Three-hundred bones is a heap of money to myself and my counterpart. It’s enough cash to have planted a few seeds of doubt in my pre-Coachella brain about whether or not the famed festival would reeeeeally be worth the scrilla.
May I say, now all the wiser, what a ri-facken-diculous notion that was.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival celebrated its 11th consecutive year this past weekend, drawing over 75,000 attendees from pretty much everywhere imaginable. For me, it’s always had a kind of mysterious aura – a perception only exacerbated by our pathetic attempt to get in last year. If you read the post we published re: Coachella 2010, you may remember how we walked up and down the avenues surrounding the polo fields without seeing anything our veteran friends had raved about; a dull rumble of bass was all we could make out.
But this year, ooohhh this year. We saw it all. I’ll never forget the feeling that swept over me the moment we stepped on the soft green grass that first day at the polo fields. Music wedged itself into my ears from every possible angle. Masses of people milled about, going from stage to tent to food stand to hydration station. The heat was beyond intense and seemed only to increase – EXTREME sensory overload had commenced, and it would continue for three straight days!
Jumping right into the action, we learned a few things real fast.
- Article one – there is no such thing as personal space. You may think you’ve got a nice little spot carved out for yourself while you’re waiting for the next band to come on, but that nice little spot will soon be filled by another body, whether they can actually fit there or not. More than likely, that body will be shirtless and sweaty.
- Article two – replenish your water supply whenever possible. The “hydration stations” that allow you to refill water bottles are few, I think there were only 3, so if you happen to be cruising by one take the time to jostle through the line and top off your Nalgene. (Yes, you can bring those in, as long as they’re empty to begin with.)
- Article three – the crowd was by far the largest on Sunday, which meant that the security check-in was way more thorough. They stripped us of our granola bars and pistachios, something that didn’t happen on either of the previous two days, but luckily we were still able to make it in with some strategically concealed goodies.
- Article four – you will be real, real, real sore at the end of each day. Some of my festmates chose to bite the fashion bullet and sport running shoes – a choice I’m pretty sure they appreciated, as you’re literally standing up 80% of the day.
- Article five – you are in Neverland, a delightful and carefree world where the entire population has come to let loose and p-a-r-t-y. Join in as soon as humanly possible.
We made it to see a great deal of bands on Friday, my highlights being Ozomatli - a Mexican band which ended their performance after coming down into the crowd and playing a few songs – the Black Keys (my all-time faves) and, surprisingly, the Swedish Popstress Robyn who didn’t stop shaking her ass at any point during her set. Props, Robyn.
Saturday’s highlights – another surprise for me – included Yelle, Empire of the Sun and Scissor Sisters, the latter two being ragingly flamboyant acts with some serious dance music. In the wee hours of Saturday/Sunday we decided to explore the campgrounds and, after disturbing a number of people by walking through their campsites, we stumbled upon a pretty sweet roller skating party (a rink had been built) and the Coachella Art Studios where campers were provided means for getting crafty.
On Sunday, the cherry was put on top of my Coachella experience when I got to see The Strokes bang out a phenomenal set on the main stage, for which we were quite near the front. Two words: Julian Casablancas. Fah-quing epic.
Riding back to the RV on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but realize that the whole experience was such a hilariously stark contrast to the pseudo-Coachella weekend we pulled last year; schmoozing at parties, lounging by the pool at a beautiful home, riding around in a limousine and spotting celebs without ever once stepping foot inside the polo fields. The only glamour in this year’s go-round came in the form of the Bonne Bell glitter we doused ourselves in each day.
The experience as a whole was so unbelievably exhausting – body, mind, soul, and more body were beyond wiped out. I’m still feeling super tired even now, after having been home for three days. I hope that’s a sign that I sure as hell got my $300 worth.
After getting back on Monday, everyone asked, “So would you go again? Are you gonna go back next year?” I had to hesitate each time I answered these questions, partly because my brain function was not up to snuff, and partly because I honestly didn’t know if I would. It was seriously hard work – the walking, the getting to and from the fields, the scheduling of the day, the dancing all around etc.
