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Bhaktifest | Body & Beyond
Bhakti Fest 2015 ABhaktifest

As the US’s premier yoga, sacred music and personal growth festival, BhaktiFest brings together some the world’s top yoga teachers and Kirtan artists for four days of bliss. For the spiritual seeker, Bhaktifest is an unprecedented collection of transcendental riches.

The seeds of Bhaktifest were sewn at Woodstock in 1969, where Sri Swami Satchidananda was prompted by Sridhar Steven Silberfein to lead the crowd in sacred chant. Four decades later, devoted fans of all ages gather at in Joshua Tree, California to immerse themselves in six days of yoga, sacred music and meditation.

Bhaktifest follows in the footsteps of the great spiritual festivals of India that date back thousands of years. Though this festival is a commercial venture, Bhaktifest loses none of its spiritual significance. It’s an opportunity for likeminded people to get together and celebrate freedom through spirituality; a calling to raise consciousness for the benefit of all on the planet.

At an event featuring over 25 Kirtan acts including Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, it’s truly a ‘who’s who’ roster of devotional chant.

Dawn Cartwright
One of the most respected Tantra teachers alive today, and a lifelong student of a number of Tantric lineages, Dawn opens the gate for seekers looking to learn the ancient Tantric techniques of harnessing sexual energy for liberation. If you’re looking to blast through the illusion of 3d reality or are just curious about expanding your sexuality, Dawn’s workshop cannot be missed.

Gina Sala
If you haven’t heard Gina Sala’s angelic voice, find a way to make it over to her Mantra workshop where Gina will immerse festival-goers in “Nada Yoga”: the practice of raising consciousness through sound. Gina’s repertoire spans 23 languages and her performance credits include Cirque du Soleil, the United Nations, and more. With warmth, humor and devotion, she offers Indian classical singing, Sanskrit, stories and sound tantra in classes, CDs, kirtans, and retreats.

Nandhiji Tapasyogi
A former Tamil Sadhu from south India, Nandhiji has received direct transmissions from many enlightened Siddhar yogis. He’s been given the charge of bringing powerful magic Mantras and ancient wisdom from the unbroken lineages of South Indian yogis to the west –in a mission to raise the collective unconscious vibration of the entire planet. If you attend nothing else, go experience the Mastery of Consciousness Workshop and /or the closing Anugraha Fire Puja. Your life will not be the same.

Radanath Swami
Radanath Swami is a highly articulate and learned American born swami. He is a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)and representative of Gaudiya Vaishnavism; the unbroken Krishna-bhakti tradition stemming from the 16th century mystic avatar Sri Chaitanya. It is truly a rare and humbling treat to have an opportunity to learn from such a master as Radanath Swami.

Saul David Raye
A well-respected, talented and charismatic Yoga teacher, Saul brings a lifetime of yogic study to a rock-infused Kirtan that will melt your heart and leave you in The Bhav. Try and catch his incredible yoga class as well. Saul combines Asana, Chi Kung, Pranayama and Mantra to bring you to a place of profound stillness.

As for the festival itself…

Bhakti Fest offers a heart-opening, consciousness-raising experience, wherein attendees have described the festival as “being immersed in the greatest conscious party you have ever experienced, filled with music, yoga, dancing, love, light, and heart centered community.”

Guests will find over twenty-five yoga teachers and Kirtan artists, top notch vegetarian cuisine, bodywork, energy healing, intuitive readings and massage stations. Bhaktifest features onsite camping, a swimming pool, and “Conscious Kids Land” for children to engage in music, yoga, play.

The list of festival sponsors includes quality brands such as Coconut Bliss, Desert Essence, Dvinitree, Doterra, Essentia Water, Healthforce Nutritionals, Kevita, Namaste, Numi Tea, White Swan, Health-Ade Kombucha, and Herbal Zap.

Health-Ade was founded by a husband, wife, and best friend all looking to make the best tasting & highest quality kombucha you can buy and find ways to pioneer the scaling of this very natural process without succumbing to market pressures or compromised quality.

Herbal ZAP makes instantly dissolving Ayurvedic herbal beverages that support healthy digestion, which is the key to overall good health. Their original Digestive & Immune formula helps to naturally boost your digestive fire and Digestive Cool & Calm soothes and nourishes the belly.

All this comes together at the Gateway of the Village of Joshua Tree, California; a sacred space founded in 1940 touted as a place of peace and meditation. Joshua Tree is a powerful and rare fusion of sweeping vistas of desert, mountains and Joshua Trees; a high-energy backdrop perfectly suited for such a unique and important spiritual festival.

So bring your yoga mat this September to the idyllic Joshua Tree Retreat Center, located in the beautiful region east of Los Angeles. Enjoy this rare chance to practice with the best yoga teachers in the world, dance to sacred music by world-renowned Kirtan artists, and take workshops with personal growth leaders.

