DIY Coachella in Los Angeles

All of the fun, none of the dust.

Party girls in the pool at The Standard Downtown L.A.
Photo courtesy of The Rooftop at The Standard DTLA, Facebook

Now entering its 18th edition, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the be-all-end-all pop culture happening. The two-weekend juggernaut has altered the popular music landscape, generating its own economy and spawning an endless stream of imitators across the country. Along the way, Coachella has elevated the likes of Daft Punk, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and many more from cult heroes to icons.

So yeah, the Coachella effect is a real thing. It’s also a real drag. There are the challenges of driving to the desert (it’s 2.5 hours, but unless you plan well, that can double), parking and walking miles to queue up for entry, and camping, if that’s your thing. Or booking a hotel, which requires a certain amount of skill, luck and dough. And the travel from your lodging to the venue each day. It’s all too much to be too cool.

And those ticket prices, oof! This year, general admission passes went for $399, VIP a cool $899. That’s a rent-buster for a lot of folks, if not a deal-breaker. That’s if you snagged ‘em before they sold out. Secondary market GA tickets for Weekend One topped $500 at press time.

Do not despair, ye haters and losers, we’ll make our own Coachella! There are plenty of options right here in L.A. It’ll be cheaper, tastier and about 30 degrees cooler. Plus you get to sleep in your own bed. And no extra-special hydration required.

MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC

Empire of the Sun on stage
Photo courtesy of Empire of the Sun, Facebook

Festival performers are contractually prohibited from playing other shows in the region for a few weeks before or after the festival. This year, the folks at Goldenvoice have crafted a well-curated batch of shows around L.A. featuring Coachella performers. Throw in a few other shows happening over that stretch (like the Pixies), and you won’t miss a beat. Here are a few highlights hitting local stages.

  • Car Seat Headrest - The Regent, 4/17
  • IRONTOM - FREE admission - Satellite residency, 4/17 & 4/24
  • KONA - FREE admission - Bootleg residency, 4/17 & 4/24
  • Bonobo - The Theater at the Ace Hotel, 4/17
  • Blossoms with Arkells and WILDERADO - Popshop West’s weekly showcase - The Echo, 4/18
  • DJ Shadow - The Fonda, 4/18
  • Empire of the Sun and Broods - The Shrine, 4/19
  • S U R V I V E (the dudes who scored Stranger Things) - El Rey, 4/19
  • Moderat - The Mayan, 4/20
  • The Pixies - The Fox Theatre, Pomona, 4/21
  • Honne - The Roxy, 4/21
  • Phantogram - Glass House, Pomona, 4/23

GO VIRAL

I’m a proud veteran of the first Coachella (Rage Against the Machine! Moby! Thievery Corporation! Tool! Pavement!) and of many more since then. But my FOMO fell prey to my YOLO a long time ago, and now I just DON’T GO. My solution: stream it. In recent years, I took in memorable sets from Bryan Ferry, Trent Reznor’s How to Destroy Angels, Alabama Shakes, Nick Cave, and a host of others in my own home. Heck, last year, I watched Purity Ring in my own bed. The video and sound quality are excellent, and the sightlines can’t be beat. 

For bonus coverage, KROQ offers up a terrific behind-the-scenes experience from their longstanding Party House. Pop some popcorn, push some buttons, and settle in.

PARTY POOLSIDE

David Hockney pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt
David Hockney pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt | Instagram by @thehollywoodroosevelt

If you’re in the desert anyway, you can do worse than jump into the fray of satellite parties — many of them poolside — with a wide range of artists performing and DJing over both festival weekends in Indio and “other desert cities.” Many of these offer free admission, though entry is not guaranteed. Good luck, friends!

