Tag Archives: Coachella

Pretty Good Year Lessons

It’s been nearly two years since I last posted a blog entry on this website.  WTH?!  Had I really been that busy to even bother posting on here?  Truth is, I never even noticed my inactive blogging slump until today, which happens to be my birthday.  I woke up this morning with a bottle of Jack feeling very introspective and reflective, logged on to this website to look back at the past year, and BOOM… my last post was about Cocktails & Couture… in January… of 2015!!!  Nearly two entire years had passed.  WTF?!

I suppose there wasn’t much to share on here from 2015 besides the usual trips and events.  I must have involuntarily gave myself a break from being a blogger last year, and saved my energy for this year and beyond.  Let’s face it, these blogs become vehicles for the egocentric and/or insecure to remind you to look at them (with the exception of the guys at NHIE Tampa who do a remarkable job highlighting Tampa Bay), so maybe I should win an award for Best Friend of 2015 for sparing friends and acquaintances from annoying posts that secretly beg for their likes and comments.

2016 was the year of change, and with change comes lessons learned.  So without dragging you thru a mundane assessment of 2015, let’s fast forward to 2016, start from Day 1, and sum up the past year with what I learned along the way.

 

January 2016

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Happy New Year!  I suppose since I slept through all New Year’s festivities ringing in 2015, that I had zero choice but to get pretty, be social, and make plans to ring in 2016.  A huge group of friends targeted the Rooftop Eve Party in downtown Tampa to celebrate.  The last Rooftop Eve Party I attended in 2014 was a drunken, blurry, hot Transylvania mess fun time, but… unlike those 2015 festivities, this year’s party was just a HOT, humid, face-melting, sweaty mess.  I was drenched in sweat by 12:15am, and headed home around 12:30am.
Lesson Learned:  Mother nature, if you’re gonna melt my face, please let it be at Sunset Music Festival or Governor’s Ball when someone on stage and behind the decks is in charge of doing the job.

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Cocktails & Couture!  One of my passion projects with Tribeca ColorSalons and annual favorite events, Cocktails & Couture finally hit its stride this year.  We went from attracting 500 attendees our  very first year, to 200 attendees our second year, to eventually bouncing back and hitting a whopping 1,200 guests in our fourth year.  This recap from 813area.com perfectly sums up the event.  Check it out here: Cocktails & Couture Makes Tampa Feel Like A Big City & Save The Date: January 14, 2017!
Lesson Learned:  Never give up on something you believe in.  The receipts will be there as long as your personal passion still is.

February 2016

Puero Rico!  My annual February trip to Puerto Rico meant more than the coconut cocktails consumed on the beach, the rum guzzled at the Bacardi Factory, and seeing Jack Ü perform for the first time.  Neil brought along bestie Ian Michael for the San Juan adventure, and his story, his drive, his fearlessness, and his heart melted my heart (not my face) when he first shared it with me on that flight down to the  51st U.S. state.  Check out The Human Hug Project
Lesson Learned:  A hug can save the world.

 

April 2016

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Festa Italiana!  Bellinis, limoncello, pasta, meatballs, more bellinis, more limoncello, sfingi, ravioli, er… Jameson Irish Whiskey shots (?).  Another Italian Festival, another Sunday Funday on steroids.  Save The Date: April 9, 2017
Lesson Learned:  Okay, my bartender friends.  I confess… I really do enjoy Jameson!

 

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Coachella, baby!  Words cannot describe the magnitude of dreaminess that is the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio Valley, California.  Those who have been understand the magic that the entire weekend brings.  If you are a fan of music, fashion, art, culture, and good vibes, a ticket to Coachella is like securing an exclusive golden Wonka ticket… well, except that there are 100,000 other exclusive ticket holders.This year was my third year attending, but certainly not my last.  Coachella has since been upgraded to Annual Must Attend Event on my Google Calendar.
Lesson Learned:  You cannot download a live music experience.

