On Friday, after falling asleep at about 2 a.m. due to a combination of nerves, exhilaration and a commitment to playing loud electronic music until three in the morning, you wake up at 8:30 a.m. to temperatures already in the 80s. You get out of your sleeping bag, now sweaty from your hour or so of baking in the sun, and crawl into the shade of your car like a man dying of thirst in the desert. You try to locate the shuttle to take you to Ralphs, asking security guards equal parts clueless and convinced they know the pickup location. You walk around the campsite in a loop for an hour based on their misinformation before climbing aboard the shuttle bound for Stater Bros. in a state of exhausted confusion.
Once you’re there you try to estimate how much beer you need for the weekend, grab some sunscreen and wait around for another half-hour while the shuttle takes its time showing up. There are no shorts or coffee for sale in the strip mall, but you can buy cheap tires and insurance. If you are a store in Indio, you should always have shorts for sale. Two and a half hours later you’re back at the campsite after police wave the shuttle driver off his intended route. Everybody laughs and jokes about how nobody has any idea what’s going on. You hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come.
You leave your friends because they want to see different bands than you do. doesn’t disappoint; the lead singer dances hypnotically in his short-shorts, going into the crowd several times. You later find out your friends were not only there, but one of them touched the lead singer. You are jealous and annoyed with yourself at how quick you were to ditch them.
You make your way to the tent where Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All plays and see the end of Skrillex’s set. A girl you sort of recognize seems very pleased to see you, which confuses you until the day after, when you figure out who she is. OFWGKTA experiences a myriad of technical problems, delaying the start of the show and leaving you waiting in sweaty anticipation. You start hanging out with some friends but then leave them behind when you see a mosh pit forming closer to the stage. It dissipates quickly, which is disappointing. Members of the group dive into the crowd. One of them jackknifes as he jumps, pointing his feet directly at his landing spot.
You run into some other friends and go to see the Black Keys, choosing them over Cut Copy. They do not disappoint. You watch gay men dancing with each other at Robyn, admiring them for their energy at 11 p.m., before going back to the campsite after “Dancing On My Own” — the duration of which you spend appropriately.
Same wakeup time on Saturday, and same morning routine, sans the trip to Stater Bros. Remember that girl from the day before — the one who you didn’t recognize? You spend the entire day with her and her friends, having a great time and anticipating Animal Collective. Delta Spirit is fun, the Kills perform well past your expectations, but you miss Wire in order to meet up with her friends. This does not bother you as much as it should.
Animal Collective finally arrives onstage and you think, “Finally!” and “I’m so excited.” You say “stoked” multiple times without irony. They do not play anything you recognize. You are disappointed. You wish they had not ditched the “wearing giant animal heads gimmick” and wonder if that was even them and where you heard about it in the first place.
You move to Steve Angello even though you want to see the start of Arcade Fire but don’t because you know that if you leave these people, that’s it, you’re alone for the rest of the night and that thought is not a fun one. You leave Steve Angello after half an hour because you want to see Arcade Fire. Thankfully, the group agrees with you.
Everything bad about Animal Collective is amazing about Arcade Fire. You almost lose it completely when they drop the white balloons during “Wake Up,” which a friend once said is the “Don’t Stop Believin’” of our generation. You think about how you agree with him, and then stay up until 2:30 in the morning, talking about how tired you are.
On Sunday you wake up a little later, but not by much. One of your friends sleeps until 10:30, impressing you with her commitment to unconsciousness. The day passes by you in a haze. Neither you nor your friends find much to do beyond sit around and talk about how tired you are. HEALTH rocks, but all you can do is sit in the back and try to think of a way to describe their sound. Noise punk?
Death From Above 1979 comes on and rescues you from your somnolent shambling. The friend you are with meets some new people and heads off with them to see a band you don’t care about, but you stick around for Duran Duran. You realize three things: you don’t know Duran Duran, you don’t like Duran Duran and hey, that’s what Biggie was sampling!
The Strokes remind you of why they were the coolest band in the world. Your friends say it seemed like there was tension in the group and that Julian Casablancas seemed drunk. You’re not sure about either of those things but you’re more inclined to agree with the second. After their set you get caught in a mad rush forward.
Your body aches from three days in the sun. Kanye tells you to jump and you try but your back won’t let you. You get maybe an inch off the ground and decide you’re all done with that for now. The physical pain is intense hunger — combined with dull pain in your feet and back — makes you wonder how long you can stand. You make it the whole set, and the aches somehow bringing you to an ecstasy of purely existing in the moment. Thinking of anything else is impossible, and, for that, you are grateful: you would rather be nowhere else but there.