I had never been to a concert prior to Coachella 2022. Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s not because I hate music; that is far from the truth. I just never wanted to spend hundreds of dollars to see a show because I can think of a thousand other ways to use that money. Sometimes no one wanted to go to that person with me, and who wants to watch a show alone?
But all that changed this month. Over the course of two long, hot, tiring weekends at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, I had the opportunity to see some of music’s biggest names, and I finally understood why people love go to these events – and why they pay so much.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a huge Harry Styles fan and was expecting to cry when I saw him headline Friday night of the first weekend. But other than that, I had a lot of questions: How would people be? What about the traffic? As someone who doesn’t like to be in big crowds, would I have any fun at all?
I have many answers.
Best of the Show: Styles, Carly Rae Jepsen
I don’t think Styles, my English heartthrob, will ever be featured at a future concert or festival.
My Desert Sun colleagues had had enough of my fan-girling for the last two weekends – I’m pretty sure they were ready to kill me after a certain point – but I was the definition of pumped up both Fridays of the festival.
I’ve been a styler – that’s the official name for us fans – since his One Direction days. I fell in love with his sweet smile and amazing voice, and some things haven’t changed a decade later. But my love for Styles really blossomed when he left the boy band and started creating his own music. His first two albums “Harry Styles” and “Fine Line” are a perfect mixture of pop and rock hits with a few ballads. With the release of As It Was and two songs he debuted at Coachella, it looks like his third album Harry’s House will be the same.
When the time came for his headlining set to kick off, I screamed at the top of my lungs at the sight of him both weekends and got in such a good mood right away. Not to mention that I got a huge boost of energy despite working a full shift.
Styles was born for the limelight. The second he walked out, “he felt completely himself” and took command of the stage. He threw out dance moves and I completely lost my composure. And the best part was that he was as great a singer as I had imagined.
There were many more highlights on the weekends. Canadian superstar Carly Rae Jepsen, another fan of mine for years, shook the house with a mega-singalong of her 2012 hit “Call Me Maybe.” To see almost everyone in the Mojave tent jumping around and shouting the words brought me so much joy and even Jepsen was beaming at the result.
I also got to discover some cool new acts. Meute is an 11 piece German techno marching band and I had never heard of them before Freitag. In an hour of great saxophone solos and loads of energy, the band made me a fan. And although I knew Phoebe Bridgers, I never heard her music. Her picturesque Friday night set, filled with stunning picture-book visuals, also got me adding a few of her songs to my Apple Music account.
The food could use an upgrade
There were tons of dining options at Coachella, but none really impressed me. The only thing they left me was an expensive credit card bill.
The Indio Central Market had a wide variety of dishes and I tried to eat something different each time. The Orange Chicken at Fat Drago was ok but nothing special for the $18 price tag. I also grabbed a full size margherita pizza at the Los Angeles Pizzeria Co. and again it was just another good option.
My favorite items I’ve snagged: a boba black milk tea from Milk Box, a traditional gyros, and some super creamy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream from Salt & Straw. Those three items cost me $33, which is absolutely ridiculous, but apparently that’s what festivals do.
Even going to the grocery store couldn’t save you from paying a higher price. A Diet Coke is $6 — who let that happen?
Here’s what I’d like to see at Coachella/any festival: a Dollar General or Dollar Tree store. For $1, I could have grabbed chips, candy, drinks, and anything else my heart desires. I would much rather spend $20 on several of these items than small meals that most of the time don’t fill me up or satisfy me. I’m aware these stores would sell out within five minutes of opening, but hey, a girl can dream!
Hell is the yellow parking lot
Coachella can involve emotional whiplash. After the exhilaration of seeing Styles, I was quickly thrown into a whole different frame of mind as I was stuck in my car for more than an hour, not moving as I tried to get out of the yellow parking lot.
Getting to Coachella was stressful as I tried to avoid roadblocks and find general parking. After dodging cyclists and pedestrians for more than an hour on April 15, I opted for the yellow parking lot, but little did I know what a nightmare I would find myself in 12 hours later.
After Styles finished his set, I headed to the yellow trail through windy and dusty conditions (my face mask came to my rescue). The walk ended up taking almost an hour and I felt like a packed sardine most of the time.
When I finally got to my dusty car and pulled up my Google Maps navigation at home, I figured things would be smooth sailing from that point. Well, I was absolutely wrong. No cars were moving and no one was directing traffic. I didn’t get home until 4 o’clock
How could a gigantic festival like this not have people directing traffic away from the parking lot? There were police officers directing traffic further down the street, but their help would have been very useful a few yards away.
Luckily I spotted the best parking lot the next day – heaven is the blue parking lot – and saw that the festival staff were showing the cars out, so the rest of the festival days went smoothly. However, I would hold my breath every time I walked to my car and wondered how late I would be home that evening.
My first festival/live music experience was filled with the highest highs – I’m looking at you Styles – and the deepest lows – you know what you did yellow bunch. And while some aspects of the festival weren’t the most ideal, such as those windy and dusty conditions, I’d still go straight back to Empire Polo Club to sing along in a tent with thousands of my best friends.
See you next year, Coachella.
Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach them at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.