Mak­ing camp an ex­pe­ri­ence

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - RANDALL ROBERTS POP MU­SIC CRITIC

Amid the 90,000-plus fans who trav­eled each week­end to In­dio for the Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val were rev­el­ers who, as al­ways, flew from across the world to ex­pe­ri­ence a crammed three days of mu­sic and com­mu­nity.

The gath­er­ing, which con­cluded yet an­other vic­to­ri­ous two-week­end run Sun­day, con­tin­ued to prove why it’s an in­ter­na­tional draw for the fan­ci­est 1 per­cent. Dense with fun money, globe-trot­ters and celebri­ties filled area ho­tels, res­i­dences and re­treats, then zipped around via Uber or SUV.

But since the fes­ti­val’s birth in 1999, just as many fel­low trav­el­ers, such as Nico

Garcia and his fam­ily, un­der­take a more hum­ble, sus­tain­able pil­grim­age to the fes­ti­val: Ride in, park, raise a tent and camp.

Like thou­sands of oth­ers, the Gar­cias waited in line Thurs­day and got a choice spot in the densely pop­u­lated camp­ing area. Or at least his wife, their 4-year-old son, sis­ter-in-law and friends did. Un­like the jet-set­ters, Garcia was still at work and had just his bike.

“They texted me a photo of the spot, and I rolled up on my beach cruiser,” said Garcia, re­lax­ing be­neath his tent with his son. Garcia’s clan lives in nearby La Quinta, where he’s a “pro­fes­sional golfer slash cad­die” as well as a mu­sic fan and camper who more of­ten es­capes to Cal­i­for­nia dunes for peace than just down the road to the Em­pire Polo Fields for the op­po­site.

Drawn by the op­por­tu­nity to get lost for three days, though, Garcia was among the many fans who flocked to claim one of the thou­sands of plots, most of which are less than a 10-minute walk from the con­cert stages.

To re­spond (and con­trib­ute) to the de­mand, pro­moter Gold­en­voice (which es­ti­mated there were more than 20,000 campers) has in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars in ex­pand­ing of­fer­ings within the camp­ing zone, and the re­sult is a 72hour-plus ex­pe­ri­en­tial worm­hole. Once a camper is sit­u­ated, gone are wor­ries of get­ting pulled over, deal­ing with Uber surge pric­ing or do­ing any­thing other than crawl­ing into the tent at night’s end.

Among the ameni­ties: a morn­ing farmer’s mar­ket, daily yoga and Pi­lates, a gen­eral store, post of­fice, lock­smith, showers and a Wi-Fi­con­nected lounge area. At late­morn­ing craft­ing ses­sions, soonto-be fes­ti­val par­ty­ers made signs and scepter-like nav­i­ga­tion sticks to be em­ployed as fo­cal points within Sa­hara Tent-sized crowds.

The camp­ing area’s “town cen­ter” was a place where night­time snow­ball fights in the desert ac­tu­ally hap­pened; a fenced-in zone was built for the pur­pose. (Among the rules: “Do not make or eat yel­low snow.”) Head­phone-as­sisted “si­lent disco” par­ties de­liv­ered peace­ful af­ter-hours out­door danc­ing fur­ther into the night. Need a hair­cut or a blowout? Bar­bers and a beauty bar were busy from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Want to buy a Jack White LP? Third Man Records, the artist’s la­bel, parked its trav­el­ing record truck in the camp. Dodge­ball? Hu­man foos­ball? Tour­na­ments both week­ends yielded vic­tors.

The goal: to of­fer not only mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences but communal ones. Adding to ideas gen­er­ated from Euro­pean fes­ti­vals like Glas­ton­bury in Eng­land, Pri­mav­era Sound in Barcelona, Spain, and Burning Man in the Ne­vada desert, Coachella is har­ness­ing the al­lure of its sur­round­ings and those desert winds to de­liver ad­ven­tures that aim to be rites of pas­sage.

“We’ve got 28 fes­ti­vals to play this year,” Dan Snaith, founder of the Canadian beat group Cari­bou, said be­fore his Fri­day night set. In ad­di­tion to per­form­ing at Bon­na­roo in Ten­nessee, they’ll play Glas­ton­bury, the Flow Fes­ti­val in Slove­nia, Rock Wer­chter in Bel­gium and the Øya Fes­ti­val in Nor­way.

This was Cari­bou’s first crack at Coachella, and Snaith was struck most by the vibe, he said. “It’s a dif­fer­ent cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence than other fes­ti­vals that we get to play in.” Elec­tronic dance mu­sic, es­pe­cially, is a whole dif­fer­ent an­i­mal state­side, he added.

Pi­lates in­struc­tor Paige Kil­gore has seen her share of vibe, she said in the ex­er­cise area af­ter one of her morn­ing ses­sions at the camp­ground. She’s been guiding classes here for the past three years.

“I’ve seen the tweeny-bop­per denim di­a­pers up to their chest, and I’ve seen an older crowd that is way more into the mu­sic,” she said. She’s taught uni­corns — or at least peo­ple dressed like them — new poses and has dealt with her share of un­bal­anced par­ty­ers, yet Kil­gore says she’s been most sur­prised by the de­vo­tion.

“Dur­ing a week­end like this, a lot of peo­ple think, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re go­ing to rage, and peo­ple are drunk,’ ” she said. “And while there is that, a lot of peo­ple want to come to­gether and work out, stretch out a lit­tle bit be­cause it is such a long day.”

As she said this, an amped-up fes­ti­val­goer jumped onto her teach­ing plat­form, grabbed the mi­cro­phone and greeted the many passersby. “My name is Sean. I’ll be here all week,” he said, pre­tend­ing to be a co­me­dian. “Have a great day. Com­pli­men­tary drinks are avail­able at the bar.”

With that, he handed Kil­gore the mi­cro­phone and headed back into the camp­grounds.

Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

FES­TI­VAL­GO­ERS hold a snow­ball fight at Coachella’s camp­ing area, which fea­tures a list of ameni­ties. The two-week­end fes­ti­val closed Sun­day.

Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

A VAN decked out as a toaster makes its way through the camp­ing area dur­ing the sec­ond week­end of the Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val.

Pho­to­graphs by Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

SARA NEFF joins other fes­ti­val­go­ers at a morn­ing yoga ses­sion. The camp­ing area fea­tures a gen­eral store, post of­fice and more.

FANS use charg­ing sta­tions to re­plen­ish elec­tronic de­vices. The camp­ing area has a Wi-Fi-con­nected lounge area.

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