Over the years and fairly recently I’ve heard accounts of, mildly witnessed and read about some pretty disturbing things that have gone on and still go on at large scale festivals such as the one coming this weekend. I’ve been an event photographer for over 15 years and have had the opportunity to photograph at many Coachellas as well as attended a bunch without a camera in my hands… and I’ve seen so many amazing things on the polo fields as well as a few horrible things. So in the interest of mentally preparing first time festival goers to refreshing the minds of Coachella veterans…here are my 2 cents...
Dear ladies (and some gents):
For the most part, the majority of the Coachella populace have always been and continue to be filled with happy, fun, peace-filled, like-minded individuals, some who are in an elevated state of pill-induced euphoria, alcohol drenched love or drunk with excitement for the musical talent at hand, which coupled with an excellent Coachella security force and on-site police presence, ensures that you and everyone else will be safe and have a magical time within the festival walls.
There are a small handful of trolls and unscrupulous individuals, who target mostly ladies, and some gents, when they are at their weakest. The “weak” ones that can't stand or see straight, or have lost their friends, left to fly solo, or are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. With all of the heightened security and ever-present police, these horrible people still exist with purchased wristbands and bad intentions towards the ones making rookie mistakes.
We love our readers and we love our scene and it is because of this I wanted to relay my “festival” tips to you.
- STAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS and establish “set in stone” rules to never break up the pack. IF you meet a boy or a girl and spark a festival connection, invite them to chill with your group but do not stray off with them by yourself. DO NOT ALLOW your friends to leave with any stranger(s) especially if she or he is under any influence.
- NO ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND. Plain and simple. You go together, you leave together, unless the ones left behind are grouped up with people you all know. Remember cell phones get lost, batteries drain and working mobile connections drop calls…losing all communication with your friends can be a weekend-ruining experience.
- TRY TO NOT GET SO WASTED to the point that you can't see straight, lose all of your things and/or stumble and fall all over the festival grounds... Just like an injured fish splashing in the ocean, these kinds of actions attract the king-predator of the sea (the shark) and will do the same on dry land.
- DO NOT accept any drinks from anyone, guy or girl, unless you are standing with them at the bar while they order or if the bottle’s seal is still intact. Best believe there are people out there, both men and women, who love to have fun with "throw away" girls and boys, and have no problem “partying” you up until to get what they want. Prevent being drugged and/or refrain from getting so wasted that you become that “throw away” person.
- DO NOT eat/consume/snort/smoke any pills/drugs/edibles/weed from unknown sources. A friend of mine made the rookie mistake of taking a puff of a “joint” being passed around by strangers, only to find out it was Salvia and not weed. Sadly she spent the rest of the night seeing "demons". It was such a bad scene for her and even worse for all of us taking care of a screaming her.
- DO NOT AGREE TO GO TO ANY STRANGER’S "MANSION" "ESTATE" "HOUSE" for an “after party”. UNLESS your whole group is going too. A true after party won’t have any issues with your friends coming so DON’T throw caution to the wind and go solo or else you could find yourself in unknown territory alone, where YOU are the after party. REMEMBER Coachella Valley houses are mostly vacation homes and available for rent year round. Mostly all of the next-door homes are EMPTY, so if something were to go bad/wrong, the chances of someone hearing any screams for help, are slim to none.
- Ladies, ALWAYS be the one to take an interested boy or girl's NUMBER, don't give out yours and if they keep hounding you for it, offer your email with a "take it or leave it"...I'd suggest you create a gmail specifically for coachella... something easy to remember like "mynameis....@gmail.com" if you meet a guy/gal who seems genuine, (s)he'll remember your email and contact. Otherwise, it was just a fun innocent desert fling...
- DO NOT GO ON A MAKE OUT SESSION WITH EVERYONE... HPV, cold sores, herpes, mono, meningitis and many other nasty things travel through those "innocent" tongue tangos, which always become the viral-guest that won’t leave, even after the festival ends... REMEMBER THERE WAS AN OUTBREAK OF MUMPS recently at a college...
- DO NOT SHARE WATER WITH STRANGERS!!! Outside of the viral point above, I made the mistake once of taking a swig of someone's water and it had GHB in it which quickly made my night a horribly bad spinning blur of vomit and misery.
- IF YOU HAVE TO WALK ALONE to your car or to where your friends are, THERE IS NO SHAME in asking a group of GIRLS and guys if you can walk with them...on a few occasions solo girls asked if they could walk with me because they recognized me while I was photographing all of the acts and I happily obliged, making sure they got to their cars in the vast parking lot, unharmed. NO ONE WILL EVER TURN YOU AWAY for asking for a tag-a-long safe-passage escort.
- Carrying a bag is a pain in the ass during a festival and with the heat it makes it even worse. A fanny pack that loops into your belt is an awesome way to carry your necessities. If you must have a back pack...get a tiny combination lock and lock up your zipper tabs... we've had many jerks take stuff from our backpacks while we were forced into human-herds in front of the stages.
- IF YOU SEE SOMEONE IN DISTRESS…DO NOT videotape their misfortune, with the hopes of going viral, try and find a security guard or police officer to help and if that isn’t possible, try and HELP THE PERSON IN NEED. Our world can be a better place if we think about all of "us", instead of only thinking of ourselves.
And my final tip:
- DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SCREAM OUT FOR HELP if you get into a scary situation. I’ve read that some girls felt embarrassed about screaming for any kind of help, which is ridiculous. IF YOU SCREAM MANY OF US WILL RUN TO YOUR AID, I PROMISE, unless you didn't listen to my earlier tip about NOT GOING to someone's "mansion estate after party" by yourself... at which point you're on your own :(
With all of that to soak in, please be comforted to know that you WILL have an amazing life-change experience at one of the best festivals on the planet. But it’s always good to know what’s up…because “knowing is half the battle.”
And now that you “know”, check out: Preview: Fauxchella, Inside the Outside of Coachella 2017 & Where You Need To Be
And NEVER forget to respect…The Laws of Fauxchella