Sunday, May 16, 2010

Coachella: Music and Madness

The grounds were huge. The camping grounds an odd assortment of people packed in different places and with different things. There are a number of colors and all of them bleed into the desert and the harsh light of the morning that wakes me up. The sun is hot and fierce and pierces me in my sleeping bag.

We are packed in tight, not the last comers, certainly but close to the ends of the lot, so our plan to be early had not really succeeded in a reasonable way. I learned later that people had started showing up as early as Thursday morning at 8am to get into the camp grounds.

There are people everywhere. On our own lot we are camping with a group of six people. The space is mall and has four tents. The tents fill all the space so you have to tiptoe around in the grass to find a small enough space to do anything else into the desert.

There are people everywhere. It's a surprise to me, the shocking number of people on the campgrounds. I knew there would be a number of people, but knowing and seeing are two entirely different things. People using drugs and people playing games, and people breathing, and speaking and talking, a few fucking and all of it happening into he morning light and the desert. It's hot.

It's going to get hotter.

I feel filthy after being in the car so long but I know there is no help for that. I anticipate three days of filth. Later when people are up, I eat some bread and cheese and go off to explore. I'm not good at being with people sometimes, I think to myself. Too much crowding, too much planning.

I want to get to the showgrounds earlier, I want fro find good places to watch music from. The group wants to stick together but the individual in me wants to branch off and explore. I find tents with food, and tents for electronics. I decide to charge my cell phone.

This is oddness. I wonder if anyone who had attended Woodstock would not be amused to see the rush of you trying desperately to get energy into their different technological gear. There is so much gear. I watch the shelves looking for an opening in the outlet. The blackberries and the Samsungs, MP3 players and camera batteries, and notebooks, and laptops, all of it crowded in and fighting over an open outlet to get a charge.

And here I am just as much a digital nomad as the rest trying to find my own space for plugging in and recharging.

It amuses me that I left my computer at home because I was worried about having to carry it around with me the whole time in the desert. I smile at the thought and look at the toys that are stacked upon each other to get power.

Later I go for the music. There is something so lovely about being surrounded by crowds and music. I have a tendency to want to be at the front or as close to the front as I can get for a show. This is funny to me because I also tend towards cluster phobia, but somehow I have myself convinced if they are all behind me and there is nothing but open gate and stage in front then it is all okay and I can be okay, and be free, and be happy to enjoy the music and the self expression and the freedom of me and just sound.

I saw a dozen acts this way, pressed towards the front of the stage with the crowd pressed in behind me. I find the press of the crowd alarming at times. Or maybe it is just the smell of the crowd. There is an omnipresent haze in all the tents at all the shows. The casual use of drugs is surprising to me at this point. I think it must be call that time I've spent in Asia that I find all the casual drug use alarming.

You see everywhere there are people smoking and drinking and popping pills. I watch a late show in the tent that can best be described as the 24 hour rave room and people next to me listen to the music while having sex, press up against the backs of the idle dancing and throbbing couples in front of them. It's such an odd effect to watch a man penetrate his girlfriend in such an insane press of people, not being able to control it or only being able to control so much. Maybe it was just the night.

I fought out of the press of the crowd, the insanity, and moved into the cool night desert air, happy I brought me jacket with me. I feel like spinning, like watching the moon. I feel like more dancing. I take in the Brazilian singer who sways in the breeze and Fever Ray putting on a beautiful show. I drift on tendrils of smoke and late night until finally I drift back to the campsite and sleep.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Coachella: A long night's drive

I land in L.A. and get a call from the Actress almost as soon as I get off the plane.

“Where are you?”

“I’m on my way, where are you?”

“Terminal 4. Meet us here. The Model has arrived.” Having nothing checked, getting out of the airport was fairly simple and from there it was just a matter of asking to make sure I was headed in the direction of the right terminal to meet the girls. I walked up, we exchanged hugs, and tossed bags in the back and took off.

As we drove away they explained how they had almost gotten arrested for parking a bit too long in the standing line. A few of the security people decided to come and examine the trunk of speculation but in the end I walked up just in time to save the day and we made a clean getaway. I’ve not been to L.A. outside of the airport. I found the air surprisingly crisp and warm in the morning. Sunny. California. Every part of me that had just flown from the blustery forty-degree winter weather of Chicago immediately rejected it. The rest of me was very content to be a bit warm.

The girls talk in the front seat, both being rather experienced with L.A. having spent time living or traveling there and knowing it better than I. The Actress lays down the plans for today. We are going to meet some friends for lunch at the Kasbah cafe, then we are going to two friends from Chicago who have picked up the van and then we are going to pick up strangers from Houston.

Enter snafu number two.

Originally we had a little condo we were supposed to stay at for the duration of the music festival. This seemed all cushy and cozy and fun. Then there was an earthquake and apparently whatever digs we were supposed to have found themselves damaged enough that we lost the condo. The Actress (with advance notice) found a solution and a couple of posts to Craigslist had met some nice strangers who offered to let us camp on their lot on the Coachella campgrounds.