For more info visit:

Lost Highway Festival 2015
<p>Rocket greeted by good ‘ol boy… and confederate flag.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'> <a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Rocket greeted by good ‘ol boy… and confederate flag.

<p>Smell that sweet American Harley Pie.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Smell that sweet American Harley Pie.

<p>The Road Kings thundered in for Lost Highway.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The Road Kings thundered in for Lost Highway.

<p>Dig that fender grinding on the asphalt.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Dig that fender grinding on the asphalt.

<p>Always Ready-Wear: fashion for the flag-waving freedom-fighter!</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Always Ready-Wear: fashion for the flag-waving freedom-fighter!

<p>Happiness, is seeing the world through red, white and blue.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Happiness, is seeing the world through red, white and blue.

<p>She ain’t no Evel Knievel, but she’ll dare your devil.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

She ain’t no Evel Knievel, but she’ll dare your devil.

<p>Miss Lost Highway contestants struttin’ their stuff.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Miss Lost Highway contestants struttin’ their stuff.

<p>Chuggin’ on a hot day, cuz bikes & beer do a body good.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Chuggin’ on a hot day, cuz bikes & beer do a body good.

<p>The family that bikes together, stays together.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The family that bikes together, stays together.

<p>A tribute bike to his good wife and nurse… RIP.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

A tribute bike to his good wife and nurse… RIP.

<p>The Inland Empire Baggers. Is that an 8-track there buddy?</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The Inland Empire Baggers. Is that an 8-track there buddy?

<p>Bringing the hangover to a festival near you!</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Bringing the hangover to a festival near you!

<p>Sun goes down… and heavy metal thunder across the valley.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Sun goes down… and heavy metal thunder across the valley.

<p>The restless faithful awaiting the Reverend’s Rock N Roll revival.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The restless faithful awaiting the Reverend’s Rock N Roll revival.

<p>Aww… they’re all winners in my heart.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Aww… they’re all winners in my heart.

<p>Potties a plenty. Still clean at days end. Bravo!</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Potties a plenty. Still clean at days end. Bravo!

<p>Crude Oil = $.45 p/oz. <br />Tap Water = $.30 p/oz.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Crude Oil = $.45 p/oz.
Tap Water = $.30 p/oz.

<p>The Eli Young Band rockin’ the Outlaw Stage.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The Eli Young Band rockin’ the Outlaw Stage.

<p>The Brave Ones on the Motorcycle Attorneys Stage.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

The Brave Ones on the Motorcycle Attorneys Stage.

<p>Alt-Punk legend Mike Ness with Social D.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Alt-Punk legend Mike Ness with Social D.

<p>Sick Boy… he rides a big motor bike… Sick Boy… he combs his hair up just right.</p>
<div class='CatablogPhotoGalleryCredit'><a href='' target='_blank'>Photo: Rick “Rocket” Mendoza</a></div>

Sick Boy… he rides a big motor bike… Sick Boy… he combs his hair up just right.

Those Crazy Kids | In Defense Of Coachella
Citizen LA | Coachella DefenseG.C. Stiehl | Citizen LA

Over the past few years the Coachella topic has been hashed and re-hashed popping up throughout the internet; some with positive spins, but many with vicious insults. The resulting unconstructive criticisms do nothing more than smear the longstanding Coachella & Goldenvoice brands.

These lackluster “reviews” also unfairly target Coachella attendees, clearly demonstrating the lack of respect particular authors have for people in general. We can only assume that these crap-peddling so-called journalists are either completely out of touch, just looking for attention, or fulfilling a bullshit corporate directive. One piece from The Daily Beast was so utterly revolting that I cannot but question the author’s professionalism and his supposed Columbia University degree.

Of the multitude of bashing topics, there seems to be a consensus that at some point we’re too old for Coachella. Dipping into science, it is a fact that age is not determined by years. At any moment during our lifetime the human body can be damaged, resulting in premature aging, or healed to encourage cell generation. So being too old for anything is relative to how we maintain ourselves consciously and subconsciously, and a matter of our intentions.

In terms of the attendees, certainly there are those who return, year after year, regardless of which artists are performing. For them, Coachella has become an integral part of their lives; helping to keep them connected to a global family and feeling youthful. These “diehards” could care less about the passing trends like the American Indian headdresses or the neon hats & glasses. These lifers are the glue that holds the spirit of Coachella together, and being too old is a non-issue for them.

Down the line we have the trend-hounds who at times, unfortunately, lack originality, but are none-the-less an important part of the scene. These festival attendees receive the brunt of the attacks, as they are impossibly annoying to some writers who state that, due to them, the spirit of Coachella has vanished. For better or for worse the “hipster” transcends space & time, and may never outgrow their perplexing behaviors. They may also end-up becoming fashion designers who produce the trends that the children of these writers will be wearing. Furthermore, there will be other shitty writers who will be commenting on their hipster children.

