S.S. Coachella 2012: A new ritual begins?

If the S.S. Coachella is going to last, it’s going to need its own rituals. On the night before the inaugural Coachella cruise sets off (I’m currently pregaming in a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., hotel room) I’m missing all the usual signposts of an impending Coachella back in California. The buying of sunglasses, the selection of driving music for the 10, the debates about after-parties and the congratulations-you-made-it-to-Indio rounds at the Beer Hunter bar (OK, maybe that last one is just me).

Though absolutely nothing has happened yet, the opening night of the S.S. Coachella reminds me of how much else goes into making an event like this work, and much of the visceral memory of a music fest has nothing to do with the bands or the set designs. It’s really just an occasion to rally everyone you care about and go berserk for a weekend, and with that comes a host of small rites that signal the occasion is at hand.


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Surely, if the S.S. Coachella is a long-term pursuit, this will happen naturally. The summer-camp-in-December aspects of doing this on a ship actually feel more conducive to spontaneity and delicious cabin-fever debauches than Coachella and all its attendant logistical challenges. But I wonder how the self-selecting aspects of the cruise will influence the dynamic. Between the ticket, plane fare and the necessary incidentals, this cruise can cost thousands of dollars per person.

Coachella’s annual festival in the desert isn’t the domain of scruffy gate-crashers anymore, but it’s at least manageable on an underpaid-intern cash flow. Will the fiscal barrier make the S.S. Coachella feel more like those fest nights where you unexpectedly wind up at some Palm Desert mega-mansion party and come home at dawn with a fever dream of the lives possible in L.A. music? Or is everyone there to prove the depth of their cheeky taste, breadth of vacation time and liquidity of income?

We’ll find out soon. The events are so delightfully absurd — wine tasting with James Murphy; literary readings with Father John Misty; getting your nails done by Sleigh Bells — that it’s clear no one is taking this too seriously. But irony is its own status symbol: If you can afford to play bingo with Grimes en route to Nassau, you have arrived at a rarefied air of L.A. hipsterdom.

Music cruises are old hand at this point. The bigger story is if Coachella is as strong and identifiable an experience that it can translate in a format that couldn’t be more removed from its origins. Obviously, I’m fortunate to be here to watch it unfold. But before we ship off, I’m eager to see what new rituals of Coachella are found at sea.


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