Inside the drug culture at Coachella

Categories: Music Festivals

secondphotokidsanddrugs.jpg
Ed Carrasco
Coachella after party, not necessarily involving drugs.
Oakland resident Kimchi Truong was 24. She passed out on the Coachella grounds last weekend, likely due to an overdose. Her death, Thursday, was shocking. But what's really shocking is that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.

This story is about very young people doing a shit-ton of drugs, but let's start with the old folks of the Coachella Valley. Fooling themselves into believing they're not going to die, they populate ticky-tacky communities behind guarded gates, with giant televisions, preposterously lush lawns and mammoth green hedges. They've bought into the illusion that this is paradise, rather than a punishing desert that will remain hospitable only as long as politicians willingly waste the diminishing stash of Western water. The men, who are tan, and the women, who take walks in the morning, came from greater L.A., arriving to places like Indian Wells and Palm Springs to escape the smog, traffic, crowding and chaos.

How betrayed they must feel, then, when the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival brings the riff-raff back to their doorstep for two weekends every year - the biggest, most unruly traveling circus imaginable.

Marked like convicts with green, yellow, and blue wristbands, the young people are regarded with distrust. With good reason: They make only the slightest effort to assimilate into their temporary communities. Drunk on their parents' money and preparing to descend into squalor, they rent houses or apartments for $400 or more per night, cramming each room with three or four of their best friends, laying down sleeping bags they'll barely touch and stocking the fridge with water they'll forget to drink. Upon arrival, they immediately break out the vodka, or the molly, and blast off: Coachella is their Christmas, the greatest time of the year, as much for the chance at unsupervised recklessness as for the festival itself. (Many won't even make it inside.)

"It's common for my friends to wake up, start drinking and taking Adderall," says one early-twentysomething festival veteran. "Then they mix acid and molly together in a water bottle and take that into the fest. They drink this mixture throughout the day and night while continuing to supplement it with booze, weed, and Adderall. They'll lick their fingers and dip them into bags of molly."

The thrifty ones don't even purchase tickets to the festival, instead hitting up the Valley's exclusive parties timed to the event, flush with celebrity DJs, rappers, fashion designers, models, and young millionaires. At these parties, branded within an inch of their lives and held at places like the Corona Yacht Club - whose signature feature is a freshwater lagoon - the drinks, kale salad, gummi bears, and Aerie-brand bras and panties are free. The girls, having dieted for months beforehand and brainstormed outfits that will make them not, technically, naked, travel in packs, the guys inflate their resumes. Absolutely everything is photographed.

When the parties end the kids drive home, at the mercy of their oft-failing GPS systems, drunk out of their minds. But though it's well past midnight it's not too late for psychedelics, chocolate-covered mushrooms or Sour Patch Kids laced with LSD. The drugs, combined with a lack of sleep, lack of food (In-N-Out Burger is closed, yo), and a general, half-assed sense of artistry inspire all sorts of late night shenanigans: impassioned guitar performances, EDM dance parties by the pool, impromptu outdoor photo shoots with old-timey popping flashbulbs.

By early afternoon the next day it's time to go into the festival, and despite last night's insanity the kids are far from depleted. (Before long they'll have sinus infections and crushing depression, but that's still days away.) And so they head over to the Polo Grounds, only sometimes remembering to pack sunscreen into the fanny packs they've brought because their swimsuits don't have pockets.

They have, however, remembered to stash drugs on their person and in just about every orifice.

"Guys smuggle joints and molly by putting them in a plastic bag and then taping the bag with duct tape in between their legs, between the ass and the balls," says the twentysomething. The way to get coke into the festival is either by putting a small baggie in the tiny pocket of your jeans, or else inside a necklace. Says a female college student: "Girls use a bullet necklace or cylindrical cross, which they fill by unscrewing the bottom. No one thinks to check for coke in a necklace."



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53 comments
christopherwrigley
christopherwrigley

How someone can do coke in the blazing sun of the desert is beyond me 

Dillon Michael Gross
Dillon Michael Gross

Coachella sucks huge dicks but I wish they would have made an effort to differentiate this from good festivals

pastafarian14
pastafarian14

The only thing accurate in this article is the passage about how the Coachella Valley is sucking up all the water from the western states.  The rest is just pure hyperbole.  I doubt the author even went to the festival.  I know Westword isn't a bastion of journalism, but I still can't believe they would print unsubstantiated rubbish like this article.  


Maybe Ben should start writing for the National Enquirer, he certainly has the talent to make up B.S. out of nowhere.  

Ian Kimsey
Ian Kimsey

Interesting article, although it seemed like the journalist was coming at the subject from the perspective of a jaded gen-'X'er. I've been to Coachella four times, and while there is quite a bit of drug use, most people are pretty smart about moderation, hydration, and harm prevention. And the crowd is far less rowdy (and violent) than the people who go to Stagecoach the next weekend.

