Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts

nocturnal wonderland 2015

I took very few photos at Nocturnal, but that wasn't because it isn't an exceptionally photogenic festival. It is. In fact it is much prettier than I thought it would be, since when I heard "San Manuel Amphitheater" I pictured dull, paved fairgrounds. Nope. We're talking full-on The Sound of Music style hills, gorgeous mountain sunsets, and grasssss.

Other than local nightclub shows, this was the first Insomniac event I'd ever been to. I knew to expect big, bold, and beautiful, and truly, they delivered. Spectacular lights and decorative displays, and the most jaw dropping stages - and captivating onstage visuals - imaginable.

I went a little crazy with the outfit, but it was worth it. Got lots of compliments, the fur kept me warm on the first two very chilly nights, and the leg wraps were just a blast to wear.

I actually had a second outfit which I didn't get photos of, since I wanted one day to be completely, 100% picture-free. But it was another fur situation, a head-to-toe husky outfit that Terence wore the hood and tail of so we'd match.

Seriously high production value, exceptionally cool stage design, and always something interesting to look at. And which you can see, even if you're at the waaaaaay back of the crowd.

Could not even deal with his giraffe ears and purple lens sunglasses.

Those pink leopard wraps I layered on top of the black wraps were UV-reactive, which was fun. You can see the full, frontal ridiculousness of my ensemble in the video at the bottom.

By far my favorite thing about Nocturnal, and the reason I will definitely return, is how spacious the grounds are. Look at all that land to spread out on! HardSummer events, in my experience, tend to be oversold and uncomfortably jam-packed. So this was heaven as far I'm concerned. Even the most crowded tents weren't that bad, and still had plenty of breathing room. In fact you can see in the video that I'm dancing with lots of space around me, even at the busiest time of the night.

The sound was phenomenal, even this far back. Well done, Insomniac.


There are costumed performers walking around all evening, interacting with the crowd and creating vignettes. Burlesque dancers, stilt walkers, clowns, etc. Insomniac does a great job of bringing the masquerade theme to life, which makes attendees feel welcome to dress ridiculously themselves. We saw so much spirit, I loved it. Really, I was massively impressed with the crowd in general. This was the first festival ever where I experienced no pushing, no shoving, no rudeness whatsoever.

Kandi bar!

We opted for VIP because the older I get, the more of a baby I am about PortaPotties (and waiting in long lines for them). VIP festival restrooms tend to be the larger, cleaner trailer restrooms. (Which these were.) Other perks of VIP: no waiting to get in every day, you just breeze right through security, plus Nocturnal had a smallish, cordoned off VIP section to the left of the Labyrinth stage which was kinda nice. Yet another perk of VIP? That's where all the other olds hang out.

The crowd was wonderfully chill and friendly. Similar to Bonnaroo, but even better, more social energy. And really respectful of one another. Several people approached me to ask about where I'd gotten my hood and gloves, to dance, or to just trade kandi. I loved this whole back section behind the Labyrinth stage where people spread out under the electric trees to watch and talk and dance. You can see how much room there was to move around.

Best sets: Lane 8, Sasha, Booka Shade, Kaskade, Sander Van Doorn, Armin Van Buren, Slander, Sylence, Orjan Nilsen, Ummet Ozcan, Bingo Players, Nicole Moudaber, Tensnake, Audien. My only disappointments were Donald Glaude (who kept obnoxiously killing the sound to rally the crowd like a bat mitvah DJ) and Pretty Lights, who did a much, much more mellow set than I've ever seen him do before.

Between us we got a decent amount of video, but I only threw together a little bit of it. There's a few clips of me dancing, because fun/ridiculous, there's the glove/light show kid I referenced in my previous post, and finally there's some Lane 8, who I shared recently in a Fri-Ni Jamz post and who absolutely, without question, was our favorite set of the weekend. What a talent, and what a cool, humble guy. I hope he keeps rocketing to stardom, I really do.

just the tip

He's cornfed. Clean-cut. Built like a bro with the tank top to match, but a gentleness that doesn't. Matt Damon lite. Head tilted down to hear what his more diminutive friend is saying. The hobbit-like one, with the wavy, straw-colored hair, flower headband, long nose, and skinny frame. Hobbit friend is holding my phone and explaining what I've just done. She got this awesome video of me gloving. She showed me so I can send it to myself. It's exactly what I wanted, man. Check this out.

After a few moments of looking at the phone screen, seeing how well the clip came out, Cornfed grins broadly at me, and the smile says Nice job, lady! He holds up two fingers in a peace sign, and this time I know exactly what to do. Well, almost. I press my own peace sign against his and immediately his fingers bend to form one side of a heart. When I'm slower to make the shift he notices and pauses, smiling at me curiously. He moves through the rest of the exchange carefully, waiting for me to make each symbol correctly before moving on. Then he pulls a simple blue and green beaded kandi from the middle of his wrist and tugs it over my own, up to my elbow. When he lets go, we both see the bracelet's elastic is stretched out and nearly broken. He shakes his head. Aw, let me give you a different one.

Nah, I can fix it. I'll restring it at home. It's great.

Are you sure?

Yeah, no worries. Thank you.

I don't even think about which kandi of mine to give in return. It's one of the few I made that a guy would appreciate - I think. As I slide it over to him I keep the letters turned away, hoping he won't read the phrase until later. He brings his head closer so I'll hear him over the music. You're kinda new to raving, aren't you?

Well, this part of it, yeah. Pulls back his head to glance at my face again.

I know it isn't cool to ask someone this but, but I'm thirty and... Trails off.

I nod, understanding. I'm forty. Pulls his head back sharply this time. I laugh at the look on his face.

I'm Jon. Shakes my hand.


Yeah, Jon. J-O-N.

Hi Jon, I'm Ellie.

He says it slowly, enunciating: You're so beautiful. Terence is inches behind me, witnessing this entire scene. I doubt he can hear what we're saying but the read I get from this kid isn't aggressive or disrespectful anyway. Just genuinely surprised and kind.

Thank you. I put as much warmth in the words as I can. That's really sweet.

He leans back over to his friend, and I catch on that my age is being shared. Friend takes it in but doesn't seem overly impressed or know what he's supposed to say about it. Cornfed turns back to me.

What's your rave name? The question has the weight of expectation, and I'm disappointed I can't justify it.

I don't have one. I don't tell him the one I gave myself, because I know it doesn't count. A look comes over his face, and I realize that he intends to fix this right now. Indeed, he confers with the friend once again, announcing the news as if they've been entrusted with some great responsibility: Ellie doesn't have a rave name. This time, the friend's face shows interest.

To me: What do you do?

