Everybody has a bucket list. One of those "must do this at least once in my life" kind of lists. For me, attending Coachella Valley Music Festival in California was one of those list items. Being a music lover and an avid festival goer, it seemed only natural to attend one of the most epic festivals in the world. Not really having any idea of what I was doing, I bought myself a ticket and booked my way there. Or so I thought.
I arrived in LA and stayed at a super cute hotel just near the Sunset Strip. I had booked a Greyhound ticket online to get out to Palm Springs and from there I would make my way to Indio where Coachella was held. In hindsight this was my first mistake. I should have just booked a ticket straight to Indio. My second mistake was the hotel I booked. Having never done Coachella before and having absolutely no idea how it all worked, I booked a room at a Best Western. As I was arriving a day before Coachella my room was only $90 for the night but once Coachella started that price went up to $430 a night. But it was a Best Western so it wouldnt be too bad right? Wrong. So very wrong.
At my super cute hotel in LA, I asked the receptionist if I could book a taxi for the morning to get me to the bus station. "Which bus station" she asked. "Er...the Greyhound bus station" I responded. "Yes but which one" she replied. Damn my small town mentality and only assuming there was one bus station in the whole of LA. I spent the next hour on the phone to Greyhound to try and figure out where the hell I had to go. In the years to come I would criss cross my way all over the States and become a goddam expert in everything Greyhound but for now I was very much a Greyhound virgin.
Aaron Bruno from AWOLNATION
Morning came around and I made my way to the specified bus station and dodgy doesnt even begin to explain it. I was fairly sure that I would be murdered, or at the very least mugged before the bus had even arrived. I waited nervously and as soon as the bus arrived I hoped on hoping we could just get the hell out of there. We started on our way and I swear we had been driving for two hours and still hadn't even made it out of the downtown area. To say LA is huge is a massive understatement.
As we finally got further out of LA the landscape turned to endless windfarms and desert. I saw the signs to Palm Springs and knew we would be arriving soon. Or would we? The bus started to slow down and turned off the main highway down a small side road that seemingly led to nowhere. We drove for a while until we pulled up at an abandoned bus shelter. This must be another stop before Palm Springs I thought to myself. The driver then boldly announced "PALM SPRINGS". I looked out the window at the bus shelter and the wind farms. Now I had never been to Palm Springs before but I know it consisted of more than this. Where were the over tanned, rich old folk? Where were the resorts and golf courses? This didnt look like Palm Springs, it looked like the US version of Wolf Creek. Everybody else on the bus seemed as confused as I was but we all slowly grabbed our things and made our way off the bus. Someone questioned the driver and calmy pointed out that this was not in fact Palm Springs. The driver stated rather matter of factly that the bus no longer went into downtown Palm Springs. I thought that this quite important piece of information should have been stated somewhere. Like on the bus ticket for example.
Maynard James Keenan from Puscifer (and Tool)
As I got off I asked the driver how the hell I was supposed to get to Palm Springs from here to which he told me that taxis would soon arrive. Ok good. I wont panic just yet. I wandered over to the bus shelter with my suitcase and had a look around. It was a small brick structure that had public toilets but they were closed. It also had what looked to be a cafeteria of some sort but that was also closed. In fact it looked like it hadnt been open in years. There was a pay phone with no where to put any money nor any buttons to actually dial a number. Well thats useful. We were so far from the highway that I couldnt even hear the cars any more. Behind the shelter was a rail road track but not a main one. It looked more like a service track of some sort. This was confirmed later when I saw workmen on small carriages making their way along the rails presumably on their way to fix or service something.
Trent Reznor from How To Destroy Angels (and Nine Inch Nails)
I sat on my suitcase and waited for the supposed taxis to arrive. After about an hour or so, no taxis had arrived. The other passengers had started calling friends and family to come and pick them up and one by one they started to leave. I had a phone but did not know the taxi number nor did I know where the hell I was to be able to tell a taxi to come and get me. Another hour went by and more people had left. I started to contemplate my options. If this was a bus stop then surely another bus would come along at some point. Maybe I could convince the driver to take me to the nearest town. But what if the bus didnt come until tomorrow? Well I could sleep in the shelter I suppose. I had no food and it might get cold during the night. I also developed a sudden irrational fear of getting attacked by a bobcat. But what choice did I have?
