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. 9 min read

This year, I made a New Year Resolution to step out of my comfort zone and try out more things. One of the things I wanted to try was going to a music festival to see what all the hype was about. I looked into a few festivals, but many were EDM heavy so there weren't many options for me to choose from. Originally, it was an off remark to my girlfriend and friends - "maybe we should go to Coachella this year". However, when the tickets actually went on sale, only two of my friends (a couple) bought tickets, with the rest of us on the fence. Thus, we missed the initial ticket sale and thought we probably couldn't go to Coachella. After a month or two, my friend told us there were lots of people selling tickets privately. Additionally, my friend offered us to crash at his family vacation home in Palm Springs. My girlfriend and I finally decided to say "screw it" and pulled the trigger on the tickets. This became a butterfly effect which caused 5 more of my friends FOMO-ing and ended up joining as well, resulting in a total group size of 9. It was going to be lit.

To be honest, going into Coachella I didn't know what to expect and I didn't do much research into the event either. Although I knew some artists, there weren't many artists I was particularly passionate about. As such, I wasn't overly excited about the event. Instead, I was very curious and slightly nervous.

Group photo in front of my friend's vacation home.

The first day, we arrived at Coachella a bit before sunset for the BLACKPINK performance. We breezed through the security, it's as if they didn't even bother checking for anything. One of my friends commented that our group was too dorky to even be on the security guards radar. However, we noticed someone beside us tip the security guard 5 dollars and just went through without being checked. This information would be useful for us later when we try to bring things into the concert.

Upon entering, we saw giant hordes of people and heard intense bass - our entrance was close to the Sahara stage. Everyone was generally decent looking, well dressed, under 35, and well below average weight (the average American male waist size is 40 inches, just Google it). There were definitely a lot of people running around with the least amount of clothes they could get away with wearing without getting in trouble. Girls were wearing bikinis and the guys were topless. A lot of people also had incredibly aesthetic and interesting outfits. I think it was the first time I've seen so many people congregated at the same place.

Giant space person that roams Coachella. The fingers are mechanical, and can slowly be moved. I remember at certain times of Coachella, the astronaut was just flipping everyone off.

After walking around for a while, one will notice Coachella is a giant social media content farm. Everywhere you could see boyfriends trying to perform their boyfriend duties of taking basic Instagram shots of their girlfriends (including myself, heh). You can't say you went to Coachella without taking a picture in front of the Ferris wheel, the cactuses, and the rainbow tower. Of course it' important, since after all, photos can freeze time and preserve memories (side note, that's one of the reasons I love photography).

Eventually, we ended up at Sahara for BLACKPINK, after taking many detours and pictures. BLACKPINK was quite good, but I'll talk about performances in a separate section. Diplo was performing next at the same stage, so we decided to stay put. Then during Diplo's performance, my phone got pickpocketed. At first, it was denial - I thought I just left it on the ground when we were waiting for Diplo's performance. But the more I thought about it, the more unlikely. I'm extremely careful and I've always known where my phone was, be it drunk or high. After the performance, I ran around the field in search of my phone. I noticed a lot of people stuck around as well, all seeming to look for something. I talked to a few of them, and as expected, they all lost phones. Finally, my girlfriend got cell reception and I called my phone - it went to voice mail. I  accepted my phone was for sure stolen. Hopeless and sad, I headed to the Childish Gambino performance and ended our day.

Giant cactuses that look like they're flexing. I took a picture flexing with the cactus as well, but those are for my own records.

The next day, we went on some rollercoaster rides on my friend's golf cart through the golf course, which is basically the backyard his house. In case you're wondering, the gold course is shared with a bunch of other houses, my friend isn't that balling. Despite it being a small cart, the golf cart was surprisingly fast. Combined with the hills on the golf course, lack of safety features on the cart, it felt like riding a rollercoaster at max speed.

My friend's vacation home's backyard gold course, 

After a late lunch, we headed to Coachella arriving there around 3:30 pm, just missing the FKJ performance (RIP). Learning from the previous day experience, one of my friends tipped the security guard so he could bring his alcohol inside. Originally, the security guard asked for 10 dollars tip, but my friend being the excellent bargainer he is, said: "oh, but I only have 5". The security guard also confiscated our water bottles because it was made with metal (RIP x2), although we didn't have an issue with them the previous day. In retrospect, we probably should've just tipped them and brought in the bottles, since we ended up spending 4 dollars to buy water...

It was really hot during the day, with minimal shade. Here, we have a bunch of people hiding under the shade created by one of the giant poles.

The last day of the festival we only went to half of Zedd's performance, Khalid's performance, and Ariana Grande's performance. Unfortunately, during Ariana's performance, my friend also got her phone pickpocketed. After the performance, we decided to try our luck at the lost and found. I talked to a few people in the lost and found line, it seemed like everyone had their phones stolen. When it came to our turn, we weren't surprised our phones were not found. However, there was an entire table full of phones, so some lucky folks will get their phones back.