Keep On Food Truckin'

Mandoline Grill at On the Lot in Los Feliz
Mandoline Grill | Photo courtesy of On the Lot, Facebook

Coachella offers a wide range of food and beverage options at the Polo Grounds. At best, they’re merely mimicking the original L.A. food truck experience. Find a local gathering of trucks and get your feast on. The lunchtime line-up on Wilshire Boulevard near LACMA is legendary and worth a stroll. One of our favorites is On the Lot, a Monday night gathering in the parking lot of Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Los Feliz. It’s a chill vibe, with cool people of all ages coming together for an always-pleasing array of tastes. Follow them on Twitter: @OnTheLotLA.

Drinks Al Fresco

Good Times at Davey Wayne's
Photo courtesy of Good Times at Davey Wayne's, Facebook

With warmer temperatures almost upon us, get an early jump on your summertime outdoor bar scene. Here are a handful where you’ll find an equal measure of tasty beverages and fellow hipsters, along with some great music.

  • RESIDENT in the Arts District boasts a vibey courtyard, great food and drink, and great live music inside.
  • Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Hollywood feels like the backyard party of your college-age dreams come to vivid life. Enter through a garage refrigerator door, and prepare to party.
  • At Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village, you can see where your favorite local beer is born as the Metrolink thunders by every few minutes.
  • Salazar is a newish, lively outdoor spot in Frogtown. A gravel entry area pours into a cozy, bustling covered bar. Mexican eats, ice cold margaritas and cervezas.

WHAT TO WEAR

Jet Rag
Jet Rag | Instagram by @lapizofsui

The Native American headdress. The return of the headband. Mom jeans. Mom jean cutoffs. Vests without shirts. The bohemian denizens at the Empire Polo Club have developed a distinctive panoply of fashion trends over the years. And you can find a treasure trove of all of them and more at Jet Rag, the O.G. vintage store where many of these looks went to die the first time around.

BACK TO NATURE

Burkhart Trail in the Angeles National Forest
Burkhart Trail in the Angeles National Forest | Instagram courtesy of @republicofpavo

RV SUPERSTORE
Everyone loves RV’s. But unless you have a camping pass at Coachella, you can’t get into the camping area to truly soak up the experience (unless you pony up another $99 for a camping pass). No problem. Just visit Mike Thompson. You’ve seen the late night TV ads, now get the in-person experience! With three locations across the region, you can stroll around and shop for your own mobile home, without any any stinky millennials getting in your way.

A BIGGER TENT
Everyone loves a big tent. Coachella’s tents even have names — Gobi, Sahara, Mojave, Yuma and newbie Sonora. Pitching a tent in the backyard isn’t quite the same as sweating it out with a few thousand of your friends under the BIG top. You want scale and scope? We got you covered. Check out Big Top Rentals for all your oversized event tent needs. You’re welcome.

OH YEAH, ART

Kerry James Marshall, "Untitled (Painter)," on view at MOCA Grand Avenue
Kerry James Marshall, "Untitled (Painter)," 2009, acrylic on PVC, 44 5/8 x 43 1/8 x 3 7/8 in., collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

We very nearly forgot about the ART part of the “Music and Arts” festival. Coachella has built a sterling reputation for its daring installations. No matter: L.A. stands as one of the capitals of global visual art this century, with no shortage of exhibitions and installations to sate your fix. Pick a few galleries from the Arts District in Downtown L.A., or stroll around Chung King Road in Chinatown. Immerse yourself in Anna Craycroft’s Tuning the Room installation, on view through April 16 in the Ben Maltz Gallery at the Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester. Bonus: no bleed-over racket from the Main Stage band!

If you haven’t checked out Kerry James Marshall: Mastry at MOCA Grand Avenue, get a move on. Marshall’s bold work, in explosive color, elucidates the African American experience as no other artist could. These paintings are so bold, they don’t need amplification.

So let the denizens of the desert have their sunburned fun over the next couple of weekends. We’ll keep our kicks local and lively, and compare notes with them when it’s all said and done. There are no winners or losers… or are there?

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Jonathan Palmer