At nighttime you could look up and if you waited a few moments, the dozen-plus searchlights that swept across the desert sky would come together, shining simultaneously towards the middle of the stars. Whether I was sitting in the grass swaying my head to lilting piano melodies, holding the hand of a friend as we weaved our way out of the dance tent and on to the next stage, or jumping up and down to the beat of the headliners, I would look up there pretty frequently... it was settling and stable, yet fantastic and out-of-reach. It was a fleeting mental escape from one of the most intense sensory experiences I've ever had... one that pushed hard against our capabilities for handling sight, sound, touch, and the rest. And even as it pushed, we wanted more, and knew that we'd never have the time to see, hear, feel, or do it all. And as we drove away we were already remiss that it was over. Showers, silence, clean clothes, sleep, sanity, be damned.
To remember every moment would be most desirable. I would love to recall exactly the way Temper Trap opened their set. I wish I knew how we ended up talking to some Australians after the Gorillaz played. It would be great to remember what songs we laughed at and sang to when they came on at the club in the campground. But of course, life is not designed to remember everything, it's impossible. So much is a blur. But there are some extremely vivid moments that I think I'll hold forever.
* Our group of five was zooming through the crowd, led by tall Jonas who had his fist in the air so we could keep track of him by our stay-together method of wearing glowing wristbands. There was a thick frenzy of excitement pressing down on us, the final act of the festival was taking the stage. Movement, movement, lights, bodies, cheering... Jonas was running faster and faster. He kept repeating, "this is it guys. let's do this. this is IT!" and all we could do was keep our eyes trained on his glowing fist and clasp hands tight, Sabina and Jodie and me, and follow. Then we got near the front. And then the beat dropped.
* Without expecting it, I found myself falling for LCD Soundsystem. The tunes were fantastic and the energy incredible. And several songs in, they started one song, I can't remember if it was Someone Great or All My Friends... Then I could see a fierce jump forward from a guy to the right and back of me, and his face was elated. He cried out, to noone in particular, or maybe all of us, or maybe just for himself... "THIS IS WHY I'M HERE! THIS BAND...THIS SONG! THIS IS WHY I'M HERE!!!.... this is why I'm here..." he trailed off as he began to sing along. I smiled at that for hours. His moment, I could so identify with it, became one of mine.
*She danced and waved her hands, not as crazy as some around us, but she was enjoying herself. She was in a two piece bathing suit only, with some body paint and maybe some feathers in her hair, not unusual for the festival. It was nighttime at one of the headlining acts. Since our groups were pressed in close to each other, the usual festival camaraderie came easy. We hadn't exchanged any words at all, just bumps and laughs and sing a longs. She was younger than me, and looked not crazy or hipster but sweet. At one point she leaned back, wanting to say something, so I leaned forward. "This is my first time really letting loose. The first. I don't ever look like this, I never have, I'm so conservative," she said, gesturing to all her bare skin. "I came here to be free." Her innocent face, somewhat buzzed, seemed to hope for acknowledgment that it was okay. It was. "You look great. And this is the most fun. Be free," I smiled at her and hugged her. She grinned and turned back and wrapped her arms around the girl next to her. I wonder about her.
*We could hear that they'd started a few minutes early. We started to run. It wasn't fast enough. Sabina and I broke into a full sprint, leaving the rest behind. We couldn't miss one more note without being as close as possible, this was one of the main bands we came for. When we reached the more tightly woven crowd, she persisted as she always did by pulling us through, winding past. Then somehow, after my pointing it out and her daring assertiveness, we got ourselves up on a concrete platform, only big enough for the two of us and a fellow Passion Pit fan. Our feet were at least seven feet higher than the heads of the crowd. We were right in the center of thousands. The sun was going down, and the colorful festival lights came on; the orange ferris wheel, purple folded crane, green and blue palm trees... Passion Pit sang, "let your love grow tall, tall as grass in the meadow, or the dunes on the shore, like the buildings in the city, and your children on the floor..." And the wind was warm on my face and Sabina and I waved our hands and it was unbelievable and THEN they played Moth's Wings... one of the songs I set my 2009 video to, and images of some of the best times of my life flooded over me, mingling with the images and feelings before me right then. There were tears in my eyes. It one of those perfect and stunning moments when you feel that it's possible that all your dreams will come true. You forget about the scholarship decision waiting in the mail at home, you forget about everything except for the moment.
That was Coachella.