As more and more time elapses between last weekend and the present, however, the more I want to answer these inquiries with a big fat Y-E-S. It was such a unique experience – a true Disneyland for adult music fans. Where else could you go to see 12+ hours of live music from a such a variety of genres for three days in a row?
It sure as hell isn’t Stagecoach – this I know.
Here at Best of Fest, we try not to fest-discriminate, but the truth is, there are some fests we happen to like or want to go to more than others, the “Holy Grails”, if you will. Oktoberfest, Holi, Bonaroo, Mardi Gras, Outside Lands and Carnival, to name a few prized fests. But, lying there at the top of the list is the one and only, COACHELLA. To call ourselves festers seems a reach seeing as we’ve never been (like for reals, last year was just a halvesie attempt), but fear not! This year we’ve got wristbands firmly planted on our arms and are ACTUALLY going, and to say we are amped about it would be a severe understatement.
The Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival began in 1999, three months after the last disaster-ridden Woodstock (remember fires and riots? yeah, shitty). Rewind to about six year earlier in 1993, Pearl Jam performed at the Empire Polo Club fields in front of 25,000 fans and proved that the venue was suitable in many ways for a large scale music festival. It had easy accessibility from populous areas like LA, OC, San Diego, Vegas & Phoenix, the surrounding area was sparsely populated and the high volume of accommodation all contributed to making Indio the perfect spot for the next big music festival.
The first Coachella’s bill included acts like Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey, Rage Against the Machine and Jurassic 5 and had a crowd of 25,000 people. The next Coachella was held in 2001 and since then, has continued to grow and gain recognition as one of the worlds most notable music festivals. Over the years, legendary modern day acts like Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Daft Punk and Coldplay have graced the stage.
This year, the lineup is looking incredibly solid and due to the displeasure of many fans last year, Coachella lowered the number of tickets being sold so the coined term of ‘clusterfuckella’ shall hopefully be no more. Wanting the camping experience yet needing a bed and real toilet led the group of five ladies we are heading out with to rent an RV as our mode of accommodation. None of us have ever driven one of those beasts, so it will be interesting to say the least.
I personally am most excited to see Robyn, I’ve been a fan since the girl belted out Show Me Love in the 90′s, but her current electropop is stellar. Also on my must-see list: quirky-voiced Cee lo Green, ever cool Ms. Lauryn Hill, the sexiest band out there right now, Kings of Leon, the fun and timely Marina & the Diamonds, hard rocking Sleigh Bells, electro-heavy Crystal Castles, Afrojack, flamboyant and fun Scissor Sisters, Australian favorite Empire of the Sun, English band of the moment Mumford & Sons, and of course, Ratatat, classic 80′s band Duran Duran, and the cockiest mofo on the planet, Kanye West.
We’ve stocked up on food, booze, water, glitter, feathers, flowers and hipster clothing to make sure we are not only looking but totally acting the part of music festival attendee. Though I know these three days may lead to sunburns, aching feet, extreme thirst, exhaustion, etc., there is no way that this weekend will be anything but exciting as all hell and one of the most memorable weekends of our lives. Chances are that we’ll end up at some insane parties, get ourselves into interesting situations, and undoubtedly have wonderful stories to bring back and share.
Peace, love and MUSIC! Party on, garth!
We Orange Countians are stereotyped to be a lot of things: extremely good looking, extremely rich, and extremely materialistic, to name the standard few. Contrary to popular belief (thanks a lot, Bravo) we’re actually Mexican-Catholic swallow-happy rancheros. Exhibit A. The Return of the Swallows Festival in downtown San Juan Capistrano.
After hearing murmers that the Return of the Swallows Fest is actually a western-wear extravaganza, Lauren and I did our best to suit up appropriately. We also heard that in true fest form, booze runs through the blood of most of-age attendees, so we obviously arrived at the train station armed with mimosa fixins. We weren’t alone in either effort; the train was teeming with flannel, leather and alcoholic beverages. Why we had not been to this festival (or even really heard about it, for that matter) before is beyond me.
