It just doesn’t feel like a full year has gone by since we last stepped on the sprawling green grass at the Empire Polo Club in Indio for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its sister country music event, Stagecoach.
Time has flown by and we’re now just days away from the kickoff of another festival season in the desert. Coachella is scheduled to take place over two weekends, April 14-16 and April 21-23, with headliners Bad Bunny, Blackpink and Frank Ocean, followed by Stagecoach, led by Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Christ Stapleton, on April 28-30.
Last year, both festivals made mighty comebacks following two very long years of COVID-19 pandemic-forced cancellations. While there was a palpable excitement in the air to return to the festival grounds, there was some hesitation as a variety of suggested protocols was still very much in play, though festival promoters amended their strict policy and decided not to enforce showing proof of COVID vaccinations to attend.
With various strains of the virus looming in 2023, there are still a variety of precautions fans can take, which are listed on the official Coachella and Stagecoach websites, including masking while in crowds, washing and sanitizing your hands and being responsible enough to recognize that if you’re not feeling well or you test positive for COVID, just stay home.
As our entertainment team begins to pack our bags for the desert, we thought we’d share some of our tips for Coachella and Stagecoach survival that we’ve learned in over two decades of coverage. There are also a few new rules and some fresh amenities for ticketholders to be aware of.
Passes for the first weekend of Coachella are sold out, but there are still general admission and VIP passes available to both the second weekend of Coachella and Stagecoach.
Carrying your stuff
A new bag policy was implemented last year that allows guests to bring in medium backpacks (no larger than 18 by 13 by 8.5 inches when fully packed). Security was checking bag size last year, by having fans place their belongings into a box of that size, similar to carry-on bag check at the airport.
It’s important to pack light, but if you absolutely need the biggest bag allowed, there are locker rentals on-site that should be purchased in advance. The price has gone up, too, as they’re now $65-$90 depending on the size needed — $10 more than last year. The easiest, most comfortable and carefree way to enjoy the festival, is to stick to a smaller hip bag or a now-back-in-style fanny pack (which you can also strap across your body for a less ’80s look).
What’s in the bag?
Both the Coachella and Stagecoach websites have extensive lists of what you can and cannot bring. Most of it is pretty common sense, but the one mistake our crew has witnessed fans make year after year is trying to bring in aerosol sunblock. There are typically piles of full bottles of spray sunblock discarded at the security gates as fans are forced to ditch the item to be able to head inside. A small, travel size bottle of SPF 30+ reapplied throughout the day will do the trick — or better yet, a sunblock stick for quick and easy application.
Don’t forget to pack lip balm, too. The desert heat and winds will leave your skin pretty dry. It’s also wise to pack some antibacterial hand wipes since you’ll be touching so many things throughout the day and the festival food can get sticky.
Hydration during these events is key and there are several water refill stations on-site, so fans can bring in an empty plastic refillable water bottle (metal water bottles aren’t allowed). It’s also not a bad idea to pack some sort of hat and a light sweater or jacket since it may be in the low-to-mid 90s during the day, but temperatures can dip quickly once the sun goes down.
And wear comfortable shoes. For those parking and walking in, that trek can be a half mile or more and it’s dusty, uneven and rocky. Even if you wear a pair of sturdy sneakers just on the way in and out, and swap into something more stylish and cute once on the grass, your feet will thank you later.
Long before there were mandates, fans wore face coverings at Coachella and Stagecoach because of the amount of dust in the air. If the wind picks up and the dirt starts blowing, you’re going to want a face mask (disposable is best because they do get super dirty) or at the very least, a bandanna.
The Empire Polo Club isn’t the dead zone it used to be when it comes to cellphone service and WiFi. The festival does provide WiFi hot spots in a variety of areas including the Coachella Stage Bar, 12 Peaks Bars, Beer Barn, Outdoor Theatre Bar, Indio Central Market, Sonora Bar, the main merchandise area and inside the Rose Garden.
Is it the best WiFi? No, it isn’t — because thousands of people are trying to be on it all at once.
Unless you really need it, enjoy the moment and upload your photos and videos to social media once back at your hotel or rental house.
Both festivals are cashless, so make sure your wallet apps are up-to-date with the most current account information. Bring two different physical credit or debit cards with you just in case, as well as a fully charged portable cellphone charger and charging cable. There are multiple areas with charging stations on-site, but they tend to be crowded and charge devices pretty slowly.
In the past, we’ve experienced fans not being able to purchase food or drinks, find their friends at the end of the show and get left behind or break up with their significant others all because of a dead cellphone battery.
If you’re staying home
If none of this sounds appealing and you’d rather just stay home, you can experience “Couchella” and “Stagecouch” from the comfort of your home. Take in all the sights and sounds of both weekends of Coachella as all six of the festival stages are livestreamed this year via YouTube.com/Coachella.
Last year, Stagecoach livestreamed its headlining sets and several other performances as well at YouTube.com/Stagecoach, though promoters have not revealed livestreaming plans for the country fest just yet. Both channels also include a live chat option for fans, in-stream shopping experiences that offer access to exclusive merchandise and a series of artist interviews in between sets.
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