Coachella sounded cool to me, once. I was fourteen and, in the earliest days of the blogosphere, being virtually sucked into the debaucheries of Los Angeles club kids as snapped by OG party-pic photographer, The Cobra Snake. A mess of raucous teens and stunted adults were near-embellishments of various dive-y clubs, sipping an endless stream of cocktails, attending concerts, night after night, and—in the rare moments when daylight would appear—rolling around aimlessly on the beaches of Santa Monica. It wasn’t difficult for me to render this far away scene more appealing than my sheltered suburban lifestyle, with its quaint, sweater-vested atmosphere making for moments worthier of the bulletin board at the local library.
The apex of this far off cabal of C-O-O-L was the yearly mecca to Palm Springs for Coachella, where girls shed as many American Apparel layers as possible, ironic hats proliferated, and the influence of heavy drink and drugs became unmistakable in the collection of glazed-eyes on my screen. It appeared to me like a modern take on the Sixties, and as an Edie Sedgwick-obsessive at the time, this loosey goosey, free love attitude—so far from that of my scaredy-cat self—reigned supreme in my desire–archy. If I could be the carefree love child that appeared every year in droves in the desert, I would certainly be happier, more exciting, and receive newfound admiration from my peers.
This myth, however, waned as I got older and began to realize that this Los Angeles party scene and their subsequent orgies at Coachella (not literally—though I wouldn’t negate their potential occurrence) were, in fact, pretty vapid. Attending shows (especially the trek to this particular festival) was less about the music and more about making moves—moves to be seen, and to make lucrative connections via social climbing. It now reads like nothing more than an excuse to dress like the flower children of yore while imbibing copious amounts of anything that will boost a person’s ability to get weird and render any memories from the time inaccessible.
Paradoxically, the world’s love for Coachella seems only to grow as the fire in my own eye dwindles. Girls collectively “diet” before the event in order to whittle their figures down enough so as to comfortably laze around in whatever neon-swathed clothing they can find. Countdowns propagate on every social media platform. With the infamous April weekend upon us again, Instagram has become an effective advertisement for the event, defining the it folk as those who are there, and everyone else a shade of lesser being. Many will suffer from the major ailment of our time, FOMO, while I will experience something more along the lines of “Really, though?”
“Is this what’s still cool?” I’ll wonder once again. Even as many of us have supposedly aged out of these collegiate behaviors, entering the reality of day jobs, monthly rent, and serious relationships? The height of the year is still this blotto bacchanalia, where outfits, weight, and alcohol intake are arbiters of cool? And, according to almost everyone I speak to, it really is. Coachella, it would seem, is impenetrable—a locale of cool-dom that signifies just how deep the allure of fitting in still is, and how effectively swayed we are by a crowd.