Out of the corner of my eye I see Terence smiling. This is cracking him up. Knowing my answer will influence their choice, I decide to keep it simple and lie. I'm a writer.

To friend: Ellie, and she's a writer. Crosses his arms and looks at me, considering. I laugh and wait dutifully, ready to accept whatever is decided. A sideways glance at Terence tells me he's only partly following what's happening, but he's laughing, too. I know I will forever think of this moment whenever I hear the phrase "good vibes."

And then something changes. Our party grows by two x chromosomes. A girlfriend joins us. Introductions, explanations, bringing her up to speed on the naming ceremony but perhaps unsurprisingly, girlfriend is less than keen to participate. The scene unravels and we start to politely disengage. Cornfed wants to know if I have an Instagram account, and I lie again: I don't. Terence, ever my biggest fan and cheerleader, nudges me. Tell him about your blog! he whispers. I shake my head. No way.

That's my girlfriend. We're gonna go check out the main stage...

Madeon, right?


Awesome. He was voted best electronic act of Coachella. We'll probably catch some of him, too.

Great job on that video, he loves it.

Of course! Waving goodbye. And then seamlessly, without discussion, Terence and I drift back into the thick of it - the sound and scene and loveliness of it all.

go ask alice

She stalks through the automatic doors of the hotel lobby aggressively, her head tipped back so her jaw juts out like a dare. Daring us to stare, daring us to judge. She wears a black peaked policeman's cap, black sunglasses with huge circular lenses that dwarf her porcelain doll face, black knee highs above black Converse, and black dance shorts. Criss-crossed with perfect symmetry across each nipple is a black adhesive 'X'. I know they're pasties, I know she must have bought them, but their width and vinyl smoothness matches that of electrical tape so completely I have a brief vision of her throwing a roll of it, pilfered from her dad's garage, into her suitcase along with the rest of her getup. She'd be 85 pounds, soaking wet. If she's over nineteen I'd eat my hood.

Speaking of my hood, she's speaking of my hood. "Oh my gosh, you're so furry, I love it," she says without any intonation to warn me whether she's being sincere or catty. I'm dressed pretty provocatively myself, so my bitchiness radar is set to high sensitivity. So far this weekend no one's been anything but complimentary of my outfit, but I'm a middle-aged woman in footless fishnets and I'm decidedly on guard. And since the oversized frames hide her eyes, at first I'm not even sure that she's talking to me. "All pink and furry. I just want to rub you." Yep, she's talking to me.

"Go ahead." I smile at her, realizing that nineteen is probably pushing it. She's like a much younger, much frailer Juliette Lewis. But by now our group, which has been waiting in the hotel carport for our ride to the festival, is climbing into the van that's just pulled up. I get in ahead of Terence and for the half-second it seems like she might sit directly beside him my stomach clenches ever so slightly...but then she announces her intention to take the back row instead. "Like the bad kids," she cracks, and everyone laughs louder than necessary. Than they would, I suspect, if the person making the joke wasn't a topless teenaged girl.

Her companion is a slight, sweet-faced kid in a homemade Pinocchio costume, with massive dark eyes that dart about excitedly, taking everything in. This is their first festival. She is clearly the alpha, he the adoring sidekick. I ooh and ahh over his every button and ribbon as he twists around to show them off. Meanwhile the girl stretches her arms out across the seat back, wondering aloud how many Alice in Wonderland costumes they'll see at the festival. Her body language is calculated to declare casual self-confidence but the stiffness of her shoulders, slouched slightly forward, betrays a touch of self-consciousness. I want to tell her it doesn't get any easier with age. But that if she's so comfortable with her body already, she might just get through it better than most. Instead Terence and I advise her and her friend on what sets to catch. Neither of them know any of the performers.

"I like shit like this," she explains, pointing at the van's ceiling to indicate the music playing. "That dirty, ratchet shit." I twist my lips, pretending to think. I hate trap and have no idea what to tell her, but Terence chimes in with suggestions. When he's done, a wave of warmth comes over me. "You don't have any kandi!" I say, as if only now noticing her bare forearms, snow white and thin as reeds.

"I knowww!" she says, with exaggerated mournfulness.

"Okay well I'm giving you this." I separate an elastic bracelet of pony beads from the cluster on my left wrist and carefully pull it over the others towards my left hand. The beads are red, black, white, and light blue - the colors of the classic Disney character's frock. In the center of the kandi are spaced three short words. I doubt she'll get the secondary or tertiary references but considering her earlier comment I can't resist. It's just too perfect. Also, it's the tightest kandi I made and wouldn't fit a wrist much bigger than hers or mine. She lowers her sunglasses for the first time and the youthfulness of her saucer-sized eyes makes my heart thud. The intelligence, too. Ratchet shit, my ass. This girl is playing a part. There's more underneath the rebellious-Hot Topic-model-hoping-to-scandalize-everyone-with-bare-breasts act, I can tell.

I confess that I don't know the exchange ritual very well, and she perks up. "Oooh now I feel like less of a festival noob, teaching a veteran something." I laugh, but what I'm laughing at is the idea of being any kind of veteran to EDM. Since we're sitting in different rows we can't do the "respect" part of the PLUR exchange, but that's okay. She's lit up by the gift I've given her, which she fingers lightly as she reads out the words I strung on it, squinting with 3:00 a.m. post-packing exhaustion, doubting the phrases I'd come up with for my kandi were clever enough for the whippersnappers I might be giving them to. "'GO ASK ALICE'. Oh yay! That's perfect. Haha, I love it. Right on!"

Terence squeezes my thigh and gives me a side smile as the van pulls into the drop-off zone. All dozen of us debouch into a dusty parking lot, putting on our game faces and our sunglasses, adjusting nylon and spandex and fur, tugging our few clothes into place and wearing less - or more - than we'd planned to that day.

40 Bonnaroo Moments (part 2)

13. Billy Joel. Creeping around in the dark field as his set is starting, trying to agree on the optimum spot. We end up on the VIP hill, where to my right I see a crowd of ninety thousand, illuminated by the towering lights of the What Stage. A mass of waving glow sticks, launched in huge bundles towards the sky at key points during songs. LED hula hoops, jump ropes, and all manner of blinking totems. And the lanterns. Those delicate paper balloons carefully lit and set aloft by the crowd, to the triumphant cheers of everyone nearby. They drift by overhead, tiny glowing festival clouds that complete the magic scene that is Bonnaroo's last night. And the music. Terence belting it out, totally absorbed, totally transplanted (probably someplace close to where I've gone; we're only two years apart, after all). I get weepy during "Piano Man" and giddy during "Only The Good Die Young" and everything in between is just all kinds of wonderful.

14. Sometime this spring, "Sedona" by Houndmouth got under my skin in a really big way. The story in that song...I don't know, I just love it. And when they played it, well. Terence standing behind for me to alternately jump on and lean into, breaking my face on the biggest smile ever. Realizing it was only Thursday night and we had another three days' worth ahead of us.

15. Do you know STS9? I did not. I don't know how I'd missed them, studying up. Right up my instrumental alley. We caught them on accident, grabbing a bite next to where they played. Sometimes, being completely removed from a stage offers the best vantage point. This was one of those times. We could see the entire light show, lasers and strobes blasted in every which way to the pulsing beat. From a distance, the whole thing look contained, like a sci-fi movie set standing alone on an otherwise dark island.

16. A small thing, but heartwarming to see: the various Robin Williams totems.

17. I say this with love in my heart for AWOLNATION: AWOLNATION is a big dork. I'd dragged Terence up close to the stage in the blazing heat, half an hour early. We and everyone around us utterly defeated by the sun, hardly anyone talking. Shading ourselves with our hands, sending emissaries out for cold drinks. But then the music starts and we all gamely jump up. Faithful, sun-fried fans, going on pure anticipation. He's animated, undeniably spirited and pumped to be at Bonnaroo. But also...awkward somehow? When he tries to rally the crowd between songs he sounds more like a morning radio DJ than a rockstar. It's a surprise, a bit of a let down at first, but then fun in its own way. We giggle at how goofy he comes across, and give in to what now feel like cheesy anthems.

18. Cooling off in the VIP tent, girding ourselves for another several-hour stint in the sun. Terence uses the bathroom, and when he returns he finds me in conversation with a middle-aged man holding a silver mylar balloon. He's round and pink, pleasantly toasted by sunshine and alcohol. He's telling me about the vibrations in his balloon. How it's picking up levels of sound beyond what the speakers are producing. People are freaking out, he says, when they hear it. Goes on a bit about frequencies and secret, mystical music. Clearly having some kind of spiritual experience, with the balloon, sharing it with everyone he can. Terence gives it a try, and the surprised look on his face delights the man. See? Totally different waveforms, right? The balloon is passed to me. Yep. Totally different waveforms. Pretty damn cool.

40 Bonnaroo Moments (part 1)

It's always an intimidatingly huge task, to try and recap Bonnaroo. Just reviewing the performances doesn't really get you there. And anyway, music blogs and mags do a much better job of that than me.

With festivals, it comes down to moments. Blissful moments. Stressful moments. Carefree moments. Surprised moments. Annoyed moments. Amused moments. Playful moments. Pissed-off moments. Those are what stay with me. So those are what I'm sharing today, albeit a solid month after they've cooled off. Forty moments and forty images to keep them company in my memory. In no particular order, because order is taking the summer off.

1. An industrial truck is rolling through the middle of the grounds. It inches past picnic tables where the sweaty and sun-drenched scarf down pizza and donuts. The cab's windows are lowered; two tanned young men sit inside, looking surprisingly cheerful considering the circumstances. These men are doing god's work: hauling pumped-out waste from the Porta Potties. Their heroics are not lost on the crowd, many of whom rush up to high-five them in appreciation. Bonnaroooooo! they call to one another, slapping palms and exchanging smiles, respect, germs. I have a hard time picturing such a scene happening at Coachella.

2. The things you hear, as you move through the throng. Snippets of conversations, shouts of greeting, laughter. You wonder about the stories behind some of them. I really don't think they have chicken soup, says a male voice doubtfully, and I'm intrigued enough to make a note of it in my phone. Is his girlfriend sick? Cold? It's ninety degrees out, middle of the day. Hot soup hardly seems a refreshing choice for overheated revelers. I hope she finds a pot pie or fried chicken, something more likely to be around but just as comforting.

3. They like to say Bonnaroo fills up your spirit for the year ahead. I think of this as we're laying on our sheet, at the edge of a relatively empty tent, listening to the opening song of Who Is William Onyeabor. It's especially dry and dirty over here. As people drift in to check out the music, they kick up dust and inadvertently add to the thin layer of Tennessee that hovers then settles lightly on our skin. I love it, though. It's part and parcel of the experience. We're especially close right now, maybe that's why. Joking and cuddling, flat on our backs, removed but involved, enjoying what's on offer but also making something for ourselves. These are the best Bonnaroo moments. Taking it in but creating at the same time. I love him so much at this instant, fist propped behind his head, tapping a foot while I slap his leg to the beat. All our small cuts and hurts forgotten, lovingly bandaged up with music and sunshine.

4. We're enjoying one of the few gaps in our schedule. Wandering, catching bits of shows here and there, gravitating to whatever draws us in. Something funky's going down at This Tent. We slide into the back corner, where the reds and purples of stage lights hit the black wall of night, washing us in a pink haze. We dance, and I can't tell if we're being ironic with our ridiculous moves or not. A man approaches us and wordlessly, wondrously hands us a pineapple. He gestures emphatically for us to hold it together, which we do, glancing at one another and at him in amazement. So, this is happening. He still doesn't speak and neither do we, other than to say thank you and laugh. All three of dance for a few moments before I sense that I'm expected to return the pineapple. I do so, and he dances out of sight with it. I think we're festival-married now, says Terence. I think that was some kind of ceremony. I suspect Pastor Pineapple will be in a lot of Bonnaroo stories.

5. Another overheard tidbit. This time I see the speakers: a girl skipping ten steps behind two of her friends - a girl and guy - who lean on one another with linked arms as they walk. Crossing an expanse of grass in front of us, so young and fresh they make my heart ache. There's a softness about them I can't explain, as if the light breaking just now was cleared by the clouds especially for them. Where are you gooooing, Katie, where are you going? sings the second girl to her friend ahead. Joy and friendship twinkle in her voice. We're going to make halos! comes the reply, over a freckled shoulder, equally singsong and inviting. Somehow they've managed to write Bonnaroo in fourteen words.

6. Turquoise braids so close I can see where the blond fades in. A gauzy floral kimono, also turquoise, wisping across my ankles. Funky sunglasses, red lipstick, a smile wider than the sky. Girlfriends on either side of her, but she's obviously the beloved ringleader. They sit practically on our feet, so smashed up against them are we. Row after row of us, cross-legged, facing the Jumbotron where Bleacher's lead singer is torturing a tent full of millennial women. He's one part one emo, one part bro. "Ebro," Terence calls him. Braids and Co., shifting positions, notice how much they're on top of us. They apologize, try to make room. We assure them it's no problem, they're welcome to what few inches of space we're all sharing. Braids is effusive, bubbling with thanks and her goofy stoner's grin. She loves us, she says. I love her hair, I say. If we want any of her, you know (she holds up a small pipe), we're welcome to partake. Seriously, it's the good shit. Terence gives her an orange, which he obtained from the VIP tent but which we have no use for. Braids is delighted, hugs him in thanks. I get a hug, too. If nothing else, I won't get scurvy! There's a topless hula hooper over Terence's shoulder. I discreetly point her out to him and my expression says See? I told you they do that here. I've been thinking about ditching the itchy bra under my tank top, so I'm building my case. Bleachers, a world away from NYC, are a blast.