Davey Havok from A.F.I
After about three hours everyone had left except myself, another Aussie girl also trying to make her way to Coachella and a young Mexican guy who looked like one of those stereotypical Mexican gangsters from every movie you've ever seen. The Aussie girl was quite unfriendly and I suspect she was internally shitting herself about the predicament we were in. The Mexican guy asked us how we were going to get to Palm Springs and I answered honestly that I had no idea. He said he had called his cousin and if we wanted they would give me and the other girl a lift to Palm Springs. I quickly weighed up the situation in my head. Do I get in a car with two strange men or do I sleep here the night and risk being mauled by bobcats?
I decided to take up the man on his offer. A car pulled up driven by a massive guy that looked even more gangster than his cousin. Shit. Then I noticed a baby seat in the back with a child in it. This made me feel better for some reason and I secretly hoped the child hadnt been abducted. I climbed in the back of the car while the child looked on seemingly disinterested with my presence. Luckily for me, Im just as disinterested in children so there was no pretence between us that we had to engage in any sort of way.
Matt Shultz from Cage The Elephant
We started making our way to Palm Springs and I suddenly realised just how far out we were. It was almost a 30 minute drive so there was no way I would have ever been able to walk there even if I had wanted to. We finally arrived and the men dropped us off at a large hotel so we could get our bearings and find our way to our final destination. I had barely got out of the car when the other Aussie girl had grabbed her suitcase and took off into the streets without as much as a good bye or a thank you to the two men who went out of their way to take us there. I thanked them and looked around and thought to myself "Ok, where the fuck am I?"
Some bands I've met along the way - Moby, The Hives and The Wombats.
I went into the hotel and asked the concierge how to get to Indio. "Well" she said, "you could always take the bus". No. No no no no. You can stick your buses fair up your ass. I inquired how much it would be for a taxi. "Oh that will be super expensive" she said. "How expensive?" I asked. Like, do I need to sell a kidney or remortgage the house kind of expensive?. She replied that it would be about $40. Really? $40? Thats it? Get me a goddam taxi lady! After my epic adventure I was tired and just wanted to get to my hotel and have a shower and a nice cold beer. What I didnt realise was that my adventure wasnt quite over yet.
We pulled up at the hotel and it was a Best Western for sure. But it looked like it was from the 1950's and had never had one ounce of work or repairs done to it. Ever. The place was overrun with festival goers and the staff couldnt keep up. The foyer was crowded and not very clean. Once I finally got the key to my room I discovered that there were no elevators so I had to lug my suitcase up several flights of stairs. I also discovered that there was no where near by where I could get any sort of food or a beer for that matter. The hotel didnt have a restaurant or even a cafe for that matter. I had a shower and then paid the maintenance guy from the hotel $5 to drive me to the nearest shops so I could get some food. Since he clearly wasnt doing any sort of maintenance on the hotel, he certainly had time to give me a ride.
Lemmy from Motorhead
I booked the shuttle bus to get to the Coachella grounds for the next morning. As I had to pick up my tickets from the box office I thought I would take the first bus for the day. Finally now I could relax and get excited about being here. The next morning the first shuttle bus was late. Since the bus belonged to the hotel and I could see it sitting in the car park, Im not really sure how this was so. But eventually we were on our way. The bus stop was nowhere near the entry gate that I need to be at and I had to walk for almost 45 minutes to make it to the box office to get my tickets.
A Nameless Ghoul from Ghost
Finally I had them in my hands and I was on my way to three days of awesome live music. But first thing was first. I needed a beer. A giant beer. I found my way to the Rose Garden which was one of the VIP areas. Since I was coming all this way to experience Coachella, I was going to do it in style. I was sitting in the shade enjoying my well deserved beer when the lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation. She was from LA and we had a brief chat and I gave her the run down of my adventure getting to Coachella. She was quite mortified that I took the bus. Apparently the only people who take the bus are people who have just been released from prison and are making their way home. Thinking back to how unsafe I felt at the LA bus station, this seemed to make sense.
After our brief chat she said goodbye and was on her way. After about two minutes she came back. "Would you like a lift back to LA after Coachella?". OH. MY. GOD. YES. The thought of having to navigate my way back to LA was not something I wanted to even think about. We swapped business cards and she had a huge laugh that I was from a place called Humpty Doo. We ended up hanging out together off and on for the rest of the festival. I cant say how amazing it was to have a ride back to LA. She taught me about the obligatory stop at In and Out Burger (and it was delicious) and then took me to my hotel.
We stayed in touch after Coachella and we became good friends. We would then attend the next four Coachellas together and I would become a bit of a Coachella expert. Now when I look back to that first time, I have to laugh about how much of a disaster it was. But thanks to the kindness of strangers I was able to get there and back again. And I ended up having the time of my life!