Then we have the innocent tag-alongs who will be either mystified or horrified at the sheer magnitude of the event. These people would probably have never risked a Coachella trip on their own, but under the wing of another, they have an opportunity to experience something amazing. The notion of “growing too old” may hold more weight in the minds of these tentative risk-takers, and we will probably lose a portion of them down the line; however, they’ll be replaced by others as mystery and excitement is attractive to people regardless of years on this planet, and Coachella still has plenty of that.

Lastly, there’s the group who come to Coachella for a specific artist and simply enjoy going to concerts. We know that many styles of music attract people of all ages; the perpetual young at heart. These attendees may only come to Coachella once or twice in their lifetime, but their hesitation is not due to Coachella’s “hipster” labeling, nor because it’s too hot in Indio, nor because they’re “too old”; these people simply are not interested in the bands that are playing. But given the right band, they’d come back.

So, in terms of “too old” for Coachella, this might be applicable towards those who are physically incapacitated, or terminally ill, where just walking the Indio Polo fields is unrealistic, or dangerous to the point of death. Even then, Goldenvoice would probably allocate a golf cart to this person for one last hurrah. Hmm… I wonder if these writers would also be uncomfortable if it were a hipster in a wheelchair.

In closing, we can deduce that those who flippantly disregard Coachella as an event for “crazy kids” –not unlike the aforementioned Columbia University author– have pretty much decreed to their subconscious that they are not only “too old” for Coachella, but spiritually toxic. This sets in motion their slippery slope leading to a crotchety existence devoid of empathy. Years down the line these overly-judgmental writers will inevitably refuse to give the neighborhood kids their ball back once it lands in their yard.

That said, yes, these writers are also welcomed at Coachella… just pay your ticket, keep your opinions to yourself and please stay in your tent.

For the rest of you ”crazy kids”, party on.

Ice Vs. Underwear | Coachella 2014
493x754-ice-vs-underwearCitizen LA | Citizen LA

“So let me get this straight… I show up on Thursday, and, we don’t leave till Monday. We pitch our tents and remain there in 1,000 degree heat with no shade for 3 full days among millions of obsessed concert-goers within millimeters of each other in a densely packed parking lot. Huh. You mean like an extended drunken college tailgate party in the middle of the Sahara??”

Most people I knew advised against it. Even die-hard campers were hesitant, insisting that it just wasn’t worth it. That the 3-day concert alone would leave you with PTSD. Funny thing was… no one that I knew had ever committed to the entire experience.

Honestly, the thought of camping anywhere for any reason sounds like a pain the ass. I don’t really like dirt. And insects don’t like me. It’s not about being prissy. It’s about being comfortable after a night of heavy drinking, which I assume goes hand-in-hand with extreme parking-lot survival-camping.

Granted, the outcome of an adventure is often proportional to the preparation. But when diving blind into an experience like camping at the Coachella Arts & Music Festival there are just so many wildcards that—look, if I’m punished because of something “I” did, then it’s ok. However, if I’m going suffer immensely due to someone else’s stupidity, then, count me out.

All this bounces around in my little head as I send my email to the powers-that-be in hopes of reserving a car-camping spot. And wouldn’t ya know it, I get one. No turning back now.

Fast-forward to April 24 @ 3pm…

As I loaded-up Darren’s (my contributing partner’s) car with my lackluster camping crap, a good friend of mine offers to lend us her home which sits just outside the event grounds. She insists that if anything were to go wrong, I am to call her immediately and head towards the safety of her air-conditioned sanctuary.

A rather macho “thanks, but no thanks” escaped my mouth. I visualized chewing up a piece of paper with her phone number on it, and swallowing. Air-Conditioning?? Pfff. I’m a mission from god: Eat, Sleep, Rave… Repeat.

A few hours later, in the dark, we arrived at the Coachella Campgrounds. Once again, Goldenvoice had everything dialed-in with adequate signs and plenty of parking assistants. All staff was relatively helpful and knowledgeable until we reached the infamous car checkpoint where both vehicles and concert-goers were subject to a 1970’s Turkish strip-search.

While getting a thorough pat-down I glanced over to my buddy who was in a state-of-panic as one of the “Staff-Pro Gestapo” walked off with his 136Hz Ohm tuning-fork. Seconds later, a menacing group of no-nonsense security guards huddle in the darkness determining the fate of this bewildering object.

All I hear is Darren’s distant plea, ”but… but… it’s for healing…”Good thing they were busy with the tuning fork; the distraction made it much easier to sneak in the two kilos of hashish strapped to Darren’s chest.

