Super models, mere mortals and floral crown enthusiasts alike descended upon the blistering hot Californian desert last week for Coachella 2015. Tom O’Connor, the Creative Director of The FS Group, took the bull by the horns and figured out just how to conquer the Coachella pilgrimage. This is about the experiences in between, the fun in getting there and what really goes on outside the festival gates.
1. The real party starts in LA
The Coachella effect is not just contained in the desert valley where the famous festival takes place, the impact is global. Its influence can be seen in capsule collections hanging on the racks of fast-fashion chain stores to filling the feed of your favorite social media network. The buzz is greatest felt around the epicenter, where Coachella radiates its carefree Californian spirit.
Naturally the first stop on my Coachella journey was Los Angeles where I caught up with the presiding Tsar of LA nightlife, Mr John Terzian of HWood Group. John is a visionary who has redefined the LA nightlife scene with ventures including LAX, Shore Bar, Tea Room, Bootsy Bellows and The Blind Dragon.
“The city is having a moment, it’s buzzing! The artists are here, the people are here. There is an amazing energy,” says Terzian over dinner at his latest mafia inspired offering, The Nice Guy in West Hollywood. I am assured that our booth is the best seat in the house besides the private chef table in the kitchen.
“We never set out to create hotspots, I focus on my regulars and creating something that my friends love.” When John says friends he isn’t referring to old mate Davo from down the road. Terzian counts Drake, Gigi Hadid and Harry Styles as family, all of which have had private parties at The Nice Guy. A-Listers feel safe and at home in the back rooms of John’s venues. “I want to protect our friends. We do not work with the paparazzi. We are in the escapism business and we are in this for the long haul, all of our venues have a private entrance.”
2. Turn it into a road trip to remember
Coachella is located 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles and close to many notable Californian experiences. Do yourself and your crew a favour and hire yourself some wheels through Relay Rides, it’s like AirBnB but for cars. The G Wagon was my pick to navigate the white water freeways, rutted desert roads and swank Valet pull-ups along the way to Coachella.
Las Vegas makes for the ultimate pre-festival pit stop and you cant go past the hip and refreshingly un-themed Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in the dead centre on the strip. The lavishly appointed three-level bungalows are where shit gets real. Step out onto your private courtyard and beyond the gate is the infamous Marquee day club. It’s like an interconnecting room but cooler and with more possibilities.
To be honest, you could spend your whole time in Vegas without leaving the Cosmo – thus reducing the likelihood of running into yokels clad in velour track suits sucking on giant novelty cups filled with electric blue liquid. The Cosmo is home to the ultra chic Scarpetta restaurant overlooking the Bellagio Fountains and the elegant Chandelier Bar. Order yourself the Verbena cocktail complete with a stingy Szechuan flower. It’s not even on the menu but it’s the Cosmo’s most popular cocktail, the exotic flower will make your mouth burn, fizz and salivate.
For the day after the night before be sure to book a cabana at the Boulevard Pool and lay there all day long, you’re going to need to conserve some energy for the festival. When it’s time to check out and hit the highway take the Nipton Rroad exit off the I-15 and drive through the majestic Mojave Desert National Park. This is where spontaneous desert parties ensue and weird and wonderful gas stations beacon you on the horizon.
3. Get Coachella advice from a Veteran
“I am dying to see ACDC!” Patrick Schwarzenegger, the 21-year-old son of former Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, tells me poolside at the exclusive H&M Loves Coachella party held at the Parker in Palm Springs. “It’s day one and I haven’t made it in yet!” says a passionate Schwarzenegger. Coachella is just as much parties as it is a music festival.
Patrick is pretty much akin to American royalty, a really nice dude and not to mention a seasoned Coachella veteran with Californian spirit running through his veins. “This would be my tenth time going. I’ve gone to weekend one and two since 8th grade up to my Freshmen and Sophomore year of college. It’s my junior year right now,’ says Schwarzenegger.
As a LA native, Coachella was as a right of passage. “Growing up in LA it was the one time where your parents sent you off and you kind of felt free. It’s just you and your friends, you go down and get a hotel room, you party and have fun. It was a big weekend when you were in high school. It still is a big weekend. It’s the first time you have freedom,” says Patrick.
Patrick recently played muse to Tom Ford, fronting the designers AW14 eyewear campaign and there is no doubt he is emerging as a major style icon in his own right, with his all American good looks and a nonchalant swagger.
“Coachella is the time to wear whatever the hell you want to wear. Whether that’s a throw back NBA jersey or something really colorful. Last year my brother and I wore these 1970’s collared shirts that my dad use to wear. They were huge on us and they had planet Hollywood on them. Last year I literally wore stuff from the thrift store and it cost me like 10 dollars,” says Patrick. Tom Ford or Thrift Store, Schwarzenegger confirms there are no rules when it comes to Coachella style.
4. Attend the Chevrolet x McDonalds Party at the Bootsy Bellows Estate
Turns out John Terzian hosts one of the biggest parties on the Coachella party circuit and he invited me along to check it out after dinner in LA. Epically large mansion with multiple pools and jumping castles? Check. Supermodels, rappers and a random appearance by David Hasslehoff? Check. Throw in some cheeseburgers and a bevy of Chevrolet super cars and you have the annual Chevy x McDonalds pool party at the Bootsy Bellows Estate.
It all started with Terzian renting the biggest estate he could find in Rancho Mirage for himself and his friends to enjoy for Coachella. “Over time it morphed organically. The house became the Bootsy Bellows Estate and we started working with McDonalds and Chevrolet,” says John.
The party was all my spring break wet dreams come to a dazzling reality. After a DJ set by Brody Jenner in pluggers and a surprise cameo by Fergie during the private 2 Chainz performance I knocked shoulders with Gigi Hadid on my way to the ball pit – was this real life? Yes, it was and it was both bizarre and thoroughly fantastic. All it needed was the Hilton Sisters grinding up on Justin Bieber and I was set. Wait, yep that happened too.
“Oh you’re actually going to the festival?” said a random dude as he glanced at my wristband in line for the restroom. “Um yeah?” I said with a puzzled look on my face. It dawned on me that many people go to Coachella without actually going to Coachella – was not going to Coachella cooler than physically going to Coachella? Has everything up to this point in my life been a lie? Either way you will have the time of your life.
5. Recover at the Parker Palm Springs
Recovery is one of the most important parts of the Coachella experience. It’s a time for you to thank your body for putting it through an abusive three days of no sleep, extreme walking and sun burnt dehydration. The recovery phase will also aid in you not blacking out and forgetting all your warm and fuzzy festival memories.
My advice is to take it down a notch and nestle into the lush bosom of the Parker Palm Springs – the grand dame of the desert. It’s akin to a chic Betty Ford clinic from the 70’s but with wifi and a croquet lawn The Lemonade Stand bar by the pool is perfect spot to rehydrate and re-upload any missing Instagram’s from the patchy festival reception. Amongst the blossoming grounds you will find the Palm Springs Yacht Club spa set in a grand Georgian pavilion – its off the chain. I would recommend the Yachtsman’s Voyage package to reenergize you and cleanse your skin of all that desert dust.
With special thanks to:
The Nice Guy
401 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
T 702 698 7000
Parker Palm Springs
4200 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92264
T 800 543 4300