Let me start by saying: I’m a nobody. I’m not a celebrity or an Instagram model or a Vine star or a manager or Rihanna or an agent or a trust-fund baby or anyone who has any reason to have the All Access Coachella wristband. But for reasons unbeknownst to me (I know what you’re thinking—boobs—and you’re probably right) the music festival gods have always smiled upon me. If Coachella has a secret Make-a-Wish Foundation for starving artists, I’m one of its beneficiaries. This has given me a glimpse into a world normally reserved for the beautiful, the affluent and the famous. And now that I’ve gone there, I can never go back.
Here are nine perks that make the so-called god pass really the only way to go—plus one big drawback that almost had me vaulting over the guardrail into general-admission land.
This isn’t a pass you can buy; in fact, upon arrival, at the back entrace near the VIP parking lot, the festival workers immediately separate you from the people who purchased their VIP passes. There is no line to scan your wristband. There is no line for security—and security is very very chill, as opposed to general admission where they search every nook and cranny.
Once you’re through security, there is a shaded tent where the workers offer you cold water while you wait for a golf cart to take you wherever your heart desires. God forbid you have to sully your designer shoes before the paparazzi have a chance to take their first photo.
I’ve mentioned the importance of staying hydrated at a festival; backstage in the Artist’s Lounge are tubs of free water (both plain and coconut) scattered throughout the compound. This is a godsend for someone like myself, who really has to make a conscious effort to drink water. Basically any time I would roll through to use the restroom or meditate by the Oasis, I would stock up. Back in my general admission/drinking days, I couldn’t be bothered to wait in line for a $2 water when I could just wait in line for a beer instead.
Backstage you hear a lot of, “Where did you get the popsicle?” and “He went that way!” The free Popsicle man is more popular than the most famous celebrity at Coachella. He wanders around backstage through the hottest hours of the day with his cart handing out icy relief. Day 2 of the festival I was standing in the VIP viewing area, watching Run the Jewels, eating a Popsicle within 10 minutes of arriving at the festival. This level of convenience is priceless.
SHADE AND SPRITZERS
Day 1 of Weekend 2 it was 96 degrees when we got there. Out in GA, shade is limited and you see festivalgoers occupying every inch of it like some end-of-days scenario. The artists’ lounge has a shaded area complete with couches, suntan lotion and Red Vines where you can relax, charge your phone and check out the swans in the Oasis or whoever happens to be playing the mainstage on the TV. There are also massive fans that spritz you. In the viewing area, festival workers walk by and spray us all with water because when you’re rich and famous you can’t possibly be seen breaking a sweat dancing.
This was my favorite perk of all. I’ve never wanted to hang out in a bathroom more in my life—it’s honestly the coolest place in the whole festival. They’re air conditioned and clean and there is always toilet paper. If you’ve ever been to a festival, you know this is unheard of. I mean, all that was missing was a woman handing me a paper towel and a mint.
With about 100,000 people attending the festival every day, it gets pretty crazy trying to cross the grounds to get from one act to another. The sets are short and time if of the essence. If you can’t catch a golf cart, walking backstage is much faster than dodging crazy teens on drugs and avoiding the people waiting in line for ice cream, napping or vomiting on the grass.
The space. THE SPACE!!! Sometimes I felt guilty because the area that is gated off for the god-pass people is empty while the true fans who have been standing in the sun for hours in order to see their favorite band up close are pressed together like sardines, waiting patiently, and then we all stroll in to the best view in the whole place. You could do a full interpretive dance here. I’m like the Robin Hood of VIP—I usually grab a case of water and pass it out to the die-hard fans up front. I know the struggle. The struggle is real.
Obviously it’s cool to hobnob with the rich and famous but honestly, I’ve never been that impressed with stardom. They’re people. They poop and sleep and if they’re musicians, they’ve probably worked really fucking hard to get to the Coachella stage. I respect that. For me it’s more amusing to watch how people behave around famous people than anything else.
The perks come with a price. What you gain in convenience you lack in authenticity.
Often when you’re dealing with the rich and famous—I’ve been waiting on them for decades—you’re dealing with some of the most high-maintenance, entitled douchebags on the planet. Nowhere is this more apparent than Coachella Weekend 1; that’s why I go Weekend 2 now.
There was a bit of a backup after one of the shows as everyone was trying to get into the artists’ lounge and some guy behind me said, “This is where VIP breaks down.” As if on cue, a nearby woman held up her wristband and cried out, “This is fucking ridiculous! I have an artist’s band! What if I had to perform?” “Do you?” I asked. “No but…“ I ended up losing my patience with the people in line and saying, “You guys! We’re at a festival, and this is literally the only line you’ve had to wait in all day.” To which a bunch of other people around me started clapping.
That’s not to say everyone is a dick, but for the most part I enjoy taking in the music with the “common folk” out in General Admission more than the disillusioned posers in VIP. The GA people are the true fans. They aren’t there to be seen with a hot $300 manicure; they’re there for the music and the experience with their friends. They know every word of every song. They’re dirty. They’re hot. They’re dehydrated. And they’re still dancing and singing their asses off, giving it their all on Day 3.
In my 20s, I was too. But now, I inhabit the space in the Venn diagram somewhere in between. I used to able to rage with no sleep, on drugs for three days straight. And this was me after Day 2: