Coachella 2006: Weathering the Cruelest of the Siren Songs

    Going to Coachella? In the anticipatory weeks, this question is second only to “are you graduating?”, fluttering on hordes of music-lovers’ lips as van windows get festively painted by those for whom it’s tradition. For others, myself included, the decision process of whether to attend or not is a long, lazy back-and-forth. My experience with various gigantic festivals, including Coachella two years ago, provides just as much material to fill the plus as the minus side of my debate.

    Coachella’s Web site, at the time of writing, reads “Countdown: 2 days, 17 hours, 44 minutes and 27 seconds.” The Indio desert festival is, by any measurement, a highly anticipated happening. But more than that, like all great rock festivals, it’s a certain kind of dream (and this year, a wet dream — see www.coachella.com for the full lineup).

    OK, maybe I won’t shed hot tears over Matisyahu, James Blunt, stellastarr*, Bloc Party or (shudder) She Wants Revenge. Depeche Mode and Tool are headlining, followed close behind in print size on the posters by Daft Punk, Franz Ferdinand, Massive Attack and — what the hell — Madonna?! But the best is the rest — Amadou & Mariam, Seu Jorge, Cat Power, Go! Team, Dungen, Jamie Lidell, Sigur Rós, Animal Collective … I could go on, but the lineup hurts my eyes.

    Though ridiculously expensive ($86 for one day, $167 for both), it’s easy to rationalize Coachella as the best deal ever if you divide the price by the number of bands you plan on seeing. Just $5 for Mogwai? Sweet Lord.

    But a festival is always less than the sum of its parts.

    First, there’s the inhuman task of choosing between the two days. In 2004, festivalgoers got a no-brainer, with both the newly-revived Pixies and Radiohead billed on the same night. This year, the quality of talent, from small names to big, is roughly evenly distributed. Whether you manage to make a confident decision or splurge for the whole weekend, you still won’t be able to see all the acts on your wish list — once there, the schedule will make damn sure to break your heart by overlapping all the best shows.

    Then, there’s plenty more ammunition I can conjure up to defend keeping my meager funds. Beyond the ticket price, I’ll rekindle my outrage at being denied my water bottle in 100-degree-plus weather, then getting charged $2 a pop. Greedy bastards. This is criminally comparable to those organized raves that ban outside water (yes, at raves — and then they wonder how a lot of bug-eyed kids drop from severe dehydration). Coachella turns tragic when hordes of stylishly-layered, tight-jeaned hipsters in dark hues fight for shade.

    If you’ve ditched style for comfort, though, you can’t deny the perverse glee in people-watching as the makeup runs. (This year, the smart ones will pretend they’re Devendra Banhart devotees and wear flowing hippie robes and turbans. That, or dress like Madonna in better times.) You won’t regret it when you enter a concert tent only to realize that you can’t see the stage due to the condensation hanging above hundreds of perspiring brows. But this can work to your advantage in making your way through the crowd, as it dissuades even the most rabid of fans from pressing against one another too tightly.

    Oh, and don’t plan on meeting up with any friends, or drifting away from your festivalmates either. Thousands of cell phones crowding the network at once equal complete communication breakdown. It’s not a pretty sight. What’s even uglier is the hours of post-Coachella traffic just to get out of the parking lot — if you can bear to, skip out on the end of the last act.

    And so, reviewing these notes, I came to my final decision to abstain from this round. Maybe I’m too lazy, maybe I’m too cheap, maybe my old bones require smaller venues instead of elbowing the sweaty masses. But if you’re a freshman or have never been to such a production, erase everything I said, dream big festival dreams, and do it right. Which is to say, get drunk, get sunburned, lose your friends, miss half the bands, and come back extremely content.

    Two days, 17 hours, 38 minutes and five seconds … And just a few more before you watch Sigur Rós play under the palm trees silhouetted against the pink desert sunset.

    Damn you.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal