you shelled out hundreds of dollars to make it out to the desert in the first place, isn’t it?

Oh, and kids, if you’re so hell-bent on ingesting certain “party favors,” bring your own… I wouldn’t really trust all those crazies out there in the boiling sun to provide quality. One last thing, always remember (especially with 100+ degrees of heat) moderation is probably the most important practice, besides having fun of course.

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