8 Things I learned About Music Festivals:
Stagecoach + Coachella
1. Vendor food is actually delicious!
Being a carnival goer since I was a young girl, I can wrongfully admit I hate vendor food. It typically consists of cheap processed chemical compounds they call 'food' which is deep fried for 20 minutes and dipped in your favorite sauce. I've always struggled with the Hotdog-On-a-Stick and nachos for lunch. Don't get me wrong, they taste incredible; but unfortunately, my stomach pays for it later. Over the past couple of years, things like hotdogs do not even exist in my diet! So attending a country festival had me reminiscing on these foods, but also dreading them.
So, the day we left for Stagecoach, I packed a generous amount of snacks for the weekend to keep my stomach satisfied. From protein bars to fruit, I thought I was locked and loaded, until I ran out of snacks at the festival on Day 1.
We were forced to try the event food and I walked out of the festival far from disappointed from our dinner. We settled on BBQ with pure meat [since it was the end of the day and they run out of things like side dishes] and settled on the edge of a bench that reminded me of high school lunch. We brushed off an area covered in fresh desert dust and settled into our heaping paper plates. Immediately, the sweet taste of BBQ and fresh beef filled my mouth. The pulled pork led an equal match with the brisket and kept me coming for more.
I was continually amazed over the 3 day series after having jerk chicken, kettle corn, lobster mac-n-cheese, Cookie Monster Ice Cream and 2 freshly baked cinnamon rolls that made me want to try it all. By Day 3 I was ditching the protein bars and taste testing every decadent dish with a watering mouth and eyes bigger than my stomach. Don't be led astray, California desert festivals have got it going on in the food department; try one bite of baby back ribs or that fresh cinnamon roll with melted icing and tell me if you can stop.
2.Water is hard to come by
The hard mid-afternoon sun hit us at 101 degrees with minimal shade and burning skin. I wasn't drinking alcohol and happy I didn't by the looks of the others that had. With dry mouths, we were looking for water on our way to line dance when we figured out very quickly, water is hard to come by. The booths were spilling with slurring customers and line after line the cashier would shake their heads "no" that they did not serve water. I could count 6 places in my eye line that read Beer & Cocktails, but not one sign said water. The irony of being in the desert with no water and plenty of alcohol.
3. Bandanas are a must
Every time I saw a photo of someone at Coachella wearing a bandana, I thought it was a trend. And I thought it was super cute! But then I got a packing list from a girlfriend to prepare for my first music festival and a bandana was one of the items on my list. I didn't get the memo until my boots hit the ground on the polo fields and realized the amount of dust free-flowing into our noses, mouths and hair (but it served as a good texturizer!). I thankfully pulled mine out with no fashion sense in mind and covered my face not only from the dust, but from the huge blanket of smoke hovering above us like a angry cloud on a rainy day. Cigarettes were lit all around me and my virgin throat was on fire from all the puffing. One thing i will never forget to take with me to a festival in the desert, my bandana.
4. The ferris wheel isn't just for Coachella
The iconic ferris wheel lit up at sunset for instagram pictures is the first thing that pops into my head when I think of Coachella. The grass area is nearly packed with models, professional photographers and everyone and their mom crowding to find the best spot in front of the largest attraction at the festival.
Towering over 150 feet, this beauty takes more electrical power than every other attraction at Coachella, and Stagecoach! They keep the gigantic wheel looking over Indio for the full 3 weeks, before tearing it down until the following year. It is the second largest transportable ferris wheel in the world, which makes it easy to understand why you have to hop on at least once (and maybe snap a pic in front while you're at it).
5. Dancing with two left feet will do
We've all been taught the Macarena and Cotton Eyed Joe as a kid with ease, moving and grooving with our friends; but the Honky Tonk was filled with choreographers who line danced daily and put our best moves to shame. It can be extremely intimidating when a huge building is full of people who know what they're doing, until you look around and realize nobody really knows what they're doing.