As day breaks, we were painfully aware of the lack of shade in the Coachella camping areas. This is exactly why an EZUP is MANDATORY. If there’s only one thing you can fit in your car, make sure it’s the pop-up canopy. Now we fully understood why ALL of our camping neighbors winced when we told them we didn’t bring one.

Tip Two: Bring several cars and park next to each other. This allows the creation of multiple “living spaces”; one for lawn chairs, one for cooking, and one for passing-out naked.

Tip Three: Get plenty of sleep BEFORE camping at Coachella. Each morning, a gaggle of sorority girls battled against the testosterone-loaded fraternity boys for the coveted title of “Most Annoying Before 8am”. Expect to be awake all… the… time.

Tip Four: Head to the VIP showers between 12pm-2pm. Do yourself a favor, borrow some extra money from mommy & daddy and pay the $5. The free common-shower facilities are fine, but the lines are horrific. Spare yourself.

(Insider Note: Showering at the free water-refilling station was really the best choice. No wait whatsoever and people look at you funny; perfect for attention-whores like me.)

Tip Five: Buy lots of ice BEFORE coming to the event. The official Coachella Ice Man does make his rounds but your constant state of inebriation may work against you. If you do catch him, make sure to bring a machete to hack your way through the dehydrated mob, ensuring that your tribe back at camp will erect a statue in your honor.

I heard a lot of complaints about the 10 dollar price tag, but instead of complaining we should all be thanking the Coachella producers for making such essential provisions readily available.

The Coachella camping experience is utterly bizarre. It’s eerily similar to camping when you were a kid, except you’re surrounded by drunken people instead of squirrels.

Strangely enough, though, I heard no one having sex; probably a lot of pillow-biting, but no audible grunts. Well… I attempted a risky Skype session in my tent one night, but the poor WIFI signal left my GF sexually frustrated. There was, however, plenty of farting, burping, dirty talk, and this coming from the sorority chicks next door!

The makers of Coachella did their best to create pastimes for those early-risers between 9am (when the sorority girls would take their first b-loads) to 12pm (when the sorority girls would head to the beauty salon).

Yes. There’s also a full-service salon on the campgrounds. Here the lovely ladies enjoyed their hair and make-up before stepping back out into the 1,000 degree desert heat. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sport a stylish do while sweating like a pig?

On that note, fashion in the camping area differs GREATLY from that which makes it into the Coachella concert grounds. Girls parade in their PJs or bikinis, with some in their panties–terrible I know. The boys rocked their hard-bodies in Silverlake Wannabe-Wear or puke-covered tees.

Though not my first-time attending Coachella, camping does lend a whole new element to the experience. And with the 18+ age limit, we have the official green-light to act responsibly irresponsible.

Campground pastimes were well thought-out, effectively uniting the crowd of international concert-goers. Thankfully, sweating was not our only option. There was always something to do regardless of your buzz-state…

Still rollin’? Head to the Art Studios, Pinball Arcade or Silent Dance Party. Feeling macho? You got Dodge-Ball, 3-Legged Racing or Pie-Eating Contests. Seeking enlightenment? Yoga, Pilates or Massages were available. And there was much much more.

Though Coachella Weekend-Two landed on Easter weekend, the Easter Bunny harbored no resentment or distain. I found colorful Easter underwear strewn about the grounds, lively pained Easter beer cans hanging from canopies, and uplifting Easter drinking games which left everyone with that “good feeling.”

And, well, it being 4/20 on Easter Sunday… there was, that.


Should we talk about my new health-conscious coffee, cranberry & vodka breakfast drink? Should we discuss the importance of carefully timing your BMs to coincide with the daily Porta-Potty cleaning schedules? Should we talk about the frat boys who actually brought a massive barbell weight-set to the event?

Stories. Stories. Stories…

Though it helps, it’s not really about being physically prepared for this experience; it’s more about being mentally prepared. The Coachella Arts & Music Festival is an experience in itself, but tack on extreme parking-lot survival-camping and you’ve got something magical. Moreover, people come from all over the world for this wackiness. There was one group that drove from freakin’ CANADA. Now that’s a serious commitment.

There is no clever ”one-sentence summation” for what transpired. To comprehend, one must live it. So here’s how you do it:

Screw your fearful anxious parents, they’ll NEVER understand.
If your boss doesn’t give you the extra days off, then quit.
Save your extra-money spent on Civet-Poop Coffee and overpriced Silverlake Wannbe-Wear.
If you encounter resistance from friends, dump them. You’ll make new ones.
Take a shot.
Buy a ticket.

Ultimately the Coachella camping experience is about people… and your tolerance to people. Everyone who IS there WANTS to be there, and everyone is ready to deal with all of the relative discomforts that are associated with camping.

The campgrounds may not be situated on some idyllic Baja beachfront or a Yellowstone Shangri-La, but then who wants babbling books and endangered wildlife when you got people walking around in Victoria Secret underwear?

