The Other Side of the Coachella Music Festival


Last year I fell in love with California’s Coachella desert after spending several months in La Quinta, lounging (and writing) by the shimmering pool in my La Quinta winter get-away home. At the time, I had no idea that my haven of temporary reprieve from the Vancouver rain was across the street from America’s premier music festival: Coachella.

My friendly Canadian neighbours (yes, we have taken over the California desert) alerted me to the explosion that would erupt on the polo grounds adjacent to our gated community in April. I was told that no one of sound mind, over the age of fifty, remained in the neighbourhood during Coachella weekend.

That admonition was enough to compel me to stay to find out if the rumoured evils of Coachella were truth or fiction.

The town of La Quinta began to take on a different flavour as the weekend approached. The local Ralph’s, a high-end grocery store, usually a mecca for those who crave a taste of the best of sea and land, were nowhere to be seen. In their place were hordes of scantily-dressed young women surrounded by young men, many with dreadlocks and all with an array of body art, none of it particularly artistic.

These kids, however, did not appear to be shopping. Rather, many of them lurked in front of displays of exotic olives, sundried tomatoes, and other delicious compotes of squid and venison, all of which they sampled freely, while the locals watched in amazement.

An early sign that the big event is around the corner is the appearance of workmen hammering stakes into the ground around the festival site with signs attached reading “Parental Pick-up and Drop-off. There is no age restriction, so throngs of teenage girls and boys, those with naive parents, I assume, can join in with the sex, drugs and indie groove.

The next day a booming electric bass signals the start of the concerts by musicians I had never heard of: Jimmy Eat World, the Bloody Beetroots, Plan B, Good Old War, and dozens of others who made me long for the earlier Coachella days when Paul McCartney and yes, even Madonna were the main attraction.

This year I hear that Snoop Dogg is a headliner, a rapper whose street credibility includes his time as a member of L.A’s Crips gang and despite his acquittal on a murder rap in 1996, he’s an alumni of California’s prison system. While he has apparently sold lots of records, it is not his music that keeps him in the media spotlight, but his regular encounters with Johnny Law.

His professional accomplishments include edicts from the United Kingdom and Australia that he is an undesirable. He is also a member of the Nation of Islam, a fan of Louis Farrakhan and self-identifies as a former pimp, altogether the kind of person that right-thinking people would be aghast to see their children emulate.

Was the festival as loud, carousing and annoying as predicted? Frankly, it wasn’t, however, the burglary of our home on the final day was not endearing. Despite private security guards, it was not difficult for rambunctious petty crooks, who teem to these kinds of events, to crawl over the gates and kick in doors where they saw an opportunity.

Those who were polite enough not to steal cameras, flat-screen TV’s and other high-end electronics simply camped uninvited, in the back yards of nearby homes, using the absent home-owners’ swimming pools and outdoor kitchens for their weekend adventure. This year the festival’s producers have increased security and police presence for the surrounding neighbours, a welcome gesture.

Oh yes, it’s double the pleasure this month as Coachella expands to two weekends. Now if I could only find those earplugs I used last year.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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3 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coachella Music Festival

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