 

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Pride & Passion NOW IN TECHNICOLOR!  I served on the Tampa Museum of Art’s Pride & Passion steering commitee for five years, before finally becoming Chair this past year.  And as Chair, I recruited my own Avengers team of committee members, and put my heart, soul, sweat and tears into overseeing this event from top to bottom during the 9 months of planning.  This year’s Pride & Passion became the first to completely sell out days before the event, while also going down as the most attended event in the history of the Tampa Museum of Art.  ::drops mic::  After six colorful years and literally ending on the highest note possible, I decided that my time with Pride & Passion had finally come to a wonderful and fruitful conclusion.
Lession Learned:  You’re only as good as your team… and I made sure to surround myself with the most talented & hard-working crew.

 

May 2016

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Viva The RITZ Ybor!  The RITZ Ybor, my workplace and my home for nearly the past decade came under new management this past summer.  Changes.  Changes.  Changes.  This was nothing new.  My entire time working there for nine years was constantly filled with changes.  While I am still working at the best mid-size concert venue in town, my role has since changed, I had to say goodbye to some coworkers, and meet & work with a brand new team.
Lesson Learned: “Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  …and I don’t want to get left behind.

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June 2016

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Governor’s Ball!  A music festival in NYC during the summer time?  Yes, please.  What has become an every other year event has since transcended to being another Annual Must Attend Event.  Sure I get to cross artists, bands and dj’s off of my Must See List.  And yeah, I get to galavant across Manhattan and Brooklyn eating and drinking everything in sight, but most  importantly, I get to spend the weekend with old dear friends while (always guaranteed to) meeting new ones.
Lesson Learned:  Things are always constantly changing, and just spending one second in New York City will always reconfirm that.

August 2016

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Jonathan L. Myers.  I was texted the news.  I did not believe the news.  I read the news on social media.  I called to confirm the news, hoping that it was all some very hurtful and mean joke.  The news was true.  And my heart was ripped apart.

It still feels like Jonathan is on-duty overseas again, and there will be some sudden welcome back party that causes everyone to call out from work for an entire week.  I thought that making my way to his service in Iowa would bring personal closure to this tragic event, and that I would finally be able to accept that he is gone.
Lesson Learned:  I used to get really sad whenever past photos or stories of Jonathan would pop up in my feed.  Now, I smile knowing how lucky I was to share and spend those very moments with him.

September 2016

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Franklin Manor!  My friends Franco and Dave reached out to me over the summer about joining their new venue, a downtown social drinkery called Franklin Manor, to handle and manage their events.  I was intrigued and flattered, but did not know if I would be able to make everything work with two existing jobs, an unnecessary travel schedule, and my growing list of Netflix shows that I’ve yet to binge-watch.  (Truth!)  I accepted  this new opportunity that has since become a very fun 2.5 months (and counting) adventure.
Lesson Learned:  One can never have too many homes.

October 2016

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Gina & Vince Get Married!  My first trip to Chicago ten years ago, I met Gina and Vince.  At the time, Gina and Vince were hanging out.  And over the entire course of a decade, I’ve seen Gina and Vince transition from hanging out to dating to moving in and nesting to welcoming a beautiful daughter into the world followed by an adorable son.  This past October, I finally saw Gina and Vince get married.
Lesson Learned:  The longer you wait, the more you appreciate, because anything worth having is definitely worth waiting for… especially when you have a smile on your face the entire time.

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All Hallow’s Ball!  I decided to do something different and dress up for Tampa’s biggest & loudest, annual Halloween party.  I nearly forgot that it had been a whopping 12 years or so since I last attended the All Hallow’s Ball, hence my last minute begging and scouring for an invitation and tickets to the party.  And unlike the 12 year absence from the party, I probably lasted a mere 30-minutes or so at the celebration due to a extreme hangri-ness.
Lesson Learned:  I don’t have a lesson learned here to share.  I just wanted another excuse to share a photo my Snapchat Filter Flower Crown that I created by myself.

