coachella 4 - getting on with it (in which I spend the rest of the day crying)

I've been blocked. I'd like to credit my lack of posts about Coachella to the fact that I'm pouring so much into them, making them pretty epic, and therefore have been a little intimidated by the pressure of writing so much - but the truth is, I've just been blocked.

I get that way sometimes, when my personal life gets fraught, or full, or frustrating. I freeze up. The more I have going on in my life that's post-worthy, the more likely it is to bottleneck up in my brain and just fester there. But because I still feel to urge to create something, I'll, say, go wild on Instagram instead, because that's a quicker, easier fix.

I'm also hamstrung by the fact that I'm so stubbornly linear. So even though there have been things I've wanted to write about even more so than Coachella, I get hung up on the fact that I'm not finished with The Thing That Came First. Because god forbid I put the C block next to the A block. The universe might implode.

Finally, I know how annoying it is when bloggers drag some event out into multiple posts, way past the date of the actual event. It's like going to the grocery store and finding they're out of some soda you like, so you keep checking back every few days, but nope, it hasn't been restocked, and then finally one day you see it's back on the shelf but by that point you're on a juice kick anyway.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'll sell you a case of this soda cheap, if you're still interested. Just please get it out of my stockroom, because I keep tripping over it.

So where was I?  Ah yes. There I am. Opening my eyes slowly, taking a breath, taking in where I am and what I'm feeling. My senses and motor function are on a few seconds' delay, so standing and gathering my things, dusting the dried grass off my skirt and putting my backpack on again all represent fair-sized challenges. 

And when I start to walk, picking my way through the dispersing crowd and those who are still on the ground nearby, I realize that I am exceptionally high. The sunlight hits me as I emerge from the shade of the tent, and everything just sort of goes haywire in my brain. All I can think about is the light, which is blinding and hot. So bright. It's really bright. Whoa. Bright. I have no idea what I'm doing, or where I'm going. My schedule, so painstakingly put together, flies right out of my head. I'm aware of being at Coachella. I'm aware that there's music to be watched. But I couldn't tell you where on the festival grounds I am, what time it is, how long I've been there, or what on earth I should do next. 

I'm vaguely aware that I should be self-conscious about this, that I'm really on the edge of being in kind of a bad spot - I mean, if I'm so high that I've lost the ability to even navigate, then hell. That's a pretty expensive overdose. But I'm unbothered by this possibility. I only feel a massive sense of bemused detachment. Despite not knowing what the hell is going on, I'm having a blast.

The good news is, the stage I've just left is right beside the one I'm supposed to head to next - literally, a few dozen steps away. And the music emanating from it drifts to me, creeps into my brain, wraps a tendril or two around the right neural pathways, and I realize: Dillon

I can't run. That's not a possibility. But I'm ok with that. The sun and sound float me in the right direction, to a tent that is spilling over with a crowd that can't keep still. Everyone is dancing. It's like nothing I've seen yet, at a festival - this daylight-soaked chaos of joy and energy and heat. There are no half-measures. No standing back and watching, no casual swaying and foot-tapping. All these thousands of people are lit up with the music. Skin and sweat and smiles and this is some serious shit, right here. 

The closest I can get is a good ten feet past where the tent ends, in the far back. But it doesn't matter. Others in the same boat as me are just as happy as me just to be there, flooded over with the songs we've been rocking out to in our various ways for months and months. The crowd is one giant animal with a few thousand hearts, all throbbing outside its body. The feedback loop of energy from dj to crowd and back again is incredible, and almost overwhelming. I close my eyes and dance, scorching hot in the afternoon sun. I'm here. I picture my arms and legs extending out, my fingers reaching to pull into me all these split-second moments and impressions I don't want to forget. I'm sponging it all up frantically. I'm not in any state to think of taking pictures, but here's one from Dillon Francis's Instagram, taken from the stage, that gives you a great sense of the scene:

When it ends, I'm in a bit of a state. Overheated, dehydrated, disoriented. Even a little bit emotional. I buy a bottle of water and try not to bump into anyone as I wander in the direction of the main stages, gulping down water and searching my mind. Next. What's next. 

Stars. Stars is next. 

I've been listening to Stars since college - when I listened to them on CD. I remember the very first time I heard them. Borders Books and Music used to have these listening stations where they'd put up new and popular music. You could pop on a pair of headphones and preview entire CDs. I used to go to the one in Tucson, at Park Mall, and spend inordinate amounts of time at those listening stations. And Stars was one of my finds there. 

