While Coachella is a music festival, it has long been just as famous for the exclusive parties surrounding the event, and the social media influencers, models, and celebrities who flock to them.
When I decided to go to Coachella for the first time this year, I was determined to get into an exclusive after-party. The first party I got into was an overcrowded dud - but the second was the real deal.
I never really thought I'd go to Coachella, as I always saw it as more about the scene - the parties, the Instagrammable art, the wild outfits - than the music. But when Business Insider asked me to coverthe festival, I was figured I might as well go all-in.
That meant getting into one of the exclusive parties outside of the event. You know, the kind where you're more likely to run into a B-List (or C-List) movie star or musician than a drunk teenager.
I'm happy to say that, by the end of the weekend and a bit of finagling, I was successful. Here's what it was like.
The Coachella Music & Arts Festival has become famous as a showcase for the music industry's hottest stars. When I attended, Childish Gambino put on a show that he described as "going to church."
While the performances were predictably awesome, I was just as interested in getting into one of the events that happens outside the festival. On Saturday, after having my mind melted by Tame Impala, I decided to check out a party called "Art of the Wild" held two miles away from the festival grounds. As a journalist, I got invited to tons of events.
One thing no one tells you about Coachella after-parties: The line to get an Uber, Lyft, or a taxi when the festival ends is 90 minutes or longer. Because I'm a New Yorker (and very extra), I decided to walk the two miles along sandy desert roads. By the time I got there, it was around 2 a.m.
I walked up to Zenyara Estate, where the party was being held, and tried to explain to the security guards that I was on the guest list, but it didn't matter. There were two dozen people trying to talk their way in while guards told everyone the event was at capacity and the fire department had threatened to shut it down.
A PR person had described the event to me as "influencers, celebrities, artists, DJs, and fashionistas ... at Coachella's coolest, most exclusive after parties." Clearly, it was a broad definition of "exclusive": The party was so crowded no one on the guest list was allowed in. Eventually, the event coordinator said people could enter if they paid $150. I watched as party-goers name-dropped every person they could and then offered up their credit cards. I didn't pay. As I walked to my Uber, I heard a woman scoff as she walked out of the party, "That was pathetic." I guess I made the right choice to go home and eat ramen.
On Sunday, I had an invite to an after-party hosted by 1 OAK, one of the hottest nightclub brands in the US, but after the previous night's fiasco, I was skeptical.
I left the festival in the middle of Ariana Grande's headlining set, figuring that I had a better shot of getting into the after-party if I left a bit early. But this night was completely different. The 1 OAK party offered invitees a chauffeur car service to the location. I was picked up outside the festival.
The van that picked us up was decked-out with ten comfortable seats, an Apple TV, a stereo system you could connect to ...
... and a fully stocked bar. After running around all day photographing the festival, I figured it was time to blow off some steam. I mixed up some drinks with the fancy tequila in the cooler.
Though the party was hosted by 1 OAK, it was presented by Gravity, a new startup that offers a custom luxury car service personalized to your needs and smart TV capabilities. The van that brought me in was one of Gravity's vehicles.
There was a world of difference between the party at Zenyara and the 1 OAK party. First off, there were no tickets to the event and no check-in area. If you were there, it's because you were invited. As we walked in, a hostess brought me and my partner shots of whiskey.
The event was held at Lago Vista Ranch, a private, 6,000-square-foot villa with a fire pit, a dance floor, DJ booth, a private lake, and a beach. It felt like a scene from a movie — where the party is busy but not crowded, and everyone is fashionably dressed and trying really hard to seem like they're having an amazing time.
A few people got too ambitious about the paddleboat on the private late. They got stuck in the middle of the lake when the paddleboat stopped working and couldn't figure out how to get back to the dock.
The event was open bar and the pours were very heavy. When I asked for a tequila-soda, I got 4/5 tequila and 1/5 soda. The longer you stay at a party like that, the more it hits you that is a networking event. When I was in the bathroom, I asked a stylishly dressed attendee if he was having a good time. He looked at me quizzically and said, "My dude, I am working this event." Later on, I randomly ran into a friend who works in the music industry. He told me his main party objective was to connect with a particularly popular hip-hop producer.
For the high-profile hosts of the party like 1 Oak, Gravity, and New York celebrity gym Dogpound, the goal is to get a bunch of celebrities there. Luckily for them, they succeeded: Paris Hilton and rapper Lil Pump were both there ...
... as was rapper and hip-hop producer Lil' Jon ...
... hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd ...
... and Desiigner, among others. As I talked to one of the sponsors of the party around 1 a.m., a group of about three dozen important-looking people left the party. I watched as a PR person frantically tried to convince them to stay. Having celebs is clearly an important part of saying you had a great party.
I didn't even see any of the celebs that were supposedly at the party — except for Tyga — not that I was really trying. I was more focused on dancing.
The music, DJed by Pedro, the Cozy Boys, and Hank Korsan, was a perfect mix of old school hip-hop, funk, chill beats, and music of the moment. I would've danced all night ...
... but the heavy pours got to me. Thankfully, there was a Vietnamese food truck on site.
The food wasn't free, but it was tasty. I had a slow-cooked pork bowl with rice, peppers, and cucumbers. I wolfed that down, danced a bit longer, and then got a ride home from Gravity.
I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover. After trying and failing to get my hotel to give me a late check-out, I found my way poolside and let the sun bring me back to life. It was a ridiculous night to end a ridiculous weekend.