The Battle of Coachella Fest 2006

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After finally getting a ticket to the show, My good friend Levi and I headed out to Fest. Tool was the only band I "needed" to see, but a few others also caught my eye - Coheed and Cambria, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Editors... and I'll admit it... I wanted to see at least one song of Madonna. Levi and I got there at about 8 and I was really bummed as we were parking and I heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on stage playing "Maps". By the time we got in they were just finishing up. We then cought the last few songs of the Editors, the first song of Madonna, and the first three songs of Coheed and Cambria. It would have been nice to see more of the other bands but our mission for the evening was clear form the start: Get up front for tool.

With over 100,000 people walking about, the sun going down, and the cell lines all tied up, it was impossible to meet up with some of my other friends who went earlier in the day. Levi and I did manage to meet up with our friends Brian and Will though and I am really glad we did. Both of these guys are big a**holes when they want to be so it was nice to have them leading our mini-train to the front of the stage. They got the most dense crowd I have ever seen to part for us all the way up to about 50 feet back from the stage. We got into position for our big surge while Massive Attack was finishing up thier set. As soon as they left the stage, the battle started.

While everybody was still applauding for Massive Attack we ducked through armpits and edged in shoulders, worming our way to the front. Some point during this first push I lost my sandals... no time to worry though, I had to keep going. Man down! Will couldn't take it and backed off; I never saw him again. Being slighty shorter and stronger than much of the crowd, I took the lead during this second push. Levi had a firm grip on my backpack and Brian had Levi's shirt and we started to get really close - 1 inch at a time. With over 100,000 people, even the safest estimate would give at least 5000 die-hard fans like me... all trying to get into the same size area as an end-zone in Little-league football. It was getting pretty intense. We lost Brian at some point near the front, maybe 20 feet out but it was too late to worry about him - every man for himself. I am very surprised Levi was able to hang on and stay close. We kept pushing and eventually reached the super-die-hard fans, the ones that had been waiting in the front of the stage since the morning. We kept trying to push forward but we had gone as far as we could go.

For those of you who have never experienced something like this, let me try and express the magnitude of the situation. There is absolutely NO room to move your appendages. No room to move anything. If you were lucky, you remembered to keep one hand up to help swim through the crowd. If not, you probably didn't make it very far. 100,000 people are at your backs relentlessly pushing you forward into a solid fence. People die like this. As the pressure continues to increase, your breathing room decreases - literally. If you exhale too deep, the area that is created in your torso will be swallowed up by the crowd, giving you no further breathing room at all. The testoterone driven crowd behind you, frusterated by not being closer, push so hard from the back and sides, but with no room to move, the pile just leans. I was standing at a 45 degree angle for a good deal of the time, flowing this way and that in the sea of people like I was caught in a ocean current. I had survived so far on adrenaline and luck and made it up to the front. It wasn't the very, very front, but you don't want to be there because you have a severe risk of major injury as the fence does not flow with the crowd like a person does.

Now the waiting. I had to endure pressure for about half-an-hour before Tool hit the stage. I had to hold my position 10 feet from the stage (including the buffer space!) for as long as I could. Tool finally came out and it was awe inspiring. I was able to see them up close and personal, amongst 100,000 other fans. I felt elite, like a navy-seal or someting for being so close. Levi and I stayed up there for 3 Tool songs and then made security pull us out of the front. I wanted to stay up there but my feet couldn't take it anymore... they were thrashed! I tried to take some photos up front as I was on the way out of the pit but they all came out pretty blurred. I have my memories at least.

The rest of the show was great, seen from a good position (crowded, but manageable) right in the middle by the sound booth. Here we were able to relax and enjoy the remaining 8 songs they played. I can't wait until Thursday when I will only have to deal with about 1500 people at my back instead of 100,000!

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