7. I'm going to kill him, I fume silently. I'm going to absolutely kill him. The thing I dread most, the thing I warned him against repeatedly, has happened. We've gotten separated. There's no cell reception. Texts don't go through and calls disappear into voicemail purgatory. We have a designated meeting place set but a show has just started, one we've both been looking forward to. Tears for Fears. He wanted to catch some of Ben Folds before it started, but we cut it too close and by the time we left the crowd was impossibly thick. Walking too fast ahead of me, darting around crazily, striding over the blankets of people already sitting down. I refused to follow suit, perhaps unreasonably so, but I'd rather take the long way around than be disruptive and rude. And now we're separated instead of singing along together. I'm going to kill him. And I nearly do, when we meet up afterward. Chewing him a new one by the mushroom fountain, overly loud. He counters with fierce, forced cheerfulness. These are the worst Bonarroo moments. Veering sharply off course before you know what's happened, willing yourself to shrug off anger and annoyance, intensified by heat, fatigue, hunger. But I do. I stop us walking and pull him into a hug, holding tight until I feel the tension truly release from his body. I'll hold him all night if I have to. We're not fighting at Bonnaroo. Anyway, they sounded depressingly old to me, to be honest. The whole show felt hokey. You can't go home again. You can only go forward.

8. Childish Gambino. Not my thing, but Terence is fascinated by the guy. Completely gave up a career acting. It's like if I just decided one day to.... I tune out. I can't help it. I'm distracted by thoughts of the night ahead. It's just past nine and in a little while we're going to take pills which will make us want to dance. And I can't wait to dance. Deadmau5 the night before was not enough. I'm twitching in my seat, ready for some Silent Disco, some Bassnectar and Flume. Though it could also be the fact that my ass itches horribly, when I sit on the ground in my Dance Pants. Something about the combination of cold vinyl, the hay-like grass underneath, and the sticky slick feel of my leggings. It's the worst, and I keep finding reasons to stand up, smooth my clothing out. The VIP tent is a short walk away so I make a couple trips over there to pee in relative luxury while Terence gets his rap fix. In the buzzy light of the trailer restroom, I check myself out. High neck crop top that laces up my back. Colorful, slinky jersey pants hugging my hips. Festival outfit planning always brings out my harshest inner critic. No way, Ellie. You are too fucking old for that. That too. And that? Don't even think about it. And I compromised with myself this time, balancing out the amount of skin I'm showing. But the getup is skintight and unforgiving, and I worked hard to own it. This vanity, gross and superficial, is still part of the fun of festivals for me. I'll outgrow it eventually.

9. I always forget how much I love the sprawling, sweltering afternoon shows on the main stage. The frenetic energy of late-night sets is the excitement I daydream about, leading up to festivals. But once I'm there, the truth is that the daytime headliners out at the What Stage - a massive field lined with food stalls and shops, with room enough for 90,000+ people - are what often give me the most joy. And right now, I'm giddy with it, listening to Spoon. The sizzling heat has pinned thousands of fans to the ground, where they sit or lay in various degrees of dehydration, delight, or both. Every last one of us working on a sunburn, none of us caring. The opening chords of "Do You" launch me into a frenzy. I jump up, dancing a circle around Terence, singing to him as I bounce. It's one of the songs I've most been looking forward to hearing live. Their entire set will end up being one of my favorites of the weekend. Britt Daniel's scratchy howling has been on my radar since the 90s and finally seeing him perform is a kind of coming home. Terence dances with me, the two of us jumping around like maniacs. When we collapse in a heap, defeated by the sun, I lean against him, smoothing the hair from his face as I sing.

10. Waiting to ride the Ferris Wheel. In three years of going to festivals, I've never yet managed to get on one. We're high on mushrooms and the length of the line doesn't faze me a bit. Everything is color and light and contentment, and I'm satisfied to just look around. The sun is setting, and our bodies cast twenty foot shadows across the grass. The placard at the entrance tells about the original Ferris Wheel at the World's Fair. Adjusted for inflation, a ticket to ride cost $90. Ninety dollars! I'll tell everyone I know this, back at home. Silly on psychedelics, we assign flavors to the car colors. I hope we get grape. Or lemon. When we finally board, we're amazed at how long the ride lasts. Florence and The Machine is on, way off in the distance. I'd caught her at Coachella and had encouraged Terence to go watch her himself, but he's chosen to stay with me instead. We watch a sea of people surging to the music, which we can hear clearly even at this remove. Terence takes in the vastness of Bonnaroo, the endless camping area and the size of the grounds. I duck as he takes panoramic pictures, craning around in my seat to get my own sunset shots. It's spectacular.

11. Guster is playing "Ramona." I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch their set, I had so little faith they'd play much of the older stuff I know, considering how massive their catalog is. But they're playing "Ramona" and it is absolutely making my Bonnaroo. I. Fucking. Love. This. Song. Terence films me singing along, where we sit off to the side, in the grass. When it ends I realize I'm crying. Not even sure why. Not even sure what it dragged up, from deep inside me. Not sure I want to look at it and see. But it got something, that's for sure.

12. Deadmau5 has just ended. Tens of thousands of people are shuffling back to the main grounds, to catch the rest of ODESZA. Other mau5heads like me have been stunned into silence. I stumble along, my hand hooked into the back of Terence's shorts, "Avaritia" still ringing in my ears. The set was phenomenal. Operatic. And all I can think is that I wish there was a way to make Joel Zimmerman understand - feel - what his music does to us. I wish there was a machine I could hook him up to, so that as he performed, all the emotion, all the elation his music generates in fans could be routed straight back into him. Electrify him with a heart attack of appreciation. He is like no other, to me. An innovator with the success and talent to back up his occasional attitude. One of my biggest creative idols, and whom I was most excited to see this weekend. From the opening notes of "You There" (which is exactly what I'd hoped he'd start with), I spent his entire set in an ecstasy of movement, only stopping to drink water. Heaven.

'roo music preview

Would you like to hear some excellent music? Because back in January I threatened to share some of my favorite discoveries from the Bonnaroo lineup, and four months later I'm finally ready to make good on that threat.

(Some of these vids have playback restrictions; you'll have to click over to YouTube to watch/listen. Hoping you find at least a few worth the effort.) Ready? Let's do it!


Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer/songwriter whose brain makes me wish I could put it through some kind of enfleurage process, get a vial's worth of essence for my very own. Her conversational lyrics come rapid-fire, like spiral notebooks tumbling down from a too full shelf, their pages crammed with poetry you don't want to stop reading. So goddamn smart. If you listen to only one artist listed in this post, please make it the first.

The Districts are an indie quartet from Pennsylvania. Lead singer Rob Grote's voice shares that same wonderful lisping quality as Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse. So if you dig that, I think you'll like this. Silver Couplets is twangy and rich; the refrain will get pleasantly stuck in your head. For months. And 4th and Roebling takes a page from The Strokes - and it is a rockin' page:

Seattle electronic duo ODESZA is pretty big; you've surely heard them. But maybe not Kusanagi, which is like drinking peppermint tea and listening to a rainstorm:

And you know Spoon, of course. But in familiarizing myself with them more, I discovered this little gem:

Festival organizers have already published the schedule, which is great, but it kills me that Pokey LaFarge is on so early in the day. Don't know that I'll make it to see him, but holy cow would this be fun:

More Aussies! The DMA's are a trio of kids with a really sweet, plaintive sound that'll slingshot you right back to every 90's emo band you ever banged your heart against:

Indiana quartet Houndmouth just released their second full-length album in March, and I have a really, really good feeling about these guys. And something I've learned about festivals - the closer to their hometown, the more fun a band is to see live. Also? Bonnaroo fans represent, when it comes to folk and country. Sedona from the new album and Ludlow from the previous:

Time for some Afro-electro-pop. Chances are zip to none that Ezra Koenig will make a surprise appearance alongside The Very Best at Bonnaroo (sigh), but I'm including the track featuring him anyway. I promise it is physically impossible to feel bad while listening to these songs:

And while I've got you in a good mood, I'm skipping Slovenian DJ Gramatik's super popular (and played out, maybe?) Hit That Jive for Born Ready, which'll make your freakin' throat pulse:

I know. You're sick to death of AWOLNATION's Sail. But hear me out. Rather, hear frontman Aaron Bruno out, singing the sexiest screamfest you will hear this week. I dunno, it could just be me, but I cannot get enough of Woman Woman:

Good stuff, yes yes? Everyone ready to join me in Tennessee in June? Elliequent field trip? I promise I won't narc if you have to forge your parent's signature on the permission slip...

things coming, things passed

I am very happy to say that the sads I was having about a friend have been resolved. She reached out, but I wasn't ready. Then I reached out, and she was. We had dinner and talked about what happened and what we can do to keep it from happening again. I told her I just loved spending time with her, and was disappointed when she was flaky. That it's a bummer when things seem so often on her terms. She owned this and acknowledged she could probably work on that. Then I apologized for having ambushed her, slightly tipsily, with my hurt feelings in the first place. We cracked jokes, were honest and vulnerable, and it was all over and behind us in a matter of minutes. And then I got to sneak off to Minichella feeling all warm and fuzzy about someone I care for deeply. The best part, though? Her move has been postponed, indefinitely. I've got my Kerrbear for a while yet.


My Bonnaroadtrip is all set! After the festival I'm renting a car and spending a week in Lake Burton, Georgia, with Mason's uncle and aunt, before visiting a friend of my parent's in South Carolina that I haven't seen since I was nine years old.

Why am I spending a week with my best friend's aunt and uncle? Well, because I've had the great pleasure of cultivating a friendship with them - mainly the avuncular half - for the past two+ years. I met Bill on Thanksgiving, 2012 and spent the holiday with him (and Terence, and Mason, and some of Mason's family) again the following year. Bill and I exchange emails here and there, which are mostly me being the lucky, grateful benefactor of his accumulated wit and wisdom. I even printed up one of my favorite messages from him; I keep a copy of it taped inside my desk drawer to peek at when I'm feeling lost:

Life is meaningless. We waste so much time looking for a meaning to life when our primary purpose should be to enjoy living. On the entire planet, among all the animals, only man is arrogant enough to believe that he was put here for a purpose, different from all other animals. 

I could get all weepy right now, trying to convey what Bill's support has meant - support which came to me out of nowhere, really, and for no good reason. When he found out I'd be down south, he invited me to come spend some time with he and his wife before flying back to LA. I've never been to Georgia or South Carolina, haven't been on a lake in decades, and it's been a lifetime since I took myself on a road trip. Really, really excited for this.

To sweeten the deal, I'm going to get together with an old associate of my father's - someone I haven't seen since I was a little girl. Dale got in touch with me after my dad died, sending me one of the kindest letters I've ever received. I don't think he'd mind my sharing a bit of it:

...The thing I can tell you that is regardless of any possible faults your mother and dad had, and we all have them, they loved you dearly. So take that and lift your head high, because not many have the depth of love they felt for you. That I can swear to.  
I hope you don’t mind my reading your blogs. It gives me a feeling of contact with your dad. Know all the manly crap and not supposed to shed tears, but he and I were pretty close and I was a listening post for some of his thoughts so it hit me very hard to find out he had passed away....

So that's who I get to connect with, in just a couple months. My dad wasn't in touch with any family and really didn't have friends around when he died. There were very few people I could talk to about him, who'd known him. In the past few years there's been no one at all. Needless to say I'm very, very much looking forward to this reunion, demolish my heart though it might.


Speaking of, tomorrow marks three years to the day that my dad died. He would get such a kick out of the trip I've got planned. He was the original road-tripper, passed the love of it right down to me. Michigan to Florida. Florida to California. Arizona to Utah, Colorado, Texas. As a kid in the passenger's seat of my dad's cars I saw more of the U.S. than I've seen since, in adulthood. Every national park we could squeeze in, every scenic view and pull off. Always taking the long way there.


I get to the festival as early as I can, which isn't early at all. Late afternoon, pulling into a nearly full parking lot with a steady stream of locals. One by one we're directed into rows before stepping hesitantly out into the sweltering sun. Car doors hang open, roofs too hot to touch. Last minute sunblock applications, swigs of water, stashing of contraband. Rallying, summoning the final day's worth of energy. Let's do this.

We troop, heads drooping in the heat, in clusters, crews, or by ourselves along a dirt path that goes on and on, not ending when you think it should. Another turn, another five minute stretch. Pedicabs manned by red-faced cyclists wheel by, carting the hot and tired, the lazy, the impatient. 'Scuse me guys. 'Scuse me. On your left. Each equipped with an mp3 player, trailing competing snippets of rap or metal or hiphop, which in turn compete with the massive, booming bass floating from the festival grounds.

