Surviving Coachella: a broke student’s guide

David Roman

Advertising manager

May 9, 2014

Extreme weather, harsh living conditions and impossibly skimpy clothes; The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the Mecca college students around California absolutely have to make a pilgrimage to.
However the problem that most college students run into, I know I sure did, is a strong and incurable lack of foresight and of course of money.
With the $375 tickets sold out and hotels booked for months, anyone who wants to attend the three-day festival on a whim has to accept the only way out to the desert would be on shady deals and flakey promises.
Luckily one of the many benefits of youth is the ability to look at situation and decide that no matter how rotten it seems, that it couldn’t possibly be something that I couldn’t do.
With tickets on Stubhub running well over $2,000 for weekend 1 (April 11-13) and prices for weekend 2 (April 18-20) fluctuating between $400-$700 the week of April 7-10, a procrastinating hooligans’ only choice left was the Inland Empire Craigslist classifieds.
Now if you are successful in hooking a seller and talking them down to a reasonable price more often than not you’ll find yourself meeting up to exchange the money for the wristbands, meeting some where with wi-fi to register them on the Coachella website is a must.
That, of course, is if you are very fortunate. However, if you’re like my buddy Ray and I: young, dumb and on a budget then chances are that you’d end up in the backroom of an insurance adjuster’s office with some guy named Tony who jacked up the price an extra $25 each.
But don’t fret. That isn’t where the sketchy-ness ends, not when it comes to Coachella.
Assuming you survived buying your passes, the next obstacle is finding transportation and a place to sleep.
Another benefit of being young? People aren’t afraid to lend you a hand, or give you a ride out to Indio. Enter the college student community, where with some gas money one can find themselves a ride in no time.
And if you really don’t know anyone staying out there one can always resort to posting on the Coachella website forum. But with vast amounts of people seeking a place to sleep flooding the message boards it seemed as though the only people who would find success where those pesky “Brtsh prty grls, DESPERATE” posters.
So lets say you’ve made it out to the desert, but the people who gave you a ride don’t have space at their campsite. What is a financially handicapped college student to do? Well, there are options.
Coachella allows attendants to visit and stay at their campgrounds even if you didn’t buy a camping pass, as long as you buy an overnight companion parking pass for your car.
Now, either you waited so long even those sold-out, or like us you didn’t even bring a car! At which point you have to lug everything you brought with you to the festival, making it imperative to find someone cool enough to take you in.
The great thing about Coachella, the tight community; if you can strike up a conversation with a festival-goer long enough, you can most definitely find a place to crash, if only for a night.
Another tip, it is much easier to find a place to stay if you go with a really good-looking friend, for whatever reason things are easy for pretty people, and I most definitely used Ray’s blue eyes and rugged hipster scruff to my advantage. And his pot, pot at Coachella is a more effective currency than even the American dollar.
Ray and I got lucky in that we met a middle-aged Australian couple who invited us to sty in their holiday condo across the street from the Empire Polo Fields, and while they didn’t try to rob or sleep with us we don’t really recommend staying with complete strangers off-site.
With your loose ends tied up you’d think you’re ready for the festival, however it seems like Coachella’s main priority is physically exhausting their audience. Between the mile long walk on the “yellow path” to get into the festival on foot and the fact that you have to dump out all of that ice cold water you’d been saving for the festival upon entry it’s really surprising no one died of heat exhaustion at the festival.
Once inside the festival the real surviving starts. The two free water-refilling stations are your best friends in the venue. Despite long lines and room temperature water these are a lifesaver for anyone who can’t shell out the cash for a fresh bottle of water.
While the heat on Friday was barely noticeable, by Sunday Coachella was sporting its usual flagship of nearly 3-digit degree weather.
The actual festival showcased artists of all genres and caliber, but most Coachella veterans noticed special attention placed on pop this year with notable names like Ellie Goulding, Lorde, Banks, Haim, and Lana Del Rey.
Grammy’s performer Lorde was the biggest let down of the weekend, proving her inexperience as a performer as she pushed her darker songs on an audience that was trying to have fun and again when she turned her bass up so high during her mash-up of “Team” and “400 Lux” it literally blew out one of the speakers.
Gouding and Lana Del Rey were high points of the exhausting weekend, with Ellie delivering a powerhouse performance backed by impeccable vocals and Del Rey breaking her Coachella virginity by drawing a very impressive crowd for being on a smaller stage. Anyone who thinks Lana Del Rey didn’t headline just plain wasn’t there.
It was these popular acts where you’ll face your biggest obstacle of Coachella; surviving the crowds.
If mass amounts of marijuana smoke, sweaty body parts and obnoxious uber-fans screaming in your ear don’t bother you then you’re golden, but if you want to survive pacing yourself is key. We found out the hard way that being 6 foot 4 inches or being a skating instructor with past injuries means that standing for an extended period of time sucks ass.
Other acts that were not to be missed included Kid Cudi on Saturday who had one of the largest crowds I’d ever been a part of dancing and smoking along to his signature stoner hip-hop.
Later that same day Queens of the Stone Age rocked the entire polo grounds, they played “Little Sister” and it was like everyone in the festival was there singing along with every word.
You’ll find that the sweetest moments are at night, when you sit your aching body down on a rare green patch of grass and share a last cigarette watching the sky lights while the final artists of the day finished their sets. Just be sure not to fall asleep until the security tells you to get out.
If you can survive the long weekend with all of your body parts fully intact and safely find a ride back into town then you’ll be a better person for it. Surviving on no funds isn’t easy but it’s an adventure that will stay with you for years to come.