2012 + 2015
"I can’t feel my face. I genuinely cannot feel my fucking face." The rest of the group laughs and he lies down on the grass, looking up at the sky. He’s pretty sure one of the clouds has turned into a cat and is trying to paw its way down to earth to hang out and so he raises his hands up and starts swatting away at air.

“Man, you are fucked up! The fuck did you take, Alex?” Luke is not one to talk, as he had just practically taken an entire pharmacy of drugs just a few hours earlier. He has a blonde in his lap, legs for days who keeps talking about how she’s going to be in the new Victoria Secret catalogue. She periodically points out girls who aren’t dressed to her standards so that she can make snide comments about them as her two friends laugh.

“Yo, wasn’t coming to Coachella a good idea? Told you it was gonna be off the chain. I know we only get one day in but it’s amazing what connections can do for you. This shit was sold out and I beat the motherfucking system.” The group cheers, they have to, since he’s the reason they are all there right now. Just last night after watching Alex in the studio they talk about music festivals and once Alex mentions he’s never been to Coachella. Luke, as his manager/hype man/#1 supporter/music festival pro, deems it morally unacceptable and the next morning he’s got a jet, plenty of food and booze, malleable friends and one day Coachella passes for all.

“Alright assholes, we’ll see you later.” Luke and his blonde are just about to rip each other’s clothes off with the way she’s fiddling with his shirt and how high up her thigh his hand rests so it’s no surprise that their next move is to go somewhere a little more private. Luke isn’t shy about it, the obnoxious smile is plastered all over his face as they walk off together and their laughter echoes until it’s drowned out by the festival sounds.

Two hours later Alex finds himself in the middle of a crowd, sweaty and dirty and feeling like he’s experiencing something greater than himself. When he’s sober will realize that it’s nothing more than a false sense of belonging. When he’s sober, that’s what he always realizes.

I don't drink like everybody else, I do it to forget things about myself.

“Alex! We toooootally need to amp the party up, take this! It’ll make this Justice set sound even better!” Leggy Blonde’s friend whose name he has no clue of is beaming at him. He settles on thinking of her as Chatty Brunette. She opens up her hand and she’s got 6 colorful pills on her palm.

“Jesus, what the fuck are you doing?” He folds her hand closed and she laughs, shaking her head. “You worry too much. Luke gave them to me. It’s Coachella, baby!” Without any other sort of warning she takes two pills and then swipes the bottle of beer from the stranger next to her and downs it. She nudges her hand towards him again.

He shrugs, grinning. “It is Coachella, right?” An excuse out loud that takes away responsibility from himself, places it on something else. He takes one of the pills and puts it underneath his tongue until it dissipates.

The group revels in how fun Alex is now, how he’s usually so quiet and serious, how they didn’t know he could party like this. Luke jokes about how working with him is a nightmare because all he wants to do is actually work. Alex wonders, for a split second, if he’s actually joking but Chatty Brunette sidles up by his side and starts nuzzling into his neck so his thoughts have moved elsewhere. He gets more drunk with the reaffirmation of those around him, has an existential crisis wondering if Tupac is actually alive once he appears onstage in hologram form, and ends up blacking out while they walk back to the car. They’re too out of their minds to notice so they leave him there and pick him up the next morning.

Chatty Brunette ends up being rushed to the hospital because of mixing drugs and alcohol. Leggy Blonde wrecks the house they rented once she finds out Luke hooked up with one of her friends. Kyle can’t drink anything without vomiting it up for five days afterwards. Luke gets a bruise from Leggy Blonde, a nice amount of money to pay in damages for the wrecked house and two day filled with paranoia after coming down from his high and withdrawal settles in.

On the outside, this group is the happiest one at Coachella. They dance, laugh, sing, indulge in a variety of vices.

On the outside, this group is the happiest one at Coachella.

On the outside, this group is the happiest.

On the outside.

It wasn’t a lie to say that Coachella hadn't happened since the first time because he was so busy touring, but it also wasn’t a lie to say that Coachella hadn't happened since the first time because of the apprehension attached to this specific music festival.

Only a few years have passed but he feels like an entirely different person. Forget about radio play and media exposure that has broken him in as a name that people recognize, it’s more than that. He’s a far cry from the awkward, reserved and shy kid he once was. He doesn’t have to resort to anything other than a good attitude to have a good time. He can get drunk with his friends, but it’s not a necessity anymore. It’s a choice. He doesn’t get to that point where it stops being fun and all that’s left is apathy, where all that’s left is the harrowing knowledge that he does what he does because in moments where he can't contain his general unease he needs a bottle to do it for him. He knows he's lucky it has never extended past a cause for concern, but he also knows that it certainly could have gone there if left unattended.

Being on the road for months at a time he’s used to the crew over there, his wandering family, but there is something about seeing familiar faces in one place enjoying music together. There’s something about being surrounded by people who have a passion, a drive, a love of what they’re doing. Fellow artists who believe in their craft, music lovers who let the beats and lyrics move them, partiers who want to amp people up rather than tear them down.

He’s no stranger to the fact that in this sea of people there are also those who were in the same exact place as he was a few years ago, partying with people they don’t know that well in a city they’re unsure of to feel like they belong. Smiling and laughing with the knowledge that this is all momentary bliss that goes away in the dead of night when there’s nothing left but their own haunted thoughts. The thing is, instead of wanting to join in with them he just hopes they eventually find what they’re truly looking for. That they’re not chained down to that false sense of security for too much longer. That they can realize it soon, so their life can actually begin.

Standing back for a second, he looks around. The band onstage is giving their all and the crowd is reacting to it, there’s no such thing as a barrier between those onstage and those on the ground because the music brings it all together and it merges as one. He has a healthy buzz going on, just enough to push him into a slightly elevated level of ridiculousness where he’s more inclined to partake in activities without thinking twice about it. Friends to his right are dancing without a care in the world. Friends to his left are singing along. He can soak everything in, take a mental picture that will replace the old one.

This, he thinks, this is what it’s all about.

“Alex, what are you doing! C’mon, I know you can move!”

“One second, I just need one more second of this.”