Darrian O'Brien

2009 marked the 9th anniversary of Coachella—for my mother and me it was the fourth we attended together. Wait, what? Drug festival? Rock music? My mother? Yeah, I know. Among my peers, Coachella weekend is practically a recognized holiday. That year, 80 percent of my fellow seniors from Wildwood School attended in near death heat. For some, the drugs consumed during the three days serve as a catalyst for any and all of the entertainment to be enjoyed, but I see the festival in an entirely different light.

I was in a plastic-and-metal corrective body brace for scoliosis the first Coachella we went to. I had to wear it 23 hours a day, so, as you can imagine, I was the coolest kid there, especially with my mom and her obligatory oversize sun hat. I loved every second of it, partially because my mom did too.

My mother and I share an intense adoration for music, and I believe that is what motivates her (someone who is too tired to go to a bookstore at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday) to accompany me to this now three-day-long concert in the desert.

Every year, when I’d see my friends at Coachella and tell them I was with my mom, the response was often some version of “Oh s--t! Where is she?” with them frantically stashing away some form of contraband. I’d have to reassure them I had no idea where my mom was right then, but at 8 o’clock she would be in the front row of the Sahara tent for the Chemical Brothers.

Last year’s Coachella was special because I thought it would be the last time my mother and I would go together. It only really hit me after the festival was over, though. I certainly wasn’t thinking about it when I was on the shoulders of a sophomore from my school during Girl Talk’s mashed-up version of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout (Parts 1 & 2).” And neither was my mom, because I’m pretty sure all she was thinking about was how great Buraka Som Sistema’s performance was.

It turns out we did go to Coachella this year, making it our fifth time. I just couldn’t stay away. It’s always fun to find out that we ended up seeing the same bands at the end of the night. Often, my mother, who has been watching from the side of the stage, texts me: “Saw you dancing behind the front railing of Pavement. Looked like you were loving it!” I was. And I have the bruises to prove it.

Get Laraine Newman's take on doing Coachella with her kid.