A short ride later, we arrived at the doorstep of the festival. For those of you that have never been, the downtown area of San Juan Capistrano is charming, quaint and truly has an air of history. The main reason for this is of course, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the “Jewel of the California missions”. It was here that the swallows started nestling into the exposed eaves and the whole freaking reason we were there in the first place. We arrived shortly after the parade had started and though there were plenty of people lining the streets, it seemed the only animals in sight were tailed and four-legged.
On the train ride down, I asked Lauren if she thought we’d see a swallow. She promptly balked, and in so many words, said yes, you dope, they instinctively flock to San Juan Cap. Sadly, though, the contrary reports I had heard were correct. There were kids dressed up as swallows, cardboard swallows on sticks, plastic swallows nests, swallows carved onto beer taps, swallows screen printed onto shirts – even a bar named after these suckers and NOT ONE bothered to show up at the party. Jerks.
Though we were sadly not graced with the presence of the illusive jerk-bird, we saw quite the myriad of animals in the day. The parade, being the largest non-motorized parade in the U.S. (yet another claim to fame OC! Take that, housewives!), had to be schlepped around by all sorts of different ‘vehicles’- so basically, horses were stuck with the dirty work. There were little-baby-mini horses, horses with majestic manes of fancy, side-stepping/prancing horses and of of course, the beer-loving Clydesdale. The parade was, for the most part, a wonderful opportunity to show off the many talented folks residing in south county- they’ve got baton twirlers, rancheros, mariachi bands, cheerleaders, period dressers, you name it.
After tiring of the parade, we headed over to the Mercado, which was touted as “the place to be after the parade”. The mercado was what we’d like to call the festi-fixture, a conglomeration of booths selling you something, whether it be BBQ tri-tip, beer, corn on the cob, giant bratwurst, Kettle corn, or handicrafts (A.K.A. crap). This area was alright- what it lacked in shade and seating, it made up for with food options and drunk people. The beer garden section was chock full of loud, western-wear clad drunkies, all of which seemed completely unaware that they were celebrating a birds arduous voyage.
While at the mercado, we sucked down a couple Capistrano Brewing Co. drafts (Amber for Lauren, Honey for me), Lauren got a tri-tip sandwich, and I played with a search-and-rescue bloodhound. It was a good time being around all that festiveness, but it was a little bit of a been-there, done-that feeling. The Swallows Inn, the dive bar kitty corner to the beer garden, seemed to be the real place to be- the line to get in was monstrous, the patio was jammed, and the music poured outta that place like wine. Had we the energy of our 22-year old selves, we would have made a beeline to the liquor store, picked up a few 40′s and posted up in that line, but being the 25-year old sloths that we are, we decided to go on a taco hunt and call it a day.
Overall, the Return of the Swallows Festival was a great gathering. The parade was full of fun things to watch with historical tidbits, and the stunning backdrop of the mission alone was worth the trip. Orange County isn’t exactly a culturally rich destination, so it’s nice to have events like this to help remind us that even the “charmed” residents of Orange County had more humble beginnings. Even if the swallows never come back to the mission, there’s still a party to be held in there honor. So to that, we raise our glass and give a big yeeeeeeeehaw!
Migratory animals have it made. All it takes is one slight change of season and these creatures can just pack up and bail en masse for more agreeable climates, right before the weather turns to shit. Aside from the fact that they have to travel 1,000′s of miles without sleeping pills or in-flight movies, their journeys afford perpetually pleasant weather – and that’s more than I can say for my friends on the east coast. Suckers.
The members of one particular species seem to have totally aced it with their migration habits. Not only do their destinations rank among those with the best climates in the world (Southern California and Northern Argentina), but they also receive widespread recognition, captivating people worldwide by making their yearly trip. I’m talkin’ about the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Now, many of you may be confusedly thinking, “I thought it was the salmon of Capistrano?” Should that be the case, go right ahead and continue taking your information from educational films like Dumb & Dumber. I wish you the best of luck in life.