…suddenly, ice becomes irrelevant.

Finding Everyone Else | Coachella 2013
493x754-coachella-2013-cG.C. Stiehl | Citizen LA

It’s noon in Los Angeles and all is well.  

Canon packed.  Releases printed.  Body reclined– then the phone rings.  On the other end is an old friend who informs me that his girlfriend has a tummy ache and that my ride to Coachella is not happening.  I am only a few hours away from missing the press check-in deadline for Friday, and this without any transportation.  Coachella might have well been a million miles away.  Grrrrr.

I immediately scramble to to check on their message boards where I find over 200,000 users and 2 million+ posts.  With conversations ranging from artists to campsites to carpools, the message boards were active and full of supportive users.  The site contains maps, artist line-ups, and other key information to help one survive the unpredictable conditions and brutal heat that comes with a weekend at the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, CA.

A promising post regarding a carpooling website peaks my interest… then… FIZZLE.  POP!  The screen goes black.  I look up to see a white bunny scamper away.  My friend Marianne warned me about her rabbit’s propensity for chewing cables, but the little turd nibbled through my laptop power cord in less than 10 seconds!  I didn’t have a chance. 

No ride, and now, no laptop.  Perfect. 

But this is to be expected, for the nature of the beast is chaos.  And that’s the beauty of it.  Each pilgrimage made to Coachella has been met with seemingly random moments that ultimately lead to amazing life lessons.

I’m reminded of the scene in Karate Kid where Mr. Myagi teaches Daniel about trimming a Bonsai tree; telling him to picture the tree in his mind… 

Mr. Myagi: “Trust the picture.”
Daniel: “How do I know if my picture is the right one?”
Mr. Myagi: “If it comes from inside you, always right one.”

This late in the day, with so much on the line, reaching out to a carpool website seems like suicide.  Nevertheless, I trust my picture.  So I painstakingly repair my chewed-up power cord, flood my subconscious with happy thoughts and log-on to  Within the hour, a complete stranger is tossing my bags into his car.  Impressive.

Searches on made it clear that people were driving many many hours to the festival from as far away as New York.  For the haters: insanity.  For die-hard fans: awesomeness.  But then again that’s Coachella.  It’s this wild comradery which the event inspires and rewards.  Case in point, carpoolers can win lifetime VIP passes.  I’d strap myself to the hood for that.

Due to the festival’s proximity to Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Desert Hot Springs, comfortable lodging options are plentiful.  Local hotels not only cater to visitors but some host events of their own.  The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs is one such hotel that welcomes guests with four days of music and poolside fun.

If you’d prefer to stay on-site, Coachella offers basic Car Camping, Tent Camping, and Tee Pee Camping.  For the Glamper, the luxurious fully-furnished Shakir style Safari Tents include private parking, private check-in, air conditioning, queen beds, restrooms, showers, pool access and his & hers defibrillators.

There are, however, other interesting lodging options.

Around the perimeter of the festival grounds there are sprawling estates for rent where one may come into all sorts of situations.  I, for instance, enter into a scene from Less Than Zero complete with exotic treats, fire jugglers, lion tamers, snake charmers, and a Jacuzzi topped with the opposite of champagne.  Yucky.

This crew has been tearing-it-up here for eight days, since the FIRST Coachella weekend.  It’s a super-human endeavor usually reserved for college spring breakers, but these are LA entertainment professionals and debauchery is boilerplate within the terms & conditions of most industry contracts.  It’s just business. 

The gracious host of this household materializes and gestures magnanimously towards the bounty before us.  “Help yourself,” he states.  

CUT TO: Dead kid floating in pool.

I walk in to this scenario with a camera and a plan.  One hour later I’m completely trashed, completely lost, riding someone’s beach cruiser, with someone’s girl on my handlebars.  My RideJoy buddy gives me the thumbs up.  I may be pedaling, but I’m only a passenger on this flight.

It’s difficult to imagine that this monster actually exists.  Coachella is one of those wacky ideas that only a group of lunatics would attempt to produce.  Sure it’s all neat and organized in the printed festival program, but once the fuse is lit, it’s purely situational management on a mammoth scale.

The makers of Coachella do their best to cover all the bases and do rack-up the Karmic brownie-points.  Water refills are free.  Information kiosks contain real-people and are actually helpful.  Smartphones can be easily be recharged on-site.  VIP showers are available for $10 (free if you scrub someone’s back.)  And each year the improvements continue.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the official Coachella App.  This is a must have tool for the concertgoer; useful for finding your car, browsing food options, reviewing set-times, and much more.  I unfortunately had my iPhone stolen only days before my arrival and Coachella without a phone, any phone, is a completely different experience altogether.