November 2016

…and here we are today!  I am officially in my late-30s.  According to some online surveys, I am older.  (Damn you random survey that forced me to check that 35 & up box!)  I feel wiser.  I feel good.  I look good (solely judging by the surprised reactions when I revealed my age to a handful of friends.)  I also feel like I give less of a shit with a lot of the shit that used to drive me nuts.  (Has my OCD been cured?)  With Jonathan’s sudden passing, I’ve realized that if you aren’t happy with something in life, change it, fix it, or shut the hell up and deal with it.  Life is way too precious, short and unexpected to be stressing, worrying, and being unhappy.

I used to believe that happiness wasn’t something you find, but something you decide.
Lesson Learned:  Happiness is making the most of what you got, and realizing that you already have it all.

“Hold onto nothing as fast as you can.  Well… still… pretty good year.”  -Tori Amos

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Big Guava Music Festival 2014

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The first annual Big Guava Music Festival (literally) stormed through Tampa Bay May 2 thru 4, 2014!  My prayers had been answered for this was my city’s first true music festival (besides the Sunset Music Festival), and the closest thing to Coachella to hit Tampa Bay shores.  The stormy weather may have hindered attendance the first two days, but Big Guava ended on a sunny, high-note by the third and final day.  Regardless of weather conditions, the residents of Tampa Bay need to WAKE. THE. HELL. UP!… and take advantage of such a fantastic music festival taking place in our backyard.  Coming from someone who works in the live music and concert industry, the challenge in bringing music acts to even perform in this state is difficult.  When a line-up such as this year’s Big Guava line-up is created, you get up off your couch, you buy tickets, and you attend.

As with anything new in this city, it’s just going to take time for Big Guava to reach the heights of success that it rightfully deserves.  Upon hearing Live Nation’s announcement for plans to present another Big Guava Music Festival next year, I let out a sign of relief that my prayers had once again been answered.  Hopefully, my prayers of Tampa proving not to be such a basic city will be answered when its citizens come out in droves to next year’s fest.

So enough of my tirade.  I now present, and in no particular order, my TOP 5 FAVORITE PERFORMANCES at this year’s Big Guava:

 

Magic Man:  There I was lying in a hammock in the Craft Beer Chill Zone at Big Guava, lounging until the next act I planned to see took the stage.  To find an available hammock in any of the Craft Beer sections at Big Guava was like finding the Holy Grail.  So when you happened to find an available one, you jump on it and rest on it as long as you can because this lethargic opportunity of downtime may not come back around again.  For me to abandon my hammock to check out the catchy music that was coming from the nearby Grove stage just goes to show what an electrifying band Magic Man are live.  Lead singer Alex Caplow stole the show, and (simply put) KILLED his band’s set with his Jagger-esque energy and moves, and vocals that soared thru the Fairground fields.  I wasn’t familiar with the pop rock band from Boston before Big Guava, but they have now become a regular staple on my Spotify.

 

 

Outkast:  The biggest disappointment of this year’s Coachella was hands-down Big Boi and Andre 3000’s much-hyped reunion.  There was no connection at all from the duo to their songs, or to the audience.  The flamboyant Andre 3000, sporting un-Andre 3000 attire comprised of a cap, hoodie and denim overalls, came across as drained, uninterested and depleted of his usual pizzazz.  The energy in the desert was a mixture of confusion and exhaustion, both from Outkast and the masses of festival-goers that began to rapidly thin out.  I cringed when Andre 3000 asked the Coachella audience if they were still there, and if they were tired.  By the time the duo performed the classic “Hey Ya!,” it was too late, for only a 1/4 of the audience that were originally lined up to see their set still remained to shake it like a Polaroid picture.  And barely did they do that.

So to my delight, Outkast invaded the Big Guava stage on their one and only Florida appearance and owned it.  The real Andre 3000 had returned, with a platinum-blonde wig and the funky, outrageous persona we’d come to love and expect.  The packed house sang along to every song, and gave the boys from Atlanta a true dirty South, warm welcome back.  After all, Outkast FINALLY proved that they were indeed back!

