Photographer Jeff Corrigan and I decided to skip Coachella and hit up the side parties instead, to try to get the "full festival weekend minus the festival" experience. We sought out some of the coveted RSVP lists online, shot them our names and prepared for a long couple of days.
This particular side-party edition is dubbed "Rhonda Queen of the Desert," and is flush with bright floral decor and bold fashion you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere but Rhonda. A quick scan of the crowd and you'll see men in kimonos and stilettos, women in floral crowns, fabulous crotch bulges of all shapes and sizes and maybe if you're lucky, boobs. The music—of the disco-house variety—is all performed by DJs; after about 4 p.m., a makeshift dance floor opens up next to the pool and everyone's on it.
"This is the only pool party I go to where I don't get in the pool," a dancing party-goer told me.
Our next stop (as I tried to shake off the few vodka lemonades I had for breakfast) was the Hard Rock Hotel for the LED / Goldenvoice pool party. The lineup might as well be a festival in itself, but lucky for us, we'd only be partying with a few hundred others, as opposed to tens of thousands at the festival.
The DJs for LED go much harder than Rhonda, the beats are faster and the music leans more progressive house than disco house. The crowd is of a much different variety, as well—tattooed babes in tiny bikinis are literally bouncing around in every corner and people are popping good champagne bottles by the pool. We caught as much of the lineup as we could before the music was shut down around sunset.
The directions took us to a warehouse. Excellent. We could hear the party before we even found our way in. Luckily we arrived early—in the world of warehouse parties, midnight is early—and breezed right in. It was pitch-black inside, save for a bright green laser shooting across the ceiling and a small spattering of tiny lights at the front of the room, signifying the DJ booth. We arrived just in time for Tensnake—good thing because a Tensnake sighting is rare and never disappointing. The sound system was booming and high quality, and by 4 a.m., the place was bursting at the seams. We left shortly after that, unable to imagine still dancing when confronted by the desert sun.
We finished our day with a long-awaited trip to the 24-hour Del Taco and hit our home base just at dawn, having spent only a few twenties for admission and drinks. To those sweating in the polo fields this past weekend, we salute you. But we prefer it poolside.