Burton Bailey
Burton Bailey

Sounds like the skinny jean wearing journalist didn't get laid at the festival. I dunno, but. ITS COACHELLA...

Wil Randolph
Wil Randolph

Because nothing says good idea like Candy Flipping in the middle of a crowd of sweaty people in the middle of the day.

Bill Gould
Bill Gould

This article sounds as though it was written by somebody about 35 years old is pissed off he/she doesn't have the money to go to the festival his/herself.

Ossama Hussein
Ossama Hussein

What true acid tripper mixes that shit with molly and water? Propaganda

Jennifer Dreher
Jennifer Dreher

By going to a festival like this and then be like well i didnt do it!!!! Its like i just watched as these ppl took drugs and said or done nothing!!! Guilty by association!!!

Tom Fair
Tom Fair

They make you pour out anything liquid going into the venue. Your article title is false.

Ed Haas
Ed Haas

Ummmmm.....isn't this pretty much every big festival....since....like....the dawn of music festivals??

Shonna Lynn Perrymond
Shonna Lynn Perrymond

what I mean is we got to discipline our children and they knew we as parents would kick that ass into the next zip code. Now we're getting charged with child abuse. half these nitwit parents don't think and end up getting high with their kids then wonder why the dropout rate is so mountainous

Jónatas Roze
Jónatas Roze

That is correct if what you're getting is actually what it's advertised as being. Nowadays what's sold as "Molly" is often methylone or some other weird and/or dangerous synthetic psychoactive in powder form.

Jónatas Roze
Jónatas Roze

This is an old school morality tale poorly disguised as guerrilla journalism. The anecdotes are weak and the editor should have checked the writer's one source. A poor Rolling Stone knockoff.

Seth Lichtenstein
Seth Lichtenstein

Oh, fuck off. I just got back from Coachella, where I camped, and had a blast. I took no drugs, didn't drink heavily, don't live in LA, and I'm far from rich and definitely don't have an inheritance. I just watched great bands all day with my friends and many other music fans. Why don't you actually try something before you write a hit piece on it and make generalized statements about all of us?

Rachel Leamon
Rachel Leamon

Yeah, so no liquids aloud in Coachella. That's incorrect. I also attended this event and hardly anyone was overly intoxicated or appeared drugged up. It was mostly people with blankets enjoying music in the desert.

gramsci3000
gramsci3000

Dear Ben, ever been to Coachella?  Doesn't sound like it.

Shonna Lynn Perrymond
Shonna Lynn Perrymond

wow it amazes me how every year drugs get more popular!!!! DCFS needs to let us go back to being proactive so our children don't get strung out on drugs

Johnny Brätwurst
Johnny Brätwurst

Duh even n00bs know it only counts if you boof it, get it together guise

Sean Valdez
Sean Valdez

Yeah your quote at the top is wrong you are not allowed to bring in outside drinks try again westword. In fact what is it with the westword and weird drug articles lately.

Aaron McMurray
Aaron McMurray

Cool. How about leaving people's drug use private? Why does westword find it necessary to cover this? To make all festival goers look bad?

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

Thanks, wish Molly/Mandy was around 15 years ago

Dustin Roger Mikkelsen
Dustin Roger Mikkelsen

Stephen Felt, Molly is a purer form of ecstasy, engineered to be more potent, and last longer. It's called Mandy in the UK, it's just pure MDMA free of adulterants.

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

MDMA or whatever cut crap they call ecstasy these days.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

It seems like edm is linked to all that is bad with music. Too much Molly, issues with sound at red rocks, etc. Maybe stop booking that bullshit and only book actual bands. That would curb a large portion of it

Oi'Ram Arejan
Oi'Ram Arejan

This journalist needs to pull the massive dildo out of their ass. Its a festival. What do you expect.

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

Acid making a comeback? And what is molly?

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

The 90s called, they want their drug hysteria stories back.. Er, I mean the 80s. No wait, the 70s. Shit, I meant to say the 60s. OH NEVERMIND

John J. Wood
John J. Wood

It's *what* was taken and a combination thereof...

Cameron Goldberg
Cameron Goldberg

This is not a look inside anything except maybe the mind of a clearly upset journalist that has only ever seen a show with a media bracelet. Gross

Patrick Layman
Patrick Layman

I go to festivals simply to pull the "gimme a huggggg (pick pocket wallet, cell phone, +) scam." Thanks to Coachella, I won't have to work until November.

Jeff Johnston
Jeff Johnston

You guys love writing about drugs and then putting the article on 5-10 different pages? WHY?

Chris Vann
Chris Vann

Uh...that sounds like a fuckin nightmare at that newb fest

Westword Backbeat
Westword Backbeat

Perhaps you will enjoy one of the many other expressly Denver-centric articles we published today!

doozercore
doozercore

drugs aren't getting more popular

shock media is


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