More walking. Something wet hits my face. A girl, skipping a few feet ahead of her friends, is blowing bubbles from an oversized wand. They shimmer and hang in the air, fat as tennis balls, before bursting at the touch of outstretched hands. I distractedly note the prevalence of English accents in the bits of conversation that reach me. Always so many British visitors to Coachella. I wonder with envy how many of them will be at Glastonbury.

A perfunctory security check: my torso is loosely patted and my bag glanced in, but my zipped wallet is ignored. And then I'm in. The sights, sounds, smells are all familiar by this point. There's less buzzing in my gut, less anxiousness to consume everything than there used to be. I feel like I can relax, wander and dip into things at will. Only a few of today's acts are favorites of mine, and they're staggered widely across tonight's schedule. No pressure. Easy.

I buy two bottles of water, wiping them dry before dropping them into my backpack, and a peach smoothie, which I suck down in the five minutes it takes me to walk the long way around to the Sahara tent. I'd peeked at the app the night before, so I already knew a couple of the art installations, but I wanted to see them up close anyway. Stupid of me to have looked. Coachella doesn't hold that many surprises and whatever form the main structure takes every year is one of them. This season it's a caterpillar, reared up so its segmented belly and legs are exposed. Four stories high, yellow and black stripes, spindly antennae askew on its head. Creepy and wonderful.

Sahara is relatively empty. This time of the day, sunlight beams straight inside, pressing brutally on shoulders and cheeks that have already seen too much of it over the weekend. But as always, the sound is irresistible, and under the huge, hangar-shaped dome whose framework is covered in speakers and lights, the die-hards dance. I've come here first on purpose, to soak up some of their vibe. My favorite tent, Sahara is where you go to be shamelessly joyous, to jump and laugh and dance alongside strangers who don't give a shit how well you do it. Some engage communally: millennials who giddily sing to one another familiar refrains of chart-topping EDM songs. Some are lost in themselves, watching their own frantic feet try to catch the beat.

This is the music they've been listening to all year, or longer: on the radio, at the beach, in the car on the way to the club where they'll hear it again. The anthems of their generation. These songs are in their blood and under their skin, and the thrill of hearing them live rips from somewhere deep inside and shudders through their bodies. Multiply that bliss by several thousand, and you understand Sahara's magnetic pull - the feeling of being a part of something epic.

Full of smoothie, still getting my festival legs, I move a little bit but mostly just watch and listen. The tent starts to fill up, kids in scraps of clothing are bounding in by the dozen, high-fiving and hugging when they recognize one another. A girl with blonde hair twisted into corn rows bounces around playfully with her friends; they all bear the beat-up, sunburned, happily exhausted look of campers. The girl's glassy expression and slight stumble give her away: she's wasted. A tap on her shoulder; she turns to greet a shirtless coed with wavy, jaw-length hair that looks expensively cut. He's doesn't say anything, just gives her a sheepish look that she returns with a wordless hug. The way they hang on one another, swaying for several second with her arms tight around his neck and his hands lightly on her back, suggests longtime friendship. I imagine endless late night talks in dorm rooms. Gossip and secrets. Deep platonic affection. He starts to speak but she puts a finger to his lips, shushing, shaking her head. Her lips are easy to read: It's okay. I love you. The drunken drama of the scene would be comical at a bar but for some reason, here the moment is unspeakably sweet. The pair has obviously had a big fight, maybe one that lasted all weekend, maybe something that embroiled their friends (who are watching and smiling approvingly) and cast a pall over the whole party. But now, on the last day, buoyed by friendship and a soundtrack that will squeeze their hearts every time they hear it - they are making up. This is Coachella.


A little while later I'm waiting to watch Ryan Adams. His appearance here - his first ever at Coachella - is one of the reasons I was willing to trade four hours of driving for eight hours of music. I've never seen him perform but I've been a fan for fifteen years, and his music is fraught with emotional significance for me. I score the last wedge of elbow room along the VIP railing, where I can watch those with wristbands twice as expensive as mine dribble in and leisurely plant themselves feet from the stage. They all seem to know another; their hairstyles, outfits, and general looks speak of The Industry. I keep my eyes peeled for celebrities and the few musician's faces I'd recognize, but then everyone starts to look famous, so I turn my attention those nearer to me. Trying to guess who's a true fan and who just likes being up close.

It doesn't take more than a minute to start chatting up another fan, and another festival lover; she hasn't missed a single Coachella. I high-five her, marveling, but she explains that living in Indio makes it easy. "What was the best year?" I ask.

She answers without hesitating: "Two thousand four. Radiohead. And the Pixies reunited." Her date looks bored. I ask him if he's a big Ryan Adams fan. "Oh no, I had to drag him out here," she laughs. I confess I've never seen Ryan Adams live and she seems excited for me. We compare notes on what we're hoping to hear and suddenly another woman is joining the conversation. Between us we cover three different generations.

And then he's on. His voice is effortless perfection, twang and honey that coasts smoothly across ballads he jokingly describes as "self-antagonizing." I don't know all of the tracks he plays - he's been producing for a long time - but it doesn't matter. Fifteen years fold away and I'm instantly back in Tucson, circa 2000, back to who and what I was. And I'm not alone; ghosts whose company I don't mind are with me, too. Listening and remembering, I could cry. Instead I breathe deeply until the constriction in my chest loosens. It's the best singer-songwriter set I've ever seen at a festival.


Sunset. Kaskade, on the main stage. How many tens of thousands coming to watch, I don't know. But they're running, it seems like they are all running. Even those already here are swept up in the excitement: the opening blasts of bass, of bouncing lights it's finally dim enough to appreciate. Jockeying to get closer, to get in the mix, in the thick of it. Twirling and jumping on one another's shoulders, you've never seen so many people so intoxicated by music, by their own existence. Two girls in flower headbands cross arms and spin like children, throwing their heads back and laughing with abandon. The grounds and everything on them are saturated in the last bits of sunlight, all that is brightly colored turned pastel in the haze. It's the in-betweenland of dusk, where flashes of neon start to emerge, to blaze and catch your eye. I dodge through the chaos to find my own sweet spot. Close enough but not too close. And then, for a little bit, I become part of the chaos.


Alice has taken her pill. It hits her stomach with a big swallow of water and a promise to herself: I will be smart. She is mindful, taking in her surroundings, appreciating every curve and beam of the massive statues she walks under. Metal? Fiberglass? She doesn't know how they're made, only that soon they'll recede into a sort of wallpaper, the pattern of which will cease to be as interesting as what's inside her own mind. And she wants to remember, before she forgets.