 

 

St. Lucia:  Jean-Philip Grobler makes the kind of music that reminds me of the breezy ballads from the 1980s that were sung by Sting, Phil Collins and Christopher Cross.  There’s a precise beauty to the way his distinctive voice sings melodies against a synthpop beat.  It’s polished.  It’s calming.  It’s cool.  Imagine how surprised I was to see his ability to also command a dancefloor as aggressively as he did when he performed the disco-fied “September” which may as well have been an ode to Dead or Alive.  St. Lucia‘s performance was commanding enough to even persuade Alex Caplow from Magic Man to let loose and dance in the middle of the festival crowd.

 

 

Chance The Rapper:  One of my absolute favorite thrills at any music festival is accidentally coming across a really amazing artist’s set, enjoying it, and thus becoming a new fan.  I was only inside of the Nectar Stage venue to cool off and sit down.  Chance The Rapper just so happened to be performing on the Nectar Stage.  Unlike Magic Man, I was actually familiar with Chance the Rapper, but his music never initially grasped me.  Truthfully, I never really gave his music a chance after his audacity to bring Justin Bieber as his surprise guest performer at this year’s Coachella.  No bueno Chance, no bueno.  So I sat down in the only air conditioned part of Big Guava, sipped on my beer, and could not help but be seduced by Chance The Rapper’s music, stage presence, and the way the near full-house was hooked and mesmerized.  Okay, Chance, you got me.  I’m a fan.  Just please, no more Justin Bieber guest performances until he gets his life together.

 

 

MS MR:  This New York duo’s Secondhand Rapture album was an honorable mention on my annual Top Albums of Year List for 2013.  Their dark indie rock sound may have been a noticeable contrast to being the earliest and very first performance on a very sunny Florida day, but MS MR brought along enthusiasm, spirit and soul to their set.  Vocalist Lizzy Plapinger’s scratchy yet soulful voice is what instantly reeled me in to liking MS MR, and it is an instrument that did not disappoint in a live setting.  A small bonus for seeing them live was me FINALLY learning how to pronounce their name.  All this time, I referred to them as “M. S. M. R.” when they their actual band name is pronounced “Miss Mister.”

 

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…until next year’s  Big Guava!

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My Coachella

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The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival… holy @#$! shit, what an absolute amazing experience!

This was my second time attending the nation’s reigning mother supreme of music festivals (and the most-successful festival according to Billboard Box-Office).  For anyone with a hard on for live music of all genres, Coachella is the ultimate wet dream.  There truly is no other way to describe the magic that is everything Coachella.  My obsession with Coachella stems from the diverse line-up all in one setting, surprise superstar performances, and 100,000 music and art lovers dancing, singing, and getting their life in the California desert.

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This year’s Coachella adventure kicked-off with a friends’ reunion in Los Angeles with my best friends Cheri and Harry a.k.a. Hit & Run (childhood friends from Tampa) and Kristin (who just so happened to be visiting California the same weekend).  I linked up with other former Tampons Jamal and Robert that evening, and received the ultimate surprise when I found out that my New York friends and family (sans Jason ::insert tears::) were in L.A. celebrating Gary’s birthday.

It was one big, fat, gigantic Tampa reunion in Los Angeles that just so happened to come together randomly.  The entire randomness of it all is best described by Nadia’s greeting to me when we first ran into one another that evening: “What the fuck are you doing here?  Are you real?  Is this night even real?”

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The weekend continued as we met up with Daddy Neil and Rusty, drove to Palm Springs and prepared for the onslaught of the next three days.  One of the weekend’s highlights was meeting Chloe and Erin, two fabulous (and quite hilarious) beauties from the UK.  We instantly clicked on night one during Outkast’s ho-hum reunion performance, and spent the rest of the Coachella weekend singing and dancing the nights away.

