A pants-less Rufus Wainwright serenades his fans.

Drew Mackie

A pants-less Rufus Wainwright serenades his fans.

Freaks Like Me

The Independent‘s Music Editor Braves Coachella for the First Time

For the Coachella review round-up, click here.

As the crowds finally dispersed and we slowly edged our way out of the parking lot Sunday night, all that remained of our Coachella trip was what we carried on our backs: a piece of chain link fence I found embedded in my hair, a camera full of snapshots, and the sweat of our fellow Coachella comrades coating our sun scorched skin. Not much really, but hopefully enough to keep our memories alive until Coachella 2008.

Sarah Hammill meets a Hot Shot, the first robotic Coachella fan.
Click to enlarge photo

Drew Mackie

Sarah Hammill meets a Hot Shot, the first robotic Coachella fan.

Forty hours prior, Indy web and news editor, Drew Mackie, and I were just stepping foot onto the then-unblemished expanse of lawn at the Empire Polo Fields. I had never been before, but Drew was the Coachella expert. So when he told me we were cool to leave Santa Barbara around noon and arrive in Indio in time to see Rufus Wainwright’s 7 p.m. set, I blindly obeyed. And even though it took us slightly longer than expected to reach our exit off Highway 10-by around 5 p.m.-things were still looking good. We had two full hours to drive all of 15 miles, and hey-even with my “check engine” light suddenly on, we kept smiling, tapping our hands to the beat of the Coachella mix Drew burned for the trip.

Skip to two hours later. We are still in the car. We can see the polo field. We also see the twenty thousand other cars trying to enter the parking lot. Our fingers are no longer tapping. When-after finally passing through the Coachella gates at 7:30 p.m.-I hear Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,” wafting over the masses of people, my road-worn bones spring to life and we sprint towards the music.

I’m certain it was the only time we ran all weekend.

Sarah meets a dragon.
Click to enlarge photo

Drew Mackie

Sarah meets a dragon.

The daytime temperatures hovered around the triple digits all three days at Coachella, but without a thermometer, I relied on a less-sophisticated method of gauging the heat. If my feet looked a normal color, it was not so hot. They look like lobsters wearing sandals? It was really fucking hot. And though you might think the three tented stages were a respite from the beating sun, they more closely resembled ovens where the scents of indie kid B.O. and remnant marijuana smoke baked into something alarmingly close to the scent of pure ass.

Driving problems and hot boxes aside, however, there’s nothing quite like this music festival in the desert. When else are you posed with this question: Would I rather go to a Decembrists concert, pass out on the lawn and recover from this awful contact high, or have a conversation with a robot?

Music editor Sarah Hammill and news and web editor Drew Mackie.
Click to enlarge photo

Drew Mackie

Music editor Sarah Hammill and news and web editor Drew Mackie.

The answer is never, and maybe that’s why, days after coming back to Santa Barbara, I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about last weekend. After all, it may be the only time Drew Mackie-or anyone else for that matter-eats two snow cones in one sitting. And it’s damn sure to be the only time I’m ever face to face with Damien Rice, or see Drew Barrymore traipsing through the crowd. Yeah, maybe I’ll see another Decemberists show. I’ll probably even be awake for it next time. But I won’t be there in a bathing suit top and cowboy hat. (Let’s hope I never again go anywhere in such attire.) And I doubt, no matter how great the crowd, that I’ll be there with people as crazy about music as we funky-smelling, ratty-haired, red-eyed freaks were.

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