So here’s the real story: since the Mission San Juan Capistrano was established in 1776 vast swarms of swallows have descended upon the area, arriving at nearly the exact same time every year – March 19, also the Feast Day of St. Joseph. The magnitude of the flock was incredible – you couldn’t go anywhere in the friggin’ town without seeing clusters of muddy nests patched into corners and awnings and eaves.
Legend has it that one innkeeper got pissed about the birds (obvs! Image how much bird shit would accumulate on your property) and destroyed any nest in his path. The swallows wised up shifted their congregation to the safety of the Mission SJC, where the Padres left them in peace to chirp and poop and reproduce. Since then, these flyers have continued to return to San Juan Capistrano, and their arrival is celebrated during la Fiesta de las Golondrinas every March in the SoCal town they made famous.
This weekend, Best of Fest is relaunching with a visit to this uniquely Orange County festival, hungry for culture (also dank Mexican food) and ready to celebrate a gigante flock of small birds. Last Saturday, March 19, kicked off the Swallows Festival, and all day visitors were afforded opportunities to check out historic aspects of life in old California. (Remember, my friends, we used to be Mexico territory.) There were Mariachis galore, along with ceremonious bell-ringing, traditional dancing, lectures and a spotlight on Native American culture, and visitors were encouraged to check out the gorgeous architecture of the Mission.
The festival continues this weekend and, being the huuuge bitches that we are, Shayna and I have chosen to attend on Saturday as there will be a larger selection of food involved. First, however, we’ll post up to watch the 53rd annual Swallows Parade, which is apparently the largest non-motorized parade in the west. I expect to see a lot of cowboy boots, lasso tricks, horse shit and – my personal fave – más mariachis. Yes, señor with the giant stand-up bass, I will shell out $5 for a song, so come and find me. Afterwards we’ll head to the Mercado where 100+ booths of food, crafts and swallow-ey goodness will be showcased for our shopping pleasure.
This will be my first visit to the Swallows Festival in San Juan Capistrano, and I have to say, being a lifelong resident of Orange County, I’m pretty excited to participate in an event so unique to the area. Plus, we’ll be riding the train down from Fullerton, which provides an excellent opportunity for mimosas. Check back early next week, when Shayna will recount our weekend escapades at the fest. Salud, y vivan las golondrinas!
Keep it festive,
First of all, let me apologize for the serious lag time on this post. With the 4th of July weekend and the departure of my festing partner (we will get to that later), I failed all of you patiently awaiting the rehash of The San Diego International Beer Festival. But ALAS- the time has come. With a good degree of confidence, I can say that we have molded ourselves serious connoisseurs of the beer festival by this point, and the SD Int’l Beer Fest on June 26 was yet another notch on our belts.
Leading into the fest, we were pretty amped. It had an impossibly beautiful roster of brews and a serious amount of them. To be exact, we’re talking 388 beers from 156 breweries from 22 countries (via Zuvaruvi). If you were going to give a go at sampling all 388 brewhahas, you would have to sample 1.6 beers per minute. Given that the pours generally equal 3 oz. at a beer fest, that would equate to 1164 ounces of foamy goodness in your belly. Clearly, we anticipated a shit show. Read more…
First off, a vocabulary lesson. Does anyone know what the word “Bonnaroo” even means? Yes, little Johnny over in the corner, what meaning does this jibberish convey? Very good, very good. This term from the Ninth Ward in NoLa became well-known when New Orleans R&B magnate Dr. John named his 1974 album “Densitively Bonnaroo.” He wanted his title to let people know his music was a real good time – and that’s what it’s slang for. Example: “Damn, man, that party last night was Bonnaroo!” or, “Dude – no TV show is as bonnaroo as Planet Earth. No, not even Life. I can’t listen to Oprah’s voice for that long.” Read more…