Coachella 2016: Tales from the campground
Over the course of 17 festivals, Coachella organizers have continually refined the process from ticketing and security to cuisine and hospitality. It’s been no different for those who prefer to stay on the grounds once the music has stopped each night.
Camping at Coachella is now an elaborate, multi-tiered experience in which patrons can choose between levels of amenities ranging from the D.I.Y. vehicle variety, all the way up to furnished, air-conditioned, Shakir-style tents that come with a golf cart shuttle to-and-from the venue. No matter where the line of tolerance is drawn, the stay-on-site option is as popular as ever.
We wandered into the Red Path general camping area and spoke with campers about their experience at this year’s festival.
Josh Meador sells title insurance for a living. The 36-year-old Aliso Viejo resident has been camping at Coachella for eight years straight. He admits the process took a year or two to refine, and he initially suffered through rookie pitfalls like “bad shoes, blisters, not enough booze and no jackets for when the temperature drops at night.”
Now Meador has it down to a science. Perhaps that’s because his wife, Vivian, has joined the camping quests for the last four years, or maybe it’s just the lessons he’s learned from trial and error. But Meador’s prime spot near the festival entrance is earned.
“We drive out here at 3 a.m. on Wednesday night,” he said. “We hang out at the Ralphs or CVS, and then we head over right when they open and try to be the first ones in line.”
It takes planning and patience, but it’s all worth it for the time Meador gets to spend with his friends.
“This is all about the experience,” he said. “We all should hang out more. But for whatever reason, we get wrapped up in our own lives. We might go the entire year without seeing each other. But we reunite here every year. I’d like to think that I’ll be doing this when I’m 65 or 70.”
Alex Kirkwood graduated from NorCal’s Santa Clara University last year. The school has an ongoing tradition of a large group attending Coachella together, but this was Kirkwood’s inaugural year of joining them.
“We came here with about 30 cars of current students and grads,” he said. “I love it. It’s been so much fun. The first day was a little rough on my body. A lot of walking and a lot of dancing, but so worth it.”
Will he do it again next year?
“I mean, we wake up and play beer die, a nice, fun little drinking game to get it started,” he said. “By 9 a.m., we’re tossing the die in there. It’s a thousand-percent I’ll be coming back.”
It’s the ninth Coachella for David Barr. The 32-year-old comes to Indio from the UK every year, making the trek from his hometown of Darlington (roughly four-and-a-half hours north of London). For the last six festivals, he’s camped with Antonio Carballido, 29, of Guadalajara, Mexico, whom he met when the two were camping neighbors in 2011. The pair have become good friends and are at the center of an ever-growing group of campers who not only meet at Coachella, but have attended festivals together in New York as well.
“Over the years, we’ve made just made more and more friends,” said Barr.
“We love camping,” echoes Carballido. “That’s where we spend most of our time. Drinking with our friends. That’s all we need.”
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