Guns N' Roses are playing Coachella this weekend. Had The Rolling Stones played Coachella in 2013, which would have been their first U.S. festival since Altamont in 1969, there would have been similar buzz. But nothing like this.
For many — and I mean the vast majority of the 100,000 attendees at Coachella each weekend — this will be their first GNR gig. For the band, this is just the fourth time Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan have shared a stage together since 1993 and their first major festival together since Rock in Rio II in 1991.
Tip: If you can't make it to Coachella, you can now stream select sets from weekend one on the Coachella YouTube page. No confirmation if GNR is one of the “select sets.”
I'm a GNR fan first and a Coachellan second. Because of GNR and its army of fans, Coachella this year has the sleaziest “rockist” appeal it’s ever had (AC/DC was close, but again, nothing like this). But now that the band have booked a 21-city tour for the summer, it's hard to say how many actual GNR fans will make the trip to the desert. Most of the anticipated Axl Rose cosplay and Slash-y top hats under the scorching sun won't be GNR fans but yuppies and famous people trying to get their Snapchat on. James Franco in Axl Rose drag? It could happen.
For the dedicated GNR fan, not the wannabe, here is a list of 10 quick-and-dirty tips to survive and/or destroy Coachella — a sleazy road map to help you dodge all the annoying hipster shit, to reconfigure your Coachella experience to be GNR as fuck and hack the desert like a rattlesnake on the prowl.
10. Don't try to sneak in a flask. Unless it looks like an iPhone.
You're going to be asking for whiskey, perhaps Jack Daniel's (or a “Lemmy”), which can be hard to come by unless you're a VIP or an artist. For the plebs, options are mostly limited to beer, wine and watered-down margaritas. (Whiskey bar Seven Grand will be there, but it's not clear if it'll be accessible to non-VIPs.) Security is tight, so you won’t be able to sneak in hard liquor. Hack: Buy an iPhone flask and bring your own opaque empty water bottle (totally allowed, so long as it's non-metallic). Get your booze cheap at Ralph's before you hit the road. There's also a craft beer barn, which has the best suds selection, from Heineken to Golden Road. If the hipster yapping about his beer palate annoys you, which it will, just fill your empty water bottle with something unpretentious and sneak out.
Save money: Water bottles at Coachella cost $2. Buy one, fill it up with tap water or crotch sweat.
9. How to offend hipsters.
Bring a rebel flag, because you're a Skynyrd fan, or wear it on a stylish leather jacket, the “Civil War” outfit; you'll be in character when they play their midset anti-war classic. If you dress like Slash, you might get shamed by an activist for appropriating Haitian voodoo culture. Or get your photo taken by Vogue. You can also wear snakeskin boots and gorge on bloody beef patties next to some emaciated vegan at Sage's meatless sanctuary.
Side note: Axl Rose has a mini zoo on his property in Malibu. He’s an animal lover. He also may or may not have authentic snakeskin boots.
Actually, wait, boots are a bad idea — not because skinning animals is wrong but because you need comfortable shoes. So wear the unofficial GNR sneaker, the Axl Converse. (Dear GNR: There's a merch idea to couple with those retro bullet logo T-shirts we're all buying, no matter the line.)
You're going to bring a bandanna. Every GNR fan has one. Except it now has a use beyond being the core item in your Axl Rose cosplay outfit. Walking into and out of Coachella, from your car to the grassy fields of the Empire Polo Club, can kick up a human exodus sandstorm. Cover your face. Then, fold your bandanna and wear it like Axl. You can also start a trend on Instagram with #Bandannacore, which is like #Bonnetcore but sleazier, and not something you can buy at H&M.
Side note: If you're camping, you can bring your acoustic guitar and create a sing-along to “Patience” while some EDM DJ makes people e-tarded in the Sahara tent.
7. Things to do at Coachella besides Coachella.
The closest Tommy's Hamburgers is an hour away. In-N-Out is just 7 minutes. There's also Neil's karaoke bar, which is cheap and Cat Club–esque — where you can karaoke to “Paradise City” a mere 10 minutes from Coachella. There's also the seedy biker bar Palm Canyon Roadhouse, where you might spot GNR badass and tour manager Del James, or really anyone who likes cold beer and a hipster-proof marketing strategy: “If your girlfriend’s ugly, bring her along and drink her pretty!” (That's actually on the Palm Canyon Roadhouse website.)
6. Five shitty sets to drink during.
Avoid sets by Calvin Harris, Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Chvrches. You should also avoid seeing Savages and asking the guy next to you if the lead singer is a man.
5. Five sets you'll want to catch.
Sets by The Kills, The Damned, Courtney Barnett (a GNR fan), Ice Cube (because he's going on right before GNR), and The Vandals (if only for drummer and GNR alumnus Josh Freese).
4. What Would Axl Do?
He's the Frank Sinatra of hard rock. So start by getting a free player's club card at Morongo casino, so you can hit the buffet on the drive from L.A. to Coachella (discounted, of course, with your card). You can also visit the Hard Rock in Palm Springs, but if you're actually staying at the festival, here's some real food that's being served:
Top Round Roast Beef, Beer Belly, Fritzi Dog, Three Jerks Jerky, Mexicali Taco Co. There's no Taco Bell at the festival, but there's one within 7 minutes. No Canter's Deli food truck. Confirmed. Here's a complete list of food options this year.
Useless information: Crutches are allowed at Coachella. You can probably score a VIP pass if you arrive in a wheelchair. Also allowed are kilts, studded leather jackets, aviator sunglasses, fanny packs, cowboy hats, designer jeans, bling and snakeskin boots.
3. Don't take “coma” literally.
GNR surprisingly added the 10-minute Use Your Illusion I closer to their set list. This is a big deal for hardcore fans. Also, you might be on drugs when this comes on. A lot of drugs, especially if you don't use the amnesty box at the entrance. If this is your first Coachella, you're going to wonder what the fuck is going on — just how you got so fucked up and why a heart-rate monitor graphic is giving you a panic attack. So drink lots of water, pace yourself and remember, that's not your actual heart stopping — it's just part of the show. Just sit down on the sun-dried grass and stare at the 50-foot art installations, or Axl's 10-foot throne. If this is going to be your first time taking molly, read this harm reduction guide. Nobody wants a tragedy.
2. Don't piss off Axl or cause a riot.
We also don't want another St. Louis. At the Troubadour reunion show on April 1, Axl nearly stopped the show because overzealous fans were pushing themselves onto the stage. Someone could have gotten hurt. So please, don't throw anything onto the stage, or invade his space (you probably won't be able to, anyway — nobody gets close at Coachella), or piss him off by pointing lasers at him. Not cool. People paid a lot of money to see this, so please don't trample anyone. We don't want another Donington, either.
Also: Selfie sticks and Izzy Stradlin holograms won't be making appearances at Coachella.
1. They're scheduled for 10:30 p.m. Saturday. But what time will GNR actually go on?
Nobody knows for sure, but of the three shows GNR has played so far, they've either been on time, or 90 minutes late, which is workable. As a headliner at Coachella playing the mainstage, collecting at least a $3 million payday (per weekend!), with a noise curfew at 1:30 a.m. (and Goldenvoice trying to avoid paying hefty fines), GNR should be no more than one hour late with a monstrous, two-hour performance, which will likely open with “It's So Easy” and close with “Paradise City.”
So take a couple swigs from your iPhone flask, put your phone on airplane mode and wait for Duff's flickering bass intro on “It's So Easy” to throw the crowd into a frenzy.