It sounds amazing on paper: 96 of the world's best bands on a lush polo field! Indie actresses eating churros right next to you while Franz Ferdinand plays that one song! Beautiful people on fun drugs!
But here's what they don't tell you about Coachella: The heat could be in triple digits, then drop 40 degrees by nightfall. Nearly 50,000 people will elbow you for space on the grass and a place in the water line. You will be on your feet for between eight and 12 hours a day. Your cell phone won't work. You'll run out of money and basic bodily functions will begin to betray you.
Even 18-year-olds, who are impervious to certain forms of torture, need a plan. Otherwise you'll end up feeling a decade older by the end of the weekend, miserable as you wait for Tool to take the stage.
Using personal experience (plus liberally pilfering the message boards on the festival's website), we've compiled some of the best insider tips from people who've done this sort of thing before. If the A-Team were still the best thing on TV and Hannibal was crafting a plan for Coachella 2006, it'd look a lot like this:
How to stay in touch
AT&T will reportedly have a booth where you can charge your cell phone. But don't count on getting a clear signal-especially at the end of the night when everyone's trying to reconnect with their pals. Send text messages instead. You can bring walkie-talkies, but don't bother. You'll never find an open frequency and your friend won't hear the "beep." Plus, you look totally gay.Consider signing up for Coachella's text-message service. They send updates to your phone (i.e., "Massive Attack cancelled" or "Smashing Pumpkins reunion on main stage in 15 minutes"). They don't spam you.
Kicking the elements in the teeth
Accuweather.com is predicting clear skies, 95-97 degrees. Dryday.com, however, says there's a 50-60 percent chance of rain. If the latter happens, we suggest... oh, forget it. You're screwed. Rain followed by intense heat plus a hangover equals dead people.
Bring a single Zip-lok baggie. Nicely ask a vendor to fill it with ice. Keep it in your pocket as your own personal little bag o' cool.
The Heineken tent has traditionally been one of the few places with air conditioning. Find it. Visit often. It is your friend.
Dressing for success
It does get cold at night; bring a lightweight jacket. Especially because, no matter how much sunscreen you slathered on, you will get a touch sunburned. And that makes your skin more sensitive to the cold desert wind.
The happiest people seem to be those who wear jeans, a T-shirt, a trucker hat (for ventilation and shade, not style points) and a windbreaker. Sure, your legs will sweat, but it's better than waiting all day to see Depeche Mode only to hear your teeth chatter through "Personal Jesus."
Men: if not bringing a backpack, consider cargo shorts with tons of pockets for your sunscreen, phone, wallet, water bottles, chapstick, etc.
The thing about flip-flops: you will want to amputate your feet at the end of the day. The flat surface kills your arches, and-if you're someone who likes to venture within 100 yards of the stage-people will step on your toes. Wear tennis shoes.
Bailing wire and some chewing gum
Bring enough cash. At least two meals: $12-$20. At least six waters: $12. One beer: $8. That's $32-$40 right there. Want three meals? Two beers? A T-shirt? $100 a day is a safe bet. You can do it for less, but it's better to have some left than have to wait in a long-ass ATM line and pay a $37 service charge.
Sure, using earplugs is kinda like wearing water wings in the public pool. But in addition to preventing ear damage, they allow you to stand by the speakers next to the stage. They also help tune out "noise bleed"-when you're trying to listen to Matt Costa but She Wants Revenge is so loud on another stage that it sounds like some crappy mashup.
If you have allergies, bring drugs. The entire field is grass; the entire valley is a desert. Dust and pollen equals a puffy you.
Bring Altoids. With the dirt, the booze and the county-fair food, your breath will make you gag.
Smuggle in a beach ball. C'mon. It'll be fun. Yay!
Feeding your face
If you're hungry or just a real big fat person, look for the barbeque tent. They give the biggest portions for your dollar. If you can hold off until the end of the night, some vendors cut their prices in half so they don't have to pack it up.
Water will be $2 a bottle. If you "remember the day when water was free," buy a bottle when you get in and refill it at the drinking fountains. Cheapwad.
Supposedly, the drinks that come in the coconuts are just fantastic. And picking out the meat is all kinds of fun.
Other keys to enlightenment
Yes, traffic is fucking horrendous. But you don't need to get there at 9 a.m. and wait for two hours for the gate to open. As long as you're driving into Indio by 10:30 or so, you'll be fine.
If stuck in parking-lot traffic at the end of the night, look for the lane closest to the fence. It usually moves the fastest. And for god's sake-when you park, remember a landmark so you don't spend a half-hour looking for your car.
At least one day, walk into the concert grounds by 11 a.m.-an hour before the first band-and check out the "Art of Recycling" exhibition. You'll never view trash the same way again.
If camping, be sure not to pitch your tent on a fire line. Security will wake you up at 3 a.m. and tell you to move it.
Buy a T-shirt of your favorite band-it's how they really make money. The dilemma: Buy it early and you have to carry it around all day; wait until the end of the night and the only size left is Oprah-large.
It's pretty easy to get close to the stages early in the day. But don't get a false sense of confidence. At night, the L.A. socialites will show up to see the headliners and it will be packed. If being close matters to you, figure out your favorite stage and park it there after sunset.
If you're one of those who camps out all day at the front of a single stage, send someone to buy a whole box of bottled water. You can use the box for a hat if you forget yours.
Someone will step on you while you're sitting down on the grass. Stand up and politely sock them in the face.
Smarmy tips from jaded people
While doing the white man's overbite was fine during last year's Coldplay set, try to keep that shit to yourself during Damian Marley.
Print up T-shirts: "I didn't rape anybody at Coachella 2006."
Standing around and pointing at the girl who's overdosing will not help her snap out of it.
Famous people need to be reaffirmed that they are famous. Point at them and whisper to your friends.
Learn how to pronounce Seu Jorge's name so you don't have to keep saying, "Let's go see that Brazilian guy who does Bowie covers." (It's "say-ooh zshorjee," as if that helps at all).
There will be a huge metal percussion device that you and other people can bang on. If someone is off beat, go ahead and gruffly tell them so.
If you're a "social smoker," have a moment of self-awareness and bring your own damn pack.
If a smoker, have a moment of community awareness and bring seven packs.
The actress standing next to you smells like shit, too. Don't let it get you down.
You'll never get close enough, and standing on your tiptoes won't help. Let it go. At least you're there.
Due to lines that will recall Communist Russia, we suggest one of those "beer helmets with the two crazy straws" filled with Dasani.
If you just "have to see Madge," then line up early, run to the Sahara Tent, and sit there for the next 11 hours. To increase your odds beforehand, we also suggest you identify swift-looking homosexuals and take out their kneecaps.
It'll be hot, so Madonna will be wearing one of those crotchless one-pieces-don't stand in the front.
Don't be the dickhead who keeps saying "Dude, what a MILF" about Madonna.
Carry a blade so you can feel as suicidal as the rest of the Tool fans.
You're not the only person who knows about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah anymore. Show up early.
If you miss Depeche Mode, there's always She Wants Revenge.
For god's fucking sake, listen to Mom and go to the bathroom before you get stuck in the hour-long traffic jam.
Greet foreign concertgoers with a hearty handshake to welcome them to America. With your other hand, firmly grab their crotch and explain that it's good luck in our country.
If someone asks if you're looking for coke, and they're holding an infant, go ahead and punch that person in the face. And buy that kid a hot dog.