It’s over. If you’ve been, you know the feeling. It’s time to wrap up and put a bow on Coachella 2013. Another year, another amazing time had by many. Including me.

I’ll never forget the first time I read about this festival in Rolling Stone magazine. I was a college student, about to graduate from Loyola University of Chicago in 1999, when I picked up the latest issue and saw pictures of this beautiful scene that was happening in a place that seemed like a million miles from Chicago: Indio, CA. I remember thinking, “It’s in the desert? Isn’t it scorching hot? Where the hell do people sleep? How did they get such a killer lineup? How am I ever going to make it out there?” Luckily for me, I landed the dream job at FM 94/9 and three years ago, I was fortunate enough to experience my first Coachella. It was definitely bucket list material realized for me.

There’s a feeling you get when you’re driving to Indio for the festival that’s almost indescribable unless you’ve experienced it. I remember being so fired up the first year that I couldn’t sleep the night before. Some things never change. You’re driving down a little mountain pass on the 79 and if you’re anything like me, you’re blasting your “Coachella [insert year here] mix that you’ve made. And then you see Indio all spread out below you, like an electric buffet of good times. This year, as we came out of the pass, the new single/anthem from Nashville favorites Mona was blasting out of the speakers: “Goons (Baby, I Need It All).” Needless to say, it was hard to sit still. All of your senses are firing at once. It’s pretty unbelievable and hard to put into words. It’s something that you HAVE to experience.

Aesthetically, it’s one of the most beautiful places for a festival you could imagine. It’s like a fantasyland. Beautiful green grass fields, palm trees that are lit to look like kaleidoscopes, colorful, experimental art, and, of course, the signature giant Ferris wheel. Stages and giant tents are everywhere.

There is always such a sense of anticipation for me every year around late February, early March. That’s when the rumor mill starts spinning and there’s a palpable buzz on social media. I find myself going to my favorite bands’ websites to see if they’ve blocked out a couple of weekends in April, by chance. Fake posters pop up on the Internet almost daily. The speculation associated with the lineup can make you insane until it’s announced. I’ll rack my brain thinking of bands that may reunite: “Could Oasis pull it off? What about the Afghan Whigs?” It makes me nuts.

By the time it’s finally confirmed every year, the festival is already sold out. If you’re in the business of putting on festivals, I’m going to imagine that’s a pretty good feeling. Then once the lineup is announced, you wait for set times. There’s an entire new headache, but in a good way. You start to plot and plan your days and you realize you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. For me this year it was a tough call: See Social Distortion or Tame Impala (I went with Mike Ness and his boys in Social Distortion because, well … it’s Social Distortion).

If you’ve never been and have been on the fence about going, my advice to you is simple: Go. Next year. Don’t wait another minute. There is something for everyone at Coachella. It’s truly a mind bending and overwhelming experience that everyone should feel. Many will read this article and say, “No way, man … it was cooler 10 years ago … it’s all corporate now.” My answer to the detractors is: So what? Let me know how that mom & pop festival that you’re attending is. Or even where it is. Oh yeah … who’s playing? At the end of the day, the bands that play there need to be paid. I don’t know too many folks that work for free. The fact that I can see THE COOLEST and BEST bands in the universe over three days and nights makes everything all right in my world.

I was fortunate enough to do between 20-25 interviews this past weekend, and every artist says the same thing. Whether they’re experienced Coachella veterans or new bands playing the festival for the first time, all of their comments were the same: They love playing it. They clamor to be invited. Nick Brown of Mona had this to say: “Festivals are always an adventure with beautiful creatures and terrifying monsters. Coachella has the most beautiful creatures and we had a little fun being the monsters here and there. We love playing no matter where, but it helps when it’s perfect weather and good people. Cool party.” The guys from OMD said the same thing. They were so grateful and happy to be there and that kids were appreciating their music after all these years.

That’s another thing that’s important to mention about Coachella. The vibe at that festival is incredible. There is genuine joy throughout from the bands all the way down to the security people. Everyone is there for a common goal: to have a great time and hear some amazing music and cut loose. There’s a lot of cutting loose. My favorite part is seeing an artist who just played running over to check out a band playing in a tent or pushing their way to the front like everyone else to check out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Tame Impala.

It is guaranteed that you will have a “Coachella Experience” when you go, a defining moment that will stick with you throughout your life. I’ll never forget my first Coachella experience. I pulled up to the FM 94/9 house on Friday afternoon and got out of the car and grabbed my bag and started my walk to the door. I ended up walking side by side with the guys from Devo, who were going in to knock out an interview. Right then, I knew this was a special place. I had too many experiences to count this year: chatting up Cult guitarist Billy Duffy for about 20 minutes; playing an acoustic jam with Mona until the wee Sunday morning hours; seeing Danger Mouse hanging around the VIP area in his red headband and black suit, all three nights; interviewing Saturday headliner Phoenix; my interview with this year’s darlings of Coachella, Tame Impala; looking outside of our FM 94/9 Mothership and seeing Skrillex with about five people around him, practicing a DJ set. It’s craziness. Stuff like this happens every year. You need to get out there and see for yourself.

But now I’m home. My feet hurt. My back and neck are killing me. My voice is cashed. My head hurts. I’m broke. I can’t wait for next year.

 

 

 

 

 

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