My boyfriend and I walked in with confidence because I have almost 10 years of dance experience under my belt and we took a ballroom class together, so we felt we could handle a little line dance. I hadn't pulled out my moves in a while, so we learned our first dance in a 100 degree room, filled with at least 150 hip shakers. I caught on with no problem, but when I looked at my boyfriend he didn't get so lucky. He was facing forward when the room was facing backward and grape vining left when the room was going right. I thought it was cute until I started to look around and realized, the majority of the room had no idea what they were doing. Their eyes never left the choreographer and when she spun, they watched and repeated a beat behind the music. The rest of the group that didn't even remotely catch on or strolled into the lesson a little too late were grabbing partners and swinging each other back and forth and across the room. Some knew what they were doing, most didn't. But no matter what, everyone was smiling, dancing and yelling "YEE-HAW!" every minute they could. It didn't matter if you were a pro or if it was your first time doing a box step, the room was filled with spinning, stomping and scuffing, and another "YEE-HAW!"
6. Drunk is an underestimate
I knew walking into Stagecoach meant a whole lot more than enjoying some country music and cracking open a beer, but I was enthralled by the hilarious entertainment all weekend long solely from the drunk people. If you enjoy people watching, this is your gold mine. The cowboys clearly didn't prepare enough for the weekend based off of the vacancy of the concerts. By dawn, I'm sure they were whipping open beer and whiskey before they had breakfast, and showed up to the festival with a little buzz. We watched each day gradually as the day went on, the cowboys (and some cowgirls) were dropping like flies around sunset. It was a treat to watch a stumbling cowboy hit a wall or accidentally bump into someone around late afternoon, but by sunset it was normal.
The real treat was when a drunk cowboy would end up in front of you, leaning hard one way from drinking all day and beer sloshing carelessly over the edges of his plastic cup. Then in slow motion we would watch as his lean blended into a teetering fall, and he would stumble to regain his composure. But his day drinking got the best of him, and he fell, his beer exploding onto a group of oncoming cowboys. He hit the ground with a thud, oblivious of what he had done. Each time this happened (and it happened frequently), I kept thinking "ugh I wish I had my phone out." We caught on quickly how the country fans roll (literally), and each time we saw a teetering cowboy, we would quickly keep a safe distance in regards to keeping our clothes beer free.
7. Festivals aren't only for trend setters
Being a young millennial myself, I assumed only the trendiest, young and hot adults attended festivals. After all, all of my role models attended festivals with their friends, which made it seem to be that way. Wrong. Stagecoach was filled with more middle aged adults than I could count, and around 20% of them brought their kids.
The first time I saw a kid at the festival, I thought I was seeing doubles and blinked, looked away, then back again. I was right, children were attending a festival before I even knew what one was! The more I looked around, I realized there were so many different types of people: old and young, multi racial, trendy and uncool; everyone was there just to have a good time. I hadn't seen any children at Coachella, but Stagecoach was filled with them! Subconsciously, I started to watch what I was saying and pulling my daisy dukes to cover my bum a little more. Weird or not weird? You can decide...
8. Hope you brought comfy shoes!
Those cowgirl boots you bought just for this; well, hope you broke them in! I averaged around 7 miles of walking every day, and I definitely did minimal on-foot venturing. I tried to map out and plan everything accordingly so our feet weren't blistered on day 1, not to mention we also showed up no earlier than 4pm every day; so if you are a die hard festival goer, plan on averaging 9-11 miles per day of just walking. Not including the amount of calories you burn from dancing or jumping or sweating from the 100 degree weather...The polo grounds are a lot bigger than you remember, and just the walk from general parking or Uber drop off itself is around a mile to spread out the 90,000 people.
I had the cutest cowgirl boots I wanted to wear, until I wore them on day 1 and realized my feet were going to be in shambles if I continued. So, I down-graded from cute boots to flats and just made sure to cut off all of my pictures at the knee. Sitting down never felt so good, until you realize you can't get up. Take my advice, and bring at least one safe pair of sneakers so you don't end up handicapped with bloody toes for the weekend. You'll thank me later!
And just like that, the weekend was over. Immediately on the car ride home, I was already reminiscing on my favorite moments and what I liked best from our country adventures. It's amazing how something so wonderful isn't appreciated as it should be until it's gone. Watching the sun go down on Sunday night made me realize that it was over; Indio would finally be back to the tiny little desert town that got caught up in the music festival world. All of the 150,000+ people that had come through in the last 3 weekends were heading back to their typical lives, returning to work first thing Monday morning. The weekend they had looked forward to for months and months was now just a memory in their head. But we all shared these memories together, and in exactly one year from now, we would be planning for it all over again. These are the 8 things I learned from attending a music festival for the first time, but there are far more things I cannot write down about this incredibly short lived experience.
I am walking out of Stagecoach with a new perspective and a little strut in my boots. Yee-haw!