Coachella: Desert Highs and Valley Lows
I made it out of Coachella/Stagecoach in one piece, and that was not easy! Working as a payroll manager for the Resources department was a one of a kind experience that I will not be repeating. This was my first time working a music festival, and coming from a background of award shows I was in for a rough living & social experience.
Let’s be honest! The biggest perk of working this show is getting to pop into the festivals after work or on our lunch break! It was such a surreal experience.
Show days were always so high energy and good vibes. It was exciting to know that everything we were working for was coming together for an unforgettable experience for the guests. We got meal cards for free food on show days. I would constantly get mozzarella sticks and elote. Needless to say I gained weight out there, but what can I say – who turns down free festival food! I got to see some lit shows. My favorites were:
5. Lil Uzi
4. DJ Snake
3. Dillon Francis
1. Shania Twain
I was really blessed to be able to link up with some friends from high school and college throughout the different weekends of Coachella and Stagecoach. The moments where I could see familiar faces made life in the desert so much better.
As I mentioned before, there was lock down during show days, which made life so inconvenient. Also, the sounds of Lady Gaga kept me up on Saturday nights. I didn’t go see her performance but I could hear every note. I spent a lot of time by myself during the festival..well during my entire time at Coachella. So I feel like next time I go to a festival I want to be with my friends or family.
Living on Festival Grounds
The majority of the resources team was given on-site “housing” which were mental containers turned into bunks. We had A/C and bunk beds. I had one roommate, a girl from catering named Sam. The rest of the bunks were occupied by the guys I was supervising. The bathroom was about 30 feet from my room, and the showers were a bit closer. The showers were cold so I got a month long membership at a local 24-hour Fitness so I could work out then shower with some type of dignity.
I liked having a short commute to work. I would park by my bunk and just walk to the office. One of the manager recommended that I bring an air mattress which was a great piece of advice. I got to eventually bond with the other guys, although it was a slow start. Also, we had catered meals three times a day. The meals were always pretty good and I saved so much money on groceries.
I found out a majority of my management team (all but two of us) were living off site in a house with a pool and I got kind of bitter because I was bumming it by myself. A major issue I had was the security checkpoints throughout the festival grounds. Our bunks were located right by the concert site, so every time I left for breakfast, lunch, the gym, I would have to come back through a “truck stop” and get my car examined. Each security guard was different. Get out of the car, pop your trunk, open your glove box, show your wrist band. Quite a few times I would be turned away because my wristband was from the week before, or my parking sticker was expired and it was so miserable. I would have to call the other managers for assistance and a lot of time, they were too busy to be bothered. So living on site was something that made the entire experience really tough. On festival show days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they have “lock down” so that after 9 or 10pm you couldn’t re-enter the grounds. So after work, if I wanted to work out or grab dinner I would have to be back before that time otherwise I would no be allowed inside until 2 or 3am.
At first I thought, there really wasn’t going to be much to do in the desert but I was surprisingly wrong!
A few of my coworkers swooped me up on my day off to visit art installations called Desert X. They are art pieces located all around the desert by artists aiming to “amplify and articulate global and local issues.” ALSO, by the grace of God my friends from undergrad Laura & Cassie live in the desert. Who would have guessed! I met them at ACE Hotel Palm Springs and we caught a drag queen hosted trivia night. I spent the night with them a couple of times and it was just wonderful. And last but not least, were the sunrises and sunsets. The silhouettes of palm tress against the watercolor sky was a view I really could not get enough of!
The heat and dust were the number one thing I couldn’t stand. I ended up with “Coachella Cough” fore a few days, as a consequence of forgetting to wear my bandana when I was out and about on the festival grounds.
As payroll coordinator I was helping manage and supervise our team of about 120 employees clock in/out, prepare their time sheets to be prepared and help with all things payroll. I also was helping deploy employees to different stations around the venue. Coachella is a 3 square mile area, so I would take a golf cart and pick up and drop off people when needed. I was on a management team of about 8 people, half were day shift, half were overnight. I had no overnight counterpart.
I loved the guys we worked with. They were so hardworking and many were down to earth and easy to talk to. I would help them fix their time sheets and chat with them while doing it. I really enjoyed getting to know the guys and what they do outside of Coachella. I really am ecstatic about having a management credit on my resume. I learned so much about respectful communication, problem solving, and budgets.
The biggest low of the job itself was that I was promised a certain amount of hours and weeks on this job, and because of poor planning prior to my start, my hours were cut severely. It was a huge learning experience—always negotiate and solidify your dates, rate and hours before you start a job. I was played very heavily because I was trying to be agreeable, however I walked away with about 50% less money than what the hire offer letter indicated I would be earning. As a freelance individual, I would have benefited by protecting myself and making sure I was going to leave with the money I expected to make. Watching my hours get cut due to “budget” things was really tough on my attitude. I want to do a good job, and I came to the desert to work, but many of my working hours turned into me taking naps or on the phone in my bunk.
That’s a summary of my time in Coachella Valley! I think festivals have their positives and negatives but overall I am grateful for the experience. Will I ever do this again?