Coachella sucks. Maybe that’s a cynical take, but it’s also the only correct one: Coachella was designed by a (maybe formerly) homophobic millionaire to capitalize on your Woodstock dreams. At Coachella, you can stay in a Safari Tent for $7,500 and go to the Heineken House after hitting the T-Mobile tent before cruising over to the HP art installation. Your $1,000 VIP wristband is evidence enough that status is bought, not earned, at the festival.
The only way to truly appreciate Coachella is to game the system by spending as little money as humanly possible. I’ve attended Coachella for work in the past, which is one way to do it. A media wristband gets you in and, like, one extra porta potty. This year, I decided I wouldn’t interview any artists or cover the festival in any meaningful way. Of course, you could always decide to just go to the desert and not to attend the festival at all.
Instead, I committed to a more noble pursuit: How to spend as little money on attending Coachella as humanly possible. What follows isn’t a guide to being a mooch. Instead, it’s a paean to the art of getting as much free stuff as possible off a big corporation. Here’s a breakdown on how to make Coachella work for you.
I have and will never spend a dollar on a Coachella wristband in my lifetime. At my funeral, someone will be like “she never spent money on a music festival wristband” and someone else will say “especially not on Coachella.” Everyone will nod solemnly. A beautiful ceremony and very tasteful.
There are a couple ways to finesse a free Coachella wristband. The first and most obvious way is to apply for a press pass. If you have any connection to writing for any website, ask your editor if you can do some interviews. The press tent is a horrific grind where you’ll mostly be given access to sidestage hopefuls who give six-minute answers to ten-second questions but it gets you in. You can do a similar trick if you know anyone who’s going to have a vendor booth there. This year, I met a girl who was working at a matcha tent for a few hours a day and partying in pasties at all other hours. Capitalism can work for you, if you let it.
Working at Coachella sucks, though, especially if you’re a blogger. Trust me.
If you live in Los Angeles or know people in the music or media worlds, you can attempt the classic, “Do you have the wristband plug?” move by asking literally everyone you know if they have the wristband plug. This, of course, involves having zero shame. If you’re going to Coachella, you’re definitely already on that level. Ask a lot but nicely. This is how my boyfriend and I managed to score free VIP wristbands off a friend who was performing at the festival. I’m not proud of it but I’m also not proud of anything having to do with this, so cheers!
Rent a car. People will tell you that Uber is easy at the festival but people will also tell you to take molly before seeing DJ Khaled. Having a car makes things infinitely easier. You can usually rent one for like $40/day. Parking at the festival is free (and not sponsored by Haliburton-Verizon-Chase), so you really have no good reason not to rent a car or bring your own if you have it like that. I recommend renting because some serious shit could happen to the car you bring to a music festival and renting with full insurance means you’re good no matter what.
OFFER TO BE THE DESIGNATED DRIVER
The downside of renting a car is spending a little money on the rental plus fuel, and the fact that, at some point, you need to sober up and drive the car. I was the designated driver this year. If I can manage to stay relatively sober throughout this corporatized concert shit show, you can too. You have so many hours to get fucked up and then get sober again. Suck it up. The other upside is that you can use your DD status to guilt your friends into paying for your share of the car. This is what’s known as “hustling.”
Staying at Coachella will be expensive, this is a fact. Your best bet is chipping in on a group house super early on. If you’re anything like me, you won’t even know if you’re going until like, two weeks before. So you have to get creative. Camping is a choice that I will never understand: Why do you people love having UTIs so much? No thank you.
Outside of camping, you need to be resourceful. My version of that is asking strangers on the Internet if they know where you can crash. After days of my boyfriend and I asking if anyone had spots in their Coachella house, we found a few options, one of which was staying for free in a stranger’s grandparents’ house in Palm Desert. He and I both lack basic levels of dignity and self-respect, so that’s what we did.
Russell and Jean were lovely. I hated the idea of it at first, but you really can’t beat free. We had coffee with our surrogate grandparents every morning and would come back late at night to a quiet house, which is all you can ask for. I don’t think they’re accepting new guests at this time, but maybe hit up all your California friends and see if they have desert families. You never know.
The food at Coachella is good and reasonably priced, which is probably the only thing I genuinely love about the festival. It does add up so it’s in your best interest to befriend a vendor before attending, or to bring your own snacks inside. I managed free matcha and chicken tikka masala fries from friends who had booths, which took care of a lot of my food and drink needs. Other than that, I pouted and my boyfriend paid for things. Sorry. Consider Tinder-ing your way to free food before the festival. There’s only so much I can help you do, man.
Here’s the secret about Coachella that you need to be in on ASAP: You can attend without ever going to the festival at all by just scoring a few party invites. This is called NoChella-ing and you can read about it here. The parties at Coachella are their own wild corporate world and they’re full of free stuff meant to go to, I don’t know, former Vine stars (RIP) and other influencers. Mostly, the swag bags go to celebrities such as myself.
Because of my extremely exclusive media status, I usually get a few party emails. Outside of that, I hit up all my friends to find out for which parties I can get on the list. Beware of the Coachella party list drama, which has claimed at least one years-long friendship of which I know. Honestly, anyone who will de-friend you over anything pertaining to Coachella is not your friend.
Once you’ve gotten into a party, find that free shit. This year, I ended up with a wild thong Juicy Couture bodysuit and a bunch of makeup that I might just take to eBay. If you’re a real finesser, you can turn a profit just by attending the parties and re-selling all the stuff they push into your tote bag.
Now go forth and attend the festival like a true celebrity: Completely for free. Damn, you’re so famous!