The music highlights of this year’s Coachella include:

  • Empire of the Sun…  I had been dying to see them live since I was first hypnotized by their “Walking on a Dream” single six years ago, and the boys certainly did not disappoint.  They were the perfect blend of pomp, flash and drama needed for the Sahara tent, and my pick for the best performance of the weekend.
  • Skrillex… Sonny Moore remains one of the few prominent on the EDM scene whose artistry and craft emanates from his every DJ set.  For those cynics who wrongly insinuate that there is no true talent or work in being a DJ, Skrillex’s thrilling set at Coachella is the receipt to silence them.
  • Rudimental…  It was a treat to finally see this British band perform, especially to witness how their music which encompasses drum and bass, R&B and soul, and pure funk came together in a live setting.
  • Calvin Harris…  Mr. Harris now boasts the second largest performance attendance in the history of Coachella, second only to 2012’s Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg Lion and the 2Pac holgram’s historic California Lovefest.  He played an effortless set of his greatest hits, from “Feel So Close” to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” to new single “Summer.”  No guest performances, no surprises.  And for those cynics who complained that his set played it safe, well why reinvent the wheel when it is still spinning?
  • Arcade Fire…  I will admit that I only knew a few handful of Arcade Fire songs.  I am not infatuated with Arcade Fire like their hardcore following of fans, nor am I one of their many detractors who simply do not understand their hype.  I have always stood on neutral ground with them, so  I was anticipating their headlining, closing performance to find out in which direction I would be swayed.  In the end, I enjoyed their performance, despite lead singer Win Butler’s misguided comments regarding us in the VIP section.
  • MGMT…  I forgot how much I loved MGMT until I woke up from my afternoon nap on the lawn and was greeted by the sounds of their music.
  • Lorde…  if only she could follow the rule of “less talking, less storytelling, more singing,” then she would have had an A+ set.
  • CHVRCHES…  when a band sounds as glorious as their studio recordings, it’s a win-win situation.  CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice sounded like heaven.

A random festival-goer summed up the entire weekend best, when he and I accidentally walked into one another.  I immediately apologized during our run-in, and he just laughed it off, smiled and remarked, “it’s all good man.  No need to apologize.  It’s the best weekend of the year.”

…and yes it was.

To my dear friend Mike Hammonds, thank you for being the best music festival partner in crime.  Daddy Neil, thank you for being you, for teaching me the music festival bunny ways, and for reminding me that this was “my Coachella.”  And lastly, dear Coachella, I’ll be missing you next year, but will return in 2016 to cash in on the best weekend of that year!  [READ: 2012’s Coachella Adventure post]


“Comfortable” by The Knocks featuring X Ambassadors:  I am pissed that I missed The Knocks at last year’s Governor’s Ball in New York City, because I become more and more enamored with their music each and every passing day.  “Comfortable” was this year’s unofficial Coachella anthem.  Perhaps because I demanded that this song be played on repeat at high decibels.  Or simply because this anthem ROCKS, and will serve as a reminder of this beautiful weekend in Coachella Valley.  :: sigh ::

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California Dreams

Forgive me blog, for I have been having a torrid love affair with both my iPad and Kindle Fire since they romanced their ways into my life over a month ago. The lack of an actual keyboard on both devices are my invalid excuse for not posting as frequently as I promised that I would this year.  It’s not that a lot hasn’t happened in life either!  Instead of posting one summarized account of my best friend’s wedding, losing my virginity to Coachella, visiting Cheri in L.A. and so forth, I will dedicate individualized posts to each Facebook Timeline-worthy event starting with L.A. and Coachella…

My dear friend Neil called me up from St. Louis Chicago around February of this year  to proclaim that he we were going to the Coachella Arts & Music Festival in Indio, California this year.  Here’s the thing with Neil: when he wants to do something, he does it… and almost always, he demands company.  Not that I would not go anywhere to hang out with him, it’s just the process in how I usually land in those situations that’s amusing.  Sample example from last year:

Neil:  Okie, where is there great cajun food in Tampa to eat?
Me:  Cajun food?  Here in Tampa?  Um, I cannot think of anything.
Neil:  Really?  There’s nothing here?  Hmmm…  What are you doing tomorrow?  Any plans?
Me:  Tomorrow?  No plans except that I have to be at a work meeting at 11am.