The pill's gelatin capsule has already dissolved; it won't be long now. Alice needs to decide where she wants to be when the wave hits. She never knows how big the wave will be, but she always plans for big waves. A glance at her watch; timing is everything. But the music isn't right where she's at, where she thought it would be best. No, it's jumpy and shallow and just...wrong. So she ducks into a different place, cooler and darker and covered, separate and more secret.

It's a big wave. Alice feels her heart pound and takes deep, gulping breaths. As much as she wants to dance, to let the music carry some of the pill off, she can't. The water is up to her neck. She retreats to the wall, carefully lowering her pulsing body to the floor. She hates having to give up these precious moments, she desperately wants to flow with the music, which is incredible, but she has no choice. Breathe. Breathe. For the fifth time she makes sure she has everything she needs.

Alice watches the others. She'll live through them, for a few minutes, until she can wade back in and join. A couple, two young men, directly in front of her. Light strobes across the face of one, then the other. They look almost painful in their bliss, lifting their heads to the sound, eyes closed, moving both as one and as two. The rightness of the scene, the wholeness of it, is a thing for Alice to hang on to. From the outside, she looks blank. Numb, even. But inside her body is a welling of ecstasy so powerful that blankness is all she can spare. Every cell overflowing with elation. So huge, this wave. She could get carried away.

Alice has taken her pill, and now the pill is taking her.


Jamie XX. A sexy, mellow heaven. A hammock for my overstimulated brain. Exactly what I needed, when I needed it.


Gesaffelstein. Hol-y shit. Never have I. I mean, I knew a little bit. Couple tracks on my running playlist. But I had no idea how unbelievable he is. Later Terence, when I showed him some of his Weekend 1 set, would describe it like Depeche Mode, if Depeche Mode did EDM. Yes.

What kills me is that I walked away from him twice. I was drifting around between a few different stages, undecided and uncommitted, and each time I walked by I heard how great he sounded. But it wasn't until my third pass that I planted myself at the back of the tent and didn't move until it was over. If you like glitchy or hard electronic at all, please do yourself a favor and listen to the entire video I linked to above. Or at least from 8:10 on. It is ridiculous. It's also his last performance, ever. Which makes me incredibly grateful to have seen it.

Danced my damn face off. At one point some guy doing the same thing right in front of me turned around, as if looking desperately for someone, anyone who was feeling the music the same way. He saw me, gestured towards the stage, and sort of just shook his head in wonder. "Right??" I said, laughing incredulously, glad I wasn't the only one who'd had no idea. I mean, I hate to diminish what I felt at Ryan Adams, but this was definitely my favorite set of the day. Wicked, wicked fun.


It's 1:15 am. I left the festival over an hour ago. But I'm still in the parking lot. I'm still in the parking lot because I Can't. Find. My. Car. I've been looking for it for over an hour. Things I'm feeling: shame, stupidity, frustration, exhaustion, fear, and resignation. I am fully prepared to be here until dawn, until there's enough light to finally see it. As best I can tell that is exactly what I'm headed for.

Did I make a note of where I parked? Yep. I wrote down the section and even took a few pictures of landmarks nearby. Did I put a pin in my GPS? Nope. That I did not do. So now I am walking up and down every last aisle of the section I parked in, systematically, in the dark and in the dust, trying not to cry.

And I succeed, up until the moment I ask some guys leaning against their trunk if they have an iPhone charger I can borrow. I'm on 3%. Not that calling anyone would help. Terence is fast asleep and has work early; I'd die before I woke him up with the news that I lost his car. I strongly consider calling Mason, who I've been texting with during the night, just for the moral support, knowing he'll laugh at my predicament until I do, until I'm calm. But really, what I need more than a charger is to just find the goddamn car. They don't have a charger, anyway. Back to searching.

Up and down, up and down. Row by row. Exiting drivers glance at me sympathetically as they merge into long lines to leave. Over and over I hit the fob, hoping to see tell-tale brake lights pop up nearby. Nothing. It has vanished. I've already had to stop once, return to the festival in a pedicab to use the bathroom, and make the trek back out to the parking lot. The attendants feel bad but there's not much they can do. I'm not the only one, after all. In the hazy moonlight I see others staggering about - though in groups of two or more. I seem to be the only solo car-loser. Fucked. I am so fucked.

"Did you find your car?" A figure is walking toward me, silhouetted against the gritty night. "I found mine, finally. Did you find yours?"

I glance around. "Are you talking to me?"

"Yeah." Close enough to make out now. Thirty-something. Dark hair, eyes, skin. T-shirt and shorts. His face is open and friendly, but sort of spaced out. He's not exactly looking at me.

"No." I lean over, defeated, resting my hands on thighs. "I've been out here for an hour."

He shakes his head. "No, no. That's a long time. I'm going to help you." Seeing my tears start, the desperation melting into gratitude that someone, anyone, gives a fuck, he shushes me soothingly. I half expect him to try to hug me but he doesn't. Instead he jerks his head towards an Audi a few feet away, headlamps glowing. "We're going to do this mathematically, okay?"

I nod. "You're the nicest person," I start. "I don't know--"

"No, it's alright. This happened to me Friday. It's the worst. We'll find your car, okay? This is my car. We're going to use my car as home base and work from it."

"I took pictures," I tell him. "I took pictures when I got out of my car. Of where I was."

He lights up, like a teacher happily surprised by a student he'd written off. "Perfect! That's great! See, now you're thinking. Let's see them." I don't tell him that my phone's about to die, afraid that if he grasps how bad the situation is he'll flee. Two percent now. If it dies, maybe he'll have a charger. I open my photos and pass the phone over.

"Oh see this is great! Look, this line of trees in the picture, where is this line of trees? Can we see a line of trees anywhere?" This guy has definitely got to be a teacher. Elementary school, even. He pivots where we stand, trying to match up reality with my snapshot.

But I'm useless. The line of palm trees I thought I was looking for don't make sense relative to where I know I parked. I'm turned around and disoriented and oh wow, he's pulling a joint out of his pocket now. Lighting it.

"Cannabis," he announces, as if he just likes saying the word. He examines the joint thoughtfully and then takes a drag. I brace myself for the offer, which I'll feel rude rejecting at this point - but it doesn't come. My savior is not sharing his weed. "Do you know it's 4/20 tomorrow? I mean if you're gonna be lost that's as good a day as any, right?"

The spaced-out look makes sense now. I laugh, trying not to think about him driving high, on the freeway home. Myself, I've been sober for almost three hours; the last hour, brutally so. He asks me where I'm from and we make small talk while he looks at my phone, then squints around the dark parking lot, then looks back at my phone. "I don't think you're in this lot."

And so I'm not. I'm in the next lot over, which we get to though an opening in the fences dividing them. Terence's car sits maybe a hundred feet from where I'd been pacing. Just right there, waiting for me. My knees go weak at the sight of it, and I realize I don't know my companion's name.

