The couch concert of the year

Ahh, paradise. Did you all enjoy that 30-degree temperature drop this weekend? I missed the whole thing. While you all were getting frostbite while covering your plants, I was soaking up the rays from the California desert. I spent the whole weekend watching some of the trendiest musicians in the world at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California. Attending the legendary festival has always been a dream of mine, and this year’s lineup didn’t disappoint.

Best of all? I didn’t have to get off the couch to do it.

I really had no intention of staging a Coachella weekender from my own living room. I’d just returned home from work on Friday when I remembered the festival usually streams a handful of performances on YouTube. What I didn’t know was that THIS year, they were livestreaming nearly every performance from all six stages, dozens of bands parading through my television screen in real time. I tuned in for a brief channel flip, but next thing I knew, I was parked in front of the TV all weekend as a long-distance concertgoer.

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Coachella became Couch-ella. As far as I’m concerned, every music festival needs to do this.

Here is a list of things I love about music festivals: No. 1: The music. That’s the whole list. I have loved music for as long as I can remember, and there’s nothing like the exhilaration of a live concert. Listening to a record can be great. Watching a music video can be fun. But witnessing one of your favorite artists bringing that music to life in front of your very eyes? It’s magical.

Here is a list of everything I hate about music festivals: No. 1: Absolutely everything else. Massive festivals are great, except for all the festivity. I hated large crowds of people BEFORE the pandemic. I hate them even more now that we live in a world where any number of people I’m swapping oxygen with could turn out to be plague carriers.

There’s a sea of humanity at these events and, as we all know, most of humanity is annoying and terrible. And when it comes to concerts, the annoying and terrible people ALWAYS manage to find me. If you’re one of those types who likes to scream along off-key to every word of every song, you’re probably standing on my left. If you like to use concerts as improvisational interpretive dance recitals, you’re probably on my right. If you’re eleventy feet tall, you’re standing directly in front of me. If you’re precariously balancing three beers in your hand while pogoing up and down like a lunatic, you are invariably standing behind me.

But now let’s take the “fun” of standing in a polo field elbow-to-elbow with the entire metro population of Davenport and let’s add a couple other exciting Coachella elements: It’s the California desert. There is no shade. The people surrounding you have been camping for three days. I use Mitchum deodorant, whose motto was once proudly, “So effective you could skip a day.” Even if I lathered myself head to toe in that stuff, I wouldn’t trust it against the California sun. I fear the music might not be the only thing that’s funky in the Coachella crowd.

Once upon a time, I could attend music festivals, wander around all day, and feel a little tuckered out by day’s end. But now I’m old and fat. Last autumn, I went to an outdoor concert in Chicago and had to tap out on the walk back to the car and hail a cab. (And by “cab,” I mean one of those rickshaws with neon lights and disco music. It was a vibe.)

My friend Stuart was actually at Coachella last weekend. He and his girlfriend flew to California to be in the desert throng. At one point, I texted him to see how things were going. He simply replied with a screenshot from his Apple Watch, confirming the 20,969 steps he’d taken that afternoon alone. No thanks. Stuart runs marathons, and if HE was tired of walking, there’s not enough disco rickshaws in the world to keep me out of the medical tent.

Watching from home was definitely more my speed. Besides, I think a three-day Coachella pass runs around $500. I watched the whole weekend and all I spent was $20 on a pizza. Based on the pics Stuart sent, I had WAY better seats than he did. And when a terrible artist came on, I could hit the mute button, something that most concerts don’t come equipped with.

What could’ve been a sad, lonely weekend was anything but. A couple other friends were watching from THEIR living rooms, so we were texting and chatting like we were there. And of course Stuart WAS there, so he was calling in with live reports and we were texting him to let him know which stages were worth hiking to. It sounds silly, but I ended up so immersed in the festival that it kinda felt like I was there, minus the sunburn.

During his flight home, Stuart texted me to see if I wanted to attend Lollapalooza with him in Chicago later this summer.

“Sure,” I replied. “Which channel will it be on?”

Shane Brown writes for the Dispatch-Argus and Quad-City Times. Contact him at sbrown@qconline.com.

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