four festival insiders smiling

Coachella from the Inside

Call them music festival insiders. AEG and AXS TV employees, who collectively have spent thousands of hours on sacred concert grounds, recently shared their festival experiences with Mercury Insurance. In this five-part series for newbies and veterans alike, we’ll let you in on some of the best kept secrets at each festival.

Now in its 15th year, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is best known for its incredible artist lineup, fast-selling tickets (2016 will go on sale immediately following the end of this year’s event), popular camping options and scorching heat. You might call it the hottest ticket in town and it’s definitely the most coveted West Coast experience, amassing a cult following with celebrities and millennials.

In this Q&A, we learned from Todd Smith, AEG, StubHub Center, Andrew Arrospide, AXS, Dan Rafferty, AEG and Terrell Wong, AEG about things that even the most seasoned festivalgoer might not have known about Coachella’s hidden treasures.


Getting to Coachella

Mercury: Do you have any tips for getting to Coachella, like the best time to leave L.A. and avoid traffic (chuckle, don’t say take a helicopter)? Which freeway(s) to take or exit ramps to avoid?

Smith: Go Thursday night! Enjoy a fun dinner and don’t stress over Friday traffic.

Arrospide: If you choose to leave Friday, be sure to hit the road by 7 a.m. and the I10 East is the way to go!


Mercury: What are the best ways to get around Indio?

Rafferty: The shuttle system is absolutely the way to go. Ride sharing services most certainly have a surcharge.

Arrospide: During the day, for me the best way to travel is in your car. The shuttle is the most cost-effective way of traveling to the festival and they usually make trips every 15 minutes. I recommend taking an Uber at night, however be prepared for a bit of a wait, as they’re in high-demand at this time.

Wong: I prefer to drive my own car. But the shuttles are a fun way to go and meet new people at the same time. Uber is easy too, but they typically increase their rates in the area.


What to Bring

Mercury: What are your five must-bring items when traveling the Polo Grounds?

Smith: 1. Camera 2.Sunscreen 3.Sunglasses 4. Friends 5. Chapstick

Arrospide: 1. Camelbak for water 2. Comfortable sneakers 3. Sunglasses 4. Watch 5. Sweater for potentially cold nights

Rafferty: 1. Sunscreen 2.Cash 3. ID 4. A good group of friends 5. Sunglasses

Wong: 1. Cell phone 2. Sunscreen 3. Hat 4. Sunglasses 5. Disposable camera to save my cell’s battery


Places to Stay

Mercury: What’s your experience with camping versus staying at a hotel for Coachella? Are there pros and cons of one over the other?

Wong: Camping is a great experience that everyone should try once. Being able to walk back to the camper and meet a handful of fellow music lovers is the best experience. Keep in mind that this is a giant open space that remains loud throughout the night, so if you plan on living up the weekend to its absolute maximum, then camping is the way to go.

Rafferty: They’re completely different experiences. The camping scene really gets you in the mood of the festival. You meet people from all over the world. Staying at a hotel is comfortable and you can lounge by the pool before heading to the show. You may even get a free breakfast.

Arrospide: Staying in a hotel makes for a more comfortable experience, but if you really want to do Coachella the right way, you should camp! Camping at Coachella keeps you close to the concert grounds, which is beneficial after a long day of walking around. Hotels in the area are nice too, but can be a huge hassle travelling back and forth.


How to Look the Part

Mercury: Coachella is well-known for its range of fashion trends. What are the craziest outfits you’ve seen or worn to the festival?

Smith: I am just happy to see people wearing any clothing ... some people choose to wear very little.

Arrospide: I’ve seen it all at Coachella. From wild Hawaiian shirts to large over the top sombreros.

Wong: I’ve seen full rave outfits that include masks and horse heads.

Rafferty: Definitely things that are not PG-13. People like to cut up normal outfits to create a fashion statement that emphasizes skin, as opposed to fabric. There is no such thing as not matching at Coachella.


Good Eats

Mercury: Coachella offers healthy and indulgent treats. What eateries do you recommend trying?

Rafferty: I rarely order for myself, but instead ask the server what they recommend. They know the food much better than I do.

Arrospide: Tacos! I’m a huge fan of the taco stands at Coachella.

Wong: The pizza spot was the best thing at the festival last year.


Memorable Music Moments

Mercury: Which artist are you looking forward to seeing perform this year at Coachella?

Smith: I can’t wait for David Guetta.

Arrospide: Drake. He’s had another big year, and I’m sure he will bring up a ton of guests for his performance.

Wong: Drake hands down.


Mercury: In 2012, Coachella surprised the audience with a Tupac hologram.  Which artist would you want Coachella to revive in hologram form this year?

Smith: Jimmy Hendrix or Bob Marley.

Arrospide: Great question! Why not create a Beatles reunion?!

Wong: Biggie.

Rafferty: I’d go old school. I think a Frank Sinatra hologram would be absolutely epic and just imagine thousands of people singing ‘That’s Amore’.


Mercury: Have you had any celebrity sightings?

Smith: Too many to name!

Arrospide: Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio and singer Cody Simpson.


Additional Advice

Mercury: Are there any must-have souvenirs, freebies or prized possessions you’ve gotten from the festival?

Arropside: The festival t-shirt and poster are a must! These go quickly, so pick them up on day one. The Coachella wristband is also a prized possession. I wore mine for a month after the festival.

Rafferty: I’m a fan of keeping a cup from the concert. It’s easy to take home and whenever I drink from it later, it reminds me of the great time I had at Coachella.


Mercury: What kind of experience will the winner of the Mercury Insurance Festival VIP Sweepstakes receive?

Arrospide: Thousands of people will attend Coachella this year, however only a very select few will have access to the backstage area of the festival. The experience will be incredibly unique and eye opening. The sounds will be clearer, the views will be grander … nothing will be able to compare with it.

Wong: You get to be up close and personal with all of the artists. Coachella is something every person should experience once.