Finally, we made our way back to San Francisco on Monday. We woke up late and ended up getting back to San Francisco after 3 am, with work the next day as well.

My friend later did some research on pickpocketing at Coachella, and it turns out organized pickpocketing is a huge issue at music festivals. It's especially bad at Coachella since it was one of the biggest music festivals every year. Usually, a group of pickpocketers guise themselves as friends trying to move through the crowd. Then, while in the confusion and contact of numerous people trying to squeeze past you, one of them will just grab the phone from your pocket.

Overall, I had a great experience with a great company. Coachella revived my passion for music and I feel excited to search for new music again. I would definitely consider going again if the lineup appealed to me. That being said, I'm going to need a few months of recovery before being able to go to another music festival. Three days of music was a little intense...

On Performances

BLACKPINK: This was the first time I've ever seen a k-pop performance, and the first time Coachella has brought in a k-pop group to perform. Prior to the performance, the only song I knew from BLACKPINK was DDU-DU DDU-DU. It was a hype performance as all their songs are heavy beats. After seeing a live k-pop performance, I think k-pop performances are pretty big feats of athleticism and talent - it's quite impressive to dance so intensely while singing for an entire hour. The performance felt perfect, all the way down to the casual hair flips they do when they were talking. It's as if the performance been rehearsed hundreds of times, and I don't doubt if it was indeed rehearsed hundreds of times. Although they performed great, BLACKPINK's stuff just isn't my style.

DIPLO: I listened to some of Diplo's songs in the gym, and thought he would be hype live. Unfortunately, I found the performance to be quite disappointing. The songs he played were extremely monotonous and boring - the drops were always predictable and similar. However, the visuals were very well done as they were trippy as hell and blended perfectly with the music. I think people who were tripping on acid must've loved Diplo's performance.

Childish Gambino: Even before the performance, I've always respected Childish greatly as I think he's an extremely talented artist. On one hand, he has hype raps, but on the other hand, he's able to create mellow R&B and soul music. His entire performance was very energetic, organic, and improvisational,  which is a complete antithesis to the BLACKPINK performance earlier in the day. There was also no question the dude can sing. He improvised certain parts of songs (or maybe even entire songs) and incorporated random acts into his performance. For example, he ran off the stage to smoke a blunt with one of the fans in the crowd and told him to enjoy the moment. He also airdropped a pair of Adidas x Glover collab sneakers ( looks pretty dope) to fans during his performance. Overall, I found Childish to be a really interesting person and a great performer, definitely making me a bigger fan.
Sabrina Claudio: I listen to Sabrina a lot and was excited to hear her play live. However, I found her performance to underwhelming. She wasn't bad per se, but she wasn't that great either - she's just okay. I think for the first two songs, she wasn't really warmed up so she was off key. As the performance progressed, she definitely got better and was able to sing on pitch.

Bazzi: Prior to Bazzi's performance, I only knew two songs from him - 'Mine' and 'Beautiful'. Originally, I doubted his singing ability since his studio recordings sound like there was substantial post-processing (I don't know what made me think that way). But he shut me up real good since he's a great singer. It was an energetic performance and his music was able to get everyone moving. It definitely helps that his songs were in general very hype and good for dancing to.

Billie Eilish: I knew a little about Billie going into Coachella, but a few of my friends were excited about her and insisted we must see her performance. We arrived early and found a really good spot. Soon, we found out her performance was delayed by over 40 minutes and many of us contemplated leaving. I glad we stayed though because Billie's performance turned out to be my favorite of the entire weekend. She's an excellent singer, but more importantly, her music really vibes well with me. Apparently, Billie has her own visions on how she wants the performance to look like. The result is an aesthetic performance with visual props that complemented the music exceptionally. I was thoroughly impressed by her insane talent (she's only 17, by the way). Coming out of Coachella, she's now one of my favorite artists. That being said, I can't imagine how challenging and overwhelming it must be for Billie to deal with the sudden fame after garnering so much popularity at such a young age.

Tame Impala: I'm not sure how Tame Impala became a headliner since I didn't think they're that popular. No one in our group really knew their songs, and the crowd for their performance didn't seem that big either. Maybe that was because we were on the outer areas of the stage. As for their music, I found their songs to be quite repetitive.

Khalid: Our entire group was pretty excited for Khalid, but many of us thought he was probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. It felt like he kept running out of air and couldn't sing. Some times when he was about to sing the high notes, he'd just point the mic to the audience and have the audience sing. At one point, Khalid brought up Billie to sing a collaboration song with him and Billie completely killed it. It felt like Khalid and Billie weren't even close in terms of skill.

Ariana Grande: I don't really like Ariana's songs (other than 'thank u, next'), but there's no doubt she's a great performer. And damn, that girl can sing. The funniest part of the performance was when Ariana brought up Nicki Minaj to sing 'Bang Bang', and some black dude beside me got so excited he screamed on the top of his lungs for almost two minutes straight. I legit couldn't hear anything other than his "AHHHHHHHHHH AAAAAHHHHH".