Surprisingly our bikes make it past numerous security check points, through thousands of sun-bleached concert-goers, all the way to the main entrance.  It immediately becomes apparent why my RideJoy pal absolutely insisted on not walking.  

Mental note: BIKE = BESTFRIEND.

Though attendees who opt to walk are guided by well-designed maps, posted signs, color-coded walkways, audible cues and helpful personnel, the festival footprint is enormous.  Thankfully Coachella offers a solution: the Pedi-Cab; in essence, a fancy-schmancy rickshaw.  Do yourself a favor, spend the ten bucks.

The festival is an amazing community of people from all over the world who agree that right now there is no other place to be.  I arrive at the golden hour.  The light is perfect.  And the music is, as always, incredible.

With over 200 bands perform on 5 main stages; Coachella is a music lover’s wet dream. The 2013 line-up includes Tegan & Sarah, TNGHT, Blur, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Stone Roses, Local Natives, Sparks, Bassnectar, How To Destroy Angels, Phoenix, Puscifer, Café Tecuba, Spiritualized, New Order, Sigur Ros, Pusha T, Decendants, Knife Party, and Violent Femmes, Red hot Chili Peppers, Wu-Tang Clan, OMD, Social Distortion, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Tame Impala, Hardwell, and Pretty Lights.  The display of pure musical gluttony is overwhelming. 

Add to this soundtrack an avalanche of unavoidable human contact… and you’ve got something utterly addictive.  Coachella is a blissfully frenetic 80,000 person orgasm, coated in a velvety veneer of sweaty body nectar and baked for 3 days until hot, gooey and viscerally satisfying.  Yeah, just like that. 

As usual Coachella has a way of throwing the cards into the air.  Unless you’re literally tethered to each other you will get separated from your group at some point.  So prepare.  I don’t care if you’ve navigated Cape Horn gagged and blindfolded, once nightfall hits, it’s all about keeping your Smartphone charged.  

If you have one.

As you can guess, it gets dark and within seconds I lose everyone… but strangely enough… I find everyone else.  Here I am stressing and searching and backtracking and waiting for the people I came with and then realize that I am surrounded by the people with which I came.  This is my home, my family, my community.

Floating from stage to stage, I come upon people in their moment.  Some chained together rushing to catch a performance, others in an endearing ten person group hug, while others simply lie on the soft grass counting stars.  In a few short steps I ruin a photo, interrupt a make-out session and step on someone’s fat juicy burrito.  What’s not to love?

In the distant darkness a distraught young girl cries out, “My friends left me.  I’m lost.  Can you please help?”  In her hands lay a dead iPhone dripping with mascara-laden tears.  It’s a pitiful scene.  I firmly suggest to her subconscious mind, “You’re not lost.  You’re not alone.  We’re all here together.  You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.”  The heady message was met with a look of confusion. 

I recall a scene in Karate Kid where Daniel is frustrated with Miyagi’s incomprehensible methods…

Daniel: “You’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn, remember? For four days I’ve been bustin’ my ass and haven’t learned a goddamn thing!”
Mr. Miyagi: “You learn plenty.”
Daniel: “I learned how to wash a car, paint your house, and paint your fence.  I’ve learned plenty. Right.”
Mr. Miyagi: “Not everything is as it seems.”

Being lost is a matter of perspective.  But this was neither the place nor the time for her moment of clarity, so, I get her to a Coachella phone charging station, offer her a Popsicle, and continue on my journey. 

Nearing the Heineken Dome, a daisy-chain of flower girls encircles me.  They flutter in like a cluster of lovely butterflies, hand-in-hand, giggling and dropping petals. There was no hesitation, no prudence, simply a collective instinctual decision to be in my life.  The wind shifts, the circle breaks and the flowers vanish. 

I sit still on the grass absorbing the moment.  Fifty feet away an unsuspecting couple is swept up in the same roving daisy-chain.  They delight in the moment.  Amazing how perfection finds us when we stop trying to control the chaos and just let go.

The warm air transitions to a cool breeze.  The bikinis disappear.  The girls get sleepy.  And the polo field thins out.

I catch up with a key Goldenvoice promoter whose been running around all night.  Assuming that the hard part is over, I state, “Almost time for a drink?”   The battle-hardened veteran quips, “Drink?  Relax?  I’m only half-way through!  We got Stagecoach coming up next weekend!!” 

Good to know that Goldenvoice still runs on good ol’ elbow-grease.

In the 80s, the Coachella Valley was once the spring break capital of California.  The legendary Palm Springs Strip would be packed with hard-bodies and bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Piled into cars were jocks, preppies, stoners, freaks and geeks armed with an arsenal of squirt guns, beer-bongs and daddy’s money.  Unfortunately the retired Palm Spring residents were less than interested in this form of economic stimulation. So in March of 1991 Mayor Sonny Bono put an end to it. 