"Kumar. It's Kumar."

The next minute with Kumar is kind of a bummer. Thanking him profusely isn't enough. Neither is my offer of $20, which I quickly explain that I don't mean as an insult. "Please, just get a lunch on me tomorrow or something. I'm so grateful." But whether it was the hit of pot or whether Kumar is actually, after all, a bit of a creep, I don't know. But suddenly I'm being pressured into a hug from which I'm not immediately released. 

"Come onnnnn, it's Coachella," he whines, when explain I have to go. Big drive, boyfriend's waiting, etc. I disentangle myself from Kumar's arms, though not before he grabs my ass.

I'm annoyed and anxious to leave but as he walks off I call after him. "Are you okay to find your car now?" Without turning around he waves a hand over his shoulder, dismissing me. Having refused the knight's advance, the damsel in distress no longer interests him.

"Happy Coachella!" I say anyway. "And thank you!"

I sit in the car for a full minute, reveling in my relief, before texting Terence. His phone is off; he won't hear it. But just in case he wakes up, I want him to know I'm coming home.

in which I White Knight for a music festival

In a move 0% of those surveyed characterized as "a good idea", I went to Coachella for just one day - Sunday. I'm not often in the habit of wasting two thirds of a music festival ticket, but thanks to my own last minute indecisiveness, a resale glut on StubHub, some flaky Airbnb hosts, and a disinclination to engage with Craigslisters after dark, it was the best I could do to salvage my investment. I drove out, spent eight hours there, and drove home. Intense for sure, but not unbearable. And considering how much incredible music was plied into such a narrow time slot, worth the trip.

Coachella is everyone's favorite festival to hate on, and understandably so. It's expensive, heavily corporate, and has a terrible reputation for superficiality. Fashion has become such an integral part of Coachella culture that it seems to garner just as much attention as the performances themselves. When I saw this photo on The Atlantic, I cringed. A pack of rich, skinny white women striding in imperial lockstep across the field, outfitted in head-to-toe Bohemian Muse™, refusing to break the fourth wall and even acknowledge the photographer (kneeling in apparent fealty) before them. Looking at it tells you absolutely nothing about the festival. It's images like this that scare otherwise enthusiastic live music fans away from Coachella. Hell, it briefly scared me, before I tore my eyes from Alessandra and Co's cheekbones and noticed the reassuring averageness of most everyone else in the photo.

Coachella's excess is undeniable. But what I've experienced in the last three years is that those corporate dollars buy a lot of production value. The festival truly delivers in terms of spectacle, talent, visual and audio design. Also in terms of cleanliness, accessibility, and organization, which are no small considerations when you're exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and on day three of self-abuse. I for one am happy to pay a little more for a ticket if it means substantially shorter bathroom lines, easier to navigate grounds and exits, less trash, and more shade structures. And the fashion thing? Yes, it can be tiresome. But it's hardly fair to crucify Coachella for glorifying style when the flower children of festivals past are to this day admired as, well, Bohemian muses. Personally, I inwardly snicker when I see girls sweating under the weight of clingy crochet tops and leather fringe bags, dancing stiffly in heeled boots lest they dislodge their headpieces. And if those paper dolls want to blow $7k on a "Safari" tent vs. taking an actual safari, more LOLs for the hoi polloi. (Though I'd happily take their money and their cheekbones.)

Your social media feeds don't lie. Yes, some people at Coachella really look and act like that. And unless you check out the Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, etc. coverage of the festival's raison d'etre, those obnoxious selfies are probably your sole impressions of Coachella.

As a festival lover, this makes me sad.

Coachella could certainly use some tweaking, by everyone from organizers down to attendees. Skip the obnoxious publicity stunts and set up some truly noteworthy reunions and surprise appearances. Kill the over-the-top lodging packages, which attract scenesters and spoiled trust fundies. Stop making it about the clothes and satellite parties.

These failings notwithstanding, however, Coachella is an incredible experience. Seventy-two hours of pure potential: to bond, to explore (within and without), to be surprised, to feel and love and listen intently. This is what every music festival offers - even one whose hype has outpaced its maturation.

The Atlantic photographer who focused on the Coachella Heathers and blurred out everything else got it exactly backwards. If he'd stepped back and taken a wider shot you would have seen, albeit mixed in with the occasional douchebag, thousands of everyday people, concerned with much better things than matching outfits. I know because I notice them. Especially when I'm alone. I see tiny stories unfold, all day long. Some I'm even a part of. And I'll tell you a few, though they might well seem pedestrian and schmoopy. But first, you know what you have to do. That's right. You have to slog through Ellie's Carefully Curated Selection of 'Same Shit, Different Year' Festival Photos, because that is the tradition around here. Now look, goddamnit, LOOK AT THE PRETTY COLORS.

You have to admit that on the scale of obnoxious to cute, a circle of kids with their heads together for a group selfie is definitely at the cuter end of the scale. 

Look at these disgusting, multi-color, multi-size people, milling about all normally and shit. It's like they don't even care that The Atlantic needs clicks.

Are you frightened? It's okay if you are. I was. And I was completely sober. Did I mention it moves?

I heard this variously described as "the earth mover statue", "the machine from Aliens", and "the crane thing." Whatever it was, at least it stayed put.

They keep shoving the Do Lab further and further to the fringes of the festival. At this rate it'll be in Riverside by 2020.

"Hey Ellie, did you finally ride the Ferris Wheel, like you've been promising you would for forever?" "What's that? Oh hey look over there, free popsicles!"

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that no one could possibly be so messed up at a festival such that alternately seeing a butterfly and a caterpillar could, like, totally screw with their mind and trip them the eff out. You go right on believing that. 

I was glad to see the Corporate Headquarters hippos back this year; they are a hoot. Here's an interview with the people who do it. 

Instagram's hardest working balloons right here, folks.

I rarely insist on being close up but for my first time seeing Ryan Adams? Hells yes.

I think that's the helicopter they used to airlift Drake to the hospital after Madonna sucked out his trachea. 

Not pictured: a mercifully cool breeze.

They ain't pretty, but they is comfy!

Sahara Tent, EDM headquarters of Coachella

"Okay, everybody, since it's almost 4/20 we're gonna put a spotlight on each of the weed smokers in the audience! Remember, it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you!"

Rainbow. Bright.

You made it! You made it through my shitty, indiscernable-from-all-the-others festival photos. Your reward? A recap of the 2/3 of a day I spent there. Next post, though, because the hour is late, recovery is incomplete, and your Festress will be much more apt to produce purple prose vivid description and adjective abuse imagery without foto filler distracting her.