Things I associate with their music include, but are not limited to:

relationships in my twenties
existential angst in my twenties 

Ok well that list was going to be much longer, but I realize that pretty much covers it. Suffice to say, Stars were the soundtrack to my twenties. If you're not familiar with their music, it's pretty heavy on romantic narrative, which was the perfect backdrop for the OMGdramaz I (thought I) went through. I really believed I was living a romantic comedy at the time. Zero self-awareness for this one back then. 

Anyway, I've never seen them perform. They're from Montreal, and they tour (and release new albums) with relative frequency, but I've just not seen them yet. And again, totally obnoxious to drop one of those OTT And omgooddddd it was even more perfect than I could have imagined, I know, but it is. It really is. 

I sit off towards the front right. It isn't overly crowded when I sit down, but I do have to move a few times when I keep getting boxed in by standers, because I really, really want to sit. Eventually I give up and have to go pretty far into the foul ball zone, and initially I am frustrated by this, but the sound is still incredible, and when I close my eyes, it doesn't matter where I am. Only once do I have the urge to tweet over the weekend, and it's during the beginning of this show. Because I'm doing this thing I've learned to do at festivals, which is where I shut my eyes and just slowly, slowly let everything and everyone but the music fall away. Then I reconstruct the scene in my mind, bit by bit. First the field, then the stage - then myself. I imagine sitting exactly where I'd want to be sitting. And then in my mind, all with my eyes closed still, I let the field fill back up. But because this is all in my imagination, I'm in complete control of the crowd - how close they are to me, whether they're sitting or standing, and so on.

In other words, the mental space I'm inhabiting at this show looks nothing whatsoever like reality. And that's an awesomely empowering thing to be able to do. So the tweet I briefly had in mind to send was something like Did you know that when you close your eyes, you can be anywhere? But then I realized how random and dumb that would sound, and that I wouldn't be in any kind of state to answer anyone who might reply to it. 

So I sat and listened in my wholly fabricated imaginary environment, and I just let the music have its way with me. And the mushrooms stopped being about heightened sensory awareness, and started being about the Bigger Picture of Life, as they'd been in San Francisco last year. And this really magical and beautiful (I know, I know) thing happened where I had long overdue funeral for my twenties (I know). But really, that's the best way I can put it. I just put to bed some of the demons that have been lurking in my head, that I didn't even know still kept a room up there. A really damaging relationship. An abortion. A mixed bag of regrets related to my family. It just all sort of spilled out onto the table in my head, and bit by bit, I picked it up, looked it over, and then set it down again, finally done with it. Finally at peace.

Oh and the whole time, tears were streaming down my face. 

I was sitting crosslegged by myself, on my little sheet, with my sunglasses on, and my face tilted up to the sun, listening to songs that had moved me so deeply, for so many years, and now were moving me again, across time and emotion to places that I didn't even know needed a return visit. And like I say, I know how ugh annoying it is when someone gushes over some experience, but jesus. It was so beautiful. And it meant the world to me.

After a while I gave up wiping the tears away, because I figured if anything that would draw more attention to the fact that I was crying, if anyone was even looking, and I just let them come. 

And now I'm going to get a little bit elliptical because if I don't I'm never going to get through writing about this weekend. 

Of Monsters and Men is similarly emotional. Again, I lay my blanket down far to the side - all the way to the side, in this case, because the stage is packed. And that's actually a bit of a bummer, because I'm so far over that I'm actually up against a fence that borders a service road. Hence, there's the noise of golf carts motoring by a few feet away. But I've seen Of Monsters and Men before at Outside Lands, and it was a really great experience for me then, so I don't feel overly anxious about having the perfect show today.

Instead I just lay down completely, listen, and just reconnect to thoughts of my dad, which is something I don't "indulge" in all that often these days. And there were tears, but they weren't grieving tears. They were just pure neutral emotion, neither good nor bad. The sun was setting and I rolled over onto my stomach and looked out to see my first Coachella dusk. I saw the crowd silhouetted against the sun, and the ferris wheel and the balloons in the background. And it was breathtaking, and I was overcome with gratitude to have been born when and where I was, to be able to experience it.

These are a bit repetitive, sorry, but I think they convey the warmth of the sun and the relaxed (but starting to rebuild) energy at this point in the day:


I know this doesn't even finish Friday, and I don't blame anyone for losing interest at this point, but I really, really want to remember this experience in as much detail as possible, so that when I'm old and toothless and bored in my nursing home, I have something incredible to read and be nostalgic about.

Because flirting with the young orderlies will only entertain me for so long, yanno?