Travel: Coachella 2010: Stellar music lineup, fun people, good times |

Travel: Coachella 2010: Stellar music lineup, fun people, good times

INDIO, CALIF. – Mid-April’s a fine time to cram all your camping equipment into the Jeep and drive to a West Coast music festival, especially if you live in Colorado’s High Country.

We departed for California before dawn one frigid Thursday morning. A brief 15-or-so hours later, we’d staked our tent in a desert valley among tens of thousands of happy campers.

The ensuing weekend at the sold-out Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival included titillating acts from some 132 of today’s finest musicians: Gorillaz, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, deadmau5 and Muse – to name a few.

Despite a few exceptions the event was well-executed, with as little as 10 minutes between sets on six stages. The sound systems were powerful and the atmosphere was danceable.

Campground amenities included a roller-skating rink, swings, vendors of all sorts, a DJ stage and a handful of showers we didn’t use.

From the moment we parked in the semi-spacious-car-camping lot and erected our homemade flag, we were meeting new pals from across the country. Everyone had the same objective: kick back, go with the flow and be happy.

We sang and boogied. We grasped hands in a long chain, snaking through the masses to reach the next performance.

The festival grounds serve as numerous acres of polo fields for most of the year; from April 16-18, they were covered with about 75,000 people per day.

The campground was a brief walk from the festival area, and the Coachella 2010 wristbands allowed for folks to wander in and out – a luxury not available previous years – catching whichever musicians we wanted to see.

The weather was sunny every day, approaching perhaps 80 Fahrenheit at the peak of the day before cooling down to the 60s at night.

Early on Saturday I left our shady abode solo – bare-footed, wearing only a pair of shorts and a bandana. I could not miss King Khan and Black Lips joining forces as the Almighty Defenders, a postmodern gospel rock supergroup formed in Berlin.

The quick set changes made it easy to get to the front, as people who came to see the previous band retreated. A short time later, my vocal chords had been shouted down to a croak. I returned to camp with a smile.

After a 30-minute power nap and a mouthful of trail mix, I and our group of about 13 new friends mobbed back to the festival. We bounced through the grounds from the folksy rejoice of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, at the Outdoor Theatre, to Bassnectar’s face-melting beats in the Sahara DJ tent.

We strolled past striking works of art: a 45-foot-tall-solar-powered Origami crane, a fire-tornado vessel, a diamond-shaped mirror thing that dripped water and a wandering robot that talked, among others.

When it got too hot, we stopped by the Do Lab stage where dubstep music and fancy squirt guns went full-throttle until nighttime – when for whatever reason king-size beds were made available.

Alas, Monday morning arrived, resulting in fond farewells. We packed up and hit the trail for a night in Las Vegas.

This trip was not the financial black hole I had feared. A three-day festival pass cost $272, or $311 by the time Ticketmaster kicks in all its fees. The campsite was $74 for four nights.

Gas on the 2,000 mile trip is much more affordable if you carpool.

It helps to plan ahead and bring along a propane stove and some groceries. We also had a 5 gallon water receptacle and several tubes of sunscreen: essentials.

Robert Allen can be contacted

at (970) 668-4628


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