Back in 2013, I went to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for the first time. My wrist was fractured and I had a cast on my right arm.
I was just a young grasshopper. I didn’t pace myself and passed out in random places each day.
1 POINT FOR COACHELLA
The following year, I went back to Coachella 2014 and was defeated yet again. This time, I left on Sunday with food poisoning- the result of the delicious yet risky Garlic Crab Fries.
I threw up for three days straight.
ANOTHER POINT FOR COACHELLA
In 2017, I returned, nervous and embarassed from my track record of losing years before (Coachella-2, Sandy-0).
There was a lot at stake- the immeasurable pressure to #MakeKobeProud. Then there were my fans, who were cheering me on from the other side of Snapchat, taking bets, and eagerly awaiting my Snap Story to see if I’d win this time.
So when my friends invited me to Coachella 2017, my first reaction was:
“I’m DONE with Coachella!
$400 for a General Admission wristband? Another few hundred for housing, transportation, food, and outfits?
What a waste of money! I’d rather save that money up for my quest of conquering the world.”
Let’s be real.
I was still bitter about losing twice before. The decision to go lingered at the back of my head.
After weeks of tossing and turning, I finally woke in the middle of the night and said with a fierce determination in my eyes,
LET’S MAKE KOBE PROUD.
On Thursday afternoon, Ryan, Michelle, Sam and I rolled up in our Red Mercedes to our AirBnB in Cathedral City, 25 minutes away from the Coachella venue. We opened the door, ran inside, and proceeded to blast “Red Mercedes” by Amine on the speakers, which became our theme song for the weekend.
We ran back downstairs, to the pool, to the jacuzzi, and then back to the kitchen and Amine sings,
“With my girl in my Red Mercedes, attitude like..”
The four of us start getting jiggy widdit
One by one, the rest of the fam showed up.
We stayed up til the wee hours on day 0, horsing around, singing and dancing to Justin Timberlake (See below for the talented superstar JR Aquino dancing to Senorita)
By 2017, Coachella had grown up to become the biggest beast of all music festival beasts.
There was the new Sonora stage and then there was the expansion of 40 acres.
Despite being aware of its rise in popularity, I surely underestimated what was to come.
Large corporations such as HP, American Express, and H&M made sure their presence was known at the venue. Directly above us, airplanes pulling banner ads for the dating app Tinder flew across the sky.
Ads were literally everywhere. I couldn’t help but think outloud,
“Damn Coachella.. you’ve CHANGED, BRUH!”
After passing through our first round of security check, we headed to the Do Lab stage first.
“I’M BAAAAAAAAAAACK!” I shouted.
We were ecstatic to get into Coachella on Day 1 so easily. Just as we were getting our groove on.. BOOM! The DJ dropped our theme song Red Mercedes.
About 30 minutes later, we moved closer to the stage and drunk girls in the typical Coachella-style clothing swayed into my space. Bros forced themselves right through me and my friends in order to create a walkway for themselves.
I tried really hard to enjoy the moment but DAMMIT! It was only 3pm and these drunk people kept pushing into me!!!!!
That’s when Wayne and Alyssa asked if anyone wanted to go the Beer garden.
Wayne: “You guys wanna get beer?”
Me: “I’ll meet you and Alyssa inside since I need to get the 21+ wristband from ID check.”
Lines, lines, and more lines. To get:
- my ID checked for a 21+ drinking wristband.
- an IPA inside the beer garden.
- to the bathroom.
- my camelbak filled with water from the refill stations.
- into the air conditioned Heineken Dome.
“Holy crap, was it always this bad?” I thought.
The Coachella hype was too real. I should’ve known.
The crowds of people were getting to me. It was not looking good.
“NO! I CAN’T LOSE AGAIN!”
I shouted as I sipped on a cold beer while sitting on the grass.
However, as the day went by, things got better hanging with my friends.
We were chillin in the area at the back of the Sahara tent along the walls when Steve Angello drops his iconic song “Knas“.