(10 minutes later)

Neil:  Hey, pack your bags.  We leave to New Orleans in a few hours.  I just booked our flights and hotel rooms.  We’ll land at 9pm tonight, enough time to eat at my favorite cajun restaurant in the French Quarter.  You can can go back to the hotel to sleep afterwards.  Your flight is at 7am tomorrow morning, enough time to make your 11am meeting.  So get ready!
Me:  You seriously just booked flights to New Orleans after you flew to Tampa from St. Louis Chicago just because you were craving cajun food?  I’m flying to New Orleans for 10 hours for your craving?
Neil:  Pack your bags!

God I love Neil!   So my first experience at Coachella was set for Weekend 1 of the music fest.  I have been dying to attend for years, but never put actual motion to any plans.  I was flying into L.A. on the Thursday night prior to see my friend Cheri and Ryan, going to The Abbey in West Hollywood that evening with them and then driving to Palm Springs early Friday morning to begin Operation: Coachella immersification.

Neil booked lodging at the SLS Beverly Hills which was pure ridiculous in how ornately posh the entire hotel decor was, and dinner at Gyu-Kaku was even more ridiculously amazing.  If I did not have plans to go directly out after dinner, you can place all of your money on the truth that I would have devoured that place dry of food.  Actually, I would have worn stretch pants and TOMS® to dinner, and then devoured that place dry of food.  It was that good!  Although my time with Cheri & Mike, Ryan and the city of Los Angeles was very brief, it was still worth every pounding sensation of the Mojito-migraine the very next morning.

I have been to California numerous times, actually lived there for a very brief time when I was in diapers, but I had never been to Palm Springs.  Palm Springs is one of those places that I would become a resident when I’m in my 50’s, rolling in money and have nothing better to do in life than delegate jobs to a full-time staff consisting of a maid, personal chef, masseuse, gardener and interior decorator.  Being in the California desert and surrounded by mountains every which way you turn was a refreshing change in scenery from that of Florida.

View from the hotel room at the Agua Caliente Casino Resport Spa in Palm Springs, CA

Anyone who knows me knows that music is my religion.  For the opportunity to attend the Daddy Mack (or Mack Daddy based on your personal Kris Kross preference) of Music Festivals was heaven sent.  I stalked the Coachella website online, downloaded the Coachella phone app, obsessed over the line-up and attempted envisioning how the whole weekend would play out.

Sample pre-Coachella obsessions:  “How much of AVICII’s set in the Sahara Tent will I be able to enjoy before having to migrate over to the main stage to see Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?” … “Will there be a defribillator nearby to revive me when I pass out if Madonna makes a surprise appearance like she did at ULTRA?”  Everything that I thought Coachella would be turned out to be completely wrong…  Coachella was even more!

Miike Snow and Feed Me weren’t on my original itinerary, and both turned out to be the two surprise sets that were my everything

Seeing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg performing together was my middle school dream come true.  Imagine how loud the place erupted when they performed “California Love”?  And YES, I did see the Tupac hologram.  One of my friends in the industry gave me a heads up that his friends in the industry had been working on it for quite some time, so it came as no surprise.  YES, it looked life-life in person.  I only wish that I had not known about it prior to the show so that I could truly be surprised.

Other highlights:  Rihanna surprising the crowd during Calvin Harris’s DJ set for “We Found Love,” seeing Mazzy Star perform “Fade Into You,” just arriving at the outdoor stage to catch the last notes of Florence + the Machine’s “Only If For A Night,” the celebrity sightings galore, witnessing Kaskade literally set the Sahara Tent ablaze with his set, the sensory overload of Swedish House Mafia closing out night one, seeing Radiohead perform “Karma Police” and most importantly, spending time with my very dear and close friend Neil.

Everything about that weekend and my time at Coachella was just right.  The weather (not scorching hot like I was previously hearing.)  The drinks.  The food. (A poutine food truck, seriously?)  The people.  The atmosphere.  The location.  The music.  The world.  I cannot think of a better time had than with 150,000 other lovers of music and art in that Californian desert.

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