I heard some rumours awhile ago that Guns & Roses were reforming with the original line up for Coachella Festival 2016. Considering all members were adamant this would never happen, I wasn’t too hopeful, but I bought a ticket on a whim anyway – just in case. Turns out the rumours were true, but since none of my friends had bought a ticket it looked like I was going to Coachella all on my own! I managed to get a fairly cheap flight to LA by setting a reminder on Skyscanner and waiting for the price to drop. I also bought a cheap four-person hotel room booking off somebody else who couldn’t go, and then advertised on the forums and found three other solo travellers to join me in the hotel.
I didn’t have a lot of time off work so could only go for a long weekend – leaving Thursday evening and returning Monday night. Since car hire is so cheap in the US I decided to hire a Ford Mustang and drive down to the festival in style. Unfortunately my flight was delayed and by the time I got to the rental place all the Mustangs were gone, so they let me take a sexy red Dodge Challenger instead! Bonus!
I met up with Val, one of the other three hotel guests, at the airport. He’s from Switzerland and is travelling the world for a year on money he saved while doing military service. We drove down to Palm Springs together, which took a bit longer than planned since the traffic leaving LA was terrible! Fortunately once we hit the open highway the Dodge saved us some time – that thing has some power!
We arrived that evening, met up with Keith, one of the other guests, checked in, dropped off the car and then went to get our armbands for the festival. Just before midnight the final guest, Alex, arrived and then we just crashed for the night so we could be up early.
Day 1 – Friday
We all drove into town in Alex’s car, got some breakfast and I bought a simcard, which turned out to be a waste of money because the entire festival was serviced by free wifi! We took forever to find parking as Alex was hoping to park in his friends campsite on the festival grounds, but they wouldn’t let us in so we had to park far away and walk. There weren’t a lot of good acts early on so we just walked around exploring the various stages and artwork installations. It really is quite an incredible and well designed festival, with amazing, fully structured bars and restuarants – not just the usual food trucks etc. There were loads of staff and hardly any queues, except for free water which was a bit chaotic due to the hot, desert climate. Keith went off to do his own thing and me, Val and Alex met up with Alex’s friends and watched Nic Fanciulli on one of the most amazing stages I’ve ever seen! It was all made up of 3D blocks with flashing lights and screens on every side playing video, and 3D steel cubes that hung from the ceiling and moved up and down. Pretty mind-blowing.
Then we watched Years and Years, Of monsters and Men and M83 on the main stage, and then Jack U on the second stage. I was pretty drunk by this point, and I vaguely remembering watching Ellie Goulding for a bit, but don’t remember LCD Soundsystem. I might have just been in the bar by that point, which was excellently positioned because you could see both the main and second stages from it. Despite the festival having 5 stages, they’re all very close together, so it’s easy to get from one to the other and not miss out on any acts.
Day 2 – Saturday
Today’s the day! We didn’t go in quite as early as it’s very hot during midday and most of the best acts only start around 5pm, so me and Val made use of the hotel pool and chilled there under the umbrellas for the morning, drinking beer and swimming. Then we met Alex and got warmed up by singing Guns ‘n Roses very loudly in the car on the way to the festival. Unfortunately we missed Run the Jewels, but arrived just in time for Bat for Lashes, who I’ve wanted to see for ages. After that we saw Halsey, who I hadn’t heard of until then and was awesome!
Then we watched a bit of CHVRCHES and Disclosure, who were both okay but nothing special, and then Ice Cube came on with the other remaining members of NWA. That’s something I never expected to see in my life! I also caught a bit of Zedd, which was very cheesy, and A$AP Rocky – equally cheesy.
By some miracle, Guns ‘n Roses actually came on stage on time! Probably the first time ever. Axl had fallen a few weeks before and broken his ankle, so he was in a wheelchair which was quite funny and luckily didn’t affect his singing. I had mostly come to see Slash and Duff, but to see them all on stage together for the first time in 20 years was pretty incredible. They were still just as good as ever, Slash was amazing, they played all their best songs and it was all round probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. I took, like, a thousand pictures and pretty much filmed almost every song!
Day 3 – Sunday
By this point I had seen pretty much everyone I wanted to, so I didn’t rush to get to the festival early. I bought some eggs and bacon and made breakfast in the hotel, since the room came with a kitchen and figured we might as well make use of it. The others went off in the car before me, as I was taking my time, and then I just caught the free coach in later and met them there. Soon after meeting them I discovered the Doo-lab, the most awesome secret dancefloor with pumping techno, water canons and insane aerial performers and dancers. I stayed there for about 2 hours and lost the others because they wanted to go, but I didn’t mind. I eventually retreated, soaked, to a bar next door selling craft beer. Everyone is very friendly, so I quickly started chatting to some people and joined up with their crew. It was two couples, whose names I don’t remember, but we all got very drunk together in the Absolut Vodka bar and took some funny booth photos together, which you can view here on my Instagram. I’m very clearly the fifth wheel!
The day before I had matched with a girl on Tinder, so I arranged to meet her by the vodka bar. We chatted and kissed a bit while watching Sia and Major Lazer, and I tried to convince her to come back to our hotel but she wasn’t having it. I guess a hotel room being shared by four guys is not the most attractive proposition! By this point I had lost everyone, so I watched Calvin Harris on my own, which was the last act and was followed by a spectacular fireworks display. Then I called the others and met up with them near the campsite, where we had a few warm beers from the car and some food, before heading off home.
All in all it was a super cool festival, and I would definitely go again. Quite expensive and a long way to go for just four days, but totally worth it!