The NYLON Guide To Surviving Coachella
Everything you need to know about the biggest festival of the year
The following feature appears in the April 2017 issue of NYLON.
My most formative musical memories were forged at a polo field in the middle of the Colorado Desert. There, amid the magic and the mayhem of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, I watched Madonna perform in an oversized wedding tent; I witnessed Prince shred guitar solo after epic guitar solo; I practically scaled a wall to see M.I.A. invite a few hundred fans onstage; and I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
This is not to say that Coachella is all mind-melting, heart-eyed-emoji highlights, though. I’ve also lost a computer, my wallet, and shoes, ruined clothes, and damn near passed out from the heat—and I’ve watched plenty of others fair far worse. (Shout-out to the girl who drunkenly fought a security guard and got zip-tied to a fence during that Prince set.) Fun as it is, the festival requires work. It’s become a season in and of itself in California, for which you plan, shop, and prepare much like New Englanders do for winter. Why? Because you want to look good when you’re hopping between pool parties and mosh pits with half of Hollywood, but also because Coachella necessitates some real-deal survival skills.
Leading up to this year’s festival—which takes place April 14 to 16 and 21 to 23, and features Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, The xx, Gucci Mane, Father John Misty, and many more—we asked three music industry experts to give us some tips on conquering Coachella. Here, photographer Pooneh Ghana, tour manager and sound engineer Alicia Blake, Big Beat Records/Atlantic Records publicist Jordan Frazes, and artist manager and events director Veronica Pulcini explain how to survive the mother of all music festivals.
What to Pack
A Mophie (and all of your charging devices), a denim jacket, wet wipes, Mario Badescu’s rosewater face spray, a travel-size Febreze, Neutrogena SPF 100, Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Rosé Tinted, Dr. Jart+ BB Beauty Balm, a pair of Vans, a Tide pen, and activated charcoal pills (they are the hangover cure). —Veronica Pulcini
A change of clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, plenty of wet wipes—when you’re surrounded by gross porta-potties in dusty and hot conditions with no place to wash your hands, wet wipes are a lifesaver.—Alicia Blake
Layers are an absolute necessity. The sun shines bright during the day hours, but as the sun sets, you’re going to want to put on something warm. Also make sure to bring snacks, Bandaids, and chapstick with SPF for your lips! —Jordan Frazes
How To Get Around
The main arena is pretty easy to navigate—it’s once you get out into the campground and parking lots that you can get lost. Just remember the way you came in (the paths are color-coded). A really useful tool is just dropping a pin [on your phone] where you parked or where your tent is. —Pooneh Ghana
Put something identifiable (like a sticker or sign) on your car to find it after dark. Don’t try to enter the fest between the 5 to 8 p.m. window, when all the people who only come to hang in the Sahara Tent or see the pop acts roll in. Have a designated meeting place with friends for certain time spans, and always time-stamp your texts in the evening, when service is slow. —VP
It helps to navigate the grounds early on the first day, while the sun is still up, to take note of landmarks and where art installations, stages, and tents are located. It also doesn’t hurt to take a screengrab of the festival map (and the lineup for each day) to save battery life on your phone, rather than wasting data looking it up later. —JF
What to Wear
You definitely need to prepare for two drastic climates at Coachella. Daytime is for light and flowy outfits, and at night you need to layer up because it gets chilly. —PG
I usually do an easy cotton sundress with simple straps (you don’t want weird tan lines). Avoid white or anything too fussy. For shoes, I’ll do low-heeled booties or classic Vans. I always take a denim jacket and my festival backpack, which is just a mid-sized black leather satchel that comfortably holds the essentials, plus a bottle of water. Throw on gold, wire-rimmed sunglasses and a pair of gold hoop earrings and you’re good to go. —VP
The perfect Coachella outfit must be something comfortable. I’m fond of wearing long dresses that flow when it’s hot, but that also cover your legs when it’s chilly at night. I’ll pair it with a sweater that can wrap around your hips and flat sandals or Toms on my feet to ensure I can make it through the entire day. —JF
What To Eat/Drink
There’s a coffee stand with these really awesome matcha lattes. I get one every morning when I get to the grounds before I start shooting. —PG
I am a sucker for the lavender lemonade at artist catering, and you can’t beat a slice of spicy pie late at night. I also like the pop-up restaurants in the rose garden, where they have sage vegan ice cream. —VP
It is an absolute must to start each day with a proper breakfast, as it may turn into your main meal of the day. I’m an advocate for sneaking in a GoMacro bar for a quick protein hit midday. I’m always on a mission to scoop up a gluten free bite to share on @mouthfeeling.—JF
My first year at Coachella, in the VIP area, my friend and I were chilling under a tree when we noticed a guy offer a beer to another guy (who had definitely had a few drinks). The second guy took the beer, took a sip, then immediately slouched over and started gagging while yelling, “It’s piss!” —PG
I may have drunkenly told off Chris Brown and his entourage when he tried to cut me and my friends in line. And I may have ended up in a meeting with him and his entourage a week later. But all of this is hearsay. —VP
Words to Live By
When in doubt, own what you want to see and enjoy. Try not to get caught up in things you think you need to see, where your friends are, or what party you should be at. Live music is meant to be enjoyed, not just Instagrammed. Oh, and no floral crowns or denim diapers. —VP
People like to make a big deal about how Coachella is all celebrity and fashion and people wanting to be seen. If you ignore all that and focus on what’s important about Coachella—all of the incredible bands and unique art that you get to see in one place with your friends and peers—and not worry about trying to walk 10 miles in stilettos every day of the festival, you’ll gain a much more fulfilling and memorable experience. —PG