This project is a collection of thoughts transcribed and dictated by ivana renee and informed by the honest experiences of various homegirls in the city. In this project, “I” is for all of us.
So Coachella (aka Hoechella bka BeyChella) happened.
Most of the homegirls aren’t new to festival season. Made in America. Roots Picnic. Rolling Loud. Gov Ball. Panorama. AfroPunk. Broccoli City. Been there done that. But Coachella is different, and experiencing it firsthand kind of changes you a little bit.
For starters, the hype, itself, encourages our preparedness. We packed shit like portable chargers, asthma pumps, and sunscreen. Who are we?
Coachella has the same shorties who ar:e two hours late to their birthday dinners coordinating weekend travel plans a year in advance.
When the tickets dropped for Coachella 2018 during Summer 2017, we hopped in the groupchat, confirmed with our homegirls that we’re indubitably with the shits, and waited in a virtual queue while connected to our job’s wifi to purchase our General Admission passes.
For the price of the Coachella experience, I could’ve pulled up in Wakanda. Instead, I emptied my bank account and made my way to Indio, CA. Am I white washed?
The answer is “no” (Wakanda Forever), but the road to Coachella was long, tumultuous, and racially charged. Cues Negro spirituals.
It’s been a long, long road…
A long road, indeed, littered with payment plans, AirBnB reservations, and online shopping. We lost some homegirls on the way, and all the interests didn’t make it. Work, life, Sallie Mae got in the way of some of us actualizing our Hoechella energy, but the most resilient homegirls don’t let something like thousands of dollars get in the way of their Instagram content. So we popped out.
Though our online aesthetics read extravagant, our living arrangements weren’t exactly the Knowles-Carter compound. In an effort to quickly secure housing in a market that booms during Coachella season, we booked the most livable, affordable AirBnb we could find--a choice based on limited research and no Coachella experience. In other instances, we’d likely applaud our homegirls for how swift we were in making Coachella housing plans, but in this case, our hastiness caused us to overlook some important details. We bypassed the “more information” tab in the description, and we ended up booking an AirBnb in a retirement community, literally setting looks off in Grandma Susan’s backyard. True, not a universal plight but a plight nonetheless.
Another thing that’s important to note: Coachella looks that feature homegirls peering over Mother Goose style sunglasses among a deserted landscape were likely part of a pre-festival photoshoot at miscellaneous AirBnB backyards or events. Yes, Coachella is in the desert, but the actual Coachella fairgrounds are a curated grassy area with miscellaneous structures, including a ferris wheel and food vendors. And from a nature perspective, it’s not actually incredibly scenic and arguably kind of basic.
But moving on…
The energy at Coachella isn’t a standard chill looks featuring liquor and blunts vibe. Nudity is widely accepted; outfits are heavily curated, and it’s lines of coke on the kitchen table posted up like, “what you gone do with it”.
But again, it’s festival season: your body, your choice.
After the homegirls engage their vices of choice, we ask Jesus to take the wheel. Plot twist: He sends a surging uberX and debits our account $50 for His services.
From our AirBnB, we slide through a few brand activations and parties. We can’t “go with the flow” here how we can when we’re in our own city, so in advance, we scour the Internet and the promotions tab of our Gmail and hit up our plugged-in homegirls for leads on moves--actually, maybe that’s not that different than any other weekend.
It’s also important to note that for this 3-Day pilgrimage through the desert we must choose our immediate squad carefully but understand that ultimately no matter who we came with we came by ourselves.
There are so many directions that Coachella can pull us and keeping multiple homegirls on one wavelength for three days just isn’t going to happen. At points, different tastes in drugs, juice, and sleeping arrangements can leave us wondering if we need new friends.
Some of us get confirmed for different events and/or just have varying interests for the day, and we move in sub-groups accordingly. We create an ad-hoc itinerary of day parties and set times, and for the most part, we bop pretty seamlessly from move to move, confirming our socialite status with our Instagram stories.
Upon entrance into the festival, we can’t help but notice that outside of our homegirls and Beyonce there are no black people. Well, maybe, there are some, but barely.
On top of that, the fairgrounds are so expansive, and cell phone service is so sporadic that we can’t even logistically link up--no re-creating a cultural epicenter like we did at our PWI dining halls. Sad.
If we didn’t come together and/or aren’t exceptionally pressed to find each other, there is no “running into” people, especially not other black people (they’re mostly busy performing).
It’s clear that going to Coachella is a flex; it even sounds expensive. Is that shit French?
A “Coachella Valley” location tag basically translates to “You broke niggas not touching me”.
Though we achieved Coachella (yes, it is an achievement), there are still so many notable barriers to entry, like it being in the middle of the desert and general admission tickets starting at $500.
You’d think they didn’t want us there...unless we were singing or rapping with a mic and a spotlight. But I digress.
So, one of the days, we caught the shuttle to the fairgrounds, and we sat next to a chatty white man. He was fine, I guess, until he wasn’t.
Him (in a frat bro voice): “I’m guessing this is your first Coachella. This is my 5th Coachella. I paid $1200 for my ticket just to be here with my buddies. This year is the worst line up yet. But like I said, I’m just here with my buddies (*points to more white people*). If I were you, I definitely wouldn’t come again. It’s not usually like this. But I mean, did you guys even actually pay for your tickets?”
How dare you disrespect the Queen. The worst line up yet? The fuck.
Yes, it’s my first Coachella, but still, fuck you and your assumptions.
I paid the fucking price. It wasn’t $1200, and we’re sitting on the same bus. Dumb ass.
While we’re on this bus, Rosa Parks told me to tell you, “Fuck you!”
Imagine living life as insecure as this mediocre white man. Sad.
However, outside of our “buddy” on the bus, it’s not like Coachella was overtly racist.
For the most part, being one of a few black people at Coachella wasn’t unlike being anywhere else--work, college, Whole Foods. It felt like the different races kind of just looked passed each other--normal, I guess.
But what do I know? I’m just an angry black woman dropping F-Bombs on a bus in Sunny Southern California.
Anyways, more positively...Beyonce.
Halfway through Day 2 (Bey Day) when my lungs were coated with dust and I was fighting dehydration, I thought to myself “I’m really gonna die for this shit, huh?”
Even if we weren’t due paying members to the BeyHive, our homegirl, Queen Bey, fucked it up. She killed that shit. Her performance was heaven sent, no Keyshia Cole.
I mean, autocorrect even knows better than flagging her name as a typo and even throws the accent on the last “e” of her black ass name. She has transcended. She is an icon.
When Bey sang the Black National Anthem during her two hour, fully choreographed set to a sea of white people, she brought my black ass to tears.
Halfway through her set, I started thinking that Beyoncè is all of this, but she’s just a person and is going to die one day. Dark, I know, but I started thinking about Blue and the twins and got emotional. Yo! what’s good with me? Dramatic! I gotta chill, but for those two hours, sis snatched my soul.
Truth be told, the rest of the weekend just kind of faded behind the light of the Queen.
We could’ve only experienced Bey and been fully satisfied.
At the end of the night, as we trekked an hour across the fairgrounds to the uber pick up station infected with whooping cough as a testament to our experience, we were changed.
And a few days later, when we board our Economy Class flights and we reflect on our first Coachella (aka HoeChella bka BeyChella), we asked ourselves, “was this hell or did I just have the time of my life?”
This is a collection of stories from homegirls who are honest with themselves, each other, and the world. In this project, “I” is for all of us.