“F*** YEAH! HE’S PLAYING KNAS!” I point at the stage while jumping up and down.
“Is this girl okay?” Whispered the people next to me.
At the end of the day, I was immune to the traffic of people crossing in all directions. It reminded me of the Shibuya crossing, the busiest intersection in the world.
Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad, but I didn’t mind since the music was bumpin and I was having a great time with my friends.
During the daytime, we took advantage of the pool at our place.
A lot of downtime outside of Coachella consisted of singing along to the classics, like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.
Typical scenes with us looked like this:
We left to the Coachella venue later than we did on the first day. The result: a bumper to bumper experience and the perfect opportunity to take selfies.
Most of the parking lots were completely full by the time we arrived so it frustratingly took us about an hour to find parking.
Due to this, we missed Mura Masa, along with a few other artists I wanted to check out.
Once inside, we rushed over to Mojave stage to see Future.
“PERCOCETS, MOLLY PERCOCETS!”
Future was KILLING IT.
Then, MIGOS comes out as a surprise guest appearance!
“I’M JUST STUNTIN ON MY X! I’M JUST FLEXING ON MY X!”
“Bad and boujee! Cookin up with the Uzi!”
Everyone is jumping up and down.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, DRAKE comes out on stage in a bright life jacket shirt thing.
Drake starts jumping and sings:
JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN JUMPMAN
And the crowd goes WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Come on guys, we have to repent for our sins this weekend”
Sam and I gathered the energy to get up for church that Easter Sunday morning, after staying up all night before. We found a church two miles from our AirBnB and talked Travis and Steve into coming with us.
The rest of the church was adorned in clean clothing- women wore flowy dresses and men were well groomed in button up shirts.
Us, on the other hand, were wearing dusty ragged clothing with Coachella wristbands on our arms.
We decided to stand in the back of church. And then I prayed:
“Dear God, please let me make it out this weekend in one piece. I need to #MakeKobeProud.”
We left to the venue to get inside earlier to catch our friends ARMNHMR at their first ever Coachella performance inside the Heineken Dome.
Once that was done, we twirled over to the Mojave Tent for Goldlink.
After that, the Sahara Tent for Lil Uzi, whose performance seemed to consist mostly of “YEAH. YEAAH! YEA! WHAT!! WWHAT WOOOT WOO WOOOO!!!!”
Then a snack and beer break.
We sat on the grass in the beer garden with food and drinks in hand.
That’s when Anthony came back holding..
THE GARLIC CRAB FRIES
He tried to lure me in with the deathly fries but I resisted and ate my sad regular fries instead.
We chugged our beers and went back to the Sahara Tent for Kaytranada, where I spied a guy eating Hot Cheetos in the crowd.
Yummy. Can we be friends?
Over at Main Stage, Porter Robinson and Madeon were about to have their last performance together.
It was probably my fifth time seeing Porter Robinson live, but his performance with Madeon was still amazing.
Kehlani at Mojave- what a babe!
We hopped over to the Outdoor Stage for the godly Hans Zimmer, who brought out Pharrell.
And here’s Kevin and Travis dancing awkwardly to Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight.
There was a lot of running around.
Kevin, Travis and I left the group at Jai Wolf and back to Outdoor Stage to catch Justice.
“We’ll see you guys at Kendrick!” Travis yells to the group.
We made it in time to Justice right as they play their epic song:
“WE. ARE. YOUR. FRIENDS.
YOU’LL NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN, SO COME ON!
Last, but not least, the final hoorah at Main Stage- Kendrick
His set was a mix of old songs and new songs from his DAMN album, including HUMBLE.
“WE GON BE ALRIGHT!”
IT was LIT 🔥🔥🔥
Kendrick sang his heart out, rapping verses, taking us on a trip down memory lane of life growing up in the mean streets of Compton:
“DON’T JUDGE ME, I WAS YOUNG..”
I sang along and I swear, Kendrick looked right at me! We had our moment when our eyes locked..
