The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a.k.a. Coachella is the area’s biggest festival and always feels like an unofficial kickoff to spring. By April, when the festival is held, the temperatures have usually risen to the steady, dry desert heat Palm Springs is known for.
Coachella technically takes place in Indio, CA, but always causes quite the stir throughout the entire Valley. What started as a fall festival in 1999 with headliners Beck, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Morrissey, and the Chemical Brothers kicking off the inaugural event, has now turned into one of the most sought after, multi-day music events in the country.
The lineup of bands and artists play simultaneously, so attendees have to be strategic when it comes to the timing of seeing their favorite performers play. The weekend’s events can seem a bit overwhelming, which is why a guide will help you navigate the desert grounds come April.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC
This year’s festival has already generated quite the buzz, especially once superstar, Beyonce, was announced as a headliner; only to quickly be followed by a Lady Gaga replacement due to Queen Bey’s pregnancy. But it’s not only ladies of pop and R&B who grace the desert stage. Coachella has music to appease nearly every musical preference.
Big names hit the stage every year and this year’s Coachella roundup is no exception, as alternative rock favorite, Radiohead, headlines Friday’s lineup. Lady Gaga fills the space on Saturday and rapper Kendrick Lamar is the main event to close out the weekend. These are the top-billed acts, but each day has over 30 bands and musical artists performing all day and into the night.
Most of the artists you may already be familiar with, but pre-planning for Coachella means getting in tune with new music, too. This emphasis on music variety is echoed by the Sound of Your Stay (#SOYS), an exclusive amenity that gives guests a chance to download their own personalized soundtrack, host a jam session in their hotel room, or become a DJ for the day with an in-room delivery – all a perfect start to a rhythm-filled weekend.
Live music is an experience that’s felt as much as it is heard. Even if you’re loyal to a specific genre, you might be surprised how much you advance your musical tastes post-Coachella.
PACK WITH A ‘LESS IS MORE’ MENTALITY
In addition to the desert wear common to this festival (think: flower crowns and crop tops, cut off shorts and slip-on shoes), consider the basics of what you’ll need if camping on site, which greatly differs from what you’ll need if you’ve secured a hotel or AirBnb.
Campers need to pack a tent, folding chairs, coolers with food and plenty of water to stay hydrated. Attendees are regulated to a specific spot where both your tent and car need to fit into the space where you’ve been given a pass to park.
Pack plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and a first-aid kit. You’ll also want your sunglasses, a hat, and potentially a scarf or light, long-sleeved shirt for when the sun goes down. The desert certainly heats up during the day, but can cool off significantly at night. Wear layers and pack sturdy shoes. Though Coachella goers have their own unique fashion sense, there’s a lot of walking from stage to stage. You’ll want your feet to be as comfortable as possible.
FIGURE OUT TRAVEL
How are you getting to Coachella? Who’s driving? Are you taking a shuttle to the venue? These are details you want ironed out ahead of time. There are different levels of parking, even though general parking is free, but beware, since it can quickly get crowded.
Others opt to use the festival-specific shuttles, take a car-sharing service, or get dropped off and avoid parking and driving altogether. There will be airport shuttles from LAX, which need to be booked in advance and shuttles to and from the festival once you’re in Indio. But don’t wait and scramble last minute because after a long, hot day in the desert, the last thing you’ll want to feel is stranded.
When traveling with a pack, coordinate leave and return times so no one in your group is left behind. It’s not likely everyone will want to follow the same musical lineup. Secure a meeting spot and check in to share your experiences throughout the day.
SOAK IT IN
There are few, if any, concert events that rival Coachella. It’s a weekend filled with nothing but artists and fans coming together to enjoy three days of non-stop music. Choose your top favorites of “must see” acts, but wander around to smaller sets to see what other up-and-coming artists have to offer.
Many acts thrive off this unique environment and save their Coachella performance to unleash exclusive tracks, introduce new covers, and other surprises that can only be appreciated in person. Plan ahead to make life easier, but once you’re there, it’s all about relaxing and reveling in the good vibrations of the music.