I spent the weekend trying to avoid “Where you at?” texts from friends heading to Coachella.
Had our lives not been upended by a pandemic that desecrated two years of live concert experiences, I’m certain I would have been making the pilgrimage to the annual desert bacchanal. But after being in the house for two years I had little interest in making the commitment required to take on a festival that 125,000 people flock to.
I know some of this is Covid atrophy talking, but it was freeing to not be sunburnt and bloated from a weekend of chugging margaritas and dancing in triple digit heat. Instead of trying to time a return to LA that didn’t leave me sitting in traffic for hours, I woke up in my own bed on Monday and went about my morning. I didn't have a bag of dusty clothes and scuffed shoes to wash, nor did I need to carve out a chuck of the week to recoup after my body took a beating from all the walking and standing.
Funny enough I spent a great deal of lockdown griping about the things I would have done to ensure I got the most out of the last Coachella before the world was turned upside down. How I would have gone to more acts. How I would have powered through my exhaustion to watch all of Tame Impala and not skip out halfway to get a meal that wasn't salty festival food. How I would have spent less time luxuriating at the resort and more time discovering something new on the festival grounds. How I wouldn’t have stuck so rigidly to a schedule and allowed myself to get lost in the day. But the truth is, I was so burnt out from writing about music—and festivals, especially—that enjoying anything about it took a backseat to increasing anxieties around the constant churn of deadlines.
Everything about Coachella was work and I was starting to feel too old for all of this shit, a feeling that was magnified after years of going to festivals. Not even the resort-ification of Coachella and all of the beautiful amenities that have made it a luxurious experience was enough to lure me and so I spent the weekend taking in the festival from the comfort of my own home. I sat on my couch and flipped through the livestream, taking in whoever was onstage and grateful not to have thrown myself into the maw of the beast before I was ready.
I had done it last year, making the trek to Day N Vegas, a three day R&B and hip-hop festival from Coachella promoters Goldenvoice and AEG. I was too thrilled to be back outside that I hadn’t considered how out of practice I was when it came to music festivals. On night one my back was screaming in pain and I could feel several blisters forming from standing on concrete for hours on end. By day two I was ready to tap out from the heat and when it was all over I cursed myself for leaving the house. Still, I was grateful to make it out with sore muscles—and not Covid, which I caught at a small capacity club show a few months later.
My trepidation around Coachella had little to do with the fact that organizers dropped all Covid restrictions and everything to do with me leaning into the reality that it’s gotten harder for me to enjoy music in a festival setting. If I’ve got the choice between seeing an artist in a venue or at a festival, it’s very rare that I’d opt for the festival experience. I’m not in my twenties anymore. I enjoy a comfortable seat that’s not thousands of feet away from the stage. I enjoy bathrooms—real ones not the ones delivered on a truck bed. But most of all I enjoy not feeling trapped in a sandbox where you’re source of respite is based on your status.
Cover image: Billie Eilish performs onstage at the Coachella Stage during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 16, 2022 in Indio, California. (Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Coachella)