As the first major music festival of the summer, Coachella sets a few important precedents. For example: How much clothing should one bring? Is a camping stove really necessary? Is 30 too old for whip-its, and if so, what about getting dusted?
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to attend Coachella, and I've already fielded these questions and many more. Here are a few bits of wisdom to take with you to Sasquatch! and the festivals beyond. Some of these points may seem obvious, but so are the tips featured in best-selling books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms.
Obey the Law
Don't mock their flashlights—rent-a-cops are worse than the real thing. This is especially true when they fail to pacify hundreds of drunken kids trapped in the desert. An angry mob waiting for spots on some long-delayed shuttle bus makes for the tensest of company, and yet, for reasons unknown, I opted to test some officers by sneaking into the trunk of a bus.
The first time I was caught, a would-be officer said I couldn't ride in the trunk because it "wasn't safe." I chose to ignore his concerns. Instead, I sprinted after the bus they had pulled me from and leaped back into the trunk as it drove away. This was a poor choice. Moments later, I found myself in handcuffs, paraded through the crowd like a fresh kill. A fellow revolutionary yelled, "Free that guy!" but it was too late. I spent the rest of the night reading swear words scratched into the backseat of a squad car.
Elegance Is a Virtue
Looking classy when you're jiving with flip-flops and peyote is more or less impossible, but that doesn't mean you can't preserve a little human dignity. Therefore, never carry around a "frat jug," aka a plastic container used to hold scavenged wine, beer, soda, and other leftover liquors. While it's a great idea from a purely economical standpoint, the problem is that getting drunk off these concoctions is worse than getting drunk off the worst hobo wine. In other words, if grape Mad Dog turns crushing light bulbs with your teeth into witty punch lines, frat jugs turn punching out steel Dumpsters into a Bill Hicks free-association dream tangent.
Use the Buddy System
It was 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, and Prince had just taken the stage. Inexplicably, Morris Day came out to join him, and together they performed "Jungle Love," complete with the "O-e o-e oh!" dance from Purple Rain. Meanwhile, my friends were scattered among 60,000 people, drunk... high... and totally lost. So I sat alone, underneath a tree, frantically texting: "PRINCE LOL!?! IM@TENT!" No one responded.
I sat there for some time, hoping in vain that my phone would work. It wasn't until some people dressed as Smurfs walked past me that I ventured into the sea of people, where I finally ran into my friends. Of course, there are many lessons to be learned here—stay with your friends, don't count on your cell phone, always follow the Smurfs—but the reason I bring this story up in particular is because of Morris Day's dancing.
Any time you're dealing with large crowds, you have to assume that whenever you want to do something, thousands of other people will have the same idea. If you head to the food tents at, say, 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., and the line is two blocks long, was that not bad planning? Now you won't have time to get a room-temperature burrito and an $8 Coors.
Extending this analogy, what if you'd rather see White Rabbits over Tegan and Sara? Unless you use the festival's schedule, you'll be like the people who whine for weeks over not seeing their favorite artist because of "the bathrooms." Or maybe you secretly like Tegan and Sara, in which case I don't know what to tell you.
(Don't) Do Drugs
Two points worth mentioning. First, why do people keep putting illegal substances in cigarette boxes? This is the first place security guards check, and guess what happens when they find your stashed doobie? They SMOKE it! And then they expose you for being the malefactor who put it there in the first place.
Second, weekend warriors take note: You cannot do the same drug for three straight days and expect the same results—there is such a thing as the Law of Diminishing Returns. If you're lucky enough to see clouds morphing into Garfield's face on that first night, treasure the moment and move on. You're not supposed to be high during R.E.M., anyway.