He continuously rapped and never paused for a moment, even when the beat sped up.
The energy was phenomenal and the crowd was pumped.
And then he finished rapping.
“So I was taking a walk the other day..”
That’s when people started to leave.
“Wait, that can’t be it” Kevin said.
We stood there for a few minutes, in anticipation that Kendrick would come back out. But it was still dark.
And then, a tap on the mic.
Another tap on the mic.
It was KENDRICK.
“Oh WHAT, he’s gonna do an encore!”
“DAMN.” Kendrick says into the mic.
“Love or lust..”
“All of us.”
Kendrick proceeded to end his epic performance with one last song from his new DAMN album.
There we were. Standing on the left of the stage, swaying back and forth with the desert breeze blowing through the night, the palm trees swaying with us.
So in love was I with Kendrick at that moment.
“Just loooooooooooove Me!”
We sang along.
But the night was far from over.
Travis was committed to checking out the Antarctica art installation that I had hyped up the day before.
Travis: “Let’s go see the art thing!!”
Kevin and I followed Travis to the Antarctica art installation, which was preceded by, you guessed it- a very long line.
Luckily, we didn’t wait very long since we ran into Travis’ new friend in line.
We entered a giant dome shaped building filled with cushioned chairs and looked up to see this:
Followed by vivid alternate dimensions such as these:
With every new trippy scene that came on, the crowd would gasp in amazement.
A giant astronaut appeared from a black hole and flew across the screen.
Steve, Travis, Kevin and I would turn to look at each other, our jaws dropping everytime.
Holy crap, this Antarctica Art Thing was nuts.
Around 1 AM, Travis, Kevin, Steve and I walked back to meet up with the rest of the crew at the campgrounds, but the night was still young.
It was lively wherever we went- from the tents to the dodgeball tournament in the campgrounds to the people playing music on their phones in line.
Bicyclists and pedicab drivers pedaled their chariots on the grass past us, their music blasting into the night..
By the end of the weekend, I was drained.
We stayed up until the crack of dawn each night- talking about our deepest darkest secrets, singing our hearts out, dancing terribly (me at least), cracking jokes, munching on Hot Cheetos, and just laughing nonstop.
By Sunday, it was a miracle that I had any energy left. I went to church that Easter Sunday, praying to the Coachella Gods to have mercy on me.
I died during Justice’s set when the French House duo played Genesis.
And then I died once more when the legendary Hans Zimmer brought out another legend (Pharrell) and closed out his epic set with songs from The Dark Knight.
Alas, on the third day, I rose again- from the ashes of Kendrick Lamar’s life changing set.
I was more than happy with the amazing talent I saw that weekend and the memories I’d made.
I’m not sure if it was because I was surrounded by some of my best friends, made new friends, or because I rekindled the spark with old friends there.
Or maybe it’s the combination of all the above and the fact that I came back after being deprived of music festivals for two years.
Or maybe because I didn’t pass out as early as I did like the young grasshopper I was in 2013 and 2014.
Most of all, I was glad I made it out of Coachella 2017 alive to #MakeKobeProud.
Weeks later, the withdrawals are hitting me hard and I still have Kendrick’s new album on repeat.
I’m reminiscing on that weekend, scrolling through Instagram, holding myself back from further contributing to the newsfeed of annoying Coachella photos.
As much as I want to be cool and brush off my third Coachella experience as just “aight”, I’m not gonna deny it.
I had the time of my life.
It’s more crowded now and the lines are much longer. The shift in music genres has brought a different vibe. I keep saying it’s going to be my last time, but there’s just something about Coachella that keeps me coming back. So I think to myself..
Is there going to be a round four?
Will I return to tie the record at another attempt for redemption? Current record: (Coachella-2, Sandy-1)
Will I be there again next year, in hopes that Daft Punk will make a once in a lifetime surprise appearance?
I’m not sure. It’s too early to say.
In the meantime..
take my damn money Coachella.