“So what do we know about them?”

“They have a camping spot.”


So we were hitching a place to stay and I still had a hitchhike to look forward to on Sunday night or Monday morning. Good times.

Lunch was at a café that was everything I like a café to be. Hung with tapestries and curtains and, being that it is L.A., filled with actors and directors, and models. We sat with the Actress's friend and handsome leading-man type to have lunch. We made plans. We talked.

In the evening cooling we started to coordinate phone calls for the meet up and after just a little hitting or missing we managed to connect with the ride from Chicago and headed back to the airport to pick up the Houston set with the campground pass. We were feeling very clever with ourselves as we headed out to Indio at eleven at night. We’d be there so early. Before anyone else thought to get to the campground, we’d get a good spot, and we’d have a good night sleep before people started showing up.

The two-hour drive passed easily enough. The Houston set turned out not to be serial killers and we all got along pretty well. I was feeling tired and strung out from all the traveling and traveling and traveling. It seems like over the last five months I’ve barely put my head down on a bed once. After moving out of my place in December I have been couch to couch for a while. I’d managed to get to Chicago and had about five nights in my own bed before I was back on the road again. Part of me thinks the traveling is wearing me thin, but the rest…gets antsy if I’m in one place more than a night or a day. Something I suspect will have to be dealt with eventually.

As it was, at this moment, the traveling took us close to the concert, and eventually ended in a line. We figured at first, as we could see the end of the line, that this must not be that bad. We hit the line at two thirty in the morning.

At three we entered line number two.

At four we were nearing what we presumed to be the end of the line as we could see the parking lot. Excitement stirred us and helped keep us awake. But as we pulled, at last, into the parking lot the barker yelled at us that this was, in fact, not the end, but the next line. The line to get into the campground. At this point we were ready to give up in despair.

Another hour and a half passed before finally we managed to get through the checkpoints. As the handed us our tickets one of the overstressed volunteers talked to us as we mused mildly on the line. “Yeah, it’s just, they are just trying to steal everyone’s pot and shrooms man. But be excited, cause you are in for a great show. “ We told him we were mostly excited about getting to sleep.

At six a.m. we set camp, and I passed out in the sleeping bag I’d borrowed under the canopy that had been set up. The desert wind was chilly now, but the sun was rising. I was too tired to care about the light, and in minutes I was gone.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Coachella: The Pre Game

Having been convinced by the Actress I decided that even though I was not sure I could afford it, and was really not sure I could even time it, I was going to try and make Coachella. I like music, I like music festivals, and it seemed like a nice way to catch up on a bunch of bands I haven't seen in concert that would be fun to see in concert.

So I bought a ticket, figured out a flight, and managed to land myself in the U.S. in time to go to a big ole party in a desert. As with most things, though, this was destined to have some hiccups. In the end it included traffic jams, drugs, flashers, loud music, crush, and hitchhiking. This is what I call a good time. This is also fairly typical of how things tend to work out in my life.

On Wednesday night I get a call from the Actress to confirm that I am flying out, that my bags are packed, and that my ticket is ready. I told her it was and confirmed things for the flight. She asked me about when I was leaving on Monday morning afte the concert, and I tolde her that on Monday I'd be heading out in the moring.

Enter snafu number one.

"You're leaving on Monday morning?"

"Yeah, is that a problem?"

"Kinda, we are not going to get back to the airport until something like 1:00 when all our flights are going to take off."



This resulted in my calling the airline to see if I could book another ticket and get a flight out at a different time on Monday at short notice. The helpful person on the service line gave me all kinds of false hope when it came to booking the ticket and what I was going to do to get a flight out.

"Let's see, she said, I made all those changes and with the extra fee that is going to cost you..."

She pauses. I sorta figured it was going to be a couple of hundred dollars, but I was willing to deal with that to get back.

"And, yes, with all those changes it will be $1,200 dollars to change the ticket."

"Excuse me what?" I start looking around for moving cameras and a director because I wasn't really sure when I entered the bad comedy movie where that is every funny.

"Yes, $1,200 dollars."

"I'll get back to you."

Now knowing that I would have to hitchhike I called the Actress back and let her know. She asked me about my packing arrangements and I explained that I had a backpack and a bad attitude and that was about it.

"You don't have a sleeping bag?"

"Not at the moment."

"You need to get a sleeping bag. Groovy, see you tomorrow."


I asked Young Kubrick if he had a sleeping bag and sure enough he did, so that settled my sleeping arrangements for the night and from there it was just a matter of trying to get some sleep, not freak out and get ready to get myself to the airport at some insane ass hour in the morning for the fight to LAX. Sleep did not happen.

Freaking out did.

And on Thursday morning I flew to LAX to meet the Actress and the Model in time for lunch with actors and directors and just the general driving about that one can do in L.A.