It was a brutal fight against the traffic and I thought there was no way I would make the historic opportunity to see Paul McCartney on Friday night at Coachella last year, but there I was, at half past nine, sipping a cool beverage outside my safari tent, and while I couldn’t actually see the man, I could hear him crooning to me. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is right—the Safari Tent option at Coachella really is the best of three worlds. It’s got the proximity of the camping area, the amenities of a hotel room, and the access and cachet of the backstage artists’ village. So it costs 10 times what a normal ticket does—it’s not for everyone, but it could be for you. Here’s how the Coachella Safari adventure works.
When you arrive and things at the main entrance are massively backed up, you can tell security where you are going, and within minutes you’ll park next to a giant, mostly empty polo field with round-the-clock attendants at every entrance. Inside are two dozen large white safari tents arranged in rows and connected by oversized mylar ducts to several industrial-type air conditioning units. After a quick check-in, at which you will receive a pair of wristbands—one for the Safari Tents, the other for backstage—you walk just a few yards to your tent. Inside you’ll find beds or sofas, depending on which you ordered, and all the modern conveniences of festival life, backstage-style, including electricity, lamps, a mini-fridge, a dresser, tables and chairs, wi-fi, and a mirror, all in a climate-controlled environment that you’ll really learn to appreciate if the temperature outside spikes into triple digits.
Safari Tents are an oasis, and oases are worth a lot anywhere, but believe those who say “location, location, location,” because when the first golf cart arrives outside the convenient hospitality desk, you won’t believe how quickly you and your party will be whisked past security and into the labyrinthine world of Coachella backstage. Mammoth equipment trucks compete with tricked out tour buses, bicycles, and golf carts for room on the busy main drag. Watch out for the guy pedaling a piano!
Within minutes your driver has delivered you to a checkpoint behind the stage you have requested and you’re in through the artists’ entrance to an area that’s at most one-tenth the size of the actual audience. You and your friends will chat with the artists and their friends and family while the set lists get checked over one last time. Be careful you don’t get swept onstage when nearly everyone you are standing with turns out to be in the next act!
Besides the convenience of golf-carting from set to set along the backroad, Safari Tents also offer a convenient place to chill out when you need a break. Ask at the hospitality desk and they will issue you day wristbands so that you can entertain your friends in style and privacy, all the while just minutes from the mainstage in case you want to catch the next act. Several times I was able to head back to the tent, grab a glass of water, check my email, and change my shirt, all in the time it took for one of my favorite bands to break down their drum kit and make way for another. Pretty amazing.
Even with all the socializing, side views can be tiresome after a while, so at a certain point you’ll be likely to abandon the exclusivity of backstage to mingle with the hoi polloi on the grounds. Coachella may be huge, but on a good night that’s one of the best things about it. The music rises up into a giant night sky and spirits soar along with it. Late nights are among the best times to be in the tents, both safari and regular, because the day ticket holders at Coachella have to leave after the last set. Although the safari tents are mostly low key—I slept soundly every night without using earplugs—the main camping area goes all night if that’s your thing.
Mornings at Safari Tents are a special ritual. Inside a giant empty hangar building at the edge of the field there’s a delicious complimentary breakfast buffet with lots of hot options. It’s way better than the Hampton Inn continental, and it’s served with a smile by a great staff. At the back of the hangar there are six private and perfectly maintained hot showers, and they feel really good after a night at Coachella and before another hot day on the grounds. This great combo—real breakfast and a hot shower, both with no lines—got me up and going with a smile after even the most grueling music marathons. The bar outside the hangar is where everyone from the safari tents goes to schmooze. You’ll see agents and managers sipping Bloody Marys while making deals for their clients over in the artitsts’ village.
Which brings me to the extras. All by themselves, Safari Tents are a dream, but we did add a couple of things to the mix that I recommend if you are planning to go all out like we did. An RV in the parking lot makes a great complement to the tent. You can purchase extra backstage wristbands once you’ve taken the initial Safari Tent plunge, so more of you can stay on site than can sleep in the tent. It’s also a great way to have a second convenient place nearby to prepare food, play video games, and get rest. The other useful amenity we added was a rented passenger van. When it comes time on Saturday afternoon to hit one of the private parties being held at the mansions nearby, it is very convenient to be able to put 10 or 12 people in a single vehicle and only have one person driving. Neither of these are necessary of course, but the combination made our experience that much easier and more fun.
Finally, don’t miss the artists’ village. It’s a bit hard to find, as it is tucked behind the regular VIP area, and it is all the way on the other side of the entire grounds from the Safari area, but it’s lots of fun, with plenty of comfy chairs and sofas for lounging and each artist provided with a private trailer. Fascinating impromptu parties broke out back there due to the unintentional proximity of random acts’ trailers, and they were a lot of fun. See you there on Friday night!
The 4•1•1: Safari tents start at $5,000 for the first two people, with backstage access included in the price. Extra backstage wristbands are $1,000 each and are only available to Safari Tent residents. Other than being with an artist, this is the only way to go backstage at Coachella. For information and to order your tent, visit http://www.coachella.com/camping/safari or call (888) 833-1031.