Thankfully, the makers of Coachella have swayed public opinion.  Thankfully, the city of Indio now welcomes those wacky kids.  The impact of the festival to the economy of the entire Coachella Valley averages over $500 million and over $900 million globally.  Concert tickets are a much better use of daddy’s money than purchasing another geriatric golf cart.  Puhleeze.

It’s 1 am.  My Ridejoy pal and I push our way through thousands of exhausted concertgoers riding the dusty trails leading out of the polo fields.  Strapped to the back of my buddy’s beach cruiser is a crap-load of vinyl.

Zia Records is the official Music Retailer & Artists Signing Booth for Coachella 2013.  Each year the festival offers fans limited-edition albums and other collectables from the year’s acts which can be signed on the spot.  Much of these vinyls sell on EBay the very same night, so bring some extra cash and walk out with an investment.

I shout out to my RideJoy pal, “Hey!  Where are we going? Where am I sleeping?” He responds with a thumbs-up, then darts away into the abyss.  There’s no doubt that we’re heading back to the mansion for certain death.  

Ahh… Coachella.

For those returning year after year it’s inarguably something more than a simple music & arts festival. This chaotic and wacky experience successfully instills a sense of community into an often senseless world. The true Coachella is the hidden substance that binds the festival together; it’s the subject matter experienced between the music, the art, the food, and the Ferris wheel. It is simply being human.

Daft Punk couldn’t have said it any better: “If you lose your way tonight, that’s how you know the magic’s right.”  Yes you may lose some things along the way, but what you find is 100% worth every penny spent. is a service designed to connect people to cars, and it does this very well.  I’m certain the team behind receive many a heart-felt ‘thank you’ that results from finding a last minute ride. But once again, thanks!

When Sight & Sound Collide | Interview: Vello Virkhaus
493x754-section-cover-vello-virkhaus-2John Olive | Citizen LA

VJing is an art form that has been intrinsically connected to live music events since the 1960s. In its earliest incarnation, VJing was an atmospheric novelty. Since then there have been many video artists who have contributed to the expansion of this unique art form and have left and indelible mark on the entertainment scene as a whole. Vello Virkhaus is one such VJ that continues to leave his mark on many EDM festivals including this year’s Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

Back in the 60s, Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable was a series of happenings that successfully combined music and visuals. These events brought together interdisciplinary talent such as The Velvet Underground, Nico, Mary Woronov, Gerard Malanga and others who performed while screenings of Warhol’s films played in the background.

In the 70s, the performances became more tightly integrated. As low cost video editing equipment became available, bands like The Monochrome Set and Cabaret Voltaire began to create their own visuals for live shows. Venues such as the Ritz Riot in New York installed a state of the art video projection system which bands such as Public Image Ltd. used to project prerecorded and live video on the club’s screen.

In the 80s, media artist Merrill Aldighieri produced raw visual footage that was mixed in real time to accompany the music. Merrill débuted this set-up at the Hurrah nightclub in New York where he performed alongside the DJ. In this, Merrill arguably became the world’s first VJ.

As the Rave scene began to take root in the United States, VJs quickly became a key component for successful nightclubs and underground parties. Now large scale festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Spring Awakening, Electric Zoo and Ultra Music Festival dominate the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene… and the VJ is still key.

Large festivals are a creative paradise for Vello Virkhaus who is one of the worlds’s most sought after VJs. This year Vello is once again poised to sit atop the VJ platform at Ultra, there he will deliver his brand of visuals to the masses while the biggest DJs on the planet (including Armin Van Buuren, Markus Schulz, and ATB) spin their magic.

Vello speaks to us while kickin’ it on the beach in Miami…

Citizen LA: Do you consider yourself primarily a visual artist?

Vello Virkhaus: Visual, but primarily focused on the video medium. A fitting title would be Video Artist.

Citizen LA: How was your experience at the Art Institute of Chicago?

Vello: It was definitely a fantastic learning environment; one that really allowed me the freedom to pursue experimental directions and be truly interdisciplinary. This was just fantastic because I didn’t want to be in one department. I was interested in traditional art, printmaking, neon, video and technology.

Citizen LA: When did you start VJing?

Vello: I moved to LA in 2000, but I started VJing in Chicago in ’92.

Citizen LA: So you were around in the early rave scene in LA? Like Double Hit Mickey’s and all that?

Vello: I started coming out to LA doing big raves in San Bernardino. I remember one of the first Electric Daisy Carnival events we did was the Hansen Dam Show in 2003. I think the first electronic show I did in LA was Paul Van Dyk in ’98 or ’99. It just seemed like LA was the place to be. In Chicago raves were becoming totally illegal.

Citizen LA: Yeah. They have that ability.

Vello: You know it.

Citizen LA: How has music changed your life?

