Two weeks ago I made the typical migration of many LA residents under the age of 30 and drove through some windfarms into the desert for Coachella. The first time that I went to the festival two years ago I was completely in awe of the little world it creates for itself, essentially in the middle of some retirement community, country clubs and barren desert filled with strip malls. You get to sprawl out on the grass, let the beats of music run through your body, dance your face off, and enjoy the environment of complete and total worriless freedom. Coachella is, in the most wonderfully cliché way, magical. When I walked onto the grounds that first time I felt transported, lost, confused, self-conscious, curious, excited, the emotions go on and on.
Now, I'm aware that I sound completely ridiculous, and that a lot people love to bash on Coachella and other festivals like it for being too hipster, too mainstream, too built up. You know, I get it I suppose. I can understand why someone would be skeptical of subjecting their body to 100 degree heat and large crowds. However, it is precisely these elements of discomfort and disorientation that make Coachella so special and so interesting to me.
All endorsement of the festival aside (maybe someone will read this and offer me a free ticket...), I came back feeling a little bit different this year than I had in years past. The previous two times I went to Coachella I came back to a college campus where I could lounge around, make my way haphazardly through class for a week, and essentially veg out. This year, I was not met with the same amenity. I travelled into the desert this year perhaps against my better judgment. Coming back to LA and to reality last week was, let's just say, rough. There was no vegging, no lounging, no 10 hours of sleep to catch up. I hustled back into a daily grind of finishing up my last two weeks of film school for the year and waking up early enough to get some workouts in so I didn't fall into a depression.
I tricked myself for almost two days until I couldn't hold it in anymore. I felt like my body was going to collapse, my mind was moving at about half speed, and the amount of energy and creativity that I needed to exert was arguably higher than ever. Somehow, I managed to make it through, for which I can only thank several cups of earl grey tea a day and strawberry-kiwi Emergen-C. When I finally saw the light this past weekend (still mid-recovery), I had a moment to think about all of the weird feelings running through my body as a result of my abuse to it. I tried to be a little regretful, kick myself for potentially screwing up what 'really' mattered, but I couldn't because no matter how hard I tried I just kept remembering how incredibly and genuinely happy I had been all weekend at Coachella.
So here's is where I'm going with all of this. At Coachella, love it or hate it, it really does feel like a different world. This, I suppose, can be said for any music festival. When you're sitting on the grass in the middle of the day, the sun beaming down on you, and the latent sounds of that amazing new band you just couldn't wait to see live ringing through your ears, you don't mind the annoying drunk kid who steps on your hand. When you're jumping up and down, hugging everyone around you, and swinging your hair to the DJ you saw there last year, the sweaty middle-aged men next to you seem pretty harmless. And when you're sitting in an eclectic circle of people from all over the country (even the world) who you just met two minutes ago, it doesn't matter if their grammar isn't up to standards because you feel a weird bond to them as the sun is setting. In contrast, all of these things, annoying drunkards, creepy old men, and people with bad grammar tend to bother me a bit when it comes to regular old life. I'll be the first to admit I can be a bit cynical, perhaps a bit judgmental, but aren't we all from time to time?
So, in the week and half since I've been back from my third Coachella experience, not only am I already excited for next year, but I keep wondering to myself why I can feel so insanely different around pretty similar people. How can the weird setting of the music-filled desert really make me so drastically changed from the me sitting in traffic in LA yelling at the car in front of me to move forward an inch so I can go right on red?
The only answer I can come up with is -- community. We all have our communities in daily life that we function in. Our classmates, our families, our girlfriends and boyfriends, and I would say that whenever I'm with any of these so-called communities I do feel a little bit better. But my time with them is intermittently cut with solitary time, time to do boring things like clean or get my oil changed. At a place like Coachella, community is endless and all-encompassing. There is no need to question where you should go next because the answer is that you're already there. It's not important to fit into a group because the group is every person wearing a wristband around you. And for me, that sense of community makes me ultimately a nicer and more accepting person. I don't want to make it sound like I'm horrible in real life, but I can have my moments.
As the cynic in me comes out (I am no longer at Coachella but sitting at my desk contemplating the fate of my career), I find it important to note that we all need our judgments and our standards and our moments of cynicism or else the balance of life will be pretty thrown off. But, I think we can all try to channel that bit of community spirit that the rare occasion of a total blissful gathering offers us. I know I will.