Vello: Music is a huge inspiration for me. I’m always more interested in creating a music show experience than creating a commercial experience. Although my company loves the commercial budget, as an artist I get much more kick out of a music focused project. I guess I’m a biased CEO.

Citizen LA: I understand. What’s not to love about working a massive rave?

Vello: I’m a huge EDM fan I love all Electronica. Getting to work with Amon Tobin was one of the coolest things ever. I’ve been very fortunate to get to work with some great people. In working with them we kinda transform each other, transform a show, and cool things happen. All is good when you find that really amazing collaboration, that good synergy.

^ Vello Virkhaus @ Ultra Music Festival 2013

John Olive | Citizen LA

Citizen LA: How has VJing changed over the last 10 years?

Vello: The field has rapidly expanded. Four or five years ago I did every artist on the main stage, all day long. I’d do a 12 or 15 hour set. And a 24 hour day was very standard. I would improvise, and come up with sets, for every artist performing. I witnessed the expansion of the whole immersive music video visual lighting environment. And it’s just found a great home in EDM. There’s been a ton of artistic growth, a ton of software engineering and amazing creativity.

Citizen LA: Do old school technologies like oil lamps and film loops still make it into your event?

Vello: Hahaha. Uh. Not anymore. Every once in awhile I’ll do an old school psychedelic oils video remix, but it’s rare.

Citizen LA: The good ‘ol days huh?

Vello: Those were my beginnings for sure. Film loops and slide projectors.

Citizen LA: Hahaha.

Vello: I think officially we were some of the first VJs in North America performing for a rave especially in the Midwest. There were other people in California and the East Coast, but we were definitely part of the first wave in the dance community.

Citizen LA: Do you prefer large events over smaller venues?

Vello: Yeah. I like the crowd energy. And it’s a bigger production. More ticket sales and bigger toys to play with. So, as the pilot of this airship, I prefer to fly an Airbus A380 versus a Boeing 737.

Citizen LA: How comfortable are you with taking big-risks?

Vello: Oh man, EVERY show is a risk. We’re on the fringe of technology at every event now. We’re running a totally experimental proprietary system we’ve created. This is about as risky as it gets.

Citizen LA: What does Vello think about when he sits alone quietly with his eyes closed?

Vello: Depends on the night. Sometimes I just can’t get my business out of my head. I just spin around and around with stuff like logistics issues.

Citizen LA: Do you have a hard time turning your brain off?

Vello: Totally. I have to meditate to switch it off. But some nights I do get to dream.

Citizen LA: Your client list is very impressive. But which projects have you turned down?

Vello: We turn down anything with and unrealistic budget or an unrealistic timetable. Like a 10 minute animate piece in a week. Life’s short and I work too hard as it is. Or sometimes it’s just not creatively appealing to me. Fortunately the demand for business is good. I’m thankful to have all these opportunities.

Citizen LA: What is the future of your company V Squared Labs?

Vello: We’re doing a couple of really crazy television shows and apparently the first ever dance music awards. I just got a call from Dick Clark Productions. We’re also doing EDC Las Vegas. But a big part of future is that we’re kinda turning into a technology company. In the next couple years we’re gonna release our performance software to the public. Right now it’s just too experimental, but we’re definitely gonna partner and release our tool.

^ Vello Virkhaus @ Ultra Music Festival 2013[/caption][/media-credit]

Citizen LA: How many years have you worked with the Ultra Music Festival?

Vello: 10 years.

Citizen LA: What draws you specifically to Ultra?

Vello: It’s been a lot of fun. Like big family. It’s growing every year and bringing in more interesting and talented individuals who work together focused on dance music. I love Miami and Russell Faibisch and Adam Russakoff and the whole Ultra team. They are just killer guys who are pushing the envelope.

Citizen LA: They must really dig your work.

Vello: They’re dedicated to VJs and I’m super loyal to them. They give me a chance as an artist and I put in the extra effort every year to take it to the next level. I believe in these guys. They’ve stuck with me through thick and thin.

Citizen LA: What makes Ultra special?

Vello: Well Miami makes it special for sure. The brand itself appeals to the Candy Raver audience, which I love. Also, it’s an international crowd. People from all over the world come to Ultra. There are so many flags waving in the audience. It’s beautiful.

Citizen LA: Miami is a magical place.

Vello: This whole synchronicity of Miami Music Week and spring break, that’s always made Ultra a really special time. This place brings a lot of really amazing international talent out. I meet video artists from all over the world.

Citizen LA: I’d wish you luck up there, but I really don’t think you’re going to need too much luck because you’re really good at what you do.

Vello: Thank you. I’m always excited to talk to someone who’s interested in the visual arts and electronic dance music.

Citizen LA: Rave on, my brother.

For more information on